Friday, May 22, 2009

An abstract with less than 250 words

Mr. Billings
Washington Library, Washington, USA

Writing up precise and concise abstracts for scientific reports in specialized journals is one of the most important talents required to become a successful scientist. The efficient elaboration of scientific abstracts requires powerful mental concentration, optimal aptitude for analysis and synthesis, good abstraction capability, and swiftness with the fingers on the computer keyboard. The limitation in the number of characters or words in the abstracts is an additional challenge for authors, and long-term training is necessary to condense, in a short format that fits the specified dimensions of the abstracts of the distinct journals, the excellent ideas, interesting results, and brilliant conclusions described in the manuscript that is going to be submitted. In this abstract of 249 words, a brief consideration is made that could help young scientists to summarize their findings in such a positive manner that success in publication is almost guaranteed. The consideration is based on the famous quoting of my own words by the neurobiologist Santiago Ramón y Cajal, in his celebrated assay on rules and advices for scientific investigation, as well as on the known fact that most journal editors anticipate a decision on the acceptance or rejection of a paper before ending the reading of its abstract. To write up a good summary for a scientific publication, it would be convenient: 1/ to have something new to say; 2/ to say it; and 3/ to shut up when it is said. Editors of scientific journals love reading abstracts with less than 250 words.

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