C4R is Rigorous and Glamorous!

This week, the Community for Rigor hosted Rigorous and Glamorous in 100 Words or Less, an abstract workshop for our friends across the world! We had a blast reaching scholars from eleven countries and over three dozen institutions! We’ve shared a recording of the fun to our YouTube channel and written up some tips for writing a good scientific abstract below.

Abstracts are often described as:

  1. Promotion for the paper – convince someone that the work is interesting and useful.
  2. Summary of the research work – communicate what was done and its implications for other researchers to use or build off of.

A good abstract will do both of these things, and do so clearly. A problem arises when imagining other types of writing that seek to do either of the above. For example, a press release about the “world-changing impacts” of the research study, or the detailed explanation of the technical challenges of the study and how they were solved by clever methods. These kinds of writing have their place, but are not sufficient for achieving the goals of a well-written abstract.

What does that have to do with rigor?

Scientific Rigor can mean a lot of things! One of the core principles of rigorous practice is being intentional and thoughtful about your study and its role in the collective endeavor to better understand the world. In other words, taking meaningful measures to account for the uncertainties you can account for, and sharing what uncertainties you can’t account for.

A rigorous abstract, then, is one that fulfills the purpose of:

  1. Communicating what is important and meaningful about the research.
  2. Being precise about the work, its implications, and its limitations.


  1. Follow the expected structure of an abstract. Begin broad with your question, narrow to your intervention, then broaden out to why it matters. Align the results and implications with question and gap in the field.
  2. We can break science down. As you write, ask yourself: What is the question? Why is it a good question? How can we actually answer the question?
    Then, try expressing that in every sentence. If there is text that doesn’t help to communicate the core message, it can be distracting or confusing to a reader—would cutting it make the abstract better? Details that you cut from the abstract might still be relevant to the work, but be better in a different section. 
  3. Consider who your audience is and what they want to achieve by reading your abstact . If the audience is a specific group, what innovations in your work will be interesting to them? If your audience is more general, you may need to spend a bit more effort in communicating why this particular gap is relevant and interesting. You only fail when your reader is confused!

Check out the full event on our YouTube channel!

Want to learn more? Check out 10 simple rules for structuring papers.

Then, check out the Nature guidelines for writing a summary paragraph.

This event wouldn’t have been possible without the thoughts and work of C4R Advisory Board member Brett Mensch. Thank you, Brett! This post wouldn’t have been possible without the help of C4R Curriculum Developer Hao Ye. Thank you, Hao!

We couldn’t have held this workshop without our wonderful community members who submitted their abstracts! Thank you to Pranjul, Cristian, and Nicolás!

Lastly, thank you to Professor Konrad Kording for leading a fabulous workshop. Here’s to many more!

Community for Rigor Team

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