Kirsop Labs

Skills development for science students everywhere

Writing a Good Abstract (Part 2)

abstract

As a postgrad:

Writing a good Abstract is a skill you need to learn and perfect as a postgraduate student and researcher. You’ve already written several lab reports, written assessments and literature reviews, and now you’re expected to build on this. Your skills are being directed toward writing that Pièce de Résistance – or your Dissertation/Thesis.

What’s involved in writing an Abstract?

An Abstract should be a short account of what the main body of work contains. Anyone reading an Abstract needs to be able to decide very quickly whether the article is relevant and therefore useful to them as a citation.

1 – What was the point of the experiment?

2 – What experimental methods or techniques did you use?

3 – What was your result, including the numerical value and units?

4 – What did you conclude from this experiment?

Consider the following points when writing an Abstract for your own research, or writing a review of someone else’s.

Why was the experimental work done?

What did you (or the author) actually do? Use the start of the Abstract to tell the reader what was done. You could start by giving a reason for the work, e.g. is it the underlying chemistry that’s important, or something else?

Check published papers. Look carefully at the structure of the Abstract. Ask yourself:

  • How is the subject introduced, and in how many words?
  • How much does the author actually write before moving on to techniques and results?

Keep it short and concise, but more importantly informative.

What did you do?

Tell the reader using a couple of sentences what the research involved.

How was the work carried out to obtain the results?

Which techniques were used that provided the data for your results?

For example: if single X-ray diffraction was used, you will have bond lengths to quote and compare; if NMR was the technique of choice, then perhaps a mechanism is being suggested; or a redox potential can be quoted from cyclic voltammetry (CV).

What is the conclusion?

Your readers are interested in the conclusion to see how this work might be of interest and relevance to them. Summarise your findings in a couple of sentences stating what will be discussed in the full paper.

And finally…

Don’t over-complicate it

The Abstract needs to be clear and to the point – don’t put anything in the Abstract that isn’t completely necessary to tell the reader why your report is worth reading.

When writing a review article for instance, the Introduction is where you explain why the experiment work is useful and important. The Experimental section is where you describe how you did what you did.

The good

Micron resolution photolithography has been employed to make microsquare nanoband edge electrode (MNEE) arrays with reproducible and systematic control of the crucial dimensional parameters, including array element size and spacing and nanoelectrode thickness. The response of these arrays, which can be reproducibly fabricated on a commercial scale, is first established. The resulting characteristics make such nanoband electrode arrays of real interest as enhanced electroanalytical devices. In particular, the nanoelectrode response is presented and analysed as a function of nanometre scale electrode dimension, to assess the impact and relative contributions of previously postulated nanodimensional effects on the resulting response. This work suggests a significant contribution of migration at the band edges to mass transfer, which affects the resulting electroanalytical response even at ionic strengths as large as 0.7 mol dm−3 and for electrodes as wide as 50 nm. For 5 nm nanobands, additional nanoeffects, which are thought to arise from the fact that the size of the redox species is comparable to the band width, are also observed to attenuate the observed current. The fundamental insight this gives into electrode performance is discussed along with the consequent impact on using such electrodes of nanometre dimension.

Schmueser, I. et al. Faraday Discuss. [Advance article]. DOI: 10.1039/C3FD00038A.

The bad

Nanoband electrode arrays of real interest as enhanced electroanalytical devices, because of their unique characteristics. There is a lot of research into this area, using the advantages of nanoelectrodes for electroanalytical chemistry. We have designed and fabricated a new type of nanoelectrode array based on previous work, with reproducible and systematic control of the crucial dimensional parameters. Firstly, the response of these arrays will be discussed.  In particular, the  response is presented and analysed as a function of nanometre scale electrode dimension, to assess the impact and relative contributions of previously postulated effects. We suggest a significant contribution of migration at the band edges to mass transfer, which affects the resulting electroanalytical response even at very high ionic strengths. For small nanobands, additional nanoeffects are also observed to attenuate the observed current.

The point

When you are writing an abstract, imagine you are a researcher trying to google papers about your topic. Or even a busy PhD student who’s marking undergraduate lab reports in between researching your topic. Keep it simple, keep it short, and make sure you include all the information you need to make your point.

Header image photo by Doug Wheller

Posted under: Scientific Writing Skills

Tagged as: ,

About Lindsey Robinson

Lindsey is one of KLabs student editors. She is a 2nd year PhD candidate studying nanoelectrochemistry with Professor Andy Mount, where she designs, manufactures and analyses new nanoelectrode systems.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: