Journals Library


An abstract must be submitted as part of your manuscript submission and will appear on Medline and other appropriate bibliographic databases.  

The abstract should be an unnumbered section without references, figures or tables. This should not be more than 500 words (with the exception ofProgramme Grants for Applied Research synopses, which have a limit of 750 words).  

The word count does not include study registration or funding details. Please include the word count. 

A good abstract is important because it: 

  • highlights the research’s most important outcomes and methods;  
  • gives an initial impression of the manuscript; 
  • is the first part of a manuscript to be read;  
  • provides sufficient representation of the manuscript to be a standalone document; 
  • disseminates the key parts of the research succinctly. 

Top tips on writing a good abstract 

  • Although most people write the abstract once the manuscript is finished some may start by drafting an abstract to order their thoughts.   
  • The introduction or background section should be succinct but clearly emphasise why the research was important. 
  • Research aims/ objective(s)/ questions must be clearly listed. 
  • Your study design and methods should be stated precisely, including details of the sample type, size and composition, location of the study and study duration.  
  • You should include actual data in results section (including relative risks, odds ratios, and confidence intervals) to support statements of efficacy or cost-effectiveness. Limitations should be presented. 
  • Conclusions must be based on the findings and should include both favourable and negative outcomes Recommendations for future work should be detailed. 
  • Do not use abbreviations.  
  • Appropriate reporting guidelines need to be followed. 

Abstract headings 

Generally, abstracts should include the headings below. However, if your paper is a randomised controlled trial or systematic review, you should ensure that you follow the CONSORT extension for abstracts and the PRISMA Checklist respectively so that your abstract is compliant with these guidelines. 

  • Background 
  • Objective(s) 
  • Design and methods 
  • Setting and participants 
  • Interventions 
  • Main outcome measures 
  • Data sources (if applicable) 
  • Review methods (if applicable) 
  • Results 
  • Limitations 
  • Conclusions 
  • Future work 
  • Study registration 
  • Funding details - this should be only your main research award and should be worded as follows: This project was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) XXX programme and will be published in XXX Journal; Vol. XX, No. XX. See the NIHR Journals Library website for further project information. Details of other funding, such as NIHR professorships and CLAHRC funding needs to be clearly shown in the statement of declared interests. 

Reporting of cost effectiveness results in abstracts  

Economic evaluations should normally report the costs (usually £) and benefits (usually QALYs) in numbers, their ratio, and any comparison of these between interventions However, £/QALY should not normally be compared to an external threshold such as NICE in abstracts and therefore statements that something is or is not cost-effective for the NHS should be avoided. 

This advice needs to be read in conjunction with the aims of the study and applied thoughtfully.