SCCUR - Southern California Conference for Undergraduate Research

SCCUR - Southern California Conference for Undergraduate Research

Abstract Guidelines

Here you will find valuable information regarding how to prepare your abstract for submission, such as what should be included, how it should be formatted, and samples from different disciplines. If you don't find the information you're looking for, Contact Us and let us know how we can help. If you're ready to submit your abstract, head on over to the Submission page.

  • What is an abstract?

    An abstract is a brief summary of a presenter's research, scholarly work, or creative activity. An abstract succinctly covers the main points of a presentation and varies somewhat depending on the discipline. Submitted abstracts will be read and evaluated by scholars in their fields, so presenters should consult with their mentors concerning discipline-appropriate formats. In the empirical sciences, an abstract typically contains a hypothesis statement, the rationale for the hypothesis, method of testing the hypothesis, results including a few summary data with statistics, and conclusions. In the humanities, an abstract contains a thesis statement, brief background for thesis development, methods employed or approach taken, new insight gained, and conclusions drawn. There is no clear formula for an abstract in the fine arts, either visual or performing. Typically abstracts in the fine arts contain background information, subject of the work, purpose or function of the work, audience, theories and methodologies employed, personal perspective, and meaning of the work. An abstract is not a review. It is not an outline, a listing of ideas, or a summary of the work of others. It does not reference the literature but is self contained and stands alone on its own merits of a new scholarly contribution. An abstract dwells on the main points of the scholarly presentation and the central contribution of the scholarly achievement. It typically ends with a concluding statement that gives coherence and synthesis.

  • What are the components of a typical abstract in the humanities?
    • Topic: What is the subject area in which you undertook your research?
    • Question: What is the problem or question that your research attempted to solve? What is its importance?
    • Evidence: What are the main bodies of evidence that you considered in approaching your question?
    • Conclusions: What did you conclude concerning your question?
  • What are the components of a typical abstract in the sciences?
    • Hypothesis or question: What problem are you trying to solve? What question are you pursuing? What idea are you testing?
    • Rationale: Why is your problem/question/idea important? What is the broader scope and significance of your project?
    • Methods: What methods did you employ or approach did you take to resolve your problem/question or to empirically test your idea? What was your experimental design and protocol?
    • Results: What did you find during the course of your scholarly work? Specifically, what new insight did you gain? What did you learn, create or discover that potentially advances your discipline?
    • Principle conclusions: Were your results consistent or inconsistent with your original hypothesis? How do your results inform your original question? What are the broader implications of your findings, especially as they relate to your original hypothesis or your question? What weaknesses or limitations remain? What are the original, creative contributions of your work to your discipline and how will your work potentially advance your field of specialization?
  • What are the components of a typical abstract in the fine arts?

    While there is no clear formula for a fine arts abstract, either visual or performing, below are some components that are frequently included. You do not need to have all of these components in your abstract. Please note that abstracts in fine arts are often written in first person.

    • Necessary background information.
    • Subject of your body of work.
    • Purpose or function of your work.
    • Audience of your work.
    • Theories and methodologies that inform your work.
    • Personal perspective.
    • Meaning(s) of your work.

    Note: If you submit an abstract describing some form of visual art, also email a digital image (jpg or tiff) to the following address for evaluation: Please do so within 24 hours of your abstract submission.

  • How do I submit an abstract for review and final acceptance?

    Visit our Submit an Abstract page and follow the instructions. Follow these general guidelines when entering your information:

    • Abstracts may be no longer than 300 words in total and must include information on Hypothesis/Thesis, Methods, Results/Findings, and Conclusions. We encourage contributors to identify the objective of their presentation within the first three sentences of their abstract, succinctly providing relevant background information. The abstract must include an explicit statement of the project's results or findings. Abstracts without an explicit statement of results or findings will not be accepted. When typing your abstract into the window of the application form, note that a word count appears at the bottom of the window. Please pay attention to this word count so that you do not exceed the 300-word limit.
    • When entering your title, capitalize all nouns, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, and adjectives with the exception of scientific species' names. Do not capitalize articles, prepositions or conjunctions unless they are the first or last word of the title or after a colon. Place a comma before the word "and" in a series. Do not end your title with punctuation. The title is limited to 20 words.
      Example: "The Equine Immune Response to Corynebacterium pseudotuberculosis: A Seriological Analysis in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Sacramento". Notice that the application window allows for some specialized fonts such as italics, which is especially useful for genus and species names. Other fonts include superscript, subscript, and Greek symbols.
    • For each author, enter the full first name, the first letter of the middle name (no period), and the full last name. If more than one author is entered, separate each name in the list with a comma.
  • How will I be notified of abstract receipt and acceptance?
    • You will be notified of receipt of your abstract submission electronically using the email address entered on your submission form. If you enter an incorrect address, you will NOT receive notification. A copy of your abstract will be emailed to your faculty mentor. An abstract reviewer who is familiar with your discipline will be assigned to provide anonymous editorial comments on your submitted abstract. You will be notified of abstract acceptance prior to November 1, 2012. After final acceptance of your abstract, you must Register for the SCCUR 2012 conference, at this website, in order to be included in the program schedule and to have your abstract published in the conference book. The registration deadline for inclusion in the program schedule is Saturday, November 10, 2012.

