Writing an Effective Abstract for Journal Submission
With the exception of your covering letter, the abstract of your paper are the first things encountered by the editor considering your submission (and the very first things if you are not able to submit any sort of covering letter). While preparing your article for submission, think of the paper itself as dinner and its title and abstract (as well as any keywords you provide) as appetisers. You want the editor, the reviewers who will hopefully follow and your future readers if the paper is published to be tantalised by your appetisers – to enjoy the texture and flavour of these delicacies while building a hearty appetite and on that basis to expect good things from the dinner (paper) to follow. You do not want them to feel glutted by too much nourishment that is too richly seasoned or repulsed by a dull product of so low a quality that they leave the table before dinner arrives.
The Abstract An academic or scientific abstract should briefly and comprehensively summarise the contents of the paper it precedes. It should not contain information that is not present in the article and it should report, not evaluate, what can be found in the paper. Like the title, the abstract needs to be precise, concise and as engaging as possible, but it also needs to be densely packed with detailed information. Word limits for abstracts set by journals usually range between 100 and 400 words, with 150–250 being the most common length, and those limits should be strictly observed despite how much must be accomplished in that short space. A carefully prepared abstract will situate your research in both its physical and its intellectual context; it will inform the reader about the problem(s) or concept(s) you investigate, any participants in your study and the essential features of the methodology used; and it will report the basic findings, implications and conclusions of your study. The journal guidelines may indicate that the abstract should form a single paragraph or be divided into shorter paragraphs, each with its own heading (such as ‘Background’, ‘Methodology’ and ‘Results’) and may also require different kinds of abstracts for different kinds of papers (empirical studies, literature reviews, etc.): whatever the requirements are, they should be followed precisely because any deviation will be immediately visible.
Occasionally, a journal’s guidelines will specify the exact content of the abstract or even of each part of the abstract, but in most cases the balance of information will be determined by the author, and even in a completely structured abstract you will need to decide which concepts, methods and results to include and highlight. This decision should be based not only on what you think is most important about your research, but also on what you think the journal editor will find most appropriate and engaging for his or her readers. Remember that an effective abstract can inspire a journal editor to read on to the paper itself, and when published it can similarly promote potential readers to engage with the paper itself and ultimately cite it in their own research. It is therefore crucial that your abstract be well written in grammatically correct, properly punctuated and complete English sentences. Every sentence should bear the maximum amount of information and meaning possible, with minimal use of minor words, and each main word should be chosen with great care, primarily for its denotations, of course, but also for its potential connotations: it should be precise and informative, and if it manages to nuance matters in a way that seems appropriate to the journal’s interests, that is all to the good. Your first sentence in particular is vital in gaining both the interest and the confidence of your reader, especially that journal editor, so it needs to be polished to perfection in both content and style.
A good academic or scientific abstract is not easy to produce, and abstracts are notorious for requiring repeated editing as an article is written, submitted, revised and published. The experienced proofreaders at PRS can help you polish your abstract and all aspects of your paper, so please do not hesitate to send your work our way.
Why Our Editing and Proofreading Services?
At Proof-Reading-Service.com we offer the highest quality journal article editing, phd thesis editing and proofreading services via our large and extremely dedicated team of academic and scientific professionals. All of our proofreaders are native speakers of English who have earned their own postgraduate degrees, and their areas of specialisation cover such a wide range of disciplines that we are able to help our international clientele with research editing to improve and perfect all kinds of academic manuscripts for successful publication. Many of the carefully trained members of our expert editing and proofreading team work predominantly on articles intended for publication in scholarly journals, applying painstaking journal editing standards to ensure that the references and formatting used in each paper are in conformity with the journal’s instructions for authors and to correct any grammar, spelling, punctuation or simple typing errors. In this way, we enable our clients to report their research in the clear and accurate ways required to impress acquisitions proofreaders and achieve publication.
Our scientific proofreading services for the authors of a wide variety of scientific journal papers are especially popular, but we also offer manuscript proofreading services and have the experience and expertise to proofread and edit manuscripts in all scholarly disciplines, as well as beyond them. We have team members who specialise in medical proofreading services, and some of our experts dedicate their time exclusively to PhD proofreading and master’s proofreading, offering research students the opportunity to improve their use of formatting and language through the most exacting PhD thesis editing and dissertation proofreading practices. Whether you are preparing a conference paper for presentation, polishing a progress report to share with colleagues, or facing the daunting task of editing and perfecting any kind of scholarly document for publication, a qualified member of our professional team can provide invaluable assistance and give you greater confidence in your written work.
If you are in the process of preparing an article for an academic or scientific journal, or planning one for the near future, you may well be interested in a new book, Guide to Journal Publication, which is available on our Tips and Advice on Publishing Research in Journals website.