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BIS 290: Research in Action: Abstracts

Custom made library guide for students researching topics related to BCUSP 290: Action as Research.

What is an Abstract?


Image: I ferri del mestiere by Giulia Virgilio retrieved 8/2014 from Flickr CC

"An abstract is like an executive summary. Usually one paragraph at the beginning of an article, the abstract serves to encapsulate the main points of the article. It’s generally a pretty specialized summary that seeks to answer specific questions.These include:

  • the main problem or question,
  • the approach (how did the author(s) do the work they write about in the article?),
  • the shiny new thing that this article does ( be published in an academic journal you often need to argue that you are doing something that has not been done before),
  • and why people who are already invested in this field should care (in other words, you should be able to figure out why another academic should find the article important).

The abstract often appears in database searches, and helps scholars decide if they want to seek out the full article."

--Rosenberg, K. (2011). Reading Games: Strategies for Reading Scholarly Sources. In Writing spaces: Readings on writing. (Vol. 2, pp. 210-220). Anderson, South Carolina: Parlor Press. Reformatted for this site.

Writing an Abstract

 Image: Writing by Jeffrey James Pacres Retreived 8/2014 from Flickr              

Regardless of field, journal abstract authors should explain the purpose of the work, methods used, the results and the conclusions that can be drawn. However, each field purports slightly different ways to structure the abstract. Hartley and Sykes (Cited in: Page, Gillian et al. Journal Publishing. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 1997. p. 316) have suggested that papers for the social sciences (and any other empirical work) should contain the following:

  • Background
  • Aims
  • Method
  • Results
  • Conclusions and comment

- Purdue OWL Journal Abstracts

- See Purdue OWL The Report Abstract and Executive Summary for additional information and examples.

Abstract Examples

Sciences Abstract

Sarah Brown and Michael Stevens (Mentor), Botany

The Latitudinal Defense Hypothesis predicts that levels of defense are highest near the equator and decrease toward the poles.  This hypothesis is based mainly on insect herbivory that occurs during the summer.  Mammilian herbivory in the winter is a more likely driver of plant defense levels in northern latitudes.  Early successional trees such as birches are favored by fire and provide an important food source for mammals like snowshoe hares.  In order to test the Latitudinal Defense Hypothesis, we collected birch seeds from eight locations in northwestern Canada and grew seedlings in a common garden.  We assessed levels of defense by counting resin glands because resin glands are negatively correlated with snowshoe hare preference. This research will provide valuable information regarding the biogeography of defense and address the role of fire in plant-mammal interactions on a continental scale.

Social Science Abstract

Lauren Silberman and Elisabeth (Betty) Hayes (Mentor), Curriculum & Instruction

The study is to show how even a “sport” video game can incorporate many types of learning, to call attention to what might be overlooked as significant forms of learning, and to understand and take advantage of the opportunities video games afford as more deliberate learning environments. The aspects explored are the skills and techniques required to be successful in the game, the environment that skaters skate in, the personal vs. group identity that is shown through the general appearance of the skater, and the values and icons that the game teaches players. We are finding that sport video games support learning; we hope to find how one learns about oneself as a learner from playing.

These and additional abstracts from multiple disciplines can be retreived: University of Wisconsin Writing Center

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