Home > Blossary: Abstract for dissertation
It can be a real challenge to condense your whole dissertation into just a couple of hundred words, but the abstract will be the first (and sometimes only) part that people read, so it’s important to get it right. These strategies can help you get started. Reverse outline Not all abstracts will contain precisely the same elements. If your research has a different structure (for example, a humanities dissertation that builds an argument through thematic chapters), you can write your abstract through a process of reverse outlining. For each chapter or section, list keywords and draft 1-2 sentences that summarize the central point or argument. This will give you a framework of your abstract’s structure. Next, revise the sentences to make connections and show how the argument develops. The abstract should tell a condensed version of the whole story, and it should only include information that can be found in the main text. Reread your abstract to make sure it gives a clear summary of your overall argument. Read other abstracts The best way to learn the conventions of writing an abstract in your discipline is to read other people’s. You probably already read lots of journal article abstracts while conducting your literature review—try using them as a framework for structure and style. You can also find lots of dissertation abstract examples in thesis and dissertation databases. Write clearly and concisely A good abstract is short but impactful, so make sure every word counts. Each sentence should clearly communicate one main point. Avoid unnecessary filler words, and avoid obscure jargon—the abstract should be understandable to readers who are not familiar with your topic. If you’re struggling to edit down to the required length, read our guide to shortening an abstract. Focus on your own research The purpose of the abstract is to report the original contributions of your research, so avoid discussion of others’ work, even if you address it at length in the main text. You might include a sentence or two summarizing the scholarly background to situate your research and show its relevance to a broader debate, but there’s no need to mention specific publications. Don’t include citations in an abstract unless absolutely necessary (for example, if your research responds directly to another study or revolves around one key theorist) writing an abstract for dissertation. Check your formatting If you are writing a thesis or dissertation or submitting to a journal, there are often specific formatting requirements for the abstract—make sure to check the guidelines and format your work correctly. For APA research papers you can follow the APA abstract format. Always stick to the word limit. If you have not been given any guidelines on the length of the abstract, write no more than one double-spaced page.

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