(S)kill of the Abstract

Writing an abstract (otherwise known as brutally chopping dozens of monumental pages, into which you’ve put all your mental energy for weeks, into several blank concise sentences that are supposed to sound attractive) is a skill everyone in academia has to survive learn upon their very first peer review submission. Having written some abstracts of my own, I can attest that it’s one of the hardest (yet useful) things for anyone prone to a non-concise existence of any kind.

My lovely colleague Molly, however, seems to have turned this skill into art over her time in Cambridge. To mark this week’s historic end of Lent term, she has just circulated the following irresistible email. Anyone involved in academia who does not recognize oneself between these lines is, well, not really involved in academia.

(Re)framing Lent term

The 14th of March marked the final day of the University of Cambridge’s Lent term of 2013. Reactions to the event have varied across a multitude of university posts and disciplines ranging from a total lack of acknowledgement to mild relief, from complete disinterest to resounding joy. Despite the differing degrees to which various constituencies might feel the event affects their own personal lives, there is no doubt that such a day has been significant for many members of the University community.

This email is an invitation to accept and acknowledge the multivalent effect the end of term has had, and an investigation into which members of the community in question might be interested in commemorating the end of term on Saturday evening. In it, I suggest that we meet at the bowling alley at 5:45pm for a single game of bowling, perhaps accompanied by a few games of air hockey for those who are so inclined.

It is important to recognize, however, that though some members of the community may be interested in gathering in remembrance of the term, not everybody will be available at such an early hour. Furthermore, there are undoubtedly those included in this email who, while they may want to mark the event in the presence of friends and colleagues, may not be enticed by the prospect of competitive arcade games.

For those who feel they belong in the latter category, as well as those who choose to participate in the first, I propose gathering at my house for a simple meal around 8pm. In short, this email argues that it would be fun to meet up and spend some time together, and that bowling, drinking and eating would be a lovely way to mark the end of the term.

I hereby attest that this place is formidable in its effect on the human mind.

PhD Comics abstract



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