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Microsoft word - how to write an abstract.docx

UCSF Stanford Center for Research & Innovation in Patient Care
How to Write a Good Abstract: Dos, Don’ts, and Helpful Hints
Susan E. Shapiro, PhD, RN, CEN
Nancy Donaldson RN, DNSc. FAAN
Before You Begin

Abstracts are required summaries of presentations, posters, publications and research
studies. The focus of all abstracts is not the same, but the goal of literally abstracting the
structured highlights of the overall presentation, poster, publication or research study are
fairly universal. Before you begin writing an abstract take time to obtain, review and
understand the structure and function of THIS abstract. Take note of any suggested
“subheadings”, required font type and size; specific instructions related to length, number of
words and any format rules. Once you have mastered the specifications for THIS abstract,
be sure to use them. If possible, obtain and review the criteria the editors or reviewers will
use in evaluating your abstract and use those, in addition to the required specifications, to
guide your work. Avoid the temptation to be innovative. You are more likely to be successful
in your abstract submission, publication, or selection if you honor the guidelines and
directions provided. With these tools you are ready to go the next step and write that
abstract! Remember, abstracts are expected to be short, pithy summaries—usually limited to
one page of print or less. You can do this!!!!
Structure of the Abstract
If the call for abstracts did not include a template of suggested or required subheadings be
sure you systematically approach the sequence of the abstract content. Try these generic
subheadings to provide structure for your abstract:
Purpose/aims/research question: Begin like this: “The purpose of this
(study/project/investigation) is to…” or “The question guiding this (study/project/ investigation) is…” or, “The aim of this (study/project/ investigation) is….” You get the picture. Three sentences at most should cover this. Background: no more than 5 sentences here, explaining why this study is important,
what it will add to the science, or why your project matters. You may cite a critical
reference here if crucial to substantiating the significance of this work. Content in
this section should relate directly to the purpose/aims/question.

Methods: if this is a research study, include the design, the setting, the sample, the
measurement tools, and the analysis approach. If the abstract is for a project, include
the setting, the composition of your team, the participants you worked with, your
project intervention, and your evaluation strategy. These should be appropriate to
the purpose/aims/questions.

Results: Here you state just the facts. If a research study, include final sample size and
composition, simplified demographics, primary results. If a project, what was done
and what did the evaluation show. This should flow directly from the methods and
be consistent with the purpose/ aims/questions.

Discussion: Relate your results directly back to your purpose/aims /research
question. This is critical. Did you achieve your purpose, either in your research or
project? If not, why not? How was your question answered? Is the answer what you
expected? Why or why not? What were the major limitations of the study or project
(every study/project has them, so don’t leave this out). Implications/Conclusions: This may be folded into the discussion section, but what are
the practice/research/education implications of your study? Should nurses adopt this intervention? If more research is needed, what are the questions that should be addressed next? Format Principles

Good abstracts are easy to ready, clear and concise. The abstract provides a glimpse of the
author’s work and attention to detail. PROOF READ YOUR WORK! Avoid grammatical
errors and typos. Read your abstract out loud to yourself—how does it sound? Ask someone
you trust and respect to read it and give you feedback. Double check any instructions or
guidelines and confirm that your abstract reflects these specifications—recheck your
margins, font, type size and word count if appropriate.
Because your thinking may have
evolved as you wrote the abstract take time to be sure the entire abstract evolves from your
stated purpose/aim/question. The background discussion should be narrowly focused; the
methods have to be right for the purpose/aim/question; and the discussion should use the
same words as found in the statement of purpose, etc.
Check Yourself
Follow the instructions!!!!
Include headings exactly as stated in the instructions/template?
Use short, clear sentences; one idea per sentence?
Limit your abstract to the word count/character count requirement?
Technically edit your work?

You Did It! Submit Your Abstract
Be sure to submit your abstract on or before any relevant deadline and to the correct
address. Late or misaddressed abstracts are likely to be returned without review. Be sure to
factor in time zones and delays in mail. Even electronic submissions can be complicated by
technological glitches. Plan ahead!
Sample Abstracts
Sample Abstract #1 This abstract was submitted to the Society for Academic Emergency Medicine in December, 2003, was accepted, and was presented as a poster at their regional meeting in Oakland in 2004. The format was strictly prescribed, and including the title and section headings, contains 300 words. EMS Treatment of CHF: How Well Do We Do?

