ABSTRACTS are important in the transmission of information in an increasingly information rich world. Possible uses are listed at the end of this page. An ABSTRACT is defined by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as "an abbreviated, accurate representation of the contents of a document."
Library researchers find ABSTRACTS in several places. Scientific and scholarly journals often include an ABSTRACT at the beginning of each article. It is usually an INFORMATIVE ABSTRACT which relates the quantitative and qualitative findings of the original document.
Proceedings of conferences and meetings contain ABSTRACTS of the papers and speeches given. This may be the only form and place where the information is found. Sometimes the research paper is expanded and published later as a journal article.
The third place ABSTRACTS are found is the bibliographic or periodical index. Examples include sources like Social Work Abstracts and Expanded Academic Index. Some have ABSTRACTS and others have other types of abridgement used to represent original documents. (See Glossary below.)
ABSTRACTS are found in several styles. Commonly encountered ones are:
1. INDICATIVE or DESCRIPTIVE: gives content and makes general statements about the original scholarly work.
2. INFORMATIVE: provides qualitative and quantitative findings of scientific report. Often includes statement of problem, objectives, method, results, and conclusions.
3. Some ABSTRACTS combine the above two types with major points addressed INFORMATIVELY and minor points handled INDICATIVELY.
4. CRITICAL ABSTRACT: evaluates as well as describes the original work.
As well as critically reading ABSTRACTS, the library researcher often takes notes on information. Note taking which follows the style of an INFORMATIVE ABSTRACT is concise and useful when referred to at a later date.
The outline for writing abstracts of information sources will include the following:
- CITATION: Author, Year, Title, Source, Publisher
- STATEMENT OF PROBLEM: The focus of the research or topic of the essay, etc.
- METHOD: How the subject was studied or the style of the argument.
- FINDINGS: The results of the investigation, experiment, or conclusions of the writer.
- QUOTES: Quotations or paraphrased information with page number(s).
The terms in this GLOSSARY are all related to the writing and use of document surrogates or short representations of longer research, scholarly, or literary works.
General term for condensation which concentrates on major points and eliminates minor ones.
Abbreviated accurate representation of the contents of the document.
- Access abstract - written by indexing and/or abstracting agency for a specific publication.
- Author abstract - written by the author of the original article.
- Discipline oriented abstract - written for a specific audience including more jargon than one for a general audience
- Slanted abstract - selected section or a multidisciplinary work abstracted for use by a specialist group. Not biased or misleading.
More limited than an ABSTRACT, usually a short note indicating subject coverage of a document.
Abridgements which preserve the language, style and tone of the original; shortened by removing sections.
EXTRACT One or more selected portions or original purported to represent the whole.
A list used to search for information.
- Catalog index - list of holdings.
- Book index - list of words or phrases to describe contents.
- Periodical index - publication which includes lists of contents of other publications. Includes ways of finding information on specific topics.
MISSION ORIENTED ABSTRACT
Written to support grant application activities.
Reformulate the ideas of the original in different words of same or similar meaning.
Statement of essential points of an argument in the sequence of original showing how each grew out of the preceding one.
STATISTICAL, TABULAR and NUMERICAL ABSTRACT
Summarized numerical economic, business and social data in simplified tables.
Usually part of the original which orient the reader to major points or highlights.
Brief statement of the general view presented.
USES OF DOCUMENT SURROGATES such as Abstracts:
Recently published items can be selected for later reading, for a collection, catalog or bibliography based on the abstracts.
Searching for information from the past.
ASSESSMENT OF RELEVANCE
Decisions as whether or not to examine the original can be made.
A way to examine a large amount on a topic providing pertinent, condensed information on an unfamiliar subject.
SHORTHAND WAY TO STAY ABREAST
Reading surrogates is a way to keep up with a topic or subject.
Sometimes scholars and researchers quote from the surrogates rather than reading the original. This is a questionable practice except when the ABSTRACT is all there is, as in a conference proceedings.
Some journals include translations of the abstracts of articles into several languages to accompany the original article in the language of the publication.