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Tips for submitting an abstract

In this conversation, Honorary Deputy Director of Meetings, Dudley Robinson interviews Ranee Thakar, RCOG Vice President for Global Health.

They discuss advice and tips on how you can submit a good abstract, and why you should take part in World Congress 2022.

Abstract submission for RCOG World Congress 2022 is now closed. Reserve your in-person or virtual registration today to secure the early bird rate.

Below is a transcript of the video ‘Ranee Thakar & Dudley Robinson - Tips for submitting an abstract’

What makes a good abstract?

Dudley Robinson (DR): Thank you for joining us for this short tutorial on how to write an abstract for the RCOG World Congress. My name is Dudley Robinson, and I'm Honorary Deputy Director of Meetings, here at the RCOG. For this tutorial, I'm very fortunate to be joined by Ranee Thakar, who is the Vice President for Global Health within the RCOG. Together, we hope to guide you on how to write a good abstract for the World Congress. So Ranee, what do you feel makes a good abstract?

Ranee Thakar (RT): Thank you Dudley. Writing a good abstract is a difficult undertaking, and many researchers wonder how they can condense all the work they have done in 300 to 400 words. Well, the first rule of writing abstracts is to read the instructions. Pay close attention to the length of the abstracts, the format and the deadlines. Remember, since reviewers have many abstracts to read and rank, those that don't conform with the stated rules are simply discarded. So Dudley, how would you write a good abstract?

DR: Thank you, Ranee. I think writing an abstract takes practice, but there's several basic rules you can follow to try and present your work as best you can.

So a scientific abstract is usually divided into five sections, usually beginning with title and author information, and then followed by that the introduction, the methods section, results and conclusions.

Title and author information

Dudley Robinson: In terms of title and author information, the title should generally summarize the abstract and convince the reviewers that the topic is important, relevant and innovative. And it's always quite good to make the title sound quite interesting and exciting to try and get your abstract chosen by the abstract reviewers. Following the title and names of all the authors and their institutional affiliations are listed, it's assumed generally that the first author listed will make the oral presentation. Think carefully if the first order is the need to meet any eligibility requirements to make the presentation in any particular meeting.


DR: Next, we have the introduction, and this generally outlines the question which is addressed by the research. Again, try and make the first sentence of the introduction interesting to try and draw in people's attention. The introduction should provide a concise view of what's known about the problem addressed by the research what remains unknown, and how your own research project fills the knowledge gaps. The final sentence of the introduction describes the purpose of the study or the study's aims.


DR: The following section is the method section, and this is often the most difficult section of the abstract to write, because you need to condense all of your hard work into a short paragraph. For most clinical abstracts, the following areas tend to be specifically mentioned, so that includes research design, the research setting, the number of patients enrolled into the study and how they were selected, a description of the intervention and the tests that were used, and a listing of the outcome variables and how they were measured. Finally, the statistical methods used to analyse the data should be described, and a power calculation mentioned if necessary. In the method section, it's also important to document if you had ethics permission.


Dudley Robinson: Following the method section, we have the results section. This begins with a description of the subjects that were included or excluded from the study. For those excluded provide the reason for their exclusion. Next, list the frequencies of the most important outcome variables, and if possible, present comparisons of outcome variables between various subgroups within the study. This type of data can often be presented as a table, but remember, it's important to look at the abstract rules to see if the rules permit a table to be included. Numerical results should include standard deviations or 95%, confidence levels, and the level of statistical significance. If the results are not statistically significant, present the power of your study to detect a difference.


And finally, we have the conclusion. So the importance of the conclusion is to concisely state what can be concluded from your work and the implications it has in terms of clinical medicine. The conclusions must be supported by the data presented in the abstract, and it is very important, never to present unsubstantiated personal opinion or unsubstantiated claims, as this will count against you when we marked the abstracts. If there is room within the conclusion, address the generalizability of the results to populations other than that studied, and also mentioned any strengths and weaknesses of the study.

Additional abstract tips

RT: A few more tips. Limit your abbreviations to no more than three and favour commonly used abbreviations and always spell them out. Remember, a good abstract can take several days to write. Seek help of your supervisor right from the beginning. Get your friends and peers to read it. Check for spelling and grammatical errors. Reading the abstract really is an excellent way to catch grammatical areas and word omissions.

Why should you submit an abstract?

DR: Having had the opportunity to present abstracts at the RCOG and also at other international meetings, it gives you a greater chance to meet friends and make connections with your colleagues around the world. And of course, this can have a huge positive impact on your career and it's also a lot of fun. You tend to make friends and colleagues from around the world at big international meetings, and many of them become good friends over time. And what about you Ranee? Why would you want to present at the RCOG World Congress 2022?

Ranee Thakar: Well, Dudley, you've got to remember the RCOG World Congress is attended by over 3,000 delegates. It's a good forum for you to share your research and get recognized by academics and researchers from all over the world.

How does submitting an abstract benefit your career?

RT: Dudley, the one that comes to mind is the study wherein I compared total versus subtotal hysterectomy. And as a trainee, I presented this at the IUGA meeting and got the prize for the best abstract. Now that completely caught me by surprise. But really that was the time that I realized how important it was to present an abstract in a meeting. The questions that are asked during the abstract presentations helped me to write the manuscript, which was subsequently accepted in the New England Journal of Medicine. And then 10 years later, I presented the follow up as a consultant, and I got the prize again.

DR: Thank you, Ranee. I think that's a great example of how presenting at an International Congress can really change your career. And it's also nice to think that Ranee presented as a Fellow and then presented 10 years later as a consultant. The follow on from her work. So hope you found this short tutorial helpful. And on behalf of Ranee and myself, we thank you for your attention. And we both look forward to meeting you in person at the RCOG global Congress in London in 2022.


Abstract submission is now closed. Reserve your in-person or virtual registration today to secure the early bird rate: