Guide to Writing an Abstract

A biomedical abstract serves as the initial report of new knowledge related to scientific work. Abstracts submitted to ACCP undergo a peer-review process by a committee of experts that reads and grades the submitted work. The review process is often burdened by ineffectively written abstracts. Well-written abstracts are more likely to be accepted for presentation. To expedite the review process and assure effective scientific communication, abstracts submitted to ACCP are required to follow a standard format.

Writing an effective abstract is best learned under the supervision of a more experienced mentor. If you do not have experience in this area, we suggest that you seek input from colleagues within your institution to review and critique the abstract before its submission.

ACCP Guidelines

There are some common rules about abstracts that assist in increasing the acceptance rate of the abstract submission. Authors should not submit abstracts that contain identical or nearly identical data from the same institution or split data to create several abstracts. Resubmission of an abstract to make corrections is almost never possible, so proof your abstract very carefully and diligently (a case for not submitting at the last minute!). If your abstract is accepted it will be published in all relevant printed and online materials as it was submitted.

Use a standard typeface such as Helvetica or Times. Do not begin sentences with numerals. Standard abbreviations may be used without definition (e.g., mg/dl, mMol/L, ng/ml), but nonstandard abbreviations must be placed in parentheses after the first use of the word in the abstract body. It is important to keep nonstandard abbreviations to a minimum, this allows ease of readability and understanding of the abstract. When presenting a medication, use only the generic name.

Title

The abstract title conveys to the reader what the study is about. The title should not be misleading and must pertain to the research hypothesis, methods, results, and conclusions of the study. The title may be in the form of a question or may be formatted to suggest the conclusions, if appropriate. A short, concise title is preferable as it may more easily catch a reader's attention. Do not use abbreviations in the title.

Authors

Authorship credit should be awarded only to those individuals who substantially contribute to: 1) conception and design or analysis and interpretation of data; and 2) drafting of the abstract or manuscript or revising it critically for important intellectual content; and 3) final approval of the abstract or manuscript submitted. Participation solely in the collection of data does not justify authorship. To allow more space for scientific material, avoid including postal codes in the author and institution listing. If the author is submitting more than one abstract to a meeting, the author's name must be identical on each abstract.

Purpose

The introductory sentence(s) may be stated as a research hypothesis, purpose, or objective. Alternatively, the sentence may state the current evidence for a particular finding. A hypothesis is a supposition or conjecture used as a basis for further investigations. The purpose is a statement of the reason for conducting a particular project. The objective is the end result that the scientist is trying to achieve by conducting a particular experiment. This part of the abstract should be limited to one to three sentences.

Methods

The methods section is possibly the most difficult section to write in a condensed form as it should be limited to no more than two to three sentences. Briefly describe the objectives and methods of the study, if pertinent. Included in these sentences may be a description of the study population (e.g., human or animal [species]) and outcome variables (e.g., pharmacodynamic or pharmacokinetic variables). Analytical techniques (e.g., HPLC, microbiological assay, in vitro system), as well as frequency and collection procedures for sample procurement, should be described. A brief description of statistical methods used may be included.

Case studies may state over what period the cases were collected and which patient characteristics were used as inclusion and exclusion criteria. For a retrospective trial, the authors may describe enrollment procedures including selection and exclusion criteria.

Results

The results should be stated succinctly to support only the research hypothesis or conclusions made. Most scientists choose a numerical presentation of the results with statistical significance indicated by p-values. Standard deviations, standard errors of the mean, or ranges should be presented where appropriate. Interim results are generally not acceptable, except under extreme conditions where delay in presentation of the data would be deemed morally or ethically indefensible, or in abstracts submitted to the Student, Resident, Fellow Research in Progress category. Results should be presented in narrative form. If results must be put in a table, tables should have no more than four columns. Tables with more than four columns will be removed from the abstract.

Conclusions

The conclusion(s) should be brief, highlight the impact of the research, and follow the methods and results in a logical fashion. A common mistake is to restate results in this section. Rather, the utility of the data and their potential role in the management of patients should be emphasized. New information or conclusions not supported by data in the results section should be avoided.

Abstract

Do not exceed 300 words. Do not include figures or graphs. Tables must not have more than four columns. Organize the abstract of research presentations as follows: Purpose, Methods, Results, Conclusions. Each heading should be followed by colon; the headings are strictly enforced.

Example

Treatment of acute myocardial infarction at United States academic hospitals. Bradley G. Phillips, Pharm.D., Josephine M. Yim, Pharm.D., Edward J. Brown, Jr., M.D., Neville Bittar, M.D., Timothy J. Hoon, Pharm.D., Catherine Celestin, Pharm.D., Peter H. Vlasses, Pharm.D., FCCP, Jerry L. Bauman, Pharm.D., FCCP; University of Illinois at Chicago; University Hospital Consortium, Oak Brook, IL; Bronx-Lebanon Medical Center, Bronx, NY; University of Wisconsin; Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, Princeton, NJ.

Purpose: This study documented drug therapy received by patients surviving acute myocardial infarction (AMI) at U.S. academic hospitals in order to 1) compare prescribed drug therapy to established guidelines defined in the medical literature, and 2) evaluate evolving prescribing trends in pharmacologic management.

Methods: Medical records of 500 survivors of AMI admitted between April 1 and October 31, 1993 to 12 academic centers in the United States were reviewed. Patients’ medical history, in-hospital course, and specific drug management prior to admission, during the first 72 hours post AMI, and at hospital discharge, were documented.

Results: Thrombolytic therapy was prescribed in 29% of 500 patients studied and included: intravenous streptokinase (49%), tissue-type plasminogen activator (43%), acylated plasminogen-streptokinase activator complex (5%), and intracoronary urokinase (3%). A greater proportion of eligible patients received ß-blocker therapy than calcium channel antagonist therapy within the initial 72 hours (61% vs 40%, p<0.005) and at discharge (51% vs 35%, p<0.005). Women were less likely to receive thrombolytic therapy (OR=0.61; CI 0.54, 0.69) or β-blocker therapy within the first 72 hours (OR=0.61; CI 0.55, 0.67) and at hospital discharge (OR=0.53; CI 0.48, 0.58).

Conclusions: Streptokinase was the predominant thrombolytic agent used at academic hospitals studied during the period of data collection. Use of acute and chronic ß-blocker therapy has now surpassed that of calcium channel antagonist therapy in this setting. These changes may be due to the impact of large clinical trials. With few exceptions, the majority of surviving patients received appropriate pharmacologic therapies during the initial 72 hours and at hospital discharge.