Writing an Abstract for a Thesis or a Dissertation

Defining an Abstract

  • Your abstract is probably the most important element of your dissertation or thesis. It is always included at the beginning of your work. Its purpose is to provide a brief description of the purpose, methods, and findings of your research. You can take it as an executive summary of your project.
  • You will use your abstract to summarize your thesis or dissertation. You will briefly elaborate on each major element of your project.
  • Your abstract is a separate piece of writing. You would need to write it separately from the rest of the text. If you do not know how it looks and where it is located in your work, you can retrieve any peer-reviewed article from a scholarly database and use it as a sample. Just imagine that your readers will use your abstract to decide if your paper can be useful for them.
  • Do not confuse abstracts and introductions. They are not the same. Your abstract is a brief version of your dissertation. It does not contain any elements of an introductory paragraph. Readers who do not have time to run through your dissertation will use your abstract to understand what your paper is all about.

Size and Structure

  • If you are working on a Master's thesis, your abstract will have to be no more than 150 words long. If you are a doctoral student, make sure that your abstract is a maximum of 350 words.
  • However, it is always better to limit your abstract to one page only. Thus, even when you are working on a doctoral dissertation, your abstract may contain slightly more than 250-280 words.
  • You will structure your abstract according to the way your whole dissertation is structured, step by step.
  • If you have six chapters in your dissertation, you will have to write at least one sentence of your abstract for each chapter or point.

Articulate Research Questions

  • Do not forget to include your research questions in your abstract. You will have to ensure that the abstract is smooth, logical, and easy to read.
  • Make sure that the research questions are included somewhere in the first several sentences of your abstract.
  • If you have more than three research questions, do not include them all in your abstract. Choose three most important ones and specify them in the abstract.

Results Are Important

  • A good abstract always contains the results of the study.
  • Its key purpose is to inform the readers what you have found during your experiment or exploration. You may want to include more information about your research methods, but they will simply create a more convincing message for your reader.
  • You will need to devote no less than 50 percent of your abstract to discussion and analysis of your study results.
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