1. A clear structure
Keeping the structure of your abstract clear and simple will make it easier both for reviewers and participants to understand your research. Your abstract should contain:
- an opening (2-3 sentences) to introduce your topic;
- your hypothesis (1-2 sentences);
- methods and results (4-6 sentences) describing how you addressed your hypothesis;
- a conclusion (1-2 sentences) summarising your discoveries.
2. Less is more
How often have you stumbled across an abstract that was too long and detailed to read? Don’t make the same mistake! Describe only one or two key results of research, there is no need to go into all the details and to exhaust the provided word limit.
3. Choose the right words
Use common everyday words as much as possible: reviewers and participants come from different scientific and linguistic backgrounds and may not be familiar with technical details, acronyms or field-specific jargon. E.g. replace long words with shorter ones (methodology -> methods), and simplify words and expressions whenever possible (employ -> use, or in order to -> to).
4. Don’t exaggerate
Avoid too many adjectives and stick to a neutral language: reviewers are generally allergic to claims such as the research is of tremendous impact for the well-being of all future generations. Simply saying that your results may positively impact the health of future generations may be closer to reality =)
5. Get active
Use active voice over passive! The passive sentence An analysis to simulate the impact of temperature on protein folding was conducted is more difficult to read than its active version We simulated the impact of temperature on protein folding.
The same holds true for nouns and verbs: An increase in folding speed was observed for proteins at higher temperatures is more complicated (and longer) than Folding speed increased at higher temperatures.
6. Choose the right keywords
To better understand your abstract, reviewers and participants will focus on keywords. Integrate some common vocabulary and keywords to guide them: e.g. if you are working on next-generation sequencing technologies - then say it! - and don’t mumble around new methods to sequence DNA.
7. Get feedback
Share your abstract with colleagues and friends outside your academic field: if the abstract is well structured and clearly written, they will understand the key message - judging its scientific quality and relevance for the conference is only a second step and will be done by the reviewers.