    Note: In the abstract samples listed below, as in your abstract submission, the title, author(s), mentor(s), and institution are automatically added to the top of the body of your abstract through software, utilizing the fill-in frames of the application form. Please do not manually add this information to the top of the body of your abstract a second time, prior to abstract submission. It will impact your 300 word limit and also duplicate the title, author, mentor, and institution at the top of your abstract.

Sample Abstracts from Different Disciplines

  • Sciences

    Photosynthetic Plasticity in Post-fire Resprouts of the Chaparral Shrub,
    Heteromeles arbutifolia

    Author: Mary C Zuniga, Northern Arizona University
    Mentor: Stephen D Davis, Natural Science Division, Pepperdine University

    Chaparral species that resprout after fire in the Santa Monica Mountains of California experience competition for light due to rapid growth of post-fire annuals or the presence of invasive species. If light limitation persists, post-fire resprouts may deplete carbohydrate stores and attempt photosynthetic compensation. Furthermore, they may shift leaf optical properties in response to shade. We tested these hypotheses by comparing the photosynthetic performance of post-fire resprouts of Heteromeles arbutifolia (toyon) under three treatments: shade, irrigated, and control. Shaded plants were grown under low Photosynthetic Photon Flux Density [PPFD] of ~200 µmol m-2 s-1, which represents 10 percent of the maximum. The irrigated treatment eliminated water stress as a confounding factor. Six plants of each treatment were examined for their photosynthetic response to increasing light levels [light response curve] and to increasing CO2 levels [CO2 response curves]. Parameters measured were maximum net photosynthetic rate (Amax), light compensation point (Acomp), dark respiration (Rdark), CO2 inside the leaf at 2000 ppm external (Ci,2000), quantum yield (QY), chlorophyll fluorescence (Fv'/Fm'), stem elongation rate, stomatal conductance to water vapor diffusion (gs), predawn water potential (Ψpd), and leaf absorptance (α). Significant differences were found among all three treatments, in all parameters measured, with the exception of Fv'/Fm' (P > 0.05). These changes in photosynthetic performance among post-fire resprouts were consistent with acclimation to shade and acclimation to water stress and may be an adaptation among post-fire resprouts to compete for water and light with fast growing, post-fire annuals. Shifts in photosynthetic performance may be inadequate for survival under severe drought and the presence of vigorous competition with invasive species.

  • Humanities

    The Function of Depravity in the Multiple Pasts of Nightwood
    Author: Rache F Tusler, Occidental College
    Mentor: Martha Ronk, Department of English, Occidental College

    Djuna Barnes' experimental modernist novel, Nightwood, depicts characters who are variously drunken, bestial, and obscene. In the world of Nightwood, depravity is valued over the civilized as a means of accessing the past. This essay identifies three separate "pasts": the historical, the developmental, and the evolutionary, all in operation within the characters. The historical past refers to events taking place before the individuals' births but after the evolutionary shift from early animals to present-day humans, such as Felix's past as a Jew in Roman times. The developmental past concerns the early stages in individual life, primarily childhood. The evolutionary past refers to the precultural period, which in Nightwood primarily concerns early humans as animals or beasts. The separate pasts are all repeatedly described as degenerate, violent and primitive. The characters that embrace depravity, such as Doctor O'Connor and Robin, are embracing the nature of their historical, evolutionary, and developmental pasts. Once they recognize where they have come from, they attain a sense of their current position, as well as an ability to simultaneously exist in previous times.

