What is an Abstractor?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

An abstractor is someone who gathers information from a variety of sources and presents it in a unified document called an abstract which discusses the most important and pertinent pieces of information from these sources. Abstractors are employed in the information science sector, and they can work in a wide range of industries. They are especially common in the legal, medical, and scientific fields. Compensation rates for abstractors vary, depending on the type of work and their skills.

A lawyer may handle an abstractor to research cases which are similar to the one he or she is working on.
A lawyer may handle an abstractor to research cases which are similar to the one he or she is working on.

Typically, an abstractor has some sort of college education, and if he or she wants to work in a specific field, additional certification may be pursued as well. For example, legal abstractors are expected to understand basic legal concepts, as this understanding is crucial when evaluating and presenting text from legal sources. Some trade schools offer specific training which is targeted at people who want to become abstractors; this training focuses on finding, analyzing, and synthesizing information in a productive and clear way.

A reasonable amount of intelligence is required to be an abstractor, as abstractors must be good at seeking out information and evaluating its validity and usefulness. Abstractors must be prepared to grub through strange sources of information to get the material they need, whether it pertains to a criminal trial or a clinical study. They must also have strong communication skills, as the whole point of an abstract is distillation of information so that it can be readily understood.

In some cases, an abstractor creates an abstract which is targeted at people in the field to which the abstract pertains. For example, a lawyer may handle an abstractor to research cases which are similar to the one he or she is working on. In this case, the resulting abstract may include technical language, as it is assumed that the reader understands the field which the abstract covers. In other cases, abstracts are designed for the general public, and they are written more simply, with an eye to informing and educating people who may not be at all familiar with the subject.

The organization and presentation of information is a vital and very useful skill. A proficient abstractor will never be short of employment, as there is a constant need for people in this field. Some people work only temporarily as abstractors, using the position as a jumping off point into their field of interest, so turnover is reasonably high in this field, making way for new talent.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Title abstracting can be tedious and boring. It generally pays well but finding the resources can be difficult due to poor record keeping in the past. Many titles in the gas and oil field need researched back 150 years and others back to patent. When the parcels are broken off from larger parcels and the descriptions are not descriptive it can be very difficult. Some can take a day to run and others can take months.


@Bhiver - I'm sure that there is more to this job than meets the eye. The issue I'm wondering about is if there is so much call for them in different fields, there is a lot of call for them in the field and there will always be employment available for them, why do many of them leave the field after using it as a temporary job or "in" to their field of interest, making the turnover rates so high? It makes me want to know what in the abstractor job description makes them not want to stay in this field?


This job field appears to be along the line of a "professional researcher" mixed with an outline specialist for presentation purposes. I expect that one could do this job independently out of their home as well.

I can see where they would need to be good at seeking out information in a variety of places, but don't necessarily agree with them needing a college education to do this job - knowing where to access a variety of information would seem to be the most important aspect of this job and then, learning how to present information in a professional manner would be the next most important area of expertise.

That -- and like the article said -- having a good set of brains would be the third thing.

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