Showing posts with label abstract. Show all posts
Showing posts with label abstract. Show all posts

Thursday, 10 July 2014

27 tips on academic writing and publishing

The path to publication is arduous!

"Publication is a self-invasion of privacy." - - -  Marshall McLuhan

You can't publish unless you've written something ...

1. Ban thoughts of failure or rejection; by starting to write you are improving on the blank page of terror

2. Write a rough draft quickly; the quality of the writing should be worked on later

3. Familiarise yourself with an appropriate academic phrasebank

4. Learn to use a range of connectives in order to make your ideas flow

5. Avoid writing marathons - they seldom produce quality outcomes

6. Learn to use short stretches of highly focused writing time

7. Check that your have displaced all potential distractions

8. Identify SMART targets for your short periods of writing:
  • Specific – target a specific area for improvement.
  • Measurable – quantify or at least suggest an indicator of progress.
  • Assignable – specify who will do it.
  • Realistic – state what results can realistically be achieved, given available resources.
  • Time-related – specify when the result(s) can be achieved.

"Democratic societies are unfit for the publication of such thunderous revelations 
as I am in the habit of making."   --- Salvador Dali

Finding a method and style suitable for publication

9. Don't try to justify every intuition by slavishly seeking out a reference to someone else's work

10. Describe and develop your ideas

11. Broad theoretical brush-strokes are exhilarating, but remember that you are not writing the history of everything

12. Avoid going off on too many tangents as these tend to confuse editors and reviewers

13. Communicate your main point(s) early

14. Include some memorable sentences that effectively summarise your work/contribution

15. Clearly demonstrate the thought-pathways leading to your conclusions

16. A clear focus beats a sprawling display of acrobatic leaps

17. If the ideas proliferate consider splitting your project into several articles

18. Be explicit and precise about your original contribution to scholarship

19. Fine-tune your writing at a later stage

20. Ask a trusted friend/colleague to read and comment on your final copy

21. Employ a proof-reader if you are unsure about the quality of your English

22. Research the most appropriate journal for your work

23. Listen to advice from colleagues and supervisors

24. Check that the format of your article has a perfect fit with each journal's requirements

25. Revise your work to suit a journal's ethos and style guide

26. Don't be disheartened - 80 to 90% of  submissions to leading journals are rejected

27. It's your chosen way of life. Enjoy!

"Search for the truth is the noblest occupation of man; its publication is a duty." --- Madame de Stael

“I finished my first book seventy-six years ago. I offered it to every publisher on the English-speaking earth I had ever heard of. Their refusals were unanimous: and it did not get into print until, fifty years later publishers would publish anything that had my name on it.” ― George Bernard Shaw


Wednesday, 20 November 2013

A Quick Guide to Writing an Abstract

But will your abstract fit inside the box?

If you have been reading my blog on The Art of the Abstract, are you now ready for the quick guide?


Use one paragraph.
Stick to the word length.
Check the format style guides for the journal or awarding body / institution.
Employ a professional style


Use language that will be understood by readers in your field.
Consider also the needs of the general reader.
Think about the most relevant key words that need emphasis
Write short sentences. Very short.
Employ transitions between the sentences.
Use the active voice, rather than passive constructions
Use the third person singular. IT.
Choose the past tense in the main body.
Check your grammar
Avoid abbreviations.
Provide clear statements: avoid loose opinions.
Employ the present tense for the introduction and the conclusion.


Learn from other respected scholars in your chosen field.
Read journal abstracts in order to become familiar with the standard terminology.
Print out your draft abstract and check it again for errors, waffle and repetition.
Ask a colleague or associate to check your work.
Model your work on excellent examples of abstracts.


Employ an introductory statement and conclusion written in the present tense. (This research demonstrates that ...)
Answer the key questions: what, why, and how.
Follow your headings and subheadings in order to guide the sequence of  the abstract.
Don’t add supplementary information or ideas.
Do not cite the sections of the paper / article / chapter.
Avoid specific references to figures and tables included in your paper.
Avoid the repetition of information.
Check for accuracy of content.

Anything I've missed? Please add comments below.

Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(2013) Also available on Kindle, or to download.

Also worth a look: The PhD Roadmap: A Guide to Successful Submission of your Dissertation / Thesis.

