Revising and polishing a structured abstract: Is it worth the time and effort?

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Abstract

Many writers of structured abstracts spend a good deal of time revising and polishing their texts—but is it worth it? Do readers notice the difference? In this paper we report three studies of readers using rating scales to judge (electronically) the clarity of an original and a revised abstract, both as a whole and in its constituent parts. In Study 1, with approximately 250 academics and research workers, we found some significant differences in favor of the revised abstract, but in Study 2, with approximately 210 information scientists, we found no significant effects. Pooling the data from Studies 1 and 2, however, in Study 3, led to significant differences at a higher probability level between the perception of the original and revised abstract as a whole and between the same components as found in Study 1. These results thus indicate that the revised abstract as a whole, as well as certain specific components of it, were judged significantly clearer than the original one. In short, the results of these experiments show that readers can and do perceive differences between original and revised texts—sometimes—and that therefore these efforts are worth the time and effort.

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