My last blog post listed the usual sections of a research report (title, abstract, introduction, methods, results, & discussion/conclusion); and I illustrated the amazing things you can learn from only an article title!
This week? Abstracts. Abstracts are great; abstracts are not enough!
An abstract gives us only enough info to INaccurately apply the study findings to practice.
An abstract typically summarizes all the other sections of the article, such as the question the researcher wanted to answer, how the researcher collected data to answer it, and what that data showed. This is great when you are trying to get the general picture, but you should Never assume that the abstract tells you what you need to know.
Abstracts can mislead you IF you do not read the rest of the article. They are only a short 100-200 words and so they leave out key information. You may misunderstand study results if you read only the abstract. An abstract’s 33,000 foot level description of a study, cannot reveal the same things that can be revealed in the up-close & personal description of the full article.
So…what is the takeaway? Definitely read the abstract to get the general idea. Then read the full article beginning to end to get the full & beautiful picture of the study. Davies & Logan (2012) encourage us, Don’t give up reading the full article just because some parts of the study may be hard to understand. Just read and get what you can, then re-read the difficult-to-understand parts. Get some help with those PRN.
Critical thinking: What info is missing from the below abstract that you might want to know?
J Nurses Prof Dev. 2016 May-Jun;32(3):130-6. doi: 10.1097/NND.0000000000000227. Partnering to Promote Evidence-Based Practice in a Community Hospital: Implications for Nursing Professional Development Specialists. Highfield ME1, Collier A, Collins M, Crowley M.
ABSTRACT: Nursing professional development specialists working in community hospitals face significant barriers to evidence-based practice that academic medical centers do not. This article describes 7 years of a multifaceted, service academic partnership in a large, urban, community hospital. The partnership has strengthened the nursing professional development role in promoting evidence-based practice across the scope of practice and serves as a model for others.
More info on abstracts & other components of research articles? Check out Davies & Logan (2012) Reading Research published by Elsevier.