For our next post in the How to Write a Good Abstract series, guest author and Digestive Disease Week® (DDW) abstract reviewer Chung Sang Tse, MD, gastroenterology fellow, outlines the three golden rules to keep in mind when crafting your abstract. As a reminder, abstract submission closes at 9 p.m. EST on Dec. 1, 2019. If you have more questions about abstract submission, write them in the comments below.
Rule #1: Read and Follow the Rules!
Be sure to review the guidelines on the DDW website for the comprehensive and definitive list of instructions. By taking preemptive action to review the instructions before writing your draft, you can save yourself time and avoid having to re-write or re-format your draft. While this advice might seem obvious, you would be surprised at how often reviewers come across abstracts that fail to follow ALL the rules.
Not only does breaking a rule reflect unfavorably on the authors and distracts from abstracts’ core content, but it could also disqualify your abstract from further consideration for DDW 2020. Worse, the author may be sanctioned from future meetings. For example, as per DDW Abstract Rules and Regulations, DDW has “the right to impose a five-year sanction on any author who submits an abstract that has been duplicated in any way or submits an abstract to more than one category, subcategory or society,” (e.g., AASLD, SSAT).
Rule #2: Choose the Submission Category Wisely.
At large society meetings such as DDW, thousands of abstracts may be submitted. In order for the review process to be efficient and expeditious, abstracts are often divided into categories and subcategories. One valuable piece of advice that I received early on in my training is to know which submission categories are available and choose wisely, as some may be more relevant or specific to your abstract’s topic than others.
Example abstract: A fellow conducted a quality improvement project that evaluates the efficacy of an intervention (e.g., a new electronic order set) to increase the utilization of pharmacologic anticoagulation for prevention of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in patients with ulcerative colitis who are hospitalized.
This project can fit into multiple categories, including:
- GI Fellow‐Directed QI Session;
- Immunology, Microbiology & Inflammatory Bowel Diseases;
- IBD: Disease Complications Studies evaluating adverse outcomes of IBD (subcategory)
- IBD: Practice Management, Quality of Care, Quality Assurance (subcategory)
- Clinical Practice;
- Guideline Adoption and Implementation (subcategory)
- Performance Metrics, Process Improvement, and Implementation Science (subcategory)
By selecting the appropriate (sub)category from the get-go, you can tailor your abstract to a select group of expert reviewers and interested audience. This may increase your chances of being accepted for presentation (or ‘upgrade’ a poster offer to an oral presentation). The corollary of ‘pre-selecting’ a certain group of reviewers is that other experts may be excluded in the review process. If there are any uncertainties or questions of which category or subcategory an abstract best fits, the author(s) could decide as a team, seek the advice of the principal investigator, or contact the appropriate sponsoring society.
Rule #3: Avoid the Common Mistakes.
Once your abstract is well underway and nearly ready for submission, make sure to look over these “do’s and don’ts” of ‘minute details’ that may affect the reviewers’ decision of whether to accept, waitlist, or reject the abstract.
|Present data meaningfully and include all the relevant information for reviewers to judge the impact of your study.||State the authors' names or institutions in the title or abstract when specifically instructed not to do so. This helps avoid bias.|
|Reference tables and figures in a logical manner, e.g., numbered in order of appearance in the text.||Include standalone tables or figures without any references or explanations.|
|Give all authors an opportunity to review and approve the final version. Appropriately include all contributors as authors or in the Acknowledgements section.||Exceed the character/word limit for the title or the abstract body. Note that tables and images do not count toward this limit.|
Good luck and see you at DDW 2020!