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

ABSTRACT 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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