Abstract: Choose the Correct Definition!

In this blog we are returning to the manuscript review form and how, by understanding the form, it can assist when writing your paper. This week we look solely at the abstract in a journal submission.

What is an abstract?

The word "abstract" can have many meanings and it can be a noun, adjective or verb. Unlike an "abstract" painting, where it is used as an adjective to denote a piece of art that does not attempt to accurately portray a real life object or person, or an "abstract" argument, again an adjective, where the argument does not rely on facts, the "abstract" for a paper – here a noun – is based on (to) "abstract" as a verb, where abstracting something means removing it, such as abstracting a tooth. The abstract for an article removes the essence of what the paper is about and presents this as a short summary, indicating to the reader what they can expect to have discussed in the paper.

On the review form

Reviewers are looking for your abstract to concisely describe the main points of your paper.

The actual form looks like this:

Abstract: Does the abstract appropriately summarise the submission?: Yes ☐  No ☐

Comment (if applicable):

Reviewers look for a brief explanation of the topic, an indication of the rationale for the research, some explanation of the methodology, and a hint as to the results. They also look for a brief concluding remark on the paper’s importance. This format is generally used for empirical research, but is also appropriate for literature reviews as you still need to explain why and how you conducted it.

Some guiding information for abstracts

      1. Check the length permitted for the abstract. This is usually located in the journal’s author guidelines or instructions for submission. For the IAFOR Journal of Education it is no more than 250 words.
      2. Do not give lengthy explanations.
      3. Avoid unnecessary adverbs and adjectives, and repetitive information.
      4. Do not use acronyms or abbreviations.
      5. Avoid references to other literature [you could write, "current research shows that..." or "studies have indicated..."],
      6. Avoid jargon or terms that may be confusing to the reader, keep unusual terms for explanation in the paper.
      7. Do not use citations of other works.
      8. Avoid any kind of image, illustration, figure, or table, or references to them.
      9. Do not use the same words as in your paper. Too often the abstract is repeated in the paper.
      10. Write the abstract as one paragraph without sub-headings or numbered lists.

Some final advice

You will find that some professors, and also writing "help" books, suggest writing the abstract first so that you know the structure of your article. However, although it is the first section of your article, it is often a good idea to write it last in order to ensure that it accurately reflects what you have written. One possible strategy is to choose key phrases from different sections of your paper and build them into complete sentences that then summarise your article. Be sure to build the paragraph into a coherent whole that does not just repeat sentences from the body of your paper.

A quick reminder that submissions for Studies in Education close at 9.00am Japan time on Friday September 4: we do not accept late submissions. Meanwhile, all stay well and we continue to look forward to your papers,


Dr Yvonne Masters
IAFOR Journal of Education

JoE is an internationally reviewed and editorially independent interdisciplinary journal associated with IAFOR’s international conferences on education. Like all IAFOR publications, it is freely available to read online, and is free of publication fees for authors. The first issue was published in May 2013, and the journal will publish four issues in 2020.

Indexed in: Scopus, DOAJ, ERIC, EBSCO Discovery Service, MIAR, TROVE, Scilit, SHERPA/RoMEO, WorldCat, Google Scholar, and Ulrich's™. DOIs are assigned to each published issue and article via Crossref.


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