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Focusing Your Quest By Writing the Abstract First

Focusing Your Quest 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 Information Literacy Librarian in the University at Albany, SUNY. She’s got published and presented on research linked to practical applications for the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy as an element of information literacy instruction. Her current research is focused on exploring the metaconcept that research is both a task and a subject of study. Follow her on Twitter at @ahosier.

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

Our first assignment? Write the abstract for our article.

These tips was shocking to me and also the other new scholars in the area at that time. Write the abstract first? Wasn’t that the part which was likely to come last? Just how can the abstract is written by you in the event that you don’t even know yet exactly what your article will probably be about?

We have since come to treat this as the utmost piece that is useful of advice I have ever received. So much so that I constantly make an effort to spread your message with other scholars that I meet, both new and experienced. However, whenever I share this bit of wisdom, I find that I am generally regarded with polite skepticism, especially by people who strongly believe that your introduction (never as your abstract) is best written at the end associated with the process in place of at the beginning. This is fair. That which works for one person won’t necessarily work for another. But i wish to share why I think beginning with the abstract is advantageous.

Structuring Your Abstract

Me establish early on precisely what question I’m trying to resolve and just why it is worth answering.“For me, starting with the abstract during the very beginning has the added bonus of helping”

For every single 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, which I 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 have you been attempting to solve?
  • Approach: How did you go about solving the situation?
  • Results: that which was the main takeaway?
  • Conclusions: do you know the implications?

To be clear, once I say that I write the abstract at the start of the writing process, after all the very beginning. Generally, it is the first thing i actually do after I have a notable idea i do believe could be worth pursuing, even before I attempt to do a literature review. This differs from Belcher’s recommendation, that will be to write the abstract once the step that is first of revision rather than the initial step regarding the writing process but i believe the advantages that Belcher identifies (a chance to clarify and distill your thinking) are the same in any case pay to write my essay website. 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 helpful 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 right part comes at the very beginning of this writing process, how will you come up with the outcomes and conclusions? You can’t know what those is supposed to be until you’ve actually done the study.

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

It’s true that your results and also the conclusions you draw until you have some real data to work with from them will not actually be known. But keep in mind that research should involve some kind of hypothesis or prediction. Stating everything you think the results may be in the beginning is a means of forming your hypothesis. Thinking in what the implications will likely to be if your hypothesis is proven makes it possible to think of why your projects shall matter.

But what if you’re wrong? What if the total results are very different? Let’s say other areas of your quest change as you are going along? Let’s say you wish to change focus or improve your approach?

You could do all of those things. In reality, We have done all of those plain things, even after 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 Example

Let me reveal an draft that is early of abstract for “Research is an action and a Subject of Study: A Proposed Metaconcept and its own Practical Application,” a write-up I wrote that has been recently accepted by College & Research Libraries:

Motivation: As librarians, the transferability of data literacy across one’s academic, professional, and private life is easy to grasp but students often fail to see how the skills and concepts they learn included in an information literacy lesson or course might apply to anything aside from the research assignment that is immediate.

Problem: a good reason for this may be that information literacy librarians give attention to teaching research as a procedure, a method that has been well-supported by 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 may well not yet be using it. Approach: Librarians might benefit from teaching research not just as an activity, but as a topic of study, as is through with writing in composition courses where students first study a genre of writing and its rhetorical context before trying to write themselves.

Results: Having students study several types of research will help make them aware of the many forms research usually takes and may improve transferability of data literacy skills and concepts.

Conclusions: Finding ways to portray research as not just a task but in addition as a subject of study is much more in line with the new Framework.

This really is probably the 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 when you look at the information here, my focus did shift significantly as I worked and started to receive feedback, first from colleagues and mentors, then from peer reviewers and editors.

For comparison, here is the abstract that appears into the preprint associated with article, which is 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 give attention to preliminary research skills. However, scientific studies are not only a skill but also a topic of study. The ACRL Framework for Information Literacy for Higher Education opens the door to integrating the research of research into information literacy instruction via its acknowledgement for the contextual nature of research. This informative article introduces the metaconcept that scientific studies are both an activity and a subject of study. The application of this metaconcept in core LIS literature is discussed and a model for incorporating the scholarly 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 but it does reflect an evolution in thinking that happened included in the writing and revision process. This article I ended up with was not the content I started with. That’s okay.

Then exactly why is writing the abstract first useful if you’re just going to throw it out later? 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 desired to publish about this but I only had a vague feeling of the thing I desired to say. Writing the abstract first forced me to articulate my ideas in a way that made clear not merely why this topic was of interest if you ask me but how maybe it’s significant towards the profession all together.

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