British Journal of Educational Psychology

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Volume 68 Issue 3 (September 1998), Pages 309-474

An evaluation of structured abstracts in journals published by the British Psychological Society (pages 443-456)

Background. In 1997 four journals published by the British Psychological Society — the British Journal of Clinical Psychology, the British Journal of Educational Psychology, the British Journal of Health Psychology, and Legal and Criminological Psychology — began publishing structured abstracts.

Aims. The aim of the studies reported here was to assess the effectiveness of these structured abstracts by comparing them with original versions written in a traditional, unstructured, format.

Method. The authors of articles accepted for publication in the four journals were asked to supply copies of their original traditional abstracts (written when the paper was submitted) together with copies of their structured abstracts (when the paper was revised). 48 such requests were made, and 30 pairs of abstracts were obtained. These abstracts were then compared on a number of measures.

Results. Analysis showed that the structured abstracts were significantly more readable, significantly longer, and significantly more informative than the traditional ones. Judges assessed the contents of the structured abstracts more quickly and with significantly less difficulty than they did the traditional ones. Almost every respondent expressed positive attitudes to structured abstracts.

Conclusions. The structured abstracts fared significantly better than the traditional ones on every measure used in this enquiry. We recommend, therefore, that the editors of other journals in the social sciences consider adopting structured abstracts.

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