Let's look at an abstract

Let's take a look at two examples and compare:

Click on each of the links below; they will open in separate tabs. Keep them open simultaneously for ease of discussion.
Example One           Example Two
  • In example one, the abstract follows the IMRAD structure. It presents a fair picture of what the paper is about. It will help you decide whether you would like to read the entire paper or not and whether this is the information you are looking for. The language is direct and concise: "We undertook a pooled analysis..."
  • Example two is that of an old abstract (1965). This is how abstracts were written until recently. Although it tells us something about the paper, the information may not be adequate to decide whether to read the entire article or not. These days, journals are encouraging a more detailed abstract in a structured format.
Remember, many journal articles are paid for. In such cases, the title and abstract are the only accessible parts of the paper; they become an important access point and introduction to the paper. Many searches are done based on presence of words in the title and abstract, so ensure that you include key words in them.