Focusing Your Quest By Writing the Abstract First

Focusing Your Quest By Writing the Abstract First

LibParlor Contributor, Allison Hosier, discusses how writing an first that is abstract help clarify what you’re writing about.

Allison Hosier is an given information Literacy Librarian at the University at Albany, SUNY. She has published and presented on research pertaining to practical applications regarding the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy as an element of information literacy instruction. Her research that is current is on exploring the metaconcept that scientific studies are both a task and a topic of study. Follow her on Twitter at @ahosier.

In 2012, I attended a series of workshops for brand new faculty on how to write your first article that is peer-reviewed step-by-step. These workshops were loosely based on Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks by Wendy Laura Belcher.

Our first assignment? Write the abstract for our article.

This advice was shocking in my experience and also the other new scholars in the space during the time. Write the abstract first? Wasn’t that the part which was designed to come last? Just how do you write the abstract if you don’t even understand yet what your article is going to be about?

We have since come to view this as the most useful written piece advice I have ever received. So much so that I constantly try to spread the phrase to other scholars that I meet, both new and experienced. However, whenever I share this piece of wisdom, I realize that I am generally regarded with polite skepticism, especially by those who strongly feel that your introduction (not as your abstract) is better written at the end for the process as opposed to at the start. It is fair. What works for just one person won’t work for another necessarily. But I want to share why i do believe starting with the abstract is advantageous.

Structuring Your Abstract

“For me, starting with the abstract at the very beginning has the added bonus of helping me establish early on just what question I’m trying to answer and why it is worth answering.”

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