Background: Reported error rates in out-of-hospital (OOH) diagnosis of CHF range from 12-40%,
using ALS provider diagnosis.
Objectives: To determine the error rates in OOH diagnosis for CHF based on choices of ALS
Methods: Retrospective case series; convenience sample of OOH and emergency department (ED)
records on patients 50 and older who received OOH care for respiratory distress. Dates: January 1,
2001 through June 30, 2002. Field intubated patients were excluded. OOH treatment for CHF defined
as treatment of older patients (>=50) with complaint of respiratory distress with furosemide,
nitroglycerine (NTG), or morphine sulfate (MS). ED diagnosis was defined as one of the first three
ED diagnoses as CHF or pulmonary edema.
Results: 310 matching charts with complete data. 70 patients were treated with one or more of the
target treatments: 5 patients received MS, 46 received furosemide, and 53 received NTG. 98 patients
received an ED diagnosis of CHF or pulmonary edema. Sensitivity=0.357 (35/98); Specificity= 0.835
(177/212);Treated for CHF but did not have (false positive rate)= 0.165 (35/212); Not treated for CHF
but had it (false negative rate) = 0.642(63/98); agreement = 0.684 (kappa= 0.21, p<.001).
Conclusions: Both over and under-treatment of CHF in older patients with respiratory distress
remains a problem, even when field diagnosis is not required. Clinical decision rules may be helpful
in this regard. Until the treatment accuracy can be improved, limit treatment to those in severe distress
(benefits outweigh risks of erroneous treatment), or long transport times. Limitations include:
retrospective cases series analysis limits generalizability; convenience sample and exclusion of
patients intubated in the field may bias results; no outcome data to evaluate any benefits or risks
associated with unnecessary or missed ALS treatments; relying on ED diagnosis as gold standard for
presence of CHF.
Unit Level Nurse Workload Impacts on Patient Safety Study
Nancy E. Donaldson RN, DNSc., Principal Investigator
Director, Center for Research & Innovation in Patient Care;
Associate Clinical Professor
Diane S. Brown RN, PhD., Co-Investigator; Assistant Clinical Professor
Linda Burnes Bolton RN, Dr.PH, FAAN, Co-Investigator; Assistant Clinical Professor
Carolyn Aydin PhD., Co-Investigator; Assistant Clinical Professor
Steven Paul PhD., Co-Investigator; Senior Statistician
Research-In-Progress Abstract
The aims of this 2-year descriptive correlational study build on the established integrity and capacity of the California Nursing Outcomes Coalition (CalNOC) to engage California acute care hospitals in voluntarily using ANA nursing quality indicators for reporting standardized nurse staffing, patient safety and quality indicators in a collaborative research, repository development and benchmarking project. For the purposes of this study, it is posited that the daily unit level configuration of nurse staffing and workload may buffer patients from the effects of error and resulting injury or compromise patient safety when variance in these factors exceeds a staffs’ adaptive capacity and breaches a unit level margin of safety. The aims of this study are grounded in the knowledge that the potential to compromise patient safety through human error is inherent in nursing practice and medical care (IOM, 1999; QUIC, 2000; Reason, 1990). In collaboration with CalNOC’s statewide voluntary convenience sample of medical-surgical acute care units from 77 hospitals, this study will break new ground in tracing daily unit-level direct care nurse staffing, in 100 patient care units over a two (2) month period, to examine associations between the structure of hospital nurse staffing and patient safety and outcome indicators such as—falls, pressure ulcers, restraint prevalence and significant clinical events. In addition the effect of patient activity (turnover) and nurse staffing will be examined. The staff measures to be studied include hours of direct nursing care per patient day, nursing skill mix, percent of contracted or agency nursing staff, ratio of required to actual hours of care, and RN years of post-licensure experience. This study recognizes and quantifies the impact of patient turnover, a key factor in nurse staffing workload, and integrates it into multiple regression analyses examining associations between nurse staffing and patient care outcomes. This project is supported by grant number RO1 HS11954 from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality 9/30/01-9/29/03. Unit Level Nurse Workload Impacts on Patient Safety
Nancy E. Donaldson RN, DNSc., FAAN Principal Investigator
Diane S. Brown RN, PhD, FAHCQ, Co-Investigator
Linda Burnes Bolton RN, Dr. PH, FAAN, Co-Investigator
Carolyn Aydin PhD, Consultant Co-Investigator Steven Paul PhD, Co-Investigator,
Senior Statistician
Bruce A. Cooper PhD, Senior Statistician
Kathleen Yule RN, MS, Project Coordinator
Abstract—Final Report (limited to 250 words)
Study aims were to test associations between daily nurse staffing in adult medical-surgical
units and hospital acquired pressure ulcers, patient falls and other significant events. This
study integrated a measure of workload, admissions, discharges and transfers to explore
how the “pace” of patient care impacted patient safety.

This 2-year AHRQ Working Conditions and Patient Safety study built on the work of the
California Nursing Outcomes Coalition (CalNOC) to engage acute care hospitals in using
ANA nursing indicators for reporting staffing, patient safety and quality indicators in a
research, repository development and benchmarking project. In 25 acute care, not-for-profit
California hospitals participating in CalNOC, the sample included urban and rural sites with
an average daily census from 100 to 400 plus. Most patients’ principal diagnosis was
medical (66%).

A prospective, descriptive correlational design tested associations between daily unit level
nurse staffing, skill mix, hours of care, contract hours of care, workload and patient outcome
measures. Falls were “unplanned descents to the floor”.

Registered Nurse (RN) Hours of Care was significantly associated with outcomes. In
addition, percent RNs with BSN or higher was associated with fewer falls. Unit activity index
and hospital complexity (measured by bed size) were also significant predictors of falls.
Percent of patients with hospital acquired pressure ulcers was significantly associated with
mean staffing ratio and with percent days with the staffing under 100% for week PRIOR to
the prevalence study. Greater percent certified RNs was associated with lower percent of
restrained patients.

Key Words
Acute care; nurse staffing, patient falls, hospital acquired pressure ulcers, patient care
Additional Resources: How to write an abstract
Writing an Abstract How to Write an Abstract: Links and Tips Koster, J. 2008. Dr. J’s Short and Snappy Guide to How to Write an Abstract. The Structure, Format, Content, and Style of a Journal-Style Scientific Paper


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