GUEST EDITORIAL

ABSTRACTS MERIT RESPECT

abstract may affect the success of your paper; show it the respect that it merits.
CONCLUSIONS SHOULD ONLY CONCLUDE

Your journal paper's abstract is important. More people will read it, by far, than will read the paper itself. Also, abstracts are often published separately. Hence, an author should prepare the requisite abstract to be both informative and selfcontained. Too many abstracts do not reflect either the author's desire to attract potential readers or the reader's need to be informed efficiently. Often, they seem to have been prepared hastily, "Oh, I have to include one of those, too!" In your abstract, do not talk about the paper as something apart. The reader always knows that the paper is there; specific references to it are wasteful-unhelpful. Omit all words and phrases that describe the paper rather than informing the reader about the contents. Avoid forms like "The paper contains · " (makes no useful point), and "equations were derived · " (of course). One abstract contained the sentence "Interesting conclusions are drawn." (We're glad, but such an opinion is not informative.) Avoid pointless verbs like "are presented" and "are reviewed. " If an author talks about a topic in the abstract, the reader will assume that it is "presented" in the paper. Similarly, the reader will know that any experiments alluded to "were conducted." Simply proceed directly to the real point, as in the form "Experimental results indicated (some genuine information).' , Sentences written in the passive voice are usually less effective than they would be if they had real subjects performing a clear function. Similarly wasteful expressions like •'It is · .." and "We believe ..." They consume the subject and the verb, the salient parts of any sentence, but fulfill no real function. Your need to use limited space effectively should not lead you to pack your material densely. Select the essential elements, and present them simply and clearly. Do not compress your writing by constructing complex modifiers like •'The numerically computed two-dimensional momentum-induced · .." Also, avoid jargon and other specialized usages even though they may be a bit briefer. More conventional usage will be understood by more people. Finally, self edit. Appraise your abstract as you would assess the effectiveness of any model. It should represent the paper, at a scale of about 1:50 or 1:100. Are the main features there? Does the logic flow smoothly? Are the sentences easy to read? Ask a colleague to read your abstract and comment critically. Take the time you need to do this important task well. Your

What belongs in the section "Conclusion(s)" is narrowly prescribed. Straightforward statements should articulate the study's achievements, and each should be expressed in a conclusive mode-something (new) is now (and only now) known to be so. Only one other type of sentence should be used-one that limits or clarifies a part of a conclusion being presented. Hence, do not summarize, discuss, introduce material or explain in this section. Equations and references are nearly always inappropriate. Constraints as tight as these are quite binding on an author. We all like to digress now and then. Clean, direct statements of fact are often more difficult to formulate than are indirect ones. As a result, authors easily lapse into other modes. Some will pick a title that announces such an intent. •'Concluding Remarks" and "Closure" are examples. Some also start with a triviality like "The foregoing study of ... leads the author to the following conclusions" or "A study of ... has been made." Some sets of conclusions may merit an opening or defining remark, but the need for it must be genuine and the remark prepared for a recognizable purpose. Another way of blurring this vital ending to your paper is to combine it with a list of topics for future study. Such comments can have a negative impact. Is the work somehow incomplete? The work not done can reduce the significance of what was done. The author has the right to be positive, even optimistic, "the results should be useful for ..." The statements must not, however, exaggerate or inflate the achievements. False claims and self praise have the same impact as the ringing of a cracked bell. They can cause a knowledgeable reader to question the quality of the entire study. Leave the credits and praise for others. Conclusions should contain no surprises, nothing new at all. The reader should already know what they are, but the author must still write them to make certain that the reader has the author's overall view of the work. One factor that affects such assessments is the ordering of the conclusions. Two effective ways are based (1) on logical flow, for points that are interconnected, and (2) on merit, with the most important item first. John McNown

JOURNAL OF HYDRAULIC ENGINEERING / AUGUST 1996/427

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