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December 4, 1972

On Writing the Synopsis-Abstract

JAMA. 1972;222(10):1307. doi:10.1001/jama.1972.03210100055019

It is one of the oddities of medical rhetoric that the shortest part of the scientific communication should so often give evidence of having been the most difficult to write. Yet, by following only three or four simple guidelines, it should be possible for even the neophyte writer to turn out a synopsis-abstract that is coherent, unified, and emphatic.

Before enumerating these principles, let us consider first what the synopsis-abstract is. Although any of several terms, such as "abridgement," "conspectus," "epitome," or "summary" may be used to describe condensation of a longer work, The Journal has hybridized two, "synopsis" and "abstract," as more nearly expressing the qualities of this condensation than would either term used alone. Thus, "abstract" applies to a summary of the main points of the article, while "synopsis" implies a skeletal or general view of the whole with the added notion of suitability for rapid examination by