How to write abstracts for manuscripts, presentations, and grants: Maximizing information in a 30‐s sound bite world

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Technology and electronic communication have increased the speed at which information is shared, concentrating large amounts of information in the smallest unit imaginable while conveying the most information possible. Increasing amounts of information can lead to information overload, or overwhelming information saturation, resulting in less information efficiently shared or used by others. There has been an exponential growth in published scientific information, projected to continue (Larsen & von Ins, 2010). Articulating essential, crucial information clearly and concisely is a critical skill to achieve the maximum impact in sharing information for nurse practitioners (NPs). The abstract, the keystone unit on which everything in scholarly work is linked, has been used for decades as an important mechanism for presenting large amounts of summarized information in a concise manner.
The importance of the abstract is rising rapidly in our 30‐s sound bite world. An abstract is a 100–750 word paragraph that provides the key information necessary to understand a topic and entice the reader to engage in further reading the abstract, a grant application, ideas for conference presentation, or a completed, complex research study. Essentially, the abstract is a written elevator speech, delineating the critical elements of what has been done, or what is proposed to be done, and drawing the reader into the larger body of work the abstract represents. An abstract is typically required when submitting a manuscript for publication, and is the format required to be considered for a conference presentation (poster, podium, or symposium) or for a grant application.
The combined title and abstract constitute, almost uniformly, the information available electronically for published manuscripts, conference proceedings, and grant repositories (Cals & Kotz, 2013; Hicks, 2015; Pierson, 2016). Readers make decisions based on content and format of abstract. Engaging the reader to actually read the abstract is critical, so writing must be clear, concise, succinct, and focused, as well as delivering an enticing and relevant message. Verifying that key terms used in the abstract and the title reflect the work presented, assures the work will be located in electronic searches. Whether for a manuscript, conference, or grant application, the title and abstract are most often the first items found in an electronic search, and might be the only items read about the work being reported or proposed. Anticipating and attempting to meet reader expectations will heighten possibility that an abstract will have a positive impact, and the work represented in the abstract will be appreciated and used.

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