Literature Review/Project Report? Watch

RogueRedeemer
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So, I’m in my first year of uni doing medical sciences and we’ve been assigned to do a literature review. Problem is, my lecturer doesn’t explain things very well and is really contradictory. You can ask her a simple question about what you’re meant to do and she’ll go on a ten minute tirade that may or may not answer your question — probably 6 out of 10 times you’ll get the feeling that she didn’t answer your question at all.

Anyhow, since she’s the director of the module that I have to do the literature review for at our uni campus, I don’t really have anyone else to ask.

I’m really confused. We’ve been told to structure our work like this:

1. Title
2. Abstract
3. Introduction
4. Discussion
5. Conclusion
6. References

And our word limit is 1,500, +/- 10%.
I’m confused as to the difference between an abstract and an introduction. My chosen topic is how a virus can cause breast cancer, and I’m not conducting any experiments myself — just reading through research papers and articles online. I have no idea how to structure it, and my lecturer’s advice has been unhelpful because she didn’t even bother to let me fully explain my chosen topic and instead gave me advice that wasn’t really relevant for what I’m doing (e.g. told me to compare and contrast between the virus and breast cancer as though they’re two different diseases, when in fact I was stating that one lead to the other, which she didn’t let me explain).

In any case, I’m a bit confused. What is an abstract, how do I write it, and how do I write the introduction in a way that is different from the abstract? What do I speak about in my main body if I’ve already explained stuff like what cancer is and the viruses that cause it in my intro/abstract? Would I not be repeating myself? I know I need to add references in the main body and introduction, but do I have to do so in the conclusion and abstract also?

Sorry for the wall of text, but I really am just overwhelmed and confused by all of this.
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Noodlzzz
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abstract is normally 500 words, an introduction is a lot longer
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RogueRedeemer
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(Original post by Noodlzzz)
abstract is normally 500 words, an introduction is a lot longer
But I was told that I need 250 words for my conclusion, which would then leave me with 750 words for my main discussion and introduction, and if the introduction is greater than 500 words that would mean I have 250 words for my discussion. Would that be enough? I don’t even know how I’d do a 500-word long abstract, since I’ve been told we can’t reference in it without repeating myself in the introduction.
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Noodlzzz
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Hmm ignore my advice, a quick gogle says that the 250 (not 500 sorry!) limit is APA formatting, so not sure if relelvent to you. Sorry!
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LeapingLucy
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(Original post by RogueRedeemer)
But I was told that I need 250 words for my conclusion, which would then leave me with 750 words for my main discussion and introduction, and if the introduction is greater than 500 words that would mean I have 250 words for my discussion. Would that be enough? I don’t even know how I’d do a 500-word long abstract, since I’ve been told we can’t reference in it without repeating myself in the introduction.
A typical academic paper would probably have a few hundred word long abstract, but given that you have a much smaller word limit, you obviously can't spend that much on the abstract.
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heidigirl
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An abstract is a summary of everything, including the outcome and conclusions you've made; basically it is the main highlights of each of your sections, an overview of the entire paper. You should be able to tell what the paper is about in its entirety by reading the abstract. They are usually somewhere around 200-500 words (just dependent on style, how many words doesn't indicate quality; if anything you want your abstract to be concise) with a sentence or two for each section. If you look at some research papers (which you should be doing anyway to use as part of your report), you will get an idea of how they are structured and formatted.

An introduction on the other hand is just the background to the topic, why it is relevant or important and what you are setting out to do.

Abstracts do not have references; they're not necessary because it is just a summary of what you will have written in the rest of the report (where the references will be). You need references in your conclusion on the same basis as you need references for the rest of the work-if you are citing other people's work. You might make your own assertions, which is fine, but almost certainly will need to back those assertions up by referring back to the literature you've previously cited. If you need help with referencing, your uni library will be a good place to get advice.
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