An abstract is a brief summary of a research article,
A thesis ( : theses), or dissertation (abbreviated diss.), is a document submitted in support of candidature for an academic degree or professional qualification presenting the author's research and findings.International Standard ISO 7144: ...
A conference is a meeting of two or more experts to discuss and exchange opinions or new information about a particular topic.
Conferences can be used as a form of group decision-making, although discussion, not always decisions, are the main ... proceeding
, or any in-depth analysis of a particular subject and is often used to help the reader quickly ascertain the paper's purpose. When used, an abstract always appears at the beginning of a manuscript or typescript, acting as the point-of-entry for any given academic paper or
A patent application is a request pending at a patent office for the grant of a patent for an invention described in the patent specification and a set of one or more claims stated in a formal document, including necessary official forms and r ...
. Abstracting and indexing services for various academic disciplines
are aimed at compiling a body of literature for that particular subject.
The terms ''précis'' or ''synopsis'' are used in some publications to refer to the same thing that other publications might call an "abstract". In
Management (or managing) is the administration of an organization, whether it is a business, a nonprofit organization, or a government body. It is the art and science of managing resources of the business.
Management includes the activities ...
reports, an '' executive summary
'' usually contains more information (and often more sensitive information) than the abstract does.
Purpose and limitations
Academic literature uses the abstract to succinctly communicate complex research. An abstract may act as a stand-alone entity instead of a full paper. As such, an abstract is used by many organizations as the basis for selecting research that is proposed for presentation in the form of a poster, platform/oral presentation or workshop presentation at an academic conference
. Most bibliographic database
s only index abstracts rather than providing the entire text of the paper. Full texts of scientific papers must often be purchased because of copyright and/or publisher fees and therefore the abstract is a significant selling point for the reprint or electronic form of the full text.
The abstract can convey the main results and conclusions of a scientific article but the full text article must be consulted for details of the methodology, the full experimental results, and a critical discussion of the interpretations and conclusions.
An abstract allows one to sift through copious numbers of papers for ones in which the researcher can have more confidence that they will be relevant to his or her research. Once papers are chosen based on the abstract, they must be read carefully to be evaluated for relevance. It is generally agreed that one must not base reference citations on the abstract alone, but the content of an entire paper.
According to the results of a study published in '' PLOS Medicine
'', the "exaggerated and inappropriate coverage of research findings in the news media" is ultimately related to inaccurately reporting or over-interpreting research results in many abstract conclusions. A study published in '' JAMA
'' concluded that "inconsistencies in data between abstract and body and reporting of data and other information solely in the abstract are relatively common and that a simple educational intervention directed to the author is ineffective in reducing that frequency." Other "studies comparing the accuracy of information reported in a journal abstract with that reported in the text of the full publication have found claims that are inconsistent with, or missing from, the body of the full article."
The history of abstracting dates back to the point when it was felt necessary to summarise the content of documents in order to make the information contained in them more accessible. In
Mesopotamia ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن or ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the northern part of the ...
during the early second millennium BCE, clay envelopes designed to protect enclosed
Cuneiform is a logo- syllabic script that was used to write several languages of the Ancient Middle East. The script was in active use from the early Bronze Age until the beginning of the Common Era. It is named for the characteristic wedg ...
documents from tampering were inscribed either with the full text of the document or a summary. In the
The Greco-Roman civilization (; also Greco-Roman culture; spelled Graeco-Roman in the Commonwealth), as understood by modern scholars and writers, includes the geographical regions and countries that culturally—and so historically—were dir ...
, many texts were abstracted: summaries of non-fiction works were known as
An epitome (; gr, ἐπιτομή, from ἐπιτέμνειν ''epitemnein'' meaning "to cut short") is a summary or miniature form, or an instance that represents a larger reality, also used as a synonym for embodiment. Epitomacy represents " ...
s, and in many cases the only information about works which have not survived to modernity comes from their epitomes which have survived. Similarly, the text of many ancient Greek and Roman plays commenced with a hypothesis
which summed up the play's plot. Non-literary documents were also abstracted: the Tebtunis papyri
found in the Ancient Egypt
ian town of Tebtunis
contain abstracts of legal documents. During the
In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the late 5th to the late 15th centuries, similar to the post-classical period of global history. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire ...
