7.10 Abstracts

Abstracts are summaries of articles, books or reports. They are a useful way for resource centre staff or users to identify relevant materials. They are also useful for providing more detailed information about materials held in the collection, either in current awareness bulletins or on a database.

There are three types of abstract:

  • Indicative abstracts are short, simple and objective. They describe the theme of the article or publication.
  • Informative abstracts are longer and more thorough. They describe the objectives and conclusions of the article or publication, as well as the contents.
  • Evaluative abstracts (also known as critical abstracts) are subjective. They evaluate the contents of the article or publication.

Abstracts are often included in bibliographies and bibliographic databases. They are sometimes included in current awareness bulletins. Videos and articles in periodicals often carry an author’s or publisher’s abstract. The abstracts that are published with the material can be included in a bibliographic database record or current awareness bulletin, in order to help users decide how useful the materials might be for their needs.

Only larger resource centres have the capacity to produce abstracts for all their materials. Abstracting is time-consuming and requires skills in summarising, analysing and writing. If the resource centre is considering producing abstracts, abstracting needs be to compared with allocating keywords (see Section 5.3: Allocating key words). Keywords can provide a similar indication of the content, audience and level of a material, and make it easy to identify relevant materials, but cannot provide information about the conclusions of an article, or evaluate its content.

7.10.1 Examples of abstracts

These abstracts describe an article in the East African Medical Journal about research into the use of malaria prophylaxis among pregnant women.

Indicative abstract
Assesses how the knowledge of malaria and the perceived effectiveness of malaria control methods affect the use of malaria prophylaxis by pregnant women attending an antenatal clinic in Tanzania.

Informative abstract
Knowledge, perception and use of malaria prophylaxis was assessed among 301 pregnant women attending an antenatal clinic in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. It was found that women with a high knowledge of malaria were more likely to use malaria prophylaxis than those with low knowledge. However, there was no significant association between knowledge of malaria and perceived effectiveness of the various methods of malaria control. Occurrence of malaria episodes was reported to be similar among users and non-users of malaria prophylaxis, probably owing to inconsistent use of malaria prophylaxis. It is suggested that in addition to chemophrophylaxis, pregnant women should be encouraged to use bed nets in combination with mosquito repellants throughout the course of pregnancy.

Evaluative abstract
The article discusses research undertaken to assess knowledge, perception and utilisation of malaria prophylaxis in pregnant women attending an antenatal clinic in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. It begins with a review of the current research literature on the adverse effects of malaria during pregnancy, the benefits of chemoprophylaxis, and issues relating to non-compliance.

It then details research methodology and results, and possible factors that might affect the results. As the research showed no significant associations, and the occurrence of malaria episodes was reported to be similar among users and non-users of malaria prophylaxis, suggestions are made concerning methods for the prevention of malaria during pregnancy.