Introduction: This retrospective observational study was designed to assess the impact on quality of changing from unstructured to structured abstract format. Six dental journals, 3 that adopted structured abstracts and 3 with unstructured abstracts, were used.
Methods: One hundred abstracts from original articles, published between January 1995 and December 1998, were selected from each journal. A 29-question checklist was developed and used to assess the quality of the information in the abstracts.
Results: The mean score for abstracts published in all journal was 53.9% (SD 11.5; 95% CI 52.8%, 54.8%). There was no statistically significant difference between the scores of the first 50 abstracts and the second 50 abstracts from any journals with unstructured abstracts (P = .19-.80). The mean score of the second 50 abstracts from journals that adopted the structured abstract format was significantly higher than scores from journals with unchanged formats (P < or =.001).
Conclusions: Structured abstracts provide higher-quality information. Journal editors should be encouraged to use a structured abstract format.