How well do structured abstracts reflect the articles they summarize?

P Peacock, TJ Peters, JL Peacock

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Evidence-based medicine requires critical appraisal of published research. This is often done by reading the abstracts alone of published papers. This study examined how well structured abstracts reflect the articles they summarize in medical journals. Methods: A total of 20 papers reporting original randomized trials were obtained from four general medical journals. Key study details, results, and conclusions were extracted from the full articles. Abstracts were examined to see what information from the article was included, and they were scrutinized for inaccuracies, data not presented in the main body, and ambiguous statements. Results: Nineteen abstracts (95%; 95% CI 75 to 100%) correctly stated the primary outcome. Eight abstracts (40%; 19% to 64%) were deficient in some way. Three (15%; 3% to 38%) contained incorrect or inconsistent figures or data. Six abstracts (30%; 12% to 54%) contained data not present in the full article. Discussion: Almost half of the abstracts studied contained some data inconsistent with the full article, or missing altogether. Authors and editors need to ensure that abstracts are of a high quality and accurately reflect the papers they are summarizing. CONSORT guidelines provide helpful indications as to what should be included in abstracts reporting clinical trials.
Translated title of the contributionHow well do structured abstracts reflect the articles they summarize?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3 - 5
Number of pages3
JournalEuropean Science Editing
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009

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