A SCRUTINY OF THE ABSTRACT, by Senneth T. Landes
Bull. As. Assn. Petrol. Geol.  1951, Vol.  35 (7), p.

ABSTRACT: The behavior of editors is discussed.  What should be
covered by an abstract is considered.  The importance of the
abstract is described.  Dictionary definitions of abstracts
are quoted.  At the conclusion a revised abstract is presented.

Presumably new editors, like new senators and small children,
should be seen and not heard.  But unfortunately, the Association
has elected (the electorate had no choice) an editor who is a non-
conformist.  For many years I have fretted over the inadequate
abstract, and now perhaps I can do something about it, but not by
keeping quiet.  Many of the abstracts appearing in the publications,
including meeting programs, of the A.A.P.G.  can best be described by
the use of a homely word that refers to an infestation by certain
minute organisms ("louse-y").  The abstract appearing at the beginning
of this note is in that category.  I regret to say that it is not an
extreme case.  My collection contains several that are worse.  Dean
Russell of Louisiana State refers to such abstracts as "expanded
titles." They could also be looked upon as a table of contents, in
paragraph form, with "is discussed" and "is described" added so as to
furnish each subject with the verb necessary to complete the sentence.
The reader is left completely in the dark not as to what the paper is
about but as to what it tells!  The information and interpretation
contained therein remain a mystery unless the reader takes the time to
read or listen to the entire paper.  Such abstracts can be likened to
the teasers which your local movie manager shows you one week in hope
of bringing you back next week.  But the busy geologist is more likely
to be vexed than intrigued by the coy abstract.  To many geologists,
especially to the tyros in exposition, the writing of the abstract is
an unwanted chore required at the last minute by a rule-ridden editor
or insisted upon even before the paper has been written by a
deadline-bedeviled program chairman.

However, in terms of market reached, the abstract is the most
important part of the paper.  For every individual who reads or
listens to your entire paper, from ten to five hundred will read the
abstract.  It is much better to please than to antagonize this great
audience.  Papers written for oral presentation should be prepared
with the deadline being the abstract date instead of the delivery date.
Later discoveries can be incorporated within the paper - and they would
miss the program abstract anyway.  My dictionary describes an abstract
as "summary of a statement, document, speech, etc."  and "that which

	-->	concentrates in itself the essential qualities	<--
	-->	of anything more extensive or more general,	<--
	-->	or of several things; essence."			<--

The definition I like best has been highlighted.

May all writers learn the art (it is not easy) of preparing an
abstract containing the essential qualities of their compositions.
With this goal in mind, I append an abstract that I believe to be
an improvement over the one appearing at the beginning.

ABSTRACT:  The abstract is of utmost importance, for it is read by
10 to 500 times more people than hear or read the entire article.
It should not be a mere recital of the subject covered, replete
with such expressions as "is discussed" and "is described."
It should be a condensation of the essential qualities of the paper.