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A good abstract is a clear summary of the article. A bad abstract is not clear, overly terse (rare) or overly wordy, or even misleading.

Nature gives detailed guidelines for how to write a well crafted abstract. See their guide for an annotated abstract (

  1. “One or two sentences providing a basic introduction to the field, comprehensible to a scientist in any discipline.”
  2. “Two to three sentences of more detailed background, comprehensible to scientists in related disciplines.”
  3. “One sentence clearly stating the general problem being addressed by this particular study.”
  4. “One sentence summarizing the main result (with the words “here we show” or their equivalent).”
  5. “Two or three sentences explaining what the main result reveals in direct comparison to what was thought to be the case previously, or how the main result adds to previous knowledge.”
  6. “One or two sentences to put the results into a more general context.”
  7. “Two or three sentences to provide a broader perspective, readily comprehensible to a scientist in any discipline […].”

In essence you start with a broad introduction, then a more focused introduction, focus in on your question and main result, then move back to a broad perspective of the implications of the result, and then an even broader perspective.

A misleading example is “The health effects of a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize […] were studied 2 years in rats. In females, all treated groups died 2–3 times more than controls, and more rapidly. This difference was visible in 3 male groups fed GMOs. […] Females developed large mammary tumors almost always more often than and before controls, […] Males presented 4 times more large palpable tumors than controls which occurred up to 600 days earlier. Biochemistry data confirmed very significant kidney chronic deficiencies; for all treatments and both sexes, 76% of the altered parameters were kidney related. These results can be explained by […] by the overexpression of the transgene in the GMO and its metabolic consequences.” Séralini et al. 2012

The results presented in the paper did not support these statements in the abstract.

abstract.txt · Last modified: 2019/11/03 03:38 by floyd