, the pages of scholarly texts contained summaries of their contents as marginalia
, as did some manuscripts of the Code of Justinian
The use of abstracts to summarise science originates in the early 1800s, when the secretary of the
The Royal Society, formally The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge, is a learned society and the United Kingdom's national academy of sciences. The society fulfils a number of roles: promoting science and its benefits, re ...
would record brief summaries of talks into the
Minutes, also known as minutes of meeting (abbreviation MoM), protocols or, informally, notes, are the instant written record of a meeting or hearing. They typically describe the events of the meeting and may include a list of attendees, a state ...
of each meeting, which were referred to as 'abstracts'.
The Royal Society abstracts from 1800 – 1837 were later collated and published in the society's journal ''
''Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society'' is a scientific journal published by the Royal Society. In its earliest days, it was a private venture of the Royal Society's secretary. It was established in 1665, making it the first journ ...
'', with the first group appearing in 1832. These abstracts were generally one or more pages long. Other learned societies
adopted similar practices. The
Royal Astronomical Society
(Whatever shines should be observed)
, predecessor =
, successor =
, formation =
, founder =
, extinction =
, merger =
, merged =
, type = NG ...
(RAS) may have been the first to publish its abstracts: the ''Monthly Notices of the RAS''
launched in 1827, containing (among other things) abstracts of talks given at their monthly meetings; the full papers were published months or years later in the '' Memoirs of the RAS
''. The RAS abstracts were between one and three paragraphs long. In both cases, these early abstracts were written by the learned society, not the author of the paper. Perhaps the earliest example of an abstract published alongside the paper it summarises was the 1919 paper ''On the Irregularities of Motion of the Foucault Pendulum'' published in the ''
''Physical Review'' is a peer-reviewed scientific journal established in 1893 by Edward Nichols. It publishes original research as well as scientific and literature reviews on all aspects of physics. It is published by the American Physical So ...
'' of the
American Physical Society
The American Physical Society (APS) is a not-for-profit membership organization of professionals in physics and related disciplines, comprising nearly fifty divisions, sections, and other units. Its mission is the advancement and diffusion of ...
which often published abstracts thereafter.
Abstracts are protected under
A copyright is a type of intellectual property that gives its owner the exclusive right to copy, distribute, adapt, display, and perform a creative work, usually for a limited time. The creative work may be in a literary, artistic, education ...
law just as any other form of written
Speech is a human vocal communication using language. Each language uses phonetic combinations of vowel and consonant sounds that form the sound of its words (that is, all English words sound different from all French words, even if they ar ...
is protected. However, publishers of scientific articles invariably make abstracts freely available, even when the article itself is not. For example, articles in the biomedical literature are available publicly from MEDLINE
which is accessible through PubMed
Abstract is often expected to tell a complete story of the paper, as for most readers, abstract is the only part of the paper that will be read. It should allow the reader to give an Elevator pitch
of the full paper.
An academic abstract typically outlines four elements relevant to the completed work:
* The research focus (statement of the problem(s)/specific gap in existing research/research issue(s) addressed);
* The research methods
(experimental research, case studies, questionnaire
s, etc) used to solve the problem;
* The major results/findings of the research; and
* The main conclusions and recommendations (i.e., how the work answers the proposed research problem).
It may also contain brief references, although some publications' standard style
omits references from the abstract, reserving them for the article body (which, by definition, treats the same topics but in more depth).
Abstract length varies by discipline and publisher requirements. Typical length ranges from 100 to 500 words, but very rarely more than a page and occasionally just a few words. An abstract may or may not have the section title of "abstract" explicitly listed as an antecedent to content. Abstracts are typically sectioned logically as an overview of what appears in the paper, with any of the following subheadings: Background, Introduction
Method ( grc, μέθοδος, methodos) literally means a pursuit of knowledge, investigation, mode of prosecuting such inquiry, or system. In recent centuries it more often means a prescribed process for completing a task. It may refer to:
* Scie ...
s, Results, Conclusions. Abstracts in which these subheadings are explicitly given are often called structured abstracts. Abstracts that comprise one paragraph (no explicit subheadings) are often called unstructured abstracts.
Example taken from the '' Journal of Biology
, Volume 3, Issue 2''.:
The hydrodynamics of dolphin drafting
by Daniel Weihs, Faculty of Aerospace Engineering, Technion, Israel Institute of Technology, Haifa 32000, Israel.
Drafting in cetaceans is defined as the transfer of forces between individuals without actual physical contact between them. This behavior has long been surmised to explain how young dolphin calves keep up with their rapidly moving mothers. It has recently been observed that a significant number of calves become permanently separated from their mothers during chases by tuna vessels. A study of the hydrodynamics of drafting, initiated inmechanisms causing the separation of mothers and calves during fishing-related activities, is reported here.
