Focusing Your Research By Writing the Abstract First

Focusing Your Research By Writing the Abstract First

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 at the University at Albany, SUNY. She’s got presented and published on research pertaining to practical applications of the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy as part of information literacy instruction. Her current research is focused on exploring the metaconcept that research is both an action and an interest of study. Follow her on Twitter at @ahosier.

In 2012, I attended a series of workshops for new faculty on how to write very first article that is peer-reviewed step-by-step. These workshops were loosely based 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 for me together with other scholars that are new the room at the time. Write the abstract first? Wasn’t that the part that has been supposed to come last? Just how can you write the abstract if you don’t even understand yet what your article is going to be about?

We have since come to regard this as the most useful written piece advice I have ever received. So much so that I meet, both new and experienced that I constantly try to spread the word to other scholars. However, whenever I share this bit of wisdom, I discover that I am generally regarded with polite skepticism, especially by those who strongly feel that your introduction (not as your abstract) is best written during the end associated with the process as opposed to in the beginning. This can be fair. That which works for one person won’t work for another necessarily. But I would like to share why i believe starting with the abstract is beneficial.

Structuring Your Abstract

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

For virtually any piece of scholarly or professional writing I have ever written (including this 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 that an abstract will include five parts, paraphrased below:

  • The motivation: Why is this extensive research important?
  • The situation statement: What problem will you be attempting to solve?
  • Approach: How did you go about solving the issue?
  • Results: What was the takeaway that is main?
  • Conclusions: do you know 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 really do when I have an idea I think might be worth pursuing, even before I you will need to do a literature review. This differs from Belcher’s recommendation, which is to write the abstract once the step that is first of revision rather than the first rung on the ladder of the writing process but i believe the benefits that Belcher identifies (an opportunity to clarify and distill your ideas) are the same in any case. In my situation, beginning with the abstract during the very beginning has the added bonus of helping me establish in early stages just what question I’m trying to resolve and why it’s worth answering. I also find it helpful to start thinking as to what my approach is going to be, at least in general terms, before I start and so I have a sense of how I’m going to go about answering my big question.

So now you’re probably wondering: if this right part comes at the very beginning of this writing process, how can you come up with the outcomes and conclusions? You can’t know very well what those will likely to be before you’ve actually done the research.

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

It’s true that the results together with conclusions you draw from them will likely not actually be known until you have some real data to work well with. But understand that research should possess some type of prediction or hypothesis. Stating everything you think the total results should be early on is a means of forming your hypothesis. Thinking as to what the implications is likely to be when your hypothesis is proven makes it possible to think of why your projects shall matter.

But what if you’re wrong? Imagine if the total answers are completely different? Let’s say other components of your research change as you are going along? What if you want to change focus or improve your approach?

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

An Illustration

Listed here is an draft that is early of abstract for “Research is an Activity and an interest of Study: A Proposed Metaconcept and Its Practical Application,” a write-up I wrote that has been recently accepted by College & Research Libraries:

Motivation: As librarians, the transferability of information literacy across one’s academic, professional, and personal life is easy to know but students often neglect to observe how the abilities and concepts they learn as part of an information literacy lesson or course might apply to anything other than the immediate research assignment.

Problem: A reason because of this may be that information literacy librarians give attention to teaching research as a procedure, an approach which was well-supported because of the Standards. Further, the process librarians teach is one associated primarily with just one genre of research—the college research essay. The Framework allows more flexibility but librarians may not be using it yet. Approach: Librarians might reap the benefits of teaching research not only as a task, but as a topic of study, as is done with writing in composition courses where students first study a genre of writing and its particular rhetorical context prior to trying to write themselves.

Results: Having students study different types of research can help make them conscious of the many forms research might take and might improve transferability of data literacy skills and concepts.

Conclusions: Finding ways to portray research as not just an action but also as a topic of study is much more in line with the new Framework.

It is probably the time that is first looked at this since I originally wrote it. It’s a little messy and while I recognize the article I eventually wrote within 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, this is actually the abstract that appears within the preprint associated with article, that will be scheduled to be published in January 2019:

Information literacy instruction on the basis of the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for advanced schooling has a tendency to concentrate on preliminary research skills. However, research is not merely a skill but in addition a subject 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 of the nature that is contextual of. This article introduces the metaconcept that scientific studies are both a task and a subject of study. The use 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 complete lot shorter because it needed to fit within C&RL’s guidelines. In addition doesn’t follow 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 this article I started with. That’s okay.

Then why is writing the abstract first useful it out later if you’re just going to throw? Since it focuses your research and writing through 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 customwritings when I first came up with the idea for my article. I wanted to write about any of it but I only had a vague sense of the things I wished to say. Writing the abstract first forced me to articulate my ideas in a real way that made clear not merely why this topic was of interest in my opinion but how maybe it’s significant to your profession as a whole.

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