Peacock, Phillip J., Peters, Tim J. and Peacock, Janet L.
How well do structured abstracts reflect the articles they summerize?
European Sciences Editing, 35, (1), .
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Background: evidence-based medicine requires
critical appraisal of published research. This is often
done by reading the abstracts alone of published
papers. This study examined how well structured
abstracts reflect the articles they summarize in
Methods: a total of 20 papers reporting original
randomized trials were obtained from four general
medical journals. Key study details, results, and
conclusions were extracted from the full articles.
Abstracts were examined to see what information
from the article was included, and they were
scrutinized for inaccuracies, data not presented in
the main body, and ambiguous statements.
Results: nineteen abstracts (95%; 95% CI 75 to 100%)
correctly stated the primary outcome. Eight abstracts
(40%; 19% to 64%) were deficient in some way. Three
(15%; 3% to 38%) contained incorrect or inconsistent
figures or data. Six abstracts (30%; 12% to 54%)
contained data not present in the full article.
Discussion: almost half of the abstracts studied
contained some data inconsistent with the full article,
or missing altogether. Authors and editors need
to ensure that abstracts are of a high quality and
accurately reflect the papers they are summarizing.
CONSORT guidelines provide helpful indications as
to what should be included in abstracts reporting
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