Tips on Writing the Abstract Chapter for a Dissertation

What exactly is a Dissertation’s Abstract?

  • An abstract is an essential part of a thesis or dissertation paper. It usually appears at the start of a paper and is generally the first most substantial description of what the paper is about. An abstract should be viewed as a chance to set expectations and to set them accurately.
  • An abstract sums-up an entire thesis or dissertation. It is a condensed description of all the main elements of a piece of work
  • It is not unusual for an abstract to function along with the title of a paper as a standalone document. An abstract may appear in a bibliographic index, without the complete text of the paper, or it may be presented in announcement-form of an examination. The majority of readers who find your paper’s abstract in a database or get an email notification about the presentation of your research will not uncover the full text or be part of the audience at the presentation.
  • Abstracts are not just introductions in the usual manner of a preamble, preface or an advance preview that leads the reader into the thesis or dissertation. As well as being an introduction, they should give a complete overview of the entire paper when there is not enough time or space for the complete document.   

An Abstract’s Size and Its Structure

  • At the present time the largest length an abstract should be is 150 to 350 words (for a Master’s thesis or Doctoral dissertation respectively).
  • To maintain coherence in the visual sense, you might want to limit your doctoral dissertation abstract to one page i.e. around 300 words in double-spacing.
  • The general structure of an abstract should follow the structure of the paper it relates to, and it should reflect all its main elements.
  • For instance, where a paper has five chapters, e.g., an introduction, review of literature, methods, results/findings, and conclusion, the abstract should have at least one or possibly more sentences that sum-up each of these chapters.

State Your Research Problem(s) or Question(s) Clearly

  • As is the case throughout an entire thesis or dissertation, research problems or questions are vital in ensuring the abstract is logically and coherently structured. These problems or questions form the frame around which every other element is built.
  • Research problems or questions should be outlined near the start of the chapter.
  • The maximum number of research questions there is room for is between one and three. Where a large and/or complex research project has more than three important questions, you could think about doing some restructuring so that some are reduced to secondary status.

Results Should Not Be Forgotten!

  • Failing or forgetting to present results is one of the most common mistakes in abstract writing.
  • The main function of a thesis (and consequently its abstract) is not so much to inform readers about what you actually did as to let them know about your discoveries. Additional information – e.g., a description of the methods used – is primarily needed to support any claims about the findings or results.
  • The last 50% (approximately) of an abstract should be devoted to interpreting and summing up the findings or results.
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