Abstract analysis – WrAP 2

I selected an issue of the International Journal for Academic Development (Vol 18 (2), June 2013) and examined the article abstracts for content, structure, emphases and omissions.

The number of collaborative ‘self-studies’ in this issue is of note; three of the articles are written by groups of academic developers, reflecting together on what they do. Co-written articles are certainly the norm in IJAD. I’ve never tried writing with anyone else. Hopefully Rowena Murray has some tips on that score; I can’t be the only person who feels horrified by the prospect.

Ling et al:
Begins with closed research question (interesting/unusual): ‘Are there consequences for academic development arising from…?’
Brief explanation of context.
Unnecessary wording? – ‘the authors of the present article note that…’ followed by rationale for the prediction of consequences, which follow:
The argument in this article is… (prediction of consequences) The word ‘consequences’ could have been saved until the concluding statement to tie the answer more tightly to the question.

Smith:
In earlier work, I proposed that… In the present article, I explore this empirically.
Using the biographic-narrative-interpretive method…
The data provided vivid descriptions of…
The findings raise issues about how…

Concluding sentence could have explicitly referenced the original question (fostering transformative PD) before asking a new one.

Schalkwyk et al:
This article foregrounds the iterative journey of [authors] towards an enhanced understanding of [what we do].
Reflecting on… we developed a framework within which [the things we do] might be meaningfully situated.
Our objective was to…

Could have signalled the final sentence as their answer rather than reiterating the question.

Johannes et al:
Despite the complexity of teaching, learning to teach in universities is often ‘learning by doing’. (this implies that complex abilities should be learned through some other means… which is odd). To provide… we created a [training programme]. In focusing on the core features of professional development (as decided by whom?), the authors assess two research questions: X and Y. Trained teachers (N=12) were surveyed…
Two key findings from surveys summarised.
The results so far support… (simple justification that this kind of approach is the way forward – but very generalised).

Interesting that this is a pretty small study; only 12 student teachers were surveyed.

Green at al:
Starts a bit like an Englishman, Irishman, Scotsman joke – ‘six academics at a regional university in Australia engaged in collaborative research examining…’
This collegiate self-study project was guided by… (goals)
This article focuses on (the methodology) and shows how (goals were achieved).

I like how concise this abstract is. It does introduces ideas such as socioconstructionism in the concluding sentence, which seem to come out of nowhere a bit.

Kinash & Wood:
This paper explores…
…by applying (theory x) and (methodology y) to the personal journeys of two academic developers.
(Methods A, B and C) are presented and applied to explain how academic developers form their identities.
Sociological principles are incorporated… (rewording of purpose as above).|
The presentation of implications positions academic developers as higher education leaders.

There is repetition/rewording of purpose in consecutive sentences, which renders the argument a little weak or circular. Why is it important to explore how academic developers (in particular) form their identities? Academic developers will find it interesting, for sure, so maybe this is enough. It just came across a touch on the navel-gazing side. As in the previous example, the authors hit you with something out of leftfield in the final sentence. I didn’t find this piqued my interest, particularly. It just felt like the abstract didn’t really hang together. I like the ‘full circle’ approach Murray suggests, returning to the terms of the question when you come to answer it. If there are findings beyond this, I don’t think you need to be specific about them in the abstract; this can detract from the fulfilment of purpose.

Saito:
Statement setting out context/opinion.
In this paper…the focus is… (no hint of methodology).
Three factors were identified as…(results)
These problems align with…
To overcome these problems… (suggestions/recommendations – but without direct reference to the study)

The lack of reference to methodology, and total separation of results and conclusions give this abstract a less rigorous feel. This is something to bear in mind when I come to write my own article; especially as I will be writing as a sole newcomer author; all these elements need to come through strongly in order for my writing to convince the reader.

 

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