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 during the University at Albany, SUNY. She’s got published and presented on research linked to practical applications of this ACRL Framework for Information Literacy included in information literacy instruction. Her current research is focused on examining the metaconcept that research is both a task and an interest of study. Follow her on Twitter at @ahosier.

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

Our first assignment? Write the abstract for the article.

This advice was shocking in my experience in addition to other scholars that are new the area at the time. Write the abstract first? Wasn’t that the part which was likely to come last? How can you write the abstract in the event that you don’t even comprehend yet what your article is going to be about?

I have since come to regard this as the utmost piece that is useful of advice I have ever received. To such an extent that I constantly try to spread the phrase with other scholars that I meet, both new and experienced. However, whenever I share this little bit of wisdom, I find that I am generally regarded with polite skepticism, especially by those who strongly believe that your introduction (notably less your abstract) is most beneficial written in the end associated with process rather than at the beginning. It is fair. That which works for one person won’t work for another necessarily. But i wish to share why i believe beginning with the abstract is advantageous.

Structuring Your Abstract

“For me, you start with the abstract during the very beginning has got the added bonus of helping me establish in early stages precisely what question I’m trying to answer and why it is worth answering.”

For each and every piece of scholarly or writing that is professional have ever written (including that one!), I started by writing the abstract. In doing so, a format is followed by me suggested by Philip Koopman of Carnegie Mellon University, that we happened upon through a Google search. His recommendation is the fact that an abstract will include five parts, paraphrased below:

  • The motivation: exactly why is this extensive research important?
  • The problem statement: What problem are you currently trying to solve?
  • Approach: How did you go about solving the situation?
  • Results: the thing that was the main takeaway?
  • Conclusions: which are the implications?

To be clear, once I say I mean the very beginning that I write the abstract at the beginning of the writing process. Generally, it is the first thing I 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 will be to write the abstract whilst the step that is first of revision as opposed to the first faltering step associated with writing process but i believe the huge benefits that Belcher identifies (an opportunity to clarify and distill your opinions) are identical in any case. For me personally, you start with the abstract in the very beginning has got the added bonus of helping me establish early on exactly what question I’m trying to answer and exactly why it is worth answering. In addition find it useful to start thinking by 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 right part comes at the very beginning of this writing process, how could you write on the results and conclusions? You can’t know very well what those is likely to be before you’ve actually done the research.

“…writing the abstract first commits you to nothing. It’s just a real way to prepare and clarify your thinking.”

It’s true that your particular results together with conclusions you draw until you have some real data to work with from them will not actually be known. But remember that research should possess some kind of prediction or hypothesis. Stating what you think the total results should be in early stages is an easy method of forming your hypothesis. Thinking by what the implications is going to be in case the hypothesis is proven can help you think of why your projects will matter.

Exactly what if you’re wrong? Imagine if the total results are very different? What if other components of your quest change as you choose to go along? Let’s say you want to change focus or replace your approach?

Can be done all of those things. In reality, I have done all of those plain things, even with writing the abstract first. Because writing the abstract first commits you to nothing. It’s just a real way to arrange and clarify your thinking.

An Illustration

Here is an draft that is early of abstract for “Research is a task and a Subject of Study: A Proposed Metaconcept and Its Practical Application,” an article I wrote that was recently accepted by College & Research Libraries:

Motivation: As librarians, the transferability of information literacy across one’s academic, professional, and personal life is not difficult to know but students often fail to observe how the skills and concepts they learn as an element of an information literacy lesson or course might apply to anything other than the immediate research assignment.

Problem: a good reason for this can be that information literacy librarians focus on teaching research as a procedure, an approach that was well-supported website that writes essays because of the Standards. Further, the procedure librarians teach is the one associated primarily with only one genre of research—the college research essay. The Framework allows more flexibility but librarians might not yet be using it. Approach: Librarians might reap the benefits of teaching research not only as a task, but as a topic of study, as it is done with writing in composition courses where students first study a genre of writing and its own rhetorical context before trying to write themselves.

Results: Having students study different types of research may help make them conscious of the numerous forms research might take and could improve transferability of information literacy skills and concepts.

Conclusions: Finding techniques to portray research as not just an activity but in addition as a topic of study is much more on the basis of the new Framework.

That is most likely the very first time I’ve looked at this since I originally wrote it. It’s a little messy and while I recognize this article I eventually wrote within the information here, my focus did shift significantly as 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 in the preprint regarding the article, that will be scheduled to be published in 2019 january:

Information literacy instruction based on the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education has a tendency to focus on basic research skills. However, scientific studies are not only an art and craft but also a topic 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 contextual nature of research. The metaconcept is introduced by this article that research is both a task and an interest of study. The application of this metaconcept in core LIS literature is discussed and a model for incorporating the study of research into information literacy instruction is suggested.

So obviously the published abstract is a lot shorter as it necessary to fit within C&RL’s guidelines. It doesn’t stick to the recommended format exactly however it does reflect an evolution in thinking that happened as part of the revision and writing process. This article I wound up with had not been the article I started with. That’s okay.

Then how come writing the abstract first useful it out later if you’re just going to throw? As 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 write about this but I only had a vague feeling of what I wished to say. Writing the abstract first forced me to articulate my ideas in a way that made clear not only why this topic was of great interest in my experience but how it may be significant to your profession all together.