Discussion topic: Structured abstracts

From Valerie Freeman (vdfreema@iu.edu)

What do you think of “structured abstracts”? In some fields, abstracts for conferences and journals are “structured,” with headings like “purpose, method, results, applications” – I find them easy to read (and write), but I haven’t seen them in linguistics much. I wonder, if people started sending them in for phonology conferences, how would reviewers react? If/when you’re a reviewer, would you like it? I’ve created a two-question survey to gather opinions, with links to an example and the instant-tally results:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1ldo32GR2wWSqhpJK_JLMYhwISsilB9ELv1sGTqFe_nA/viewform?usp=send_form

Answers will be especially helpful to students and early-career linguists who worry about the risk of trying something new to the field. Thanks!

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Posted in Discussion topic
7 comments on “Discussion topic: Structured abstracts
  1. Eric Bakovic says:

    Structured abstracts are not so uncommon, at least not in phonology (in my experience, anyway). The headings are not standardized, perhaps, but I often find them in abstracts that I review, often as bolded first words of paragraphs. I’ve appreciated it so much that it has changed the way I write my own abstracts, at least for the most part.

  2. Joe Pater says:

    I’d like to second Eric’s comments. Also, this topic leads me to wonder whether conference organizers might be more explicit about the criteria that the reviewers are being asked to use – this could help abstract authors. I can’t remember the names of the criteria that I’ve been asked to use in the past, but they may have been things like “theoretical innovation”, “argumentation”, “novel data”. The same thing likely be said for journal submissions and reviews. The only place I remember authors being told completely explicitly the criteria on which their submissions are going to be rated is in grant proposals.

  3. I just went back to check the folder for my first conference abstract for a phonology talk from grad school, and it has boldfaced section headings for every paragraph. Either you guys at UMass taught me to do it that way, or I picked it up somewhere after seeing an example, but I’ve only written structured abstracts since then. I certainly appreciate seeing such abstracts when I review them, as well–who wouldn’t?

    Maybe if organizers included a link to a PDF of an example abstract from a previous conference in the call, the format would become more widespread.

    • Joe Pater says:

      I kind of remember picking this habit up from Chris Potts, but I don’t know if the chronology is right…

    • Anne-Michelle Tessier says:

      I also got this boldface sectioning from UMass; I thought I got it from McCarthy. I certainly shove it at all my grad students.

  4. It was before Chris came to UMass (the abstract is for a 2001 talk, Chris started in 2003).

    By the way, one of my favorite resources for abstracts is Amy Dahlstrom and John Kingston’s annotations to this Pullum and Zwicky abstract on the LSA website:

    http://www.linguisticsociety.org/resource/model-abstracts#Pullum

    • Eric Bakovic says:

      I was going to point you all to the LSA’s model abstract page, but I couldn’t find it on their (now-not-so-)new site, so I’m glad Maria did. I recall that there used to also be a criterion list of the kind that Joe mentions, but I can’t find that, either!

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