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Preparing Research Abstracts

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Recent Changes

  • We ask for a 300-word abstract with figures included or a 450-word abstract with no figures included, please.
  • The abstract template is a Rich Text Format (.rtf) document. It is important to submit your document to us in this file format with unformatted text and no embedded styles.
  • You will not be able to embed figures in your abstract using the .rtf file type: submit image files separately using the fields provided on the abstract submission form. (If you have trouble exporting your files as JPEGs, TIFFs, or another file format suitable for print, please contact jhinds [at] (subject: Trouble%20exporting%20images%20for%20MTLAR2020%20submission) (mbrowncu[at]mit[dot]edu) for help).
  • There is not a 2-figure limit on abstract submissions; rather, space is restricted to a 3.5-inch × 6.5-inch space for figures and captions. We do suggest no more than 2 figures.
  • Please cite no more than three publications to include as “Further Reading” material. Please do not cite references within your text.

Abstract Styles

Model Abstracts: The .RTF document


Example of the rich text format document when prepared correctly.

The abstract pictured here is ready to submit to MTL. It uses the correct template, has "seamless" styling applied, and also adheres to a one-page limit including space for figures. The biographical information is on the next page. The information shared in the above area easily translates into the below document—ready for printing.

Model Abstracts: The final document (prototype)


How Sample 1 will look when formatted for print

When the abstracts have been formatted for print by MTL, they will look something like the image shown above.

The research abstracts are not to be thought of as abstracts that you might submit to a technical conference in your field. On the contrary, these abstracts should be written to an audience of technically savvy readers that are not experts in your field.

As a result, the abstract requires:

  • Sufficient context explaining the general field of application
  • The problem that you are trying to solve
  • The impact of identifying a solution
  • High-level technical description of significant methods and techniques
  • Avoid too many details
  • Give a sense of some results that you have obtained and their relevance

The abstracts will be published in color and thus they should contain 1-2 attractive color figures. The goal is:

  • Attract readers to your abstract
  • NOT to provide very detailed technical information that a general reader might not be able to comprehend

These abstracts are not refereed publications. There is no need to back up your statements with references to the general literature. It is preferable to include 2-3 references to your work or the work of your group or close collaborators through which readers can learn more about your project.

Instructions and examples for references can be found here.

Abstracts are formatted to fit on one page. There is space for 300 words plus figures and captions that fit within a space of 3.5 inches × 6.5 inches. Figure captions should be about 20-50 words in length.

Image File Requirements

  • Submit all images as separate image files when submitting your abstract.
  • You will not be able to embed images in .RTF files without also submitting image files.
  • Submit image files that are no less than 1600 pixels in any dimension.
  • Try to submit images that are as close to a square in shape as possible.
  • Only JPEG, TIF, or EPS files are acceptable.
  • No GIF or PNG images accepted.
  • Image conversions can be done with Adobe Photoshop ( For an open-source version, you can try Gimp or a number of other image editing tools available.

To find out the file size and dimensions of an image that is stored on your computer:


  1. Open the file where the image is saved.
  2. Place your cursor over the image icon, and right-click
  3. Choose Properties.
  4. Click the Details tab.
  5. Scroll down to the Image section –  To view the image dimensions.


  1. Open the file where the image is saved.
  2. Place your cursor over the image icon, and control-click
  3. Choose More Info.
  4. Find the Dimensions

Figures and Captions

  • Number figures consecutively in a separate series
  • Number figures in the order of their reference in the text (e.g., Figure 1, Figure 2).
  • Hyphenated numbers should not be used.
  • Figure captions should be no more than 40 words in length.
  • A figure should be referenced in the text by the word Figure and its number only (e.g., see Figure 1).
  • It is okay to label the first figure in a clause with the letter a, preceded by the clause number (e.g., Figure 1a, Figure 1b, Figure 1c).

File Naming Conventions

  • Please use only lower-case letters for file names.
  • Name your abstract files as  “lastname_titlekeyword.rtf” before submitting.
  •  Lastname is last name of the lead author (student, postdoc). An example is “cortes_vibrationsensor.rtf.”
  • The first figure accompanying each abstract is lastname_titlekeyword_01.jpg or lastname_titlekeyword_01.png.
  • The second figure should be named lastname_titlekeyword_02.jpg or lastname_titlekeyword_02.png.
  • The third and any other consecutive figures should be named lastname_titlekeyword_03.jpg.

Download Abstract Template

Abstract Submission Form

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