Abstract Guidelines - Presented Orally in 1-2 Minutes

by Dr. Sarah J. Greenwald

An abstract is an important part of research. An abstract should be thought of as an advertisement or commercial that others can use in order to decide whether they wish to find out about your research. At conferences, there are often many talks and posters that occur at the same time. Hence, people use abstracts to decide which talk to attend from among possibly many talks or posters that they are interested in at the given time.

Conference abstracts are usually due many months before a conference. Hence, it is not imperative that you follow the abstract exactly when presenting the talk, since many people find that by the time they prepare their talk, related but new material is of interest. An abstract should be your best guess of what you will talk about in the allowed space. It should also include some big picture ideas that discuss the importance and relevance of your talk content and place it into the bigger context of related fields.

Abstracts are usually a few paragraphs long, and sometimes have space limitations on the number of characters or words. Your abstract will be presented to the class orally, in 1-2 minutes. While the final project may well be different, the abstract should be at least loosely adhered to since otherwise attendees will be confused and sometimes angry that the final product was unrelated to what you said it would be. After all, attendees are giving their valuable time to you, and might instead have chosen a different project instead.

The first step in writing an abstract is to choose a creative title. The title should be chosen carefully to summarize the content of your project. At a conference, some people may not read the abstract (it is sometimes published in a separate book from the schedule), and may use only the title in order to decide whether they will attend.

Here is an example of some of my abstracts, after my bio: Good News Everyone! Mathematical Morsels from The Simpsons and Futurama