Writing and Reviewing Abstracts Society for Epidemiologic Research – Student Caucus

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  • Writing and Reviewing Abstracts Society for Epidemiologic Research Student Caucus
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  • What is an abstract? Concise summary of a full scientific research project describing the study and its results Abstracts generally include the most important aspects of the studys purpose, design, findings, and implications
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  • What do I include in an abstract? Background and significance Why do we care about the problem and results? Include the importance of your work, challenges in this research area, and the potential impact of your work Hypothesis What question are you trying to answer? What is the scope of your work?
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  • What do I include in an abstract? Methods How did you address your hypothesis? How did you collect your data? What analytic methods did you use? Results What are some characteristics of your data? Sample size Age range Racial breakdown What did you find? Report noteworthy results and findings
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  • What do I include in an abstract? Conclusions What are the implications of your study? Are the results generalizable? What is the take home message for the audience?
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  • Abstract considerations Stay within the word limit Most journals and conference submissions will not accept abstracts that are over the word limit Use active voice and simple sentences Spell out any abbreviations Think of key words for searches and be sure to use them in your abstract Have someone else review your abstract before submission
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  • Example Abstracts Disclaimer: Abstract reviews are the opinions of the SER-SC Executive Board
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  • Sample 1: Home Use of Paints and Petroleum Products and Risk of Childhood Leukemia Associations between childhood leukemia and parental occupational exposures to paints, solvents, and other petroleum products have been reported, however, little is known about the effect of these products when used at home. The role of home exposures to paints and petroleum products on the risk of childhood leukemia was evaluated in the Northern California Childhood Leukemia Study (NCCLS), an ongoing population-based case-control study. The current analyses include 382 incident leukemia cases (aged 0-14) enrolled from 1995-2002, and matched to 482 controls on age, sex, Hispanic status, and maternal race. A detailed history on home use of paints and petroleum products, time of exposure, and user was collected during an in home interview. Exposures were censored one year before diagnosis. Conditional logistic regression was performed adjusting for annual household income. An increased risk of childhood leukemia was observed with parental use of paints anytime pre- or postnatally (Odds Ratio (OR)=1.35, 95% Confidence Interval (CI)=0.99, 2.02), with a higher and significant risk when paints were used during both time periods (OR=1.72, 95% CI=1.07, 2.74). Maternal use of paints anytime pre- or postnatally conferred a significantly increased leukemia risk (OR=1.44, 95% CI=1.03, 2.02), while non-significant increased risks were detected for paternal use of paint anytime before or after birth. Exposures to paints by both parents after birth resulted in a two-fold significant increased risk (OR=1.97, 95%CI=1.18, 3.30). Subjects with acute lymphoblastic leukemia had greater risks compared to subjects with acute myeloblastic leukemia. No significant associations were seen with exposure to petroleum products across all time windows for either parent.
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  • Why is sample 1 a good abstract? Used active voice Indicated the importance of their study Described the larger study, years of use, and sample size Included information on study design and matching variables Provided statistical methods and used appropriate methods to analyze matched data Described results and appropriate conclusions What could have improved this abstract? Including summary conclusions
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  • Sample 2: Association between body composition and blood pressure in a contemporary cohort of 9-year old children Background: Elevated blood pressure in children is an early risk factor for cardiovascular disease and is associated with body mass index (BMI). However as BMI does not distinguish between fat and lean, little is known about the relationship of blood pressure in children to different elements of body composition. Objective: This study aimed to investigate the association of blood pressure with total body fat, lean mass and trunk fat in a cohort of 9-year- old children. Design: Blood pressure, BMI and body composition were measured in 6, 863 children enrolled in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Fat mass, lean mass and trunk fat were assessed using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Results: Total body fat and BMI were strongly associated with systolic blood pressure (SBP) [=3.50, 95%CI 3.27 to 3.74 mmHg/standard deviation (SD) and =3.96, 95%CI 3.76 to 4.16 mmHg/SD, respectively] and weakly associated with diastolic blood pressure (DBP) (=1.39, 95% CI 1.22 to 1.57 mmHg/SD and =1.37, 95% CI 1.22 to 1.52 mmHg/SD, respectively). SBP was also positively associated with lean mass (=3.60, 95% CI 3.22 to 3.97 mmHg/SD) and trunk fat (=2.14, 95% CI 0.82 to 3.46 mmHg/SD, independent of total fat mass). Conclusion: Blood pressure in 9-year-old children is independently associated with fat mass and lean mass and, to a lesser extent, trunk fat. In this analysis, because both fat and lean mass are associated with blood pressure, BMI predicts blood pressure at least as well as these components of body composition.
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  • Why is sample 2 a good abstract? Authors Used active voice and divided the abstract by section Indicated the importance of their study Included their study objective Described the study sample and measurements Described results Provided appropriate conclusions What could have improved this abstract? Description of the analytical methods Inclusion of methods for measure and control of potential confounding factors
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  • Sample 3: A Major Determinant of Recent Increases in HIV Incidence Among Men who Have Sex with Men (MSM) in British Columbia (BC): Deferred Initiation of Antiretroviral Therapy Background: Recent clinical guidelines endorse deferral of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) until later in the course of HIV infection. The effect of this change on population levels of high viremia, infectivity and, in turn, sexual transmission of HIV is unknown. Objectives: Describe populational trends in HIV viremia among MSM in BC in relation to a 1999 change that deferred HAART from CD4 10 000 copies/mL) across 6-month intervals. Mathematical models predicted relative changes in infections among MSM following introduction and deferral of HAART. Results: The number and proportion of highly viremic MSM declined steadily [from 443 (27.6%)] for two years following introduction of HAART. This trend has reverted, increasing from 358 viremic MSM (17.8%) in the second half of 1999 to 713 (26.7%) at the end of 2003; the increase occurred among men with CD4 >200. Models predicted a 50% reduction in HIV diagnoses among MSM from 1997-1999 but rapid 83% increase following deferral of HAART. Conclusion: Deferral of therapy appears to be a major determinant of the 75% increase in annual HIV diagnoses among MSM in BC from 1999-2004. Substantial increases in HIV prevention among MSM seem warranted.
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  • Why is sample 3 a good abstract? Authors Used active voice and defined acronyms Divided the abstract by section Indicated the importance of their study Described their objective Included information on their sample and study period Described results and methods What could have improved this abstract? Sample size information More detailed data collection methods
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  • Overall Summary of Sample Abstracts All abstracts were under the 250 word limit All authors used active voice Defined any acronyms used All abstracts included background and importance information Described their study population, methods, and results Provided appropriate conclusions for their results
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  • Reviewing an Abstract
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  • How to Review an Abstract? Questions to consider when reviewing an abstract Is the work appropriate for the journal or conference? At conferences, there is usually a theme or multiple areas of science that are sought Journals have specific aims and goals Is the work original? Is the work complete? Is the work ready to publish or present at a conference? Are the results complete?
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  • How to Review an Abstract? Did the authors describe the important features of an abstract? Background and significance Hypothesis Methods Data collection methods Sample size and population information Analytic techniques Results Demographic characteristics of sample Significant results Conclusions
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  • Deciding Between a Poster or Oral Presentation If you are asked to determine what type of acceptance an abstract should receive Ask for guidelines from the conference organizers Other considerations What is the conference theme? If so, does the abstract address the theme? Are there special topic areas for the conference? If so, does the abstract address any of these Is the quality of the abstract above others reviewed?
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  • Practice Abstract Review
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  • Abstract Evalu