Presence and consequences of positive words in scientific abstracts

Authors : Moritz Edlinger, Finn Buchrieser, Guilherme Wood

Abstracts are the showcase of scientific studies, crafted to make an impression on the reader within a limited space and to determine the amount of attention each study receives. Systemic conditions in the sciences may change the expressive norm and incentive scientists to hype abstracts to promote their work and career. Previous studies found that terms such as “unprecedented”, “novel” and “unique” have been used increasingly in recent history, to describe one’s own research findings.

The present study investigates the use of valence-loaded scientific jargon in the abstracts of scientific articles. Sentiment analysis with dictionaries specifically attuned to detect valence-loaded scientific jargon was employed to analyze more than 2,300,000 MEDLINE abstracts from the fields of psychology, biology, and physics. Results show that over the last four decades, abstracts have contained an increasing amount of valence-loaded scientific jargon, as previously observed in earlier studies.

Moreover, our results reveal that the positive emotional content of abstracts is increasing in a way that cannot be accounted for by the increase in text length, which has also been observed in the same time period. There were small differences between scientific disciplines. A detailed analysis of the distribution of valence-loaded scientific jargon within abstracts reveals a strong concentration towards the end of the text.

We discuss these results in light of psychological evidence relating positive emotions with the propensity to overestimate the value of information to inform judgment and the increase in the competition for attention due to a pressure to publish.

URL : Presence and consequences of positive words in scientific abstracts


Structure of Research Article Abstracts in Political Science: A Genre-Based Study

Author : Hesham Suleiman Alyousef

The research article (RA) abstract is the first section researchers read to determine its relevance to their interests. Researchers need to possess an implicit knowledge of the rhetorical move structure and organization of this section. Unlike most scientific disciplines, political science RA abstracts are unstructured, that is, with no headings (or moves), which makes it more challenging.

To the best of our knowledge, the rhetorical move structure in high readership political science RA abstracts has not been researched. This study investigated (a) the rhetorical move structure in 120 political science RA abstracts from six high-impact journals, (b) the most common move patterns, and (c) the move(s) occupying most textual space. The findings indicated the lack of obligatory moves. A move structure model for writing a political science RA abstract is proposed, comprising four conventional moves (Introduction [I]–Purpose [P]–Methods [M]–Results [R]) and two optional step/move, namely, Research Gap step and Discussion [D] move. The results also showed that the first most frequent move pattern is I-P-M-R-D, followed by I-P-M-R and the I-P-R-D.

The fact that an RA abstract summarizes the whole RA results in move embedding, particularly in the four moves, I-P-M-R. The findings revealed the importance of the Results move as it occupied nearly one third of text space. The results may contribute to the fields of discourse and genre studies.

They may provide invaluable insights for novice political science researchers attempting to publish their work in high-ranking journals. The proposed move structure model can act as a guide for English for Academic Purposes (EAP)/English for Specific Purposes (ESP) tutors and political science authors.

URL : Structure of Research Article Abstracts in Political Science: A Genre-Based Study


Preprint Abstracts in Times of Crisis: a Comparative Study with the Pre-pandemic Period

Authors : Frédérique Bordignon, Liana Ermakova, Marianne Noel

The urgency to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak has driven an unprecedented surge in preprints that aim to speed up knowledge dissemination as they are available much sooner than peer-reviewed publications.

In this study we consider abstracts of research articles and preprints as main entry points that draw attention to the most important information of the document and that try to entice us to read the whole article. In this paper, we try to capture and examine shifts in scientific abstract writing produced at the very beginning of the pandemic.

We made a comparative study of abstracts in terms of their informativeness associated with preprints issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and those produced in 2019, the closest pre-pandemic period. Our results clearly differ from one preprint server to another and show that there are community-centered habits as regards writing and reporting results.

The preprints issued from the arXiv, ChemRxiv and Research Square servers tend to have more informative (generous) abstracts than the ones submitted to the other servers. In four servers, the ratio of structured abstracts decreases with the pandemic.

URL : Preprint Abstracts in Times of Crisis: a Comparative Study with the Pre-pandemic Period

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Thirteen Ways to Write an Abstract

Authors : James Hartley, Guillaume Cabanac

The abstract is a crucial component of a research article. Abstracts head the text—and sometimes they can appear alone in separate listings (e.g., conference proceedings). The purpose of the abstract is to inform the reader succinctly what the paper is about, why and how the research was carried out, and what conclusions might be drawn.

In this paper we consider the same (or a similar) abstract in 13 different formats to illustrate the strengths and weaknesses of each approach.

URL : Thirteen Ways to Write an Abstract