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BMD 202: Survey of Biomedical Sciences Literature

What is a scientific abstract?

A scientific abstract is an original, independent, concise (200-300 words) document that gives an overview of a scientific article.  In other words, the abstract is not dependent on any other document to make sense; a reader can read the abstract alone and have a good idea of what information the article is communicating.

OWL at Purdue, Purdue University & Writing Lab. (2014) Writing Scientific Abstracts [PowerPoint]. Retrieved from


What is the purpose of a scientific abstract?

Scientific Abstracts:

  • Introduce journal articles
  • Inform readers about article’s content
  • Help readers decide whether to read the article
  • Give overviews of conference programs (such as poster and paper presentations) and scholarly books and book chapters

OWL at Purdue, Purdue University & Writing Lab. (2014) Writing Scientific Abstracts [PowerPoint]. Retrieved from

Sample Scientific Abstract

Pillet, S., Aubin, E., Trepanier, S., Bussiere, D., Dargis, M., Poulin, J….Landry, N. (2016). A plant-derived quadrivalent virus like particle influenza vaccine induces cross-reactive antibody and T cell response in healthy adults. Clinical immunology, 168, 72-87. 10.1016/j.clim.2016.03.008

Recent issues regarding efficacy of influenza vaccines have re-emphasized the need of new approaches to face this major public health issue. In a phase 1-2 clinical trial, healthy adults received one intramuscular dose of a seasonal influenza plant-based quadrivalent virus-like particle (QVLP) vaccine or placebo. The hemagglutination inhibition (HI) titers met all the European licensure criteria for the type A influenza strains at the 3μg/strain dose and for all four strains at the higher dosages 21days after immunization. High HI titers were maintained for most of the strains 6months after vaccination. QVLP vaccine induced a substantial and sustained increase of hemagglutinin-specific polyfunctional CD4 T cells, mainly transitional memory and TEMRA effector IFN-γ(+) CD4 T cells. A T cells cross-reactive response was also observed against A/Hong-Kong/1/1968 H3N2 and B/Massachusetts/2/2012. Plant-based QVLP offers an attractive alternative manufacturing method for producing effective and HA-strain matching seasonal influenza vaccines.


Full Citation





A Scientific Abstract is NOT

A scientific abstract is not an evaluation of the research article.  It is your job as the reader to critically appraise the information in the article and decide whether the information presented is credible.

OWL at Purdue, Purdue University & Writing Lab. (2014) Writing Scientific Abstracts [PowerPoint]. Retrieved from

What are the parts of a scientific abstract?

There are five parts of a scientific abstract:

  • Full citation of the source
  • Question investigated / purpose
  • Experimental design / methods
  • Major findings / results
  • Interpretation / conclusion / discussion

Bates College, Department of Biology. (2011). The Structure, Format, Content, and Style of a Journal-Style Scientific Paper. Retrieved from

How do I read a scientific abstract?

  • Scan the title.  Does the title sound relevant to your topic?
    • Yes, then proceed to number 2.
    • No, move to another abstract.
  • Scan the article for key words and phrases. Are the key words / phrases used in the correct context for your topic?
    • Yes, proceed to number 3.
    • No, move to another abstract
  • Start at the beginning of the abstract and read to the end. As you read, consider the following questions:  What was the purpose of the study?  What method(s) did the researchers use?  What was the author’s conclusion?  Has this abstract peeked your interest?  Do you want to invest time reading the full article?
    • Yes, proceed to find full text.
    • No, move to another abstract

Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill. (2014). Abstracts. Retrieved from

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