Interactive guide on how to write a dissertation abstract

Whatever else you do in writing your dissertation, do not neglect the abstract. It may vary between 150 and 350 words and if your dissertation goes for many thousands of words, it's easy to see how the abstract may fade into insignificance. Do not allow this to happen. You must pay due deference to the creation of your abstract.

Why is this so? The abstract is probably the first indication of what is to come. The person reading your dissertation will obviously have come to the title page and seen the title but will have little substantial information on what your dissertation will contain. In the abstract they will, or at least they should obtain that information.

In a nutshell the abstract of your dissertation is a summary or synopsis of your work. It needs to contain all the major points of your thesis in a much reduced form. In fact the creation of your abstract is a test of your skills at précis writing. How good are you at listing the content of your dissertation in 150 to 350 words? This is why you can see how important the abstract becomes.

Another reason is that once your dissertation is published; there is often a separate index of the abstract of dissertations. This means that somebody looking for research material in the future will read your abstract before deciding if your dissertation is worth reading for the research purposes. Again, the importance of the abstract cannot be stressed enough.

What is the style of your abstract?

It's the same style as you find throughout the writing of your dissertation. It is a big mistake to adopt a different or worse, a completely different style of writing for your abstract. The person reading your dissertation needs to be warmed up to your approach or style of writing. That can happen as they read your abstract. You should also copy the format of your dissertation. If you have for example five major parts to your dissertation, then you will touch on these five major parts in your abstract. In that sense the abstract is a mirror of the dissertation.

The thesis statement or main thrust of your dissertation must be referred to in your abstract. If you raise a number of questions and then answer them in your dissertation, there may not be room to mention all of these questions. In that case select the primary question and concentrate on it.

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