Focusing Your Quest By Writing the Abstract First
LibParlor Contributor, Allison Hosier, discusses how writing an abstract first can help clarify what you are currently talking about.
Allison Hosier is an Information Literacy Librarian at the University at Albany, SUNY. She has presented and published on research linked to practical applications associated with ACRL Framework for Information Literacy as an element of information literacy instruction. Her research that is current is on examining the metaconcept that research is both an action and a topic of study. Follow her on Twitter at @ahosier.
In 2012, I attended a few workshops for brand new faculty about how to write very first peer-reviewed article, step-by-step. These workshops were loosely according to Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks by Wendy Laura Belcher.
Our first assignment? Write the abstract for our article.
This advice was shocking to me while the other scholars that are new the area at the time. Write the abstract first? Wasn’t that the part that was likely to come last? How do you write the abstract if you don’t even know yet exactly what your article will be about?
We have since come to regard this as the most piece that is useful of advice We have ever received. To such an extent that I meet, both new and experienced that I constantly try to spread the word to other scholars. However, whenever I share this little bit of wisdom, I find that I am generally regarded with polite skepticism, especially by people who strongly feel that your introduction (significantly less your abstract) is the best written in the end for the process in place of at the start. This is certainly fair. What works for just one person won’t necessarily work with another. But i wish to share why I think beginning with the abstract is advantageous.
Structuring Your Abstract
Me establish in early stages precisely what question I’m trying to resolve and exactly why it is worth answering.“For me, beginning with the abstract during the very beginning has got the added bonus of helping”
For each and every piece of scholarly or professional writing I have ever written (including that one!), I started by writing the abstract. In doing so, I follow a format suggested by Philip Koopman of Carnegie Mellon University, that we happened upon through a Google search. His recommendation is the fact that an abstract should include five parts, paraphrased below:
- The motivation: how come this extensive research important?
- The difficulty statement: What problem are you currently trying to solve?
- Approach: How do you go about solving the difficulty?
- Results: that which was the takeaway that is main?
- Conclusions: do you know the implications?
To be clear, once I say I mean the very beginning that I write the abstract at the beginning of the writing process. Generally, it is first thing i actually do once I have a notable idea I think might be worth pursuing, even before I you will need to do a literature review. This differs from Belcher’s recommendation, that is to write the abstract because the step that is first of revision rather than the first faltering step associated with the writing process but I think the huge benefits that Belcher identifies (an opportunity to clarify and distill your opinions) are the same in either case. Me establish early on exactly what question I’m trying to answer and why it’s worth answering for me, starting with the abstract at the very beginning has the added bonus of helping. In addition believe it is helpful to start thinking in what my approach is going to be, at least as a whole terms, I have a sense of how I’m going to go about answering my big question before I start so.
So now you’re probably wondering: if this right part comes at the very beginning of this writing process, how can you talk about the outcomes and conclusions? You can’t know very well what those will likely be before you’ve actually done the research.
“…writing the abstract first commits you to nothing. It’s just a way to arrange and clarify your thinking.”
It’s true that your particular results additionally the conclusions you draw until you have some real data to work with from them will not actually be known. But remember that research should possess some type of prediction or hypothesis. Stating what you think the total results may be in early stages is a way of forming your hypothesis. Thinking in what the implications will likely to be if your hypothesis is proven helps you think about why your projects shall matter.
Exactly what if you’re wrong? What if the answers are very different? Let’s say other components of your quest change as you go along? Imagine if you wish to change focus or replace your approach?
You can do all of those things. In fact, I have done all of those things, even with writing the abstract first. Because writing the abstract first commits you to nothing. It’s just a way to arrange and clarify your thinking.
A Good Example
Let me reveal an draft that is early of abstract for “Research is a task and a topic of Study: A Proposed Metaconcept and Its Practical Application,” an article I wrote which was recently accepted by College & Research Libraries:
Motivation: As librarians, the transferability of information literacy across one’s academic, professional, and private life is not difficult to know but students often neglect to observe how the skills and concepts they learn as part of an information literacy lesson or course might apply to anything aside from the immediate research assignment.
Problem: a good reason for this might be that information literacy librarians concentrate on teaching research as a process, a method that was well-supported by the Standards. Further, the process librarians teach is just one associated primarily with just one genre of research—the college research essay. The Framework allows more flexibility but librarians might not be using it yet. Approach: Librarians might reap the benefits of teaching research not just as an activity, but as a subject of study, as it is through with writing in composition courses where students first study a genre of writing and its own context that is rhetorical before to write themselves.
Results: Having students study several types of research will help make them conscious of the many forms research usually takes and might improve transferability of information literacy skills and concepts.
Conclusions: Finding approaches to portray research as not only a task but in addition as a essay helper topic of study is much more in line with the new Framework.
This is probably the time that is first looked at this since I originally wrote it. It’s a little messy and as I worked and began to receive feedback, first from colleagues and mentors, then from peer reviewers and editors while I recognize the article I eventually wrote in the information here, my focus did shift significantly.
For comparison, here is the abstract that appears when you look at the preprint associated with article, which is scheduled to be published in 2019 january:
Information literacy instruction on the basis of the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for advanced schooling has a tendency to give attention to basic research skills. However, research is not just an art and craft but additionally an interest of study. The ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for advanced schooling opens the door to integrating the research of research into information literacy instruction via its acknowledgement associated with the nature that is contextual of. The metaconcept is introduced by this article that research is both a task and an interest of study. The use of this metaconcept in core LIS literature is discussed and a model for incorporating the scholarly study of research into information literacy instruction is suggested.
So obviously the published abstract is a lot shorter given that it necessary to fit within C&RL’s guidelines. It also doesn’t proceed with the recommended format exactly however it does reflect an evolution in thinking that happened as part of the revision and writing process. This article I wound up with was not the article I started with. That’s okay.
Then exactly why is writing the abstract first useful it out later if you’re just going to throw? As it focuses your research and writing through the start that is very. I only knew that in reading Naming What We Know: Threshold Concepts of Writing Studies by Linda Adler-Kassner and Elizabeth Wardle, I had found significant parallels between their work and information literacy when I first came up with the idea for my article. I wanted to write about it but I only had a vague feeling of the things I wanted to say. Writing the abstract first forced me to articulate my ideas in a real way that made clear not only why this topic was of great interest for me but how maybe it’s significant to the profession as a whole.