Background: Structured abstracts were introduced into medical research journals in the mid 1980s. Since then they have been widely used in this and other contexts.
Aim: The aim of this paper is to summarize the main findings from research on structured abstracts and to discuss the limitations of some aspects of this research.
Method: A narrative literature review of all of the relevant papers known to the author was conducted.
Results: Structured abstracts are typically longer than traditional ones, but they are also judged to be more informative and accessible. Authors and readers also judge them to be more useful than traditional abstracts. However, not all studies use "real-life" published examples from different authors in their work, and more work needs to be done in some cases.
Conclusions: The findings generally support the notion that structured abstracts can be profitably introduced into research journals. Some arguments for this, however, have more research support than others.