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BMD 202: Survey of Biomedical Sciences Literature

Scientific Abstracts

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. 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 Presentation [PowerPoint]. Retrieved from


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

  • 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

Sample Scientific Abstracts

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