Writing an Abstract

A how-to written by: Sam Smidt, University of Florida

Abstracts come in many shapes and sizes and should be tailored to the requirements of the publisher (conference, journal, committee, etc). The purpose of the abstract is to briefly summarize the entirety of the study/presentation, which ultimately sets the expectations of the readers/audience. Oftentimes, a strict word limit is enforced which requires concise writing. Discussed here is a general outline for writing a concise and effective abstract, and two abstracts are broken down accordingly. Refer to the following resources that share a similar approach for more information:

UC-Davis Undergraduate Research Center
Carnegie Mellon University

General Outline
Statement 1: [Problem] State the problem
Statement 2: [Motivation] State why it is a problem
Statement 3: [Conceptual Approach] State how you addressed the problem
Statement 4: [Specific Approach] State predominant methods used
Statement 5: [Results] State significant/main conclusions
Statement 6: [Conclusions] State future applications, implications, or major takeaways

Example Abstract #1

SJ Smidt, AD Kendall, and DW Hyndman. 2018. Increased Dependence on Irrigated Crop Production across the CONUS. American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting, Washington D.C.

Efficient irrigation technologies designed to conserve water in heavily irrigated areas may be leading to increased irrigation use in predominantly dryland areas. As a result, the dependence on irrigation for agricultural production has steadily increased across the contiguous United States. However, quantifying this dependence has been hampered by incomplete irrigated and dryland data at the national scale. This study uses a linear regression model to disaggregate lumped agricultural statistics and estimate average irrigated and dryland yields and areas at the state level from 1945-2015 for 5 major row crops: corn, cotton, hay, soybeans, and wheat. We introduce irrigation enhancement as a metric for quantifying the production and revenue due to irrigation applications, which is relative to dryland-only practices. In 2015, we found that irrigating just the five commodity crops enhanced revenue by ~$7 billion across all states with irrigation. In states with both irrigated and dryland practices, 23% of total produced area relied on irrigation, resulting in 7% more production than from dryland practices. We also identify a clear increase in irrigation enhancement in response to regional droughts and a growing biofuel market. Since 1945, we estimate that yield enhancement due to irrigation resulted in over $465 billion in increased revenue across the CONUS.

Statement 1: [Problem] State the problem
Efficient irrigation technologies designed to conserve water in heavily irrigated areas may be leading to increased irrigation use in predominantly dryland areas.

Statement 2: [Motivation] State why it is a problem
As a result, the dependence on irrigation for agricultural production has steadily increased across the contiguous United States. However, quantifying this dependence has been hampered by incomplete irrigated and dryland data at the national scale.

Statement 3: [Conceptual Approach] State how you addressed the problem
This study uses a linear regression model to disaggregate lumped agricultural statistics and estimate average irrigated and dryland yields and areas at the state level from 1945-2015 for 5 major row crops: corn, cotton, hay, soybeans, and wheat.

Statement 4: [Specific Approach] State predominant methods used
We introduce irrigation enhancement as a metric for quantifying the production and revenue due to irrigation applications, which is relative to dryland-only practices.

Statement 5: [Results] State significant/main conclusions
In 2015, we found that irrigating just the five commodity crops enhanced revenue by ~$7 billion across all states with irrigation. In states with both irrigated and dryland practices, 23% of total produced area relied on irrigation, resulting in 7% more production than from dryland practices. We also identify a clear increase in irrigation enhancement in response to regional droughts and a growing biofuel market.

Statement 6: [Conclusions] State future applications, implications, or major takeaways
Since 1945, we estimate that yield enhancement due to irrigation resulted in over $465 billion in increased revenue across the CONUS.

Example Abstract #2

DJ Gates, SJ Smidt. 2017. Estimating irrigation enhancement across the CONUS. Geological Society of America Annual Meeting, Seattle, WA.

Irrigation applications are a common farming strategy for maximizing annual crop yields, yet farmers looking to introduce a new irrigation system do not have a reliable data source that estimates the yield increase expected when compared to dryland regimes. Irrigation use is also a notable stress on water systems, making the management of both food and water a challenge in agriculturally intensive areas. A comprehensive understanding of irrigation enhancement compared to dryland practices is needed to couple sustainable water use with increased food production. This study uses a dual end-member linear regression model to estimate yield enhancement for major row crops across the continental United States. We constructed the model using both observed yield data and common drivers to crop production (e.g., seasonal precipitation, air temperature, soil characteristics, and geographic location). We then interpolated this county-level data to generate a spatially complete yield enhancement map. Irrigation enhancements across commodities identified general East-West trends, with little effect in the east to roughly doubling yields in the west. These data can be used to influence farmer decision making at the regional level and establish a baseline for food production and water use in agricultural systems.

Statement 1: [Problem] State the problem
Irrigation applications are a common farming strategy for maximizing annual crop yields, yet farmers looking to introduce a new irrigation system do not have a reliable data source that estimates the yield increase expected when compared to dryland regimes.

Statement 2: [Motivation] State why it is a problem
Irrigation use is also a notable stress on water systems, making the management of both food and water a challenge in agriculturally intensive areas. A comprehensive understanding of irrigation enhancement compared to dryland practices is needed to couple sustainable water use with increased food production.

Statement 3: [Conceptual Approach] State how you addressed the problem
This study uses a dual end-member linear regression model to estimate yield enhancement for major row crops across the continental United States.

Statement 4: [Specific Approach] State predominant methods used
We constructed the model using both observed yield data and common drivers to crop production (e.g., seasonal precipitation, air temperature, soil characteristics, and geographic location). We then interpolated this county-level data to generate a spatially complete yield enhancement map.

Statement 5: [Results] State significant/main conclusions
Irrigation enhancements across commodities identified general East-West trends, with little effect in the east to roughly doubling yields in the west.

Statement 6: [Conclusions] State future applications, implications, or major takeaways
These data can be used to influence farmer decision making at the regional level and establish a baseline for food production and water use in agricultural systems.