Useful materials from the Laboratory for Scientific Translation

Why are abstracts to scientific articles tending to increase in size?

In the “pre-digital” era, abstracts to scientific articles were generally limited to a few lines. Their main goal was to attract the attention of readers as a means of encouraging them to read the entire text. With the spread of digital technologies and the emergence of scientometric databases, the situation has changed dramatically. Today, it is the abstract, along with other metadata (title, keywords, etc.), that constitutes the main source of information about the study. This is due to the fact that not all databases provide access to the full texts of works. The reading style of the average researcher, who strives for speed and efficiency, has also changed. As a result, an article may be cited only on the basis of an abstract (the entire article may not be read at all). Therefore, it is clear that the requirements for texts of this kind have also changed. A modern, well-written abstract contains in a brief form complete information about the research conducted and methodology used, as well as the main results. Structured abstracts with highlighted subsections are often used (for example, “Introduction”, “Methods”, “Results” and “Conclusion”). Therefore, it is quite understandable that abstracts have increased in volume to reach 200–250 words.