Focusing Your Research By Writing the Abstract First
LibParlor Contributor, Allison Hosier, discusses how writing an first that is abstract help clarify what you are writing about.
Allison Hosier is an given information Literacy Librarian during the University at Albany, SUNY. She has published and presented on research linked to practical applications of this ACRL Framework for Information Literacy as part of information literacy instruction. Her research that is current is on examining the metaconcept that scientific studies are both an activity and an interest of study. Follow her on Twitter at @ahosier.
In 2012, I attended a number of workshops for brand new faculty on how best to write very first article that is peer-reviewed 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 the article.
These tips was shocking for me and the other new scholars in the area at the time. Write the abstract first? Wasn’t that the right part that was supposed to come last? Just how do you write the abstract in the event that you don’t even comprehend yet what your article will probably be about?
I have since come to view this as the utmost piece that is useful of advice We have ever received. So much so that I meet, both new and experienced that I constantly try to spread the word to other scholars. However, whenever I share this bit of wisdom, I discover that I am generally regarded with polite skepticism, especially by people who strongly believe that your introduction (much less your abstract) is the best written during the end for the process in the place of in the beginning. This can be fair. What works for just one person won’t work for another necessarily. But i wish to share why i believe starting with the abstract is useful.
Structuring Your Abstract
Me establish in the beginning precisely what question I’m trying to answer and why it is worth answering.“For me, starting with the abstract in the very beginning has the added bonus of helping”
For every piece of scholarly or writing that is professional have ever written (including that one!), I started by writing the abstract. In performing this, a format is followed by me suggested by Philip Koopman of Carnegie Mellon University, that I 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 issue statement: What problem are you currently attempting to solve?
- Approach: How did you go about solving the problem?
- Results: that which was the takeaway that is main?
- Conclusions: which are the implications?
To be clear, whenever I say that I write the abstract at the beginning of the writing process, after all the very beginning. Generally, it is the very first thing i really do before I try to do a literature review after I have an idea I think might be worth pursuing, even. This differs from Belcher’s recommendation, which can be to write the abstract since the step that is first of revision as opposed to the first faltering step regarding the writing process but i do believe the benefits that Belcher identifies (a chance to clarify and distill your opinions) are identical 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. I also think it is beneficial to start thinking as to what my approach would be, at the very least generally speaking 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 part comes at the very beginning of this writing process, how could you write about the outcome and conclusions? You can’t understand what those will undoubtedly be until such time you’ve actually done the study.
“…writing the abstract first commits you to nothing. It’s just a way to arrange and clarify your thinking.”
It’s true that your results and also the conclusions you draw from them will not actually be known until you involve some real data to work with. But understand that research should incorporate some type of prediction or hypothesis. Stating everything you think the results should be early on is a way of forming your hypothesis. Thinking by what the implications would be in case your hypothesis is proven can help you think about why your work will matter.
But what if you’re wrong? Let’s say the total answers are very different? What if other facets of your research change as you choose to go along? Imagine if you want to change focus or change your approach?
You certainly can do all those things. In fact, I have done all of those things, even with writing the abstract first. Because writing the abstract commits that are first to nothing. It’s just a way to prepare and clarify your thinking.
A Good Example
Listed here is an draft that is early of abstract for “Research is a task and an interest of Study: A Proposed Metaconcept and Its Practical Application,” an article I wrote that has been recently accepted by College & Research Libraries:
Motivation: As librarians, the transferability of information literacy across one’s academic, professional, and private life is not hard to understand but students often fail to observe how the relevant skills and concepts they learn as part of an information literacy lesson or course might apply to anything other than the research assignment that is immediate.
Problem: A reason because of this may be that information literacy librarians focus on teaching research as an ongoing process, a method that has been well-supported because of the Standards. Further, the procedure librarians teach is one associated primarily with just one genre of research—the college research essay. The Framework allows more flexibility but librarians may not yet be using it. Approach: Librarians might benefit from teaching research not merely as an action, but as a topic of study, as is through with writing in composition courses where students first study a genre of writing and its particular context that is rhetorical before to write themselves.
Results: Having students study several types of research can help cause them to become alert to the many forms research usually takes and might improve transferability of information literacy skills and concepts.
Conclusions: Finding how to portray research as not only an activity but additionally as an interest of study is much more on the basis of the new Framework.
This is certainly most likely the first time I’ve looked over this since I originally wrote it. It’s a little messy and while I recognize this article I eventually wrote into the information here, my focus did shift significantly when I worked and begun to receive feedback, first from colleagues and mentors, then from peer reviewers and editors.
For comparison, this is actually the abstract that appears when you look at the preprint regarding the article, which will be scheduled to be published in January 2019:
Information literacy instruction in line with the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for advanced schooling has a tendency to focus essay writer on basic research skills. However, research is not only a skill but in addition an interest of study. The ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education opens the door to integrating the study of research into information literacy instruction via its acknowledgement for the nature that is contextual of. The metaconcept is introduced by this article that scientific studies are both an activity and an interest of study. The effective use of this metaconcept in core LIS literature is discussed and a model for incorporating the study of research into information literacy instruction is recommended.
So obviously the published abstract is a lot shorter because it had a need to fit within C&RL’s guidelines. It also does not proceed with the recommended format exactly but it does reflect an evolution in thinking that happened included in the writing and revision process. The article I ended up with had not been this 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? Because it focuses your research and writing from 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 needed to create I only had a vague sense of what I wanted to say about it but. Writing the abstract first forced me to articulate my ideas in a way that made clear not just why this topic was of interest for me but how it could be significant to the profession all together.