Monday, 18 November 2013

The Art of the Abstract

' Supervisor, I found Yorick's Abstract. '

Do you hear, let them be well used, for they are the abstract and brief chronicles of the time. After your death you were better have a bad epitaph than their ill report while you live.” --- Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Nowadays there is more pressure than ever to publish often and early. Such is the plight of the doctoral student and the early career academic; such is the life of any career academic.

One of the tricks of the trade that every academic learns is how to write an effective abstract. Typically this activity was undertaken at the end of the third year of the Ph.D and was part of the processing of submitting your work for critical scrutiny.

But really we were abstracting all the way along. The ability to compose a quick summary of what you have been reading is the beginning of abstraction. It’s a useful habit to acquire early in one’s intellectual development.

What you find in the abstract will also be quite similar basically to the sorts of general questions that you will have been asked when seeking funding, or applying for a continuation of your research.

So when we are reading anything, we might want to be asking some questions.

What is this work about?
Why has it been written
What has been discovered?
How did the writer get there?

At first this can be quite bewildering because we are overwhelmed by the sheer plenitude and richness and depth of the writing. But God’s Gift to Scholars is the Abstract. This presents a ready-made solution to these probing questions. As I have pointed out in another post, How doAcademics Read so many Books? The abstract is the short cut for the overloaded, overworked, underpaid scholar-teacher. My intention was not to be cynical. In fact, more pragmatically, it is not possible to undertake wider reading and gain wider familiarity with a body of work without reading lots of abstracts. Abstracts help researchers to decide on what is most  and what is least relevant for their reading. While it may take three hours or more to comb through an academic paper, it will take less than ten minutes to skim and scan the contents. But I can survey the abstract in a matter of seconds.

Therefore, a well-written abstract allows readers to work out how relevant the research undertaken is to what they are trying to achieve. If it is highly relevant then there is a second virtue. The abstract becomes a useful reference point and benchmark for the longer and larger scholarship that follows.

If am I surveying the wider field, and therefore writing a literature review, the abstract is very helpful in providing a quick summary of the work that allows me to position it in relation to other work, either as a specialism, or a theme. The abstract tells me where the research belongs, as part of a cluster, and also, more significantly, provides a sense of its individuality or uniqueness. The sense singularity or originality of the contribution to knowledge is a valued aspect that the abstract must communicate effectively.

In this sense, abstract are useful signposts, they give me a sense of direction.

When I was writing my book The Art of Connection, I noted that one of the Nine Arts of Connection was the Art of the Summary. We are summarising all the time. Often this evident at the end of a paragraph or the end of an essay or speech. Summaries therefore have impact. In a very broad sense, we are already familiar with the art of the summary because we are doing it all the time in the process of reading and writing. Summaries are signposts and they help us to recall key points efficiently and effectively.

In the academic world the abstract is usually one paragraph consisting of about 200 to 300 words. It is situated just under the title of the paper or it appears at the end. It is very important to realise that this is not a supplementary introduction.

While the researcher may all along have had a vague idea of the summary of the work undertaken, the abstract is a precise and efficient of the published text.

The abstract offers a swift appraisal of the research. It is helpful to think in terms of the model that is generally followed. Typically there are four components:

1. An Introduction to the research

2. The Methods, or Methodology employed.

3. The Results of the research

4. The Conclusions reached.

It is useful to remember that the abstract should follow the key sections of your published research in sequence.

Specifically the abstract needs

  • To identify the main subject of the research and its purpose. This may point to the literature review element and provides a wider context for the work.

  • To outline the problem investigated and the approach taken. Explain your objectives and hypothesis precisely. Summarise your methodology.

  • To present your results. What was it that you found out?

  • To offer conclusions. This may involve policy implications.

These are the key words that the abstract-writer and researcher needs to think about clearly: problem, solution, example, evaluation/comparison.

It’s really worth spending a lot of time perfecting your abstract. 

Indeed it might be the only part of your work that most scholars in your field ever read. 

Perhaps it’s what you’ll be remembered by.
Dr Ian McCormick is the author of The Art of Connection: the Social Life of Sentences
(2013) Also available on Kindle, or to download.

Also worth a look: The PhD Roadmap: A Guide to Successful Submission of your Dissertation / Thesis.

Wisdom is the abstract of the past, but beauty is the promise of the future.

--- Oliver Wendell Holmes