How to read an Abstract

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When you’re collecting journal articles to read for your Literature Review, you haven’t got time to read each article in full, so being able to read the abstract effectively is a vital skill.

Something that might help you get to grips with abstracts that describe a research project is the acronym PRIM…

P…. PURPOSE. What was the purpose of the research?
R … RESULTS. What were the results of the research?
I … INVESTIGATORS. Who did this research, and who paid for it to be done?
M … METHOD. What was the research design and method?

You might not find all the answers, and probably not in this order, but if you can get all this information from the abstract, you should then have a good idea of whether the full article is worth reading.
Here’s an example:

“Subtype of Autism: Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia”

Amanda Babin and Morton Gernbascher (Mentor), Psychology

The purpose of this research is to identify a subtype of autism called Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia (DVD). DVD is a motor-speech problem, disabling oral-motor movements needed for speaking. The first phase of the project involves a screening interview where we identify DVD and Non-DVD kids. We also use home videos to validate answers on the screening interview. The final phase involves home visits where we use several assessments to confirm the child’s diagnosis and examine the connection between manual and oral motor challenges. By identifying DVD as a subtype of Autism, we will eliminate the assumption that all Autistics have the same characteristics. This will allow for more individual consideration of Autistic people and may direct future research on the genetic factors in autism.

PURPOSE: “to identify a subtype of autism called Developmental Verbal Dyspraxia (DVD)”
RESULTS: “identifying DVD as a subtype of Autism”
INVESTIGATORS: unclear here
METHOD: “screening interview where we identify DVD and Non-DVD kids. We also use home videos to validate answers on the screening interview. The final phase involves home visits where we use several assessment”

Have a look at a selection of abstracts here, and have a go at PRIM.

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