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Structured Abstracts

Abstracts and Structured Abstracts

Undertaking secondary studies such as mapping studies and systematic reviews involves extracting key information from published papers as quickly as possible, both for the purposes of making decisions about inclusion and exclusion as well as for data extraction. In particular, for making decisions about inclusion/exclusion, much or all of the necessary knowledge can be acquired by reading the abstract of a paper.

Structured abstracts assist this by helping to organise an abstract in a form that will assist readers with such tasks, making it easier to identify key information about a study, and they are used for this purpose in many disciplines. From the various studies conducted for software engineering topics as well as for other disciplines, there is also a body of evidence that demonstrates the value of adopting the use of structured abstracts. We are therefore keen to encourage all authors of software engineering papers, and especially the authors of papers that are describing primary studies, to use this form.

Structured Abstract Template

The following set of headings are suited to producing abstracts for papers that describe a range of software engineering topics, not just empirical ones, and are the set that we recommend.

  • Background: Previous research and/or rationale that motivates performing the study.
  • Aims: Hypotheses/propositions to be tested, or goal of the study.
  • Method: Description of the type of study, treatments, number and nature of experimental units (people, teams, algorithms, programs, tasks etc.), experimental design, outcome being measured.
  • Results: Treatment outcome values, level of significance.
  • Conclusions: Limitations of the study, implications of the results, and further work.

Materials and Resources