Focusing Your Research By Writing the Abstract First

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 are currently talking about.

Allison Hosier is an Information Literacy Librarian in the University at Albany, SUNY. She has presented and published on research associated with practical applications associated with the ACRL Framework for Information Literacy as an element of information literacy instruction. Her research that is current is 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 number of workshops for brand new faculty on the best way to write very first article that is peer-reviewed step-by-step. These workshops were loosely centered 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 therefore the other new scholars in essay writer the space at the time. Write the abstract first? Wasn’t that the right part that has been likely to come last? Just how can the abstract is written by you in the event that you don’t even know yet what your article will be about?

I have since come to regard this as the utmost useful piece of writing advice I have ever received. To such an extent that I constantly make an effort to spread the term with other scholars that I meet, both new and experienced. However, whenever I share this little bit of wisdom, I realize that I am generally regarded with polite skepticism, especially by those who strongly believe that your introduction (not as your abstract) is the best written during the final end associated with the process instead of in the beginning. This will be fair. What works for one person won’t work for another necessarily. But i do want to share why I think starting with the abstract is beneficial.

Structuring Your Abstract

Me establish in the beginning exactly what question I’m trying to resolve and exactly why it is worth answering.“For me, you start with the abstract during the very beginning has the added bonus of helping”

For each and every piece of scholarly or writing that is professional have ever written (including that one!), I started by writing the abstract. In doing this, a format is followed by me suggested by Philip Koopman of Carnegie Mellon University, that we happened upon through a Google search. His recommendation is that an abstract should include five parts, paraphrased below:

  • The motivation: exactly why is this extensive research important?
  • The issue statement: What problem will you be attempting to solve?
  • Approach: How do you go about solving the problem?
  • Results: that which was the takeaway that is main?
  • Conclusions: do you know the implications?

To be clear, once I say that I write the abstract at the beginning of the writing process, after all the very beginning. Generally, it’s the first thing i actually do before I try to do a literature review after I have an idea I think might be worth pursuing, even. This differs from Belcher’s recommendation, that will be to write the abstract as the initial step of a revision as opposed to the initial step of this writing process but i believe the benefits that Belcher identifies (a way to clarify and distill your thinking) are exactly the same in either case. In my situation, starting with the abstract at the very beginning gets the added bonus of helping me establish in the beginning precisely what question I’m trying to answer and exactly why it’s worth answering. I also think it is beneficial to start thinking by what my approach are going to be, at the very least in general terms, before I start thus I have a feeling 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 the writing process, how could you come up with the outcome and conclusions? You can’t know very well what those would be before you’ve actually done the study.

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

It’s true that the results plus the conclusions you draw until you have some real data to work with from them will not actually be known. But remember that research should involve some type of prediction or hypothesis. Stating what you think the results will soon be in early stages is a means of forming your hypothesis. Thinking as to what the implications are going to be in the event the hypothesis is proven helps you think of why your work will matter.

But what if you’re wrong? Imagine if the email address details are completely different? What if other areas of your quest change as you go along? What if you intend to change focus or change your approach?

Can be done all those things. In reality, I have done all those plain things, even with writing the abstract first. Because writing the abstract commits that are first to nothing. It’s just a way to organize and clarify your thinking.

An Illustration

Let me reveal an draft that is early of abstract for “Research is an Activity and a Subject 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 private life is easy to understand but students often neglect to see how the abilities and concepts they learn included in an information literacy lesson or course might apply to anything aside from the immediate research assignment.

Problem: A reason because of this may be that information literacy librarians focus on teaching research as an activity, a strategy that was well-supported because of the Standards. Further, the method librarians teach is just one associated primarily with only one genre of research—the college research essay. The Framework allows more flexibility but librarians might not be using it yet. Approach: Librarians might benefit from teaching research not only as an activity, but as a subject of study, as it is done with writing in composition courses where students first study a genre of writing and its particular context that is rhetorical before to write themselves.

Results: Having students study different types of research can help make sure they are alert to the many forms research usually takes and might improve transferability of information literacy skills and concepts.

Conclusions: Finding ways to portray research as not only an activity but in addition as a subject of study is much more on the basis of 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 in the information here, my focus did shift significantly when I worked and begun 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 of the article, which is scheduled to be published in 2019 january:

Information literacy instruction in line with the ACRL Information Literacy Competency Standards for advanced schooling tends to focus on preliminary research skills. However, research is not just a skill but additionally 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. The metaconcept is introduced by this article that scientific studies are both an action and an interest of study. The application of this metaconcept in core LIS literature is discussed and a model for incorporating the study of research into information literacy instruction is recommended.

So obviously the published abstract is a lot shorter as it necessary to fit within C&RL’s guidelines. In addition it does not proceed with the recommended format exactly but it does reflect an evolution in thinking that happened included in the writing and revision process. The content I wound up with had not been the content I started with. That’s okay.

Then why is writing the abstract first useful it out later if you’re just going to throw? As it focuses your research and writing through the very start. 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 wanted to write about this but I only had a vague feeling of what I wanted to say. Writing the abstract first forced me to articulate my ideas in a way that made clear not only why this topic was of great interest in my opinion but how maybe it’s significant to the profession in general.

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