Understanding the Inner Workings of a Reference Book: The Abstract

By Jared Peterman on Aug 29, 2019
eContent Pro
Understanding the Inner Workings of a Reference Book

Researchers compile their academic life’s work into scholarly publications, but many may not fully understand each of the components needed to create a viable reference book project. eContent Pro® presents a blog series, “Understanding the Inner Workings of a Reference Book” to explain the importance of each part of a reference book and some tips on how to effectively secure them. The blog series will include pieces on Titles, Front Matter, Keywords, Abstracts, Citations, Figures, Indexes, and Back Cover Text. To discover the importance of including an abstract in your scholarly journal, read the following article.

Researchers and authors skim through dozens of research journals before deciding which ones to cite in their own work. The abstract is a large deciding factor in whether a researcher or author will further read a research journal. A reoccurring theme in this series has been factors that impact the readership and indexing of a journal and there isn’t a more important factor than perfecting an abstract. Writing an abstract can be difficult, so keep reading to learn the guidelines, importance, and the different styles.

Abstract Guidelines

There are strict guidelines to follow in terms of word count, and what details should or shouldn’t be included in an abstract, all while trying to perfectly craft what the journal or chapter examines. An abstract appears before the beginning of a research journal AND before each chapter. Authors produce an original, brief description ranging from 100-300 words (depending on the publisher’s guidelines) to explain the journal or chapter, known as an abstract. An author’s goal when writing an abstract is to highlight key points or findings in the journal or chapter while explaining the overall significance of the journal or chapter. It’s important for authors to provide clarity of the contents in their journal or chapter yet write concisely in an abstract. Usually, an abstract is written after the journal or chapter.

Importance of an Abstract

There are two vast reasons to include an abstract prior to a journal or chapter: readership and indexing. Readership and indexing often work together. If a journal is indexed in a popular database or library, the journal could potentially have a greater readership. An easy way to get a journal indexed in the popular databases is by having a strong abstract that includes keywords (Read our previous post to learn more about keywords). The indexing systems search for the relevant keywords in a journal to index, which can potentially increase readership greatly. When someone searches for relevant terms for their research, the journals with those terms indexed as keywords will appear first, which will increase the chance of someone reading that journal. The first thing someone sees when debating whether to read a journal or not is the abstract. Hence, crafting an appropriate abstract is imperative.

Types of Abstracts

There are two popular types of abstracts, descriptive and informative. The two types follow different guidelines of word count and length. A descriptive abstract is usually 100 words or less that describes the research in the journal or chapter. This is viewed as more of an outline, not a summary, of the work. It’s acceptable to highlight the thesis, background, keywords, methods, and scope of the journal or chapter in a descriptive abstract. However, the most popular type is an informative abstract. An informative abstract ranges from 200-300 words, containing the scope, main argument, purpose, results, contents, and conclusion of the work. This is viewed as a concise summary of the work, while not critiquing or evaluating the journal or chapter.

As many authors know, writing an abstract is an important, yet difficult task. Cramming a ton of information into strict guidelines can create redundant or choppy writing. eContent Pro offers English language copy editing services that will review and suggest tips on rewriting or rewording an abstract.
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