European Science Editing 48: e85616, doi: 10.3897/ese.2022.e85616
Scientific abstracts: Texts, contexts, and subtexts
expand article infoThomas A. Lang
‡ Tom Lang Communications and Training International, Kirkland, United States of America
Open Access
Abstract

In their 4000-year history, abstracts have taken several forms and represented a variety of documents. The scientific journal emerged in the 1600s and gave rise to what would become the modern scientific abstract. Here, I describe the contexts in which abstracts evolved, address the subtexts of opinions about their purpose, and review the texts of 12 kinds of abstracts. For most readers, articles do not exist beyond abstracts. However, the quality of abstracts is often poor. Inaccuracies are common, serious, widespread, and long-standing. Abstracts should inform only the choice of what to read and never what to do.

Keywords
Abstracts of research papers, conference proceedings, scientific articles, scientific publication