How To Write A Dissertation Abstract?
A dissertation or thesis abstract is a short summary outlining the purpose and scope of a dissertation or a thesis. An abstract succinctly explains the outcomes and the goal of a longer work so that the reader would know what to expect out of it.
A dissertation abstract reflects the author’s grasp of the research topic and sets the tone for the dissertation.
It is always a good idea to write your thesis abstract or the abstract for your dissertation at the very end after you’ve completed your research. However, many universities ask for an abstract before you begin work on your dissertation so as to grasp your understanding of the topic. In that case, you are expected to form an abstract based on your preliminary research and based on how you plan to carry out your research.
What does a Dissertation or Thesis Abstract Include?
- An outline of the research problem and the proposed objectives
- The research methodology
- Key arguments or results
- The conclusion of the dissertation
How Long Should an Abstract be?
The length of an abstract for a dissertation might vary from university to university as well as from program to program. Ideally, the length of an abstract is between 300 words to 500 words. It is always a good idea to check the requirements a university or journal might have about the word count of the dissertation abstract before submitting it.
An abstract is often included on a separate page in a dissertation or thesis. It should come after the title page as well as the acknowledgments but should be placed before the table of contents.
When to Write an Abstract?
An abstract is always included when you are submitting a thesis, research, or a research paper or while sending a research paper to an academic journal.
In most cases, an abstract is something that you write at the very end of your research. It should not seem like an extension of your research or a disjointed portion and should be complete by itself. It should be a stand-alone piece that strokes the reader’s curiosity to read your paper. Sometimes, universities might ask for an abstract before approving your topic for a dissertation or thesis. In that case, an abstract is submitted to show that the student has a clear idea about how to go about the research.
What Should a Dissertation Abstract Include?
As an abstract reflects the quality of a larger work, it should contain 4 key components.
1. Aim of the research:
If the aim or purpose of the research is not clear from the abstract section of your dissertation, it might leave the impression that your research has nothing new to offer. So, the abstract should be able to tell the reader or the examiner about what practical or theoretical problem the research is responding to (in other words, the research question) and what outcomes you expect to derive or what is the new thing that makes your dissertation stand apart.
You can write the aim of the dissertation or thesis in your abstract after proving the context or background for the research. A detailed background is not necessary and not possible, so only the most relevant information should be included. Once the background of your study is established and the gap in the existing literature is analyzed, you should propose the objective of your study.
It is usually preferred to use the present or simple past tense while stating the objective. This is because an abstract should be as precise and concise as possible and should reflect the same kind of rigorousness and objectivity that your dissertation will have. Find below examples of how to frame an objective for your abstract based on the use of language.
Wrong example: This study plans on investigating the effect that cocoa butter has on cracked lips.
Correct example: This study investigates the effect of cocoa butter on cracked lips.
2. Method of research (the research methodology):
After the objective of the study is stated, we move on to the methods used to conduct the research. This part should be a straightforward description of the kind of research methodology that you have used (quantitative or qualitative) in one or two sentences.
If the full thesis or dissertation is submitted, then the methodology is usually written in the simple past tense as it indicates the past action. There is no need to explain the validity of the methodology or the obstacles faced during the process in this part. Those parts only need to be included in the research methodology section of the dissertation. The goal is just to give the reader a basic insight into how you have conducted the research.
Wrong example: For the research methodology, structured interviews will be conducted in a sample group of 120 participants.
Right example: Structured interviews were conducted with 120 participants.
3. Outcomes of the research:
The results or the outcomes section should be included in the concluding paragraph of the abstract. This part summarizes the resolutions offered to the problem statement identified initially in the abstract. The outcome of the study should be indicated in clear terms.
Depending on the length and complexity of your research, you can decide what to include in this part. Ideally, it should not exceed 3–4 sentences. If the outcomes are complex, you could just mention the relevant ones that the reader would be able to understand without wanting further elaboration. Results are often written in the present or simple past tense.
Wrong example: Our study was successfully able to show that there is a strong relationship between the intake of coffee and sleep deprivation.
Right Example: Our study shows a strong correlation between coffee consumption and sleep deprivation. OR Our study showed a strong correlation between coffee consumption and sleep deprivation.
4. The conclusion of the abstract
Particular care should be given to the way you frame the conclusion of your abstract. In this part, the main conclusions of your research should be stated. The conclusion should clearly answer the problem statement that you have proposed initially in your abstract.
The conclusion should tell the reader what your research has accomplished and what new knowledge it is adding to the existing ones. Conclusions are usually written in the simple present tense.
Keywords are added at the end of a dissertation or abstract if it is going to be published. The keyword gives the reader an idea about the essential concepts in the dissertation or thesis. They also provide visibility to your paper when others search the related words on a search engine. So, you should make sure that you add only the most important and relevant words related to your dissertation in the keywords’ section.
Example of a Dissertation Abstract
How to Structure your Dissertation or Thesis Abstract?
Abstract for the dissertation can be structured in the following way:
- As the abstract would be around 300–500 words, it is better to divide it into 2–3 paragraphs.
- More than three paragraphs might not be recommended as the abstract is of very short length.
- The aim of the research should be mentioned in the first paragraph or the introductory paragraph of the abstract.
- You should not start writing the abstract by directly stating the aim. Instead, provide background information about your area of research in 2–3 lines.
- You could even start your abstract by stating the problem statement.
- The background information on the existing literature would give the reader information about where your dissertation or thesis is situated.
- The background information or short literature review would be followed by the problem statement or vice versa according to your arguments.
- The problem statement identifies the gap in the existing literature.
- Following the problem statement, you should propose what research question you aim to answer.
- The last paragraph mentions the results or the outcomes/conclusion of the study. You could even make suggestions for future studies in this part.
Tips for writing an abstract
Writing an abstract can be challenging as you need to filter down the most relevant aspects of your dissertation into 300–500 words. This means that you will have to omit a lot of information while providing enough to interest the reader or evaluator. Here are some tips to get started on your abstract:
Tips to help you write an abstract:
- Chapter by chapter method:
List the keywords and draft a few sentences outlining the relevance of each chapter of your dissertation or thesis. The short summary of each chapter should be related to your central argument. Combine them together and fill in the gaps. Add in more information and remove the unnecessary ones as you revise the draft.
- Read other abstracts:
This is the best way to learn the conventions of abstract writing in your area of research. Notice how other well-accepted research abstracts present their ideas. Make a list of what you find interesting in those.
- Write many versions of the rough drafts:
Ultimately, it is important not to wait for the perfect version. The perfect version won’t happen unless you keep writing. Write mediocre abstracts and notice what is wrong with those versions. Write multiple versions of the abstract in different ways and work on that which you think reads the best.
- Make it compact:
Revision is an important aspect of perfecting any academic writing. Revise, change the words, and write in different ways but keep it compact. An abstract is a condensed piece of your dissertation so it should reflect that compactness.
- Keep editing:
This is one of the most important steps in writing an abstract for any academic piece. Even if you think the abstract looks perfect, come back to it after a while, and let someone else, a professional editor or a senior, have a look over it.
So, there you go! We have outlined all the steps and tips we consider necessary before you write your dissertation. We have covered what a dissertation abstract should include, the dissertation abstract structure that you need to keep in mind, and have included tips and an example of a dissertation to help you get to it!