I am preparing to send my first paper to a springer journal (journal of computational neuroscience), in the instruction author there is an instruction say Abbreviations should be defined at first mention and used consistently thereafter. I think that the abbreviations in the abstract are known for the neuroscience community. Do I have to define them first?


Based on clinical data collected using different brain imaging and recording techniques (fMRI, CT, PET, EEG, MEG, NRIS,...),

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    Is a simple listing of the techniques in brackets essentiell for the abstract/understanding of the article? May 17, 2017 at 20:17
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    Abbreviations are the devil's droppings. Just spell it out.
    – JeffE
    May 18, 2017 at 1:26

2 Answers 2


Yes, define your abbreviations as per the instructions. Each reader may be familiar with all, none, or some of the techniques you mention. There is certainly a set of acronyms and terminology which readers in your field will be familiar with, but anything you can do to help your reader understand your material is potentially beneficial.

You can also use the other published abstracts in the same journal as a guide: note how this one defines otherwise common acronyms like EEG (but, as pointed out below, does not define some other terms).

Or, if you're worried about abstract length, avoid discussing every individual technique in the abstract and save it for the body of the manuscript.

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    That's a particularly funny reference to include because they do NOT spell out "REM"/non-REM anywhere in their paper, nor "ODE" nor "SPDE" and I might have missed others :)
    – Bryan Krause
    May 17, 2017 at 21:34
  • Good point! Perhaps that's an indication of what readers/reviewers don't care enough about to define...or just mistakes.
    – Harry
    May 17, 2017 at 21:52

Generally, in such situations, there are multiple factors at play. They include specific field of study and relevant de facto standards (community consensus), specific publication and relevant author instructions as well as required (or chosen) publication style. If any of these factors do not clearly prescribe the abbreviations policy, I would suggest to use the following strategy:

  • do not use any abbreviations in the abstract;
  • define abbreviations at their first mention after the abstract;
  • use relevant abbreviations throughout the rest of the text (occasionally returning to using the abbreviation definitions, if the frequency of appearance of the corresponding items is high).
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    "Community consensus" - yes. Safest approach is to just look at what other people do. While abbreviations are ideally to be avoided, there will always be some that are accepted in a given field. I can't remember reading a single biology paper that mentions "Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid". May 18, 2017 at 10:44

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