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How to Write a Conference Abstract

What is a Scientific or Research Abstract?

Scientific or research abstracts show your original investigative work. A scientific abstract is much like an abstract you read in a journal, and uses traditional sections like background, methods and results.

Author Information

  • You should aim for completeness; Use full names and formal credentials; department and institution worked. The author information usually does NOT count against the total word count but be sure you check the instructions.
  • There may be a limit on how many authors can be on the submission.
  • The first author is the one who conceived the study and did most of the work; will be the person who presents. Sometimes you have to be a member of an association to submit an abstract, so check for those rules as well.
  • Full disclosure on sponsors.
  • Check how your abstract is being reviewed. Is it blind? You may see instructions like, To ensure blinded peer-review, no direct references to the author(s) or institution(s) of origin should be made anywhere in the title, body, tables or figures.

Writing a Title

Your best strategy in writing a title: Write the abstract first. Then pull out 6-10 key words or key phrases found in the abstract, and string them together into various titles. Brainstorm lots of keywords to help find the best mix. Use action words that concisely portrays the message of your project.

The title should be:

  • Ideally 10-12 words long. Look for a limit on how many characters this title could be. Look for further rules about the title: Upper- and lowercase letters only.
  • Make the title a description of what was investigated (not the results or conclusion); convey as much as possible about the context and aims of the study. You may want to place your methodology or trial type at the end of your title.
  • Avoid low-impact phrases like ‘effect of... ‘ or ‘influence of…’; Do not include jargon or unfamiliar acronyms

Background or Introduction

  • 2-4 sentences long
  • Should answer: why did you start this research?
  • The introduction provides context/explanation for doing the study; as well as what is already known about the topic
  • What is the problem the research addresses? What is the research gap? What is the research question? What is the relevance to the field?
  • State the aim of the study and include a concise statement of study’s hypothesis


  • 5-6 sentences long
  • Most difficult part to write; must be scaled down but detailed enough to judge validity​
  • ​Section most often identified by reviewers as the reason for rejection​
  • ​May be longer and more fully developed than other sections of the abstract​
  • ​Should answer: What did you do?​
  • ​Describe the nature of the subjects, methods of selection (meaning the key eligibility criteria of the study’s participants). The total number of the participants must be included and how many participants were included in each group of the study (i.e. study group(s), control group).​
  • ​Materials (including manufacturers' names and locations—city and state or country), and all procedures. ​
  • ​Design - A statement of the study's basic design (e.g., randomized controlled trial, double-blind, cohort, survey, cost-effectiveness analysis). Note: Make sure you include in the design statement a notation that the research study was approved by the IRB (institutional review board)​
  • ​Setting - A one-sentence description of the clinical circumstances of the setting (e.g., general community, primary care center, hospitalized care).​
  • ​Interventions—A brief description of any interventions administered. (e.g. medications, etc.)​
  • ​Main Outcome Measure(s) - A brief description of the study’s outcome measurements. (e.g. blood pressure, symptom scores, patient satisfaction scales) ​
  • ​Also according to SIR​: Organize yourself: The methods section should describe your methods for collecting and analyzing data. It should be presented in a logical, orderly fashion. Include your selection (inclusion/exclusion) criteria and data sources. ​
  • ​Is there sufficient detail here to suggest rigor and expertise?​

Conclusion or Discussion

  • 3-5 sentences long
  • Should answer: What does it mean? Why study’s findings are important and what the author believes they mean.​
  • Restate the issue you studied.​
  • Accept or reject your initial hypothesis.​
  • Conclusions should be reasonable and supportable by the findings.​
  • Report of a succinct take-home message (increasingly, these messages are related to translating findings into practice); are these interesting and significant to the field?

Graphs and Charts

You often can include graphs and charts on a scientific abstract submission. Be careful: graphs and charts often count against the word count! Look for this in the call for proposals.​