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Undergraduate Research: Abstracts

Undergraduate Research Resources

Journal Abstracts 101


What is an abstract?

"Abstracts are concise summaries that help potential readers decide if they will read [a] work. Since [an] abstract will often be [the] readers' first interaction with [the] piece, you must write with them in mind: people will not read what they consider to be irrelevant or uninteresting."

What do you include in an abstract?

An abstract is essentially an "elevator speech" for professional, peer-reviewed journal articles: you only have 30 seconds (or 300 words) to grab the readers' attention and convince them that the article is worth reading. Start by highlighting the main points of the article:

  • The problem and purpose that the authors set out to investigate with their research;
  • The methods that the authors used to approach the topic;
  • The results of the authors' research methods;
  • The conclusions and implications that this research will have on the field of study and any further research on the topic, as well as how those relate to the problem and purpose.

Always keep your intended audience in mind, and remain professional throughout:

  • Give an accurate overview of the article and avoid including information that doesn't appear anywhere in the article; don't disappoint your readers by convincing them to read an article that doesn't live up to the expectations of its abstract;
  • Due to the short nature of the abstract, use concise language and make every word count; don't overuse adjectives, adverbs, or prepositional phrases or otherwise include flowery language that would distract your readers;
  • Everything written in your abstract should be clear; it should be able to stand on its own and not require readers to look up unfamiliar acronyms or jargon that they don't understand;
  • Think about the keywords that people might use when searching for articles on this topic, including the keywords that you were using when you found the article that you're writing an abstract for.

And don't forget to proofread! Errors in punctuation, grammar, and spelling, not to mention informal language that holds a personal bias either for or against the topic at-hand, will turn readers away from the article and not make them want to read it. Remember that you're the one who wrote the article, and you're trying to do everything in your professional power to convince more people to follow your research!


American Psychological Association. (2010). Publication manual of the American Psychological Association (6th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

University of Maryland Writing Center. (n.d.). Abstracts [PDF file]. Retrieved from

The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. (2019). Abstracts. Retrieved July 24, 2019, from

Example 1

Fourier transform mid-infrared (MIR-FTIR) spectroscopy is a nondestructive, label-free, highly sensitive and specific technique that provides complete information on the chemical composition of biological samples. The technique both can offer fundamental structural information and serve as a quantitative analysis tool. Therefore, it has many potential applications in different fields of clinical laboratory science. Although considerable technological progress has been made to promote biomedical applications of this powerful analytical technique, most clinical laboratory analyses are based on spectroscopic measurements in the visible or ultraviolet (UV) spectrum and the potential role of FTIR spectroscopy still remains unexplored. In this review, we present some general principles of FTIR spectroscopy as a useful method to study molecules in specimens by MIR radiation together with a short overview of methods to interpret spectral data. We aim at illustrating the wide range of potential applications of the proposed technique in the clinical laboratory setting with a focus on its advantages and limitations and discussing the future directions. The reviewed applications of MIR spectroscopy include (1) quantification of clinical parameters in body fluids, (2) diagnosis and monitoring of cancer and other diseases by analysis of body fluids, cells, and tissues, (3) classification of clinically relevant microorganisms, and (4) analysis of kidney stones, nails, and faecal fat.
Keywords: Clinical applications, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, medical laboratory science, mid-infrared absorbance spectroscopy, vibrational spectroscopy

From: De Bruyne, S., Speeckaert, M. M., & Delanghe, J. R. (2018). Applications of mid-infrared spectroscopy in the clinical laboratory setting. Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences, 55(1), 1-20.

Example 2

Estrone sulfate (E1S) is the most abundant circulating estrogen and it has the potential to be used as a biomarker in certain conditions where estimation of low levels of estrogen or changes in relative levels of estrogens are important. This review will critically consider the role of estimating E1S for clinical laboratory practice. As E1S is an estrogen, a wider discussion of estrogens is included to contextualize the review. Assays have been available for a number of years for these estrogens and they have been measured in a number of clinical research studies. However, E1S remains a rarely ordered test. This review highlights the literature that suggests the possible advantages of measuring E1S in addition to, or possibly in place of, the more commonly measured estradiol (E2) and the less commonly measured estrone (E1). The potential biomarker role of E1S in risk stratification for breast cancer, in promotion of proliferation of endometrial cancer, in prognostic information in advanced prostatic carcinoma, and in the monitoring of response to certain hormonal therapy for malignancy is discussed. The methods available for the measurement of E1S are reviewed and the limitations of the current methodologies are described. In conclusion, E1S has some interesting potential applications in clinical laboratory medicine that require further investigation.
Keywords: Estrone sulfate, estrogen, radioimmunoassay, liquid or gas-chromatography/mass spectrometry, aromatase, steroid sulfatase, cancer

From: Rezvanpour, A., & Don-Wauchope, A. C. (2017). Clinical implications of estrone sulfate measurement in laboratory medicine. Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences, 54(2), 73-86.

Example 3

This paper focuses on performance changes stemming from a series of lean interventions in a medical laboratory. This research is one of the first to link a series of lean interventions and performance over time. In a mixed-method case study, six years of patient-related throughput data, retrieved from a laboratory computer database, are analysed. Three distinct periods with significant differences in throughput time performance can be distinguished. Semi-structured interviews were held to investigate the lean interventions preceding the performance changes. Given the long-term nature of the study, the event history calendar method was applied to enhance the respondents’ recall and reliability. A single lean intervention, among the hundreds that took place, was supposed to cause the main reduction in throughput times. It concentrated on improving process flow through the removal of batching, a source of artificial variability. A later major intervention, the introduction of flow-focused machinery, had mixed effects and initial performance gains were not sustained. The results show that ongoing series of interventions do not always lead to ongoing performance improvements in terms of throughput times but support theories emphasising the importance of variability reduction.
Keywords: Lean manufacturing, Kaizen, leanness, performance analysis, Toyota production system, health care

From: Roemeling, O. P., Land, M. J., Ahaus, K., Slomp, J., & van den Bijllaardt, W. (2017). Impact of lean interventions on time buffer reduction in a hospital setting. International Journal of Production Research, 55(16), 4802-4815.


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