Writing abstracts not just for REF

If you have already published a paper then you only have the 100 words to help focus the reader on the key points of your paper.  Remembering that for REF think a maximum of 15 minutes reading, if the contribution is not obvious it will be missed!

However, if the paper is in process or for future papers you have a chance the refine the paper itself.

You should obviously try to make the paper and its contribution as clear as possible, but if you labour the originality and significance to greatly in the man body of the paper it may end up feeling slightly amateurish for your core community.

However, the abstract is different.

For REF a good abstract is:

  • written for non-expert
  • focuses on originality and significance

However, think about what constitutes a good abstract for research purposes.  Effectively the abstract is your papers advert for the world. It is there to help someone who finds some sort of reference to the paper to work out whether they want to read it. Of course those very close to your area probably already were at the same conferece or reads the journal anyway, and quite possibly are wathing your personal research or that of your group. The abstracts PR job is mainly for those slightly outside your area.

So a good research abstract should be:

  • written for non-expert
  • tell them whether the paper’s contribution worth reading
    in other words focus on originality and significance

Yay!  A good abstract for REF is a good abstract 🙂 🙂