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CAE | Abstracts

The abstract should be a clear, concise summary of the principal facts and conclusions of the paper, organized to reflect its pattern of emphasis. Remember that some readers may use the abstract in lieu of the parent document. The title and abstract together will often be used as a basis for indexing; hence they must mention all the subjects, major and minor, treated in the paper.  -  APA Style Manual, 1990

An abstract is the bare bones of what you have written in you paper. It is a concise summary usually 150 - 200 words. It has three major parts: a statement of the problem, a short description of design and methods, and a summary and interpretation of the results of the study.

How are abstracts used?
The important thing to remember about how abstracts will be used is that they may be detached from the report they are abstracting. There are two primary users for abstracts: prospective readers and library indexers/cataloguers. For the first, the idea is that a person can skim over the abstract and decide whether he/she is interested in reading your entire paper.

For the second, the abstract may be published separately: they may be used in the library to index an article; they may be used for on-line searches. The abstract, therefore, doesn’t merely determine whether a reader will want to read the whole report, it will determine whether a reader searching for information on the subject will even see the report in the first place. Abstracts, therefore, must be a reliable guide to both the content and the organization of the report itself.

When submitted in response to a call for papers for a professional meeting, it is used to determine whether the topic studied fits into the format of one of the planned sessions.

What information goes into an abstract?
Because of the ways abstracts are used, they must focus very precisely on the most important ideas and information to be found in the report. Since libraries will use abstracts to catalogue a report, one good way to think of the content of the abstract is to consider it as a collection of key-word searches. If a writer were conducting a key-word search on the subject of the report, what terns would be most useful in describing the information the report contains?

How should abstracts be organized?
In addition to reflecting the content of the report, an abstract should also indicate its organization--how the report is put together. A reader should be able to understand, from the abstract, the sequence of information contained in the report. To approach this aspect of abstracts, compare the structure of an abstract with the structure of the report. If the main ideas of the report are not addressed in the abstract, and in the same order as in the report, which scheme of organization is more effective?

This will allow a prospective reader to know not only what information a report contains, but also where in the report to look for it. As noted above, a descriptive abstract is virtually a table of contents for the report, expanded and put into complete sentences. One guide for processing technical papers goes so far as to describe the abstract as “a concise, one-paragraph collection of statements that describes the most significant ideas, procedures, and/or results of the paper,” implying that writing the abstract is more or less a cut-and-paste job of gathering together the topic sentences from each section of the report in a detachable paragraph.

An abstract begins with a general statement of the problem:
For Example: In a group of patients with hypertension, a reduction in salt in the diet, was examined.
Critical details of what types of patients were used belong in the sentence or two that follows the describing methods.

On a rare occasion, it may be necessary or desirable to begin the abstract with a brief definition of a term used in the statement of the problem and to present the statement itself immediately following. Alternatively, if the definition is brief, it can sometimes be incorporated in parentheses within the problem statement:

In other cases, an explanatory sentence may introduce the abstract, particularly when the relationships between the experimental variable and the study topic may not be obvious to the general readership.

Following the problem statement there should be one to three sentences to incorporate as much of the design and methods.
Example: The present paper decrides (1) a rifgorous


The ideal op-amp provides a linear response for any input signal and any feedback set-up; however, in real applications many non-linear contributions affect the output. These non-linear contributions must be considered in the design of circuits in order to provide a linear output. The effects of supplied Vcc (rails)-vs-input voltage, the slowing rate, the full power bandwidth, and the small signal bandwidth are considered in this report. These feature effect on the output while increasing feedback, voltage in, and frequency. Though non-linearity will affect the circuit at some points, understanding the effects of these changes helps to produce the desired output over the desired bandwidth.

A function generator and a pulse width modulator (PWM) circuit were designed and implemented. The function generator provided a square wave from a 555 timer as well as a sine wave and triangle wave using filtering and integrating methods, respectively. The PWM circuit maintained a constant frequency and provided a 10%-90% voltage controlled variable pulse width. The PWM circuit was also able to drive a dc motor.

NOTE: Professors’ requirements about abstracts vary (such as the appropriate tense to use). Make sure to check with your professor to ensure you write an abstract that meets his/her criteria.

Developed by
Jennie Ariail, Ph.D. - Director
Tom Smith, Ph.D. - Associate Director

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