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Abstract Writing

An abstract is a type of summary, and may be found in special collections of abstracts, in conference
programs, or at the beginning of a research article or thesis. With the growing popularity of on-line
publication databases, writing an effective abstract has become even more important. Your abstract
should "sell" your work. It should be a brief, comprehensive summary of the main points of the text
that is as objective as possible and does not copy the language of the original. In essence, it should
allow the reader to survey the contents of the document quickly and decide if they want to continue
A typical abstract answers the following questions in about 150-300 words:

 Relevance: How do your findings relate to the practice of your field?

 Purpose: What is the nature of your study/topic and why did you do it?
 Scope: What is the precise focus of the study?
 Methods: What did you do, and how?
 Results: What did you find?
 Recommendations/Conclusions: What can you logically conclude through the analysis of
your data?

Some points to remember:

1. A good abstract is accurate:
 it correctly reflects the purpose and content of your paper
 it includes only information that actually appears in the paper
 if you're doing a study, states whether it extends or replicates previous research

2. A good abstract is self-contained:

 define all abbreviations (except units of measurement) and acronyms
 spell out names of tests and software or other components used
 define unique terms
3. A good abstract is concise and specific:
 make each sentence as informative as possible, especially the lead sentence
 don't waste space by repeating the title
 include in the abstract only the four or five most important concepts, findings, or implications

4. A good abstract is non-evaluative:

 report rather than evaluate
 don't add to or comment on what is in the body of the paper

5. A good abstract is coherent and readable:

 write in clear and vigorous prose with short, concise sentences
 use key words from your paper

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A. Look at the following abstract. Underline the different parts of the abstract, as identified on
page one.

Language teacher motivation, as opposed to language learner motivation, is an area which has been
noticeably neglected by English Language Teaching research so far. This can, for various reasons,
be recognized as a serious omission. The aim of this study was to investigate the kind of factors that
influence teacher motivation in order to identify possible ways of redressing the situation in future. To
do this, the study focused on the group of language teachers working at Austria’s Fachhochschule;
this is a relatively young institution in Austria that offers three and four-year, praxis-oriented degree
courses, mainly in technical and business areas.

It was considered essential to apply a broad approach to reflect the multi-faceted nature of
motivation. As such, the topic was considered from four main angles: intrinsic and extrinsic factors,
Needs Theory (Maslow 1970), various cognitive perspectives (e.g. theories of ‘expectation’, ‘equity’,
‘control’, ‘autonomy’), and classroom dynamics and social context. Teachers attitudes towards these
issues were gathered via a questionnaire, and interviews were then used to confirm the relevance of
the questionnaire findings. As a result, a cyclical model of the motivation process that incorporates all
four aspects was developed. The model is based on the idea that motivation is believed to be the
result of dynamic interaction between the teacher’s inner world and the external world of the
classroom and beyond.

The results of the present study indicate that teachers may benefit a structured approach to teacher
motivation. Therefore, some suggestions are made here as to how the findings could begin to be
applied in the form of self-help groups and professional seminars. In view of the increasingly
challenging dynamics of the language classroom today, this is an area which would benefit from
increased awareness and further research so that teachers can be adequately supported in their
often vulnerable enterprise.

Now read it again and notice the verb tenses:

1. Which verb tense is used to discuss the current situation?
2. What verb tense is used to describe the motivation and goal of the study and the research
3. What verb tense is used to talk about results that are still applicable or conclusions that were
4. What verb tense is used to talk about what the paper itself “does”?
5. What verb tense is used to describe implications?

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B. Look at the research questions (1-4) and write a statement of the objective of each study,
using an appropriate form of the verb in brackets.

1. Are commercially available security programs suitable for use with customer databases? (assess)
2. Does the way IT people dress influence their clients’ confidence and trust in them? (determine)
3. How secure is the transfer of confidential banking information using smart phone apps? (evaluate)
4. Is there an association between being a video game enthusiast and the ability to get a date?
C. Now write a sentence about the main finding in each of the studies from exercise B
assuming that the following “answers” were found for each of the questions.
1. (no)__________________________________________________________________________
2. (yes)_________________________________________________________________________
3. (not very secure) _______________________________________________________________
4. (uncertain)_____________________________________________________________________

D. Identifying Sections in an Abstract

The following are all taken from an abstract on the problem of infant mortality in poorer countries.
Identify which part of the abstract the sentences came from (Purpose -P, Scope-S, Method-M,
Findings-F, Recommendations / Conclusions- R/C). The first one has been done for you:
1. The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between…&……(P) purpose
2. Statistics show that one in four of the world’s population lives in serious poverty.
3. This research limits itself to one of the key issues of people living in severe poverty,
namely, infant mortality.
4. The aim of the study was to identify ways in which funds could be better allocated to these
5. The study looks at some major developments in……..
6. We gathered statistics on infant mortality in some of the poorest areas of the world.
7. Information was collected over a three-month period in June – August 2001.
8. Tests were constructed based on the …… method.
9. The findings were most informative.
10. The results confirm the worries of many donating organizations that funding is simply not
getting to the people who need it.
11. The first problem was that………. The second problem was that……
12. Our findings indicate that…………….should be done immediately.
13. Results suggest that there would be less infant mortalities if these families only had better
access to clean drinking water.
14. It is recommended that local infrastructure be improved. This would bring considerable
relief to everyone.
15. More funding for parent education is urgently needed.

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Sample Abstract
The aim of this thesis was to investigate the possible use of neural networks in the field of business
informatics. This paper first examines the structure and mode of operation of neural networks and
their components. Various types of neural networks are presented, including feed-forward networks,
recurrent networks and self-organizing maps, as well as basic learning methods. In addition, different
training algorithms by which neural networks can gain knowledge about the problem domain and their
respective extensions are shown for the various network types. Next, the software packages available
for working with neural networks are presented, and the advantages and disadvantages of these
applications are compared.

Based on this comparison, the Java framework ``Encog'' was chosen for the creation and training of a
neural network. The specific task of predicting revenue for retail stores was examined, and the
available network types were compared in terms of their applicability to this task. Based on this
analysis, a feed-forward network architecture and an appropriate training method was selected. Using
the method of cross-validation, a suitable network structure was selected out of several possible
options. Using ‘Encog’, several instances of such networks were then created, trained and compared.
This final section of this paper presents the results of this comparison. The results demonstrate that a
combination of two variations of network structure is able to provide a very accurate prediction of the
expected revenue.

© Thomas Bloder

Glendinning E. & Howard R. (2007) Professional English in Use: Medicine, CUP

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