Abstracts for IP articles: a discussion is underway

As with art, so too with legal writing:
not all abstracts are easy to understand
A recent blogpost on the IPKat has raised an interesting and important series of questions concerning abstracts that accompany articles that are published in specialist journals. What is their function? Is it to lay the subject matter of the article open to the point that anyone with a general interest in the subject area can with little effort gauge the article's specific subject-matter? Or should it be addressed, in terms of its vocabulary and content, only to those whose interests lie closest to those of the author?

Like most serious journals, JIPLP publishes abstracts in relation to its articles. It is fair to say, however, that less attention is often given to their creation and function both by authors and by the editorial staff.  There is no standard recipe, as it were, or good practice.  Some abstracts read almost like advertisements for their authors, while others describe the area of intellectual property that the article covers but give relatively little clue as to what the article has to say about it.  Others again appear to be a cut-and-paste exercise taken from one or more introductory paragraphs of the article itself.  Egregious abuse of abstracts by authors is not difficult to recognise and can be dealt with, but that's about as far as it goes.

Since JIPLP is a journal that seeks to embrace law and practice, but which publishes abstracts both by practising lawyers and by academics, there is bound to be some inconsistency in terms of style of content -- but it's not clear whether this is a sign of flexibility or of inconsistency.

JIPLP is starting a discussion on its LinkedIn Group on abstracts for its IP articles and we will greatly appreciate your comments.  Do you use them at all? If so, how far do you rely on them when deciding whether and, if so, when, to read an article?  Can we improve our abstracts in terms of length, content and general thrust? Please let us know!

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