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Structured abstracts - papers by Professor Jim Hartley

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1. Current findings from research on structured abstracts

Background: Structured abstracts were introduced into medical research journals in the mid 1980s. Since then they have been widely used in this and other contexts.
Aim: The aim of this paper is to summarise the main findings from research on structured abstracts, and to discuss the limitations of some aspects of this research.
Method: Narrative literature review of all of the relevant papers known to the author.
Results: Structured abstracts are typically longer than traditional ones but they are also judged to be more informative and accessible. Authors and readers also judge them to be more useful than traditional abstracts. However, not all studies use 'real-life' published examples from different authors in their work, and there are areas where more work needs to be done.
Conclusions: The findings generally support the notion that structured abstracts can be profitably introduced into research journals. Some arguments for this, however, have more research support than others.

Originally published in the Journal of the Medical Library Association, 2004, 92(3), 368-371.

2. Improving the clarity of journal abstracts in psychology: the case for structure

Background. Previous research with structured abstracts has taken place in mainly medical contexts. This research indicated that such abstracts are more informative, more readable, and more appreciated by readers than are traditional abstracts.
Aim. The aim of this study was to test the hypothesis that structured abstracts might also be appropriate for a particular psychology journal.
Method. 24 traditional abstracts from the Journal of Educational Psychology were re-written in a structured form. Measures of word length, information content and readability were made for both sets of abstracts, and 48 authors rated their clarity.
Results. The structured abstracts were significantly longer than the original ones, but they were also significantly more informative and readable, and judged significantly clearer by these academic authors.
Conclusions. These findings support the notion that structured abstracts could be profitably introduced into psychology journals.

Originally published in Science Communication, 2003, 24(3), 366-379, copyright: Sage Publications.

Check out Professor Hartley's Website for information on other publications on this topic - he'll be happy for you to contact him if you'd like copies of anything else.