B – Common Weaknesses in Traditional Abstracts in the Social Sciences

Hartley J, Betts L. Common Weaknesses in Traditional Abstracts in the Social Sciences

Journal of the American Society for information science and technology 2009;60(10):2010-2018.

An article by James Hartley on traditional abstracts “versus” structured abstracts. 100 traditional abstracts were downloaded from 53 journals in social science and evaluated. This study examines the lack of information and accuracy contained in the more tradional format way of writing abstracts. The author makes also reference to other studies of abstracts on the base of their presentation, readability, density of information, briefness and completeness of information at the same time. The method followed here specifically highlights the general inaccuracy of traditional abstracts presented in a “single-block” format compared (but not in depth) with the more recent “structured abstracts” (way of writing scientific articles). A straightforward “Yes” and “No” checklist, hierarchically presented in terms of Background, Aims, Method, Participants (sex and age), Place (country of study), Results and Conclusions was used. Following the above checklist – the overall traditional abstracts examined were found to be poor in content and sometimes also lacking of useful if not crucial information – the conclusions suggest that switching from a traditional abstracts format to a more accurate way of writing scientific articles (in a structured format) and furthermore, releasing the word constrain imposed by editors, can improve the quality as well as the chances to be cited in the future.

Thanks to Hartley J.