The abstract

So you’ve been invited to give a talk somewhere and you need to send an abstract. This is very similar to our seminar regulations where you have to send the coordinator an abstract.

First, send it as an attachment in the email, not in the body of the email.  This lets the person receiving it save the file somewhere.  This is particularly important when this file is part of your degree requirements, job application or anything else that might be important.  Second, name your file something intelligent, with your name somewhere in the name of the file and some reference to what the file contains.  Something like JSmith_SeminarAbstract_Oct2012.docx and NOT something generic like MyAbstract.pdf.  People have a lot of files on their computers, help them find stuff.

The seminar abstract file itself should contain

  1. Talk title
  2. Your name
  3. Your title/role  (e.g. MASc candidate, Supervisor: Dr. Smarty Pants)
  4. Your affiliation (e.g. Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Ottawa)
  5. The abstract of the talk itself.

How do I write an abstract?

An abstract is a short summary of your completed research. If done well, it makes the reader want to learn more about your research.

These are the basic components of an abstract in any discipline:

1) Motivation/problem statement: Why do we care about the problem? What practical, scientific, theoretical or artistic gap is your research filling?

2) Methods/procedure/approach: What did you actually do to get your results? (e.g. analyzed 3 novels, completed a series of 5 oil paintings, interviewed 17 students)

3) Results/findings/product: As a result of completing the above procedure, what did you learn/invent/create?

4) Conclusion/implications: What are the larger implications of your findings, especially for the problem/gap identified in step 1?

However, it’s important to note that the weight accorded to the different components can vary by discipline. For models, try to find abstracts of research that is similar to your research.

As an example of an engineering abstract:

“Quantifying the Mechanics of a Laryngoscopy”

Laryngoscopy is a medical procedure that provides a secure airway by passing a breathing tube through the mouth and into the lungs of a patient. The ability to successfully perform laryngoscopy is highly dependent on operator skill; experienced physicians have failure rates of 0.1% or less, while less experienced paramedics may have failure rates of 10-33%, which can lead to death or brain injury. Accordingly, there is a need for improved training methods, and virtual reality technology holds promise for this application. The immediate objective of this research project is to measure the mechanics of laryngoscopy, so that an advanced training mannequin can be developed. This summer an instrumented laryngoscope has been developed which uses a 6-axis force/torque sensor and a magnetic position/orientation sensor to quantify the interactions between the laryngoscope and the patient. Experienced physicians as well as residents in training have used this device on an existing mannequin, and the force and motion trajectories have been visualized in 3D. One objective is to use comparisons between expert and novice users to identify the critical skill components necessary for patients, to identify the mechanical properties of the human anatomy that effect laryngoscopy, and thus enable the development of a realistic training simulator. In the future an advanced training mannequin will be developed whose physical properties will be based on our sensor measurements, and where virtual reality tools will be used to provide training feedback for novice users.

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