Dec 27, 2022

How to Write a Medical Abstract for Publication

Wordvice KH

Preparing Your Study, Review, or Article for Publication in Medical Journals

The majority of social, behavioral, biological, and clinical journals follow the conventional structured abstract form with the following four major headings (or variations of these headings):

OBJECTIVE (Purpose; Aim; Goal): Tells reader the purpose of your research and the questions it intends to answer

METHODS (Setting; Study Design; Participants): Explains the methods and process so that other researchers can assess, review, and replicate your study.

RESULTS (Findings; Outcomes): Summarizes the most important findings of your study

CONCLUSIONS (Discussion; Implications; Further Recommendations): Summarizes the interpretation and implications of these results and presents recommendations for further research

Sample Health/Medical Abstract

Structured Abstracts Guidelines*

  • Total Word Count: ~200-300 words (depending on the journal)
  • Content: The abstract should reflect only the contents of the original paper (no cited work)

* Always follow the formatting guidelines of the journal to which you are submitting your paper.

Useful Terms and Phrases by Abstract Section

OBJECTIVE: State your precise research purpose or question (1-2 sentences)

  • Begin with “To”: “We aimed to…” or “The objective of this study was to…” using a verb that accurately captures the action of your study.
  • Connect the verb to an object phrase to capture the central elements and purpose of the study, hypothesis, or research problem. Include details about the setting, demographics, and the problem or intervention you are investigating.
Frequently Used VerbsTo/We aimed to/The objective of this study was to… analyze, ascertain, assess, characterize, collect, describe, determine, establish, evaluate, examine, explain, identify, investigate, measure, present, produce, validate
Frequently Used Object Phrases The role of [method/item], a reliable and valid measure of [item/quality], the process undertaken in [procedure], the degree of [item/quality being measured], the amount/number of [item], the outcome of [therapy/procedure], the differences in the quality of [variable being measured]

METHODS: Explain the tools and steps of your research (1-3 sentences)

  • Use the past tense if the study has been conducted; use the present tense if the study is in progress.
  • Include details about the study design, sample groups and sizes, variables, procedures, outcome measures, controls, and methods of analysis.
Study/Analysis TypeWe conducted a qualitative analysis of…”; “A three-year longitudinal study of diabetic patients was performed…”; “We conducted a systematic review searching databases for…”; “We interviewed 34 Dutch general practitioners…”
Description of Patient Sample GroupsAll cancer patients >40 years of age were eligible for the study”; “We analyzed data of the American Project on Patient Evaluation of Palliative Practice Care (APPEPPC)”; “Elderly patients with late-stage Alzheimer’s disease were identified…”; “Sample groups were limited to patients with a history of smoking”
Setting/Location “…in hospitals around the State of New York…”; “…at urgent care centers in three hospitals in Taipei, Taiwan…”; “…at Pyeongchang Regional Care Facility…”
Number of Participants/ Duration of Study“We surveyed 2,136 patients over the course of three years…”; “The frequency of consultations, symptoms, presentations, referrals, and prescription data during the four years prior to diagnosis were recorded…”
Controls“Age- and sex-matched controls were identified…”

 RESULTS: Summarize the data you obtained (3-6 sentences)

  • Use the past tense when describing the actions or outcomes of the research.
  • Include results that answer the research question and that were derived from the stated methods; examine data by qualitative or quantitative means.
  • State whether the research question or hypothesis was proven or disproven.
Frequently Used Verbs and Phrases“participated in the study/completed the treatment”; “changed/did not change significantly”; “had greater/lesser odds of…”; “were associated with…”; “response rate was…”; “The likelihood of ____ was found to be increased by…”; “adverse events occurred…”; “[number/kind of outcomes] were identified, including…”; “was/was not associated with…”
Quantitative Results“Symptoms of…were reported by 3,811 (80%) of 4,764 patients”; “Patients refusing antibiotics increased 23% from 2013 to 2016”; “One in four infants were kept at the hospital longer than two days”
Qualitative Results“Many patients reported a long history of chest infection”; “Doctors reported generally high levels of workplace satisfaction”; “The results of the physiotherapy analysis were reproduced”

CONCLUSIONS: Describe the key findings (2-5 sentences)

Analysis of Results“This study confirms that…”; “[Result] indicates that…”; “…leads to fewer prescriptions for…;” “…was reliable/accurate”; “…is safe/well-tolerated/effective
Implications for Area of Medicine/Research “…valid and reliable for routine use”; “…is drastically decreased after transplantation”; “…may result in functional improvement of the…”; “Our preliminary results indicate potential benefits of using [procedure/drug] in this group of patients”
Wider Implications“…which could increase the number of potential liver donors”; “antibiotic-resistant strains are an emerging threat”
Further Suggestions/ Limitations“Additional studies on [area of study] are recommended to [aim of additional research]”; “However, this evidence should be further assessed in larger trials”; “This diagnostic accuracy may not be generalizable to all office laboratories”
  • Use the present tense to discuss the findings and implications of the study results.
  • Explain the implications of these results for medicine, science, or society.
  • Discuss any major limitations of the study and suggest further actions or research that should be undertaken.

Before submitting your abstract to medical journals, be sure to receive proofreading services from Wordvice, including journal manuscript editing and paper proofreading, to enhance your writing impact and fix any remaining errors.

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