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Abstract First vs Introduction First

Updated: Dec 19, 2020

Deciding whether to read the abstract or introduction first is something to take into consideration when reading scientific papers. We like to read the abstract first, and here's why:

Typically, when people think of an introduction, the first thought that usually comes to mind is: introduction comes first. This makes perfect sense because intro usually equals beginning. However, when it comes to reading scientific papers, the abstract is probably a better place to start.

abstract and introduction of a paper

Although the abstract and introduction may contain some of the same information, the abstract is a clear and concise summary of what is being discussed in the paper. The abstract gives a more straightforward description of the purpose, significance and overall results of the paper. To get a better handle on this, you can remember that the abstract is written in a way that it can stand alone by itself. If someone were to read only the abstract, they should be able to understand the main points of the entire paper. The introduction can be seen as the extended or deluxe version of the abstract. The introduction includes other aspects such as the hypothesis, references that led to the hypothesis, relevant background information, key issues, and possibly a quick mention of the methods used. Most times, the introduction will not contain the overall outcomes and discoveries. It basically gets you ready to read the paper. Reading the abstract first can help you quickly determine if reading a particular paper is right for you. Because abstracts are written in a way that if needed they can stand as their own document, reading the abstract is a good way to decide if that particular paper is something that you would be interested in reading.

Do you read the abstract or introduction first? Let us know in the comments!


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