The structure format of abstracts: A survey of leading dental journals and their editors

Li Chang, Xiaolin Fang, Danchen Qin, Fang Hua

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: To present the actual usage of different structure formats in abstracts of randomized
controlled trials (RCTs) and systematic reviews (SRs) published in SCIE-indexed dental journals,
and to assess the awareness, knowledge, as well as attitudes towards the structured formats of RCT
and SR abstracts among editors-in-chief (EICs) of dental journals.
Methods: In the first part of this study, we selected SCIE-indexed dental journals and assessed their
eligibility according to pre-determined criteria. All RCTs and SRs published in the included journals
during January-June 2020 were identified through a hand-search. The actual usage of different
structure formats and headings, as well as relevant editorial policies were extracted. In the second
part, an anonymous online survey among the EICs of included dental journals was conducted.
Results: A total of 88 journals were included, from which 364 RCT abstracts and 130 SR abstracts
were identified. For RCT abstracts, 86% were structured, with 83% in IMRaD format (Introduction,
Methods, Results, and Discussion) and 3% in highly structured (HS) format. For SR abstracts, 80%
were structured, including 73% in IMRaD and 7% in HS format. According to the “instructions to
authors”, most journals required either IMRaD (68%) or HS (5%) for RCTs, while less than half
required either IMRaD (36%) or HS (9%) for SRs. Twenty-one (24%) EICs participated in our
survey, among which 18 agreed that structured formats could improve the reporting quality of RCT
abstracts, while only 12 of them thought HS format should be widely recommended in the dental
Conclusions: Compared with the HS format, IMRaD was more frequently used and required among
RCT and SR abstracts in dentistry. Structured formats held a relatively high degree of recognition
among EICs of dental journals. Joint efforts are needed for improving the awareness and usage of
HS format.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Evidence-Based Dental Practice
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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