  • Social Sciences

    Body Modifications and its Relationship to Gender and Age
    Author: Lauren Hamachi, California State University Channel Islands
    Mentor: Virgil H. Adams III, PhD., Psychology Program, California State University Channel Islands

    The physical body acts as a source of attraction and for an increasing number of individuals, a canvas portraying self-expression and self-identity. In examining the relationship between body modification and self-esteem, some have concluded that body modification is used to increase self-esteem levels. Yet other studies have not supported the notion of increased self-esteem following the incorporation of body art. The current study expands on this research by examining the relationship between self-esteem, global well-being, and body modifications. Body modification was defined as the presence of body piercings and/or tattoos and it was hypothesized that individuals with body modifications would have lower levels of self-esteem than those without body modifications. Results demonstrated that contrary to our hypothesis, no significant variance in self-esteem was accounted for by the presence of body modifications. Findings showed that an increase in the use of body modification tends to be endorsed by both younger respondents and females. Contrary to the hypothesis, body modification was not related to self-esteem or global well-being. Discussion focuses on the relationship between well-being and the use of body modifications.

  • Visual Arts

    Windows into a Healthy Lifestyle
    Author: Marian E Roan, Pepperdine University
    Mentors: Susan Helm, Natural Science Division, Pepperdine University; Joseph Piasentin, Fine Arts Division, Pepperdine University

    Art provides a medium through which one can portray the attitudes and behaviors of people. Art captures what words and descriptions cannot. It can be said that there is an emotional and psychological connection in a work of art. The purpose of this project is to make an emotional and relational appeal to people through a work of art that delves into the lifestyle of healthy people, more specifically healthy eaters. The art will be a culmination of the definitions and examples of healthy eating, healthy behaviors, and healthy lifestyle through out various stages in a person's life. The purpose is to show people the benefits of health and the high level of existence that can be maintained. A secondary purpose is to provide those searching to lead a healthy lifestyle some guidance into one definition of a healthy lifestyle. The title of the art piece created for this project is Windows into a Healthy Lifestyle. I translated the psychology of healthy eating into three distinct paintings where nutrition is the premise of each painting, but not central, as health encompasses more than food. The paintings capture one stage of life and aspects of health that are involved in each stage of life. The first, called "Youth" captures the energy, vibrancy, and revolt against tradition and convention of many university students and young adults, as well as the search for balance and vitality in the midst of academic or professional demands, and a packed social calendar. In the second window, "Family." I use a more traditional design to designate a time of life when one tends to settle down and care for one's family. "Wisdom" is a window with each canvas representing an antique pane of glass. The color variety shows the varying depths of health within life. My grandmother inspired this piece; at less than five feet, she is a figure of strength within my life and the lives of others, through her role as mother, grandmother, and friend.

  • Cross-Disciplinary

    (Chemistry, Library Science, and Visual Arts)

    A Collaborative Study of Environmental Considerations in Art Preservation
    Authors: John Laubacher, Joshua Dildine, Cassondra Tinsley, Pepperdine University
    Mentors: Jane Ganske, Natural Science Division, Pepperdine University; Joseph Piasentin, Fine Arts Division, Pepperdine University; Mark Roosa, Dean of University Libraries, Pepperdine University

    A collaborative project between painting, art conservation, and chemistry was undertaken to achieve a broader understanding of factors involved in the creation of an oil-based wall painting, the environmental parameters contributing to its aging, and the development of a long term preservation plan for its display. Although strict limitations for the mixing of colors and the complexity of the composition were placed on the painter, inspiration was drawn from Richard Diebenkorn's ability to express the strength of his composition through line and color as seen in his Ocean Park Series. In addition to the creation of the 4' X 3' wall painting, the painting phase also included the duplication of ten derivative panels of one of the sections of the 4' X 3' painting for use in the testing of various environmental factors. Visible reflectance spectroscopy was used to monitor the aging effects of exposure to 720 W m-2 (~ 75% of noon-day sun) of visible light intensity from a gold halide lamp and to 60°C heat. After eleven weeks of light exposure, the percent visible reflectance of the most light-fast, metal-based pigments increased by 0.5 to 6.0%, while organic dyes increased by at least 20% and as much as 47% reflectance during the same exposure. Fourteen weeks of heat exposure at 60°C in darkness resulted in significant decreases in the reflectance of some pigments (up to 14.2%) while little change was observable for others. Fourier-transformed infrared spectroscopy (FT-IR) was used to further structure analysis of the exposed pigments over time and to identify possible degradation products. The preventative conservation phase included monitoring and stabilizing the environment where the work will be displayed. A comprehensive preservation plan has taken into account the results of continuous monitoring of visible and UV light intensities, relative humidity, and temperature using a ELSEC 764 Environmental Monitor. The future storage, handling, and housing of the painting were considered as well as guidelines for emergency preparedness.