Abstracts – Your Opinion or that of the Author?


Summary of Abstracts

Image by Phil Gyford via Flickr

I’ve been reading the abstracts as they’ve been coming in. So far so good for the most part. You’re getting all the right pieces in place and making some great observations about what you’re reading.

Thank you.

One thing to keep in mind is making sure to keep the formal section formal — that is, distance yourself from the writing and be more objective. It’s easy to come across like you’re stating your own opinion in the formal part, even if that’s not what you meant to do. For example, take the following passages in the formal sections from a few of the abstracts already submitted:

“We are a nation that is an Individualistic society, focusing on what is happening in our country, but not following what maybe happening in others that may affect our society.”

“The technology behind even gas masks is complex and not very many people understand that concept.”

“Overall, we make decisions about risks every day as well as the people in our government who make larger decisions for us.”

“People in this country have become paralyzed by fear, becoming overly paranoid wanting to build bomb shelters and not fly in airplanes.”

These are all good points for sure, but are they the arguments made by the authors of the articles, or are they the opinions of the students who wrote the abstracts? Since these are all pulled from the formal sections, it’s hard to tell. Of course, if they were in the informal impression section, they’d be fine since I know the impression section is what the students thought of the article.

One way to help distance yourself and thus improve the clarity in your formal section is to begin sentences like those above with “According to the author…”, “As stated in the article…”, “In this study…”, “In their argument, the authors suggest that…”. You don’t need to do it for every single sentence, just the ones that you think might be helped by the clarification (like the ones above). Although such phrasing sounds dry and clinical, it helps to make it very clear that you’re reporting on what the author(s) said, not introducing your own opinion (save that for the impressions section later). For example, in the formal section from one of the other abstracts already published:

“This article discusses what was being done in both President George Bush’s administration and local police departments to assess the size of the risks of terrorism and what was being done to reduce them.”

Make sense?

What you can do now

If you’ve already written your abstracts, I suggest going back (isn’t WordPress great?!) and doing a quick review and revision before the deadline. Double check your phrasing: Does it sound objective, or might the reader confuse your opinion with what the author(s) said in the article / study?

Let me know in the Comments section if you have any questions.

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4 Responses to Abstracts – Your Opinion or that of the Author?

  1. tange001 says:

    what if your author was incredibly biased?

    • stem110t says:

      Definitely make a point to elaborate on that (in a reasoned way) in the informal impression session. It’s good that you’re picking up author bias.

  2. What time is the abstract due today?

    • stem110t says:

      See the schedule. 11:55pm. -MW

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