Quantitative results are shown for the forces and moments around a pair of unequally sized dolphin-like slender bodies. These include two major effects. First, the so-called Bernoulli suction, which stems from the fact that the local pressure drops in areas of high speed, results in an attractive force between mother and calf. Second is the displacement effect, in which the motion of the mother causes the water in front to move forwards and radially outwards, and water behind the body to move forwards to replace the animal's mass. Thus, the calf can gain a 'free ride' in the forward-moving areas. Utilizing these effects, the neonate can gain up to 90% of the thrust needed to move alongside the mother at speeds of up to 2.4 m/s. A comparison with observations of eastern spinner dolphins (''Stenella longirostris'') is presented, showing savings of up to 60% in the thrust that calves require if they are to keep up with their mothers.
A theoretical analysis, backed by observations of free-swimming dolphin schools, indicates that hydrodynamic interactions with mothers play an important role in enabling dolphin calves to keep up with rapidly moving adult school members.
© 2004 Weihs; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article: verbatim copying and redistribution of this article are permitted in all media for any purpose, provided this notice is preserved along with the article's original URL
The informative abstract, also known as the complete abstract, is a compendious summary of a paper's substance and its background, purpose, methodology, results, and conclusion.
Usually between 100 and 200 words, the informative abstract summarizes the paper's structure, its major topics and key points. A format for scientific short reports that is similar to an informative abstract has been proposed in recent years. Informative abstracts may be viewed as standalone documents.
The descriptive abstract, also known as the limited abstract or the indicative abstract, provides a description of what the paper covers without delving into its substance. A descriptive abstract is akin to a
table of contents
A table of contents, usually headed simply Contents and abbreviated informally as TOC, is a list, usually found on a page before the start of a written work, of its chapter or section titles or brief descriptions with their commencing page number ...
in paragraph form.
During the late 2000s, due to the influence of
Computer data storage is a technology consisting of computer components and recording media that are used to retain digital data. It is a core function and fundamental component of computers.
The central processing unit (CPU) of a comp ...
and retrieval systems such as the
The Internet (or internet) is the global system of interconnected computer networks that uses the Internet protocol suite (TCP/IP) to communicate between networks and devices. It is a '' network of networks'' that consists of private, p ...
, some scientific publications, primarily those published by
Elsevier () is a Dutch academic publishing company specializing in scientific, technical, and medical content. Its products include journals such as '' The Lancet'', '' Cell'', the ScienceDirect collection of electronic journals, '' Trends'', t ...
, started including graphical
abstracts alongside the text abstracts. The graphic is intended to summarize or be an exemplar for the main thrust of the article. It is not intended to be as exhaustive a summary as the text abstract, rather it is supposed to indicate the type, scope, and technical coverage of the article at a glance. The use of graphical abstracts has been generally well received by the scientific community
Moreover, some journals also include video abstract
s and animated abstracts made by the authors to easily explain their papers. Many scientific publishers currently encourage authors to supplement their articles with graphical abstracts, in the hope that such a convenient visual summary will facilitate readers with a clearer outline of papers that are of interest and will result in improved overall visibility of the respective publication. However, the validity of this assumption has not been thoroughly studied, and a recent study statistically comparing publications with or without graphical abstracts with regard to several output parameters reflecting visibility failed to demonstrate an effectiveness of graphical abstracts for attracting attention to scientific publications.
Abstract quality assessment
Various methods can be used to evaluate abstract quality, e.g. rating by readers, checklists (not necessary in structured abstracts), and readability measures (such as Flesch Reading Ease
In law, an abstract is a brief statement that contains the most important points of a long legal document or of several related legal papers.
Abstract of title
The abstract of title, used in real estate transactions, is the more common form of ...
* Abstract management
* Academic conference
An annotation is extra information associated with a particular point in a document or other piece of information. It can be a note that includes a comment or explanation. Annotations are sometimes presented in the margin of book pages. For anno ...
* Executive summary
* Fast abstract
In scientific writing, IMRAD or IMRaD () (Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion) is a common organizational structure (a document format). IMRaD is the most prominent norm for the structure of a scientific journal article of the original ...
– commonly used structure for academic journal articles and their abstracts
* List of academic databases and search engines
A preface () or proem () is an introduction to a book or other literary work written by the work's author. An introductory essay written by a different person is a '' foreword'' and precedes an author's preface. The preface often closes ...
* ISO 214: Documentation — Abstracts for publications and documentation