Organic Chemistry IILecture | Laboratory

Organic Chemistry
Experiment Abstracts

An abstract is formal summary (usually ~200-300 words, but may be shorter)of a longer, more detailed report.  Almost all published scientific articles contain an abstract.  Scientists and clinicians also use abstracts to summarize the content of an oral presentation for a meeting or conference.  On-line search engines of the scientific literature such as MEDLINE provide abstracts of journal articles and reviews to help the reader determine if the full scientific paper is relevant to his or her interests.

There are two types of abstracts:  1) descriptive and 2) informative.  Informative abstracts are used most extensively in clinical and scientific publications.  Informative abstracts are used in scientific writing to concisely identify what the longer document is about.  Abstracts are constructed using complete sentences and paragraph structure, usually with no embedded headings, bullets or tables.  The third person, past tense is used.  An abstract is written after the laboratory experiment and the full write-up of the work are complete.

Students will be required to write informative abstracts as part of a post-lab assignment for some experiments.   An informative abstract for a laboratory experiment contains the following elements:

Title, author(s), affiliation
The title of the abstract is the same as the title of the longer report that it summarizes.  The authors name and the place where the work was done are included.
Main Purpose
The abstract begins by stating the main objective of the experiment/report in one or two sentences.
The name of the methods used to complete the work are cited.  Specifics about the materials used or set-up details are not included in the abstract.  In most cases, one to three sentences should be sufficient for describing the methods.
The experimental findings are reported next, in the most concise and direct manner possible.  The length of this section of the abstract varies depending on the nature of the experiment. 
The conclusion section is a concise analysis and interpretation of the results of the work.  This section  should make an impact on the reader so that it is clear what the outcome of the scientific work is and what it means. 
Texts, journals or other published resources that were used to conduct the experiment should be cited as a separate paragraph.
Abstract Rubric

A sample abstract for a typical organic chemistry experiment is given below.  Try to identify each of the elements outlined in the table above.  

Using Melting Point to Determine the Identity of an Unknown Organic Acid

Martha A. Hass
Albany College of Pharmacy, Organic Chemistry Lab
Tuesday Morning Section
June 15, 2002

The identity of an unknown organic acid was determined.  The compound was taken from a list of twenty, known organic acids, each with different melting points.  An experimental melting point was determined for the unknown compound using a Fisher-Johns melting point apparatus.  The thermometer of the apparatus was calibrated using benzoic acid as a standard.  An experimental melting point (calibrated) of 184°C for the unknown acid was measured.  This value most closely correlated with the literature melting point of p-anisic acid, one of the possible twenty compounds on the list.  None of the other compounds on the list had melting points within 5°C of the experimental melting point.  The unknown was identified as p-anisic acid.  Experimental determination of an unknown compound's melting point is useful for identifying the compound.

Feiser, L.F.; Williamson, K. L. "Organic Experiments, 8th edition, Houghton Miflin Co:  Boston, 1998.