Abstracts and Keywords: a short guide
Background and theory
An abstract is a short description of your longer piece of work and is used as a free layer of content discoverable online. An abstract should not attempt to summarise the whole work as it is also there to show readers whether or not reading further is warranted. It is used to allow people searching on the internet to see that they have encountered a worthwhile ‘hit’. This will encourage them to read further by clicking through to the work in full.
Keywords are index terms that capture the essence of the topics covered in a piece of work and are essential to improving ranking in search results. Abstracts and Keywords (A&K) combined are used to aid discovery of your content and to generate links across relevant content. A&K not only aid in discovery of online content, they also support the discovery of print and eBook content marketed through the online catalogue, or in library catalogues.
High quality A&K are those that help readers get to the content they are looking for, first by making the relevant content appear high in search results, and then by accurately describing the work so that they can decide whether it will be relevant to their needs. High quality A&K become even more important when readers are able to choose and purchase the relevant content from the results. See below for the specifications for high quality A&K.
The availability of A&K is now an industry standard. Referrals from Google represent a higher percentage of total visits for sites that have free A&K (up to 40-70%), compared to those that do not (around 13-30%).
Providing Abstracts & Keywords
Abstracts & Keywords are an essential part of your work and must be delivered as part of your final submission for all content or chapter-based work*, as well as all article-based work.
If you unsure as to whether you are required to produce A&K please get in touch with your OUP Editor who will be able to provide further details.
Tip! Please use the
Abstracts and Keywords template
*NOTE: For chapter-based work, A&K must be provided for each chapter and for the full work. Editors of a multi-contributed work must ensure that the A&K are edited for consistency of format and style across the work.
The following specifications outline how to produce high quality A&K to ensure the greatest benefits as described above.
An Abstract should provide a clear idea of the main arguments and conclusions of the content, highlighting the most important aspects.
Both chapter/article and full work Abstracts, must:
- identify the content they are describing
- capture the essence of the work in the first sentence
- summarise the content rather than 'selling' it
- refer to the content in the 3rd person neutral singular (‘it’ etc.)
- be a single paragraph
- not refer to specific works cited within the chapter/article, unless the work is essential to the topic
- should include keywords
For the full work the Abstract must be between 5 and 10 sentences and be between 100 and 250 words.
For each chapter or article, the Abstract must be between 5 and 10 sentences and not exceed 150 words.
Keywords should be the kinds of words and phrases that readers might put into a search box to find a particular piece of content.
The following points must be observed for producing Keywords for both complete works and individual chapters:
- between 5 and 10 Keywords must be used to describe the work and each chapter
- Keywords longer than a single word may be used only where specialist terms are recognized and necessary; do not exceed three words
- Keywords should be in their basic form (e.g. singular nouns, infinitive verbs, etc.), in contrast to the Abstract, where any word form may be used
- be as specific as possible; avoid more general words, which may be identified by many searches
- accurately identify the most important topics covered in the piece of content
- use abbreviations, acronyms and initialisations if these will be more familiar to the readership: “Tony Blair” not “Anthony Charles Lynton Blair”
- use variants as separate Keywords as necessary, e.g. “RAF” and "Royal Air Force"
- proper nouns should be presented as John Smith rather than Smith, John