Adoption of structured abstracts by general medical journals and format for a structured abstract

Department of Health Informatics, School of Public Health, Kyoto University, Konoe-cho, Yoshida, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto, Kyoto 606-8501 Japan.
Journal of the Medical Library Association JMLA (Impact Factor: 0.99). 05/2005; 93(2):237-42.
Source: PubMed


The use of a structured abstract has been recommended in reporting medical literature to quickly convey necessary information to editors and readers. The use of structured abstracts increased during the mid-1990s; however, recent practice has yet to be analyzed.
This article explored actual reporting patterns of abstracts recently published in selected medical journals and examined what these journals required of abstracts (structured or otherwise and, if structured, which format).
The top thirty journals according to impact factors noted in the "Medicine, General and Internal" category of the ISI Journal Citation Reports (2000) were sampled. Articles of original contributions published by each journal in January 2001 were examined. Cluster analysis was performed to classify the patterns of structured abstracts objectively. Journals' instructions to authors for writing an article abstract were also examined.
Among 304 original articles that included abstracts, 188 (61.8%) had structured and 116 (38.2%) had unstructured abstracts. One hundred twenty-five (66.5%) of the abstracts used the introduction, methods, results, and discussion (IMRAD) format, and 63 (33.5%) used the 8-heading format proposed by Haynes et al. Twenty-one journals requested structured abstracts in their instructions to authors; 8 journals requested the 8-heading format; and 1 journal requested it only for intervention studies.
Even in recent years, not all abstracts of original articles are structured. The eight-heading format was neither commonly used in actual reporting patterns nor noted in journal instructions to authors.

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    • "One of the possible structures of such abstracts is to divide the abstract into three sections: background, results, and conclusion. And, additionally , there are keywords at the end 1 [10]. Another way to facilitate access to the content of a paper is using so called highlights which are " a short collection of bullet points that convey the core findings and provide readers with a quick textual overview of the article " . 2 There are also semantic solutions addressing this problem. "
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    The Federated Conference on Computer Science and Information Systems; 09/2015
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    • "This window displays all the QuikScan summaries (along with hyperlinked headings of the document) but none of the intervening body text—very convenient if you opt to read just the summaries. Finally, there is a structured abstract [9] [13], partly visible in the upper left. Structured abstracts, like conventional abstracts, enable a reader to preview the document, but are divided into sections with headings that map to the headings of the document. "
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    Proceedings of the 30th ACM international conference on Design of communication; 10/2012
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    • "Efforts have been made to improve the quality and accuracy of journal abstracts since they are often the most commonly read part of an article—if not the only part read.10 11 15 In 1987, the Ad Hoc Working Group for Critical Appraisal of the Medical Literature introduced a seven-heading format (Objectives, Design, Setting, Patients, Interventions, Measurements and Conclusion) for structured abstracts.16 Variations in structured abstracts include the eight-heading format proposed by Haynes et al,17 IMRAD18–20 (Introduction, Methods, Results and Discussion), and more recently, BMJ's pico format21 (Patient, Intervention, Comparison and Outcome). Structured abstracts tend to be longer than traditional ones but they also tend to have better content, readability, recall and retrieval.14 "
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