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The Art Colors Abstract
An abstract is a brief summary of a research article, thesis, review, conference proceeding or any in-depth analysis of a particular subject or discipline, and is often used to help the reader quickly ascertain the paper's purpose. When used, an abstract always appears at the beginning of a manuscript, acting as the point-of-entry for any given academic paper or patent application. Abstracting and indexing services for various academic disciplines are aimed at compiling a body of literature for that particular subject.
The terms précis or synopsis are used in some publications to refer to the same thing that other publications might call an "abstract". In management reports, an executive summary usually contains more information (and often more sensitive information) than the abstract does.Academic literature uses the abstract to succinctly communicate complex research. An abstract may act as a stand-alone entity instead of a full paper. As such, an abstract is used by many organizations as the basis for selecting research that is proposed for presentation in the form of a poster, platform/oral presentation or workshop presentation at an academic conference. Most literature database search engines index only abstracts rather than providing the entire text of the paper. Full texts of scientific papers must often be purchased because of copyright and/or publisher fees and therefore the abstract is a significant selling point for the reprint or electronic form of the full text.
Abstracts are protected under copyright law just as any other form of written speech is protected. However, publishers of scientific articles invariably make abstracts publicly available, even when the article itself is protected by a toll barrier. For example, articles in the biomedical literature are available publicly from MEDLINE which is accessible through PubMed. It is a common misconception that the abstracts in MEDLINE provide sufficient information for medical practitioners, students, scholars and patients. The abstract can convey the main results and conclusions of a scientific article but the full text article must be consulted for details of the methodology, the full experimental results, and a critical discussion of the interpretations and conclusions. Consulting the abstract alone is inadequate for scholarship and may lead to inappropriate medical decisions.
An abstract allows one to sift through copious amounts of papers for ones in which the researcher can have more confidence that they will be relevant to his research. Once papers are chosen based on the abstract, they must be read carefully to be evaluated for relevance. It is commonly surmised that one must not base reference citations on the abstract alone, but the entire merits of a paper.
February 25th, 2012
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