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SECTION IV: THE OVERVIEW: INTRODUCTION

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In Sections I, II, III, we saw how to choose words and arrange them in clear sentences and paragraphs (Section I), how to write each section of a biomedical research paper to tell a clear story (Section II), and how to design figures and tables and present references clearly (Section III). In Section IV, we turn our attention to providing a clear overview of the story. In Chapter 10 (The Abstract) and Chapter 11 (The Title), our central concern will be to provide the overview alone, with a bare minimum of details. In Chapter 12 (The Big Picture), we will consider how to provide the overview together with all the necessary details.

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The abstract and the title provide an overview to two groups of readers. One group reads only the title or the title and the abstract. This group includes readers who have access only to sources such as Index Medicus, Current Contents, abstract journals, or abstracting services. The other group of readers reads not only the title and the abstract but also the paper. Therefore, just as figures and tables need to tell the story of the paper both for readers who do not read the text and for readers who do, so the abstract and the title need to tell the story both for readers who do not read either the text or the figures and tables and for readers who read the whole paper. The next two chapters explain how to write abstracts and titles that will be clear to both groups of readers. Abstracts for hypothesis-testing papers, descriptive papers, and methods papers are included.

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In the paper as a whole, both the overview and the details need to be clear. Chapter 12 illustrates how to provide a clear overview in addition to presenting all the necessary details.

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