How to write a good abstract and introduction

During the last lab meeting, each lab member read a scientific article and analysed the factors that contribute to good abstract and introduction.

Exchanging ideas and experiences in scientific writing. Photo: Hao Ran Lai.

Exchanging ideas and experiences in scientific writing. Photo: Hao Ran Lai.

Abstract

1. Broad statement (1 sentence)

  • Statement of broad field of research/context
  • Introduces the ecological concept/problem
  • What we know of the field
  • Competing and unresolved explanations

2. Narrow down the problem (1 sentence)

  • Significance to the problem
  • Consequences of the problem
  • What we’re going to do about it
  • Brief description of an hypothesis that could resolve the problem
  • Indicating the research gap

3. Key results (1/2 sentences)

  • Quantitative statement
  • Method and results can be combined in one sentence

4. Discussion and conclusion (1/2 sentences)

  • States how the presented work builds on current understanding
  • States the positive outcomes increased understanding of the problem
  • Generality of the results, limitations of approach, future improvements

Note: The abstract should be stronger than our original inclinations (unless you’re an egotistical maniac in which case tone it down!).

Introduction

1. Introduce the problem and explain why

  • Setting the stage for the problem
  • Putting concept/problem into context
  • Progress in the field
  • Lots of big citations (especially reviews) in 1st paragraph

2. Previous approaches to the problem

  • How other people have tackled it
  • Critique how complex or unfeasible or inappropriate those methods may be
  • Indicating the research gap

3. Purpose of this study

  • Further refining the approach
  • Justify why your methods are an improvement
  • Case studies/theories (example of what the approach would improve)

4. Hypotheses/questions

  • List clearly
  • Make hypotheses directional using predictions
  • Sometimes very last statements include a brief description of the results
  • Final sentence states what paper does

Notes:

  • What’s a question and what’s a hypothesis? Your hypothesis is often strongly aligned with your statistical model/analysis.
  • Can be useful to have a figure in the introduction describing the theoretical background/hypotheses (don’t mention results)
  • The format of the introduction follows that of the abstract in more detail
  • Key sentences are generally opening lines of paragraphs

Stay tuned for “How to write a good method section” in the coming weeks!

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5 thoughts on “How to write a good abstract and introduction

  1. Pingback: Interesting reading for the August Bank Holiday Weekend | Domeara

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  3. Pingback: Tips for writing a good methods section | Buckley Ecology Lab

  4. Pingback: Writing good results and discussion | Buckley Ecology Lab

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