The Benefits of Abstracts

Donald A. Windsor
Arch Intern Med. 1977;137(4):543. doi:10.1001/archinte.1977.03630160099028.
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To the Editor.—  "Beware the 200-word abstract!"1 is certainly good advice, but, just as the dangers of this form of communication are not universally appreciated, the actual benefits may not be either.Detailed bibliometric (statistical analysis of literature) studies2-4 have shown that the relative frequency of abstracts increases when an extraordinary amount of new information is rapidly being published and decreases when the situation normalizes. Furthermore, it has been shown that some of the most "intense" papers (those that participate in the greatest transfer of information) within a literature (a body of writings on a subject) are abstracts.2The very reason that abstracts are dangerous—inadequate editorial peer review—is the same reason they can be such important documents. Information that is so new that its meaning would elude most referees has to, in effect, be able to evade their censorship. However, this is when your admonition that "an


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