How to write an abstract

Written by Vineeth Amba, Biology and Public Health, The College of New Jersey, and participant in the 2019 Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program – Public & Global Health Track

In the seminar titled “How to Write an Abstract”, Ms. Karen Dodson, manager, Professional Development and  associate dean of faculty affairs, lectured on how to perfect our research abstracts and improve our writing to more effectively publish in the future.

Ms. Dodson currently works in managerial positions for journals such as JAMA Otolaryngology and teaches classes in scientific writing and grant writing. She gave us feedback on our abstracts submitted earlier, and answered multiple questions throughout the seminar.

As a large group, we also had the opportunity to edit the abstracts of some members of the cohort, allowing us to better understand the process of editing scientific writing. Afterward, we broke up into pairs for more focused peer editing using the new knowledge we gained.

Some important lessons learned included making sure to write in a concise but compelling manner, using active voice, and properly answering the five “W” questions (Who/ What/ When/ Where/ Why). Although these lessons seemed simple at first, incorporating them into our 250-word abstracts that covered complicated research projects was much more challenging than we had expected!

Additionally, Ms. Dodson told us about what she looks for when she reviews research manuscripts. As many of us are currently in the process of completing final manuscripts at our home institutions or during this program, the information from this seminar was very important.

I believe it was a great opportunity to learn from an expert in the field of scientific writing. I plan to publish some completed projects and submit an abstract from this summer’s work to a conference, and I know that what I learned from this seminar has prepared me to do so.