The abstract is regarded as the foremost component of a dissertation. It will be your first chance to set precise expectations for the supervisor, examiner or members of the graduate committee. Dissertation abstract is the first real significant narrative of your work, and placed at the beginning of the dissertation paper. Presented in a very shortened form, dissertation abstract is a summary of your dissertation and sheds lights on all aspects of your research.
According to the online archives of Simon Fraser University research database, “an abstract is not merely an introduction in the sense of a preface, preamble, or advance organizer that prepares the reader for the thesis. In addition to that function, it must be capable of substituting for the whole thesis when there is insufficient time and space for the full text.”
You will be required to include an abstract at the beginning of your paper if you are working on your thesis, dissertation, research paper, or publishing a paper in any academic journal. Even though, abstract appears right at the start of a dissertation paper, it is generally written at last.
The table of contents is the section that immediately follows an abstract. Here is a guide on how to create table of contents for dissertation.
Your abstract should be an entirely autonomous and independent text, and never be an extract taken from within the original content of the paper. In particular, the purpose of an abstract to provide an overview of research aim and objectives, methods of research employed, results obtained and the conclusion. Readers should be able to completely understand all aspects of your research work just by reading this text.
A dissertation abstract serves as a deal maker or breaker when it comes to making a strong impression on your readers. Your dissertation abstract can either motivate your readers to continue reading or discourage them from moving on the next chapters. The abstract of dissertation needs to be conspicuous, meaningful, interesting and of course, informative. It should contain relevant information from all chapters of your dissertation to provide a brief overview of the research that has been conducted and the results obtained.
Here we have put together some guidelines for students to understand how to write abstract for dissertation so they can make a great first impression on the readers.
The key elements of a dissertation abstract are as follows;
The first couple of sentences of your dissertation abstract should provide a summary of the purpose of your research. This can be expressed as follows;
Avoid writing this part of the abstract in future tense because it refers to concluded actions.
Briefly specify your dissertation research methodology immediately after stating the purpose of your dissertation paper. Here, you will be expected to summarize how you conducted your research in a straightforward manner. Like the first section, description pertaining to methods of research should also be written in simple past tense. There is absolutely no need to highlight the limitations and/or validity of your research methods here. The goals is to quickly take the readers through the overall approach and process.
Provide a brief overview of the major findings of your dissertation study. This section is the crux of your abstract, so make sure you are able to demonstrate how your research was able to address the research objectives. Due to the word limit of the abstract and the complexity of your own research, you might not be able to include all results here. If that is the case, include only the most significant results.
This portion should be written in past simple or present tense. Here is an example;
Lastly, the abstract of a dissertation should conclude your dissertation research. The conclusion should clearly report how your study addressed the research problem. Use this part of the abstract to convince people how your research proved an argument or theory that your research was built upon. Provide recommendations for practical implementation to provide a clear understanding to your audience how your work will solve the problem in hand.
Finally, do not forget to briefly mention important research limitations. For example, selecting a smaller sample size due to some constraints. This will only add more weight and credibility to your research.
Make use of present simple test when writing the conclusions.
You might be asked to include important key terms and phrases at the end of abstract especially if your paper has been selected to be published in an academic journal. These key words help potential readers find your paper in search engines during their desk based research. However, note that some academic journals have their own specific formatting requirements for keywords. Read the requirements pertaining to keywords in their publication manuals to avoid any misunderstanding.
Typical size of an abstract for Masters’ dissertation is 300-400 words whereas abstracts for undergraduate dissertation paper are 150-200 words in size. Abstract for PhD level dissertation papers should be limited to 300-350 words to ensure visual coherence. The structure of dissertation abstract should be such that there are one or two sentences assigned to each chapter of the dissertation. For example, if your dissertation paper had 5 chapters then there should be a minimum of 8-10 sentences in the abstract to provide a reflective summary of the information in each chapter.
As is the case with dissertation introduction chapter, you will be expected to clearly specify the research questions. You might need to rearrange them and/or reduce the word count without missing out on any important element; considering there is room for only two to three research questions which are generally placed at the beginning of the abstract.
Poor dissertation abstracts don’t present findings of the research. It is important to recognise that the readers of your dissertation paper will be more interested in what findings you came up with as result of your research and not merely what you did. Use at least two to 3 sentences to summarise the results and their interpretation.
Look for the formatting requirements in your dissertation handbook or writing guidelines provided by your school. Make sure to stay within the permissible word limit. An abstract too long or too short will not serve the purpose.
Condensing your entire dissertation into just a few sentences can be a daunting task especially if this is the first time you are writing an abstract. It is vitally important to get your dissertation abstract right because this part of the dissertation paper is the first real piece of written description that your audience will read. Here are some tips for you to make sure you write this part to the highest possible academic quality;
Many a times, students get carried away with research of other authors when writing the abstract. Avoid focusing on the work of others and demonstrate how your own research will make a substantial contribution in your area of study. Depending on the allowable word limit for the abstract, you might be able to squeeze in a sentence or two about the scholarly background of research problem you wish to address but there is absolutely no need to cite any publications.
Your dissertation abstract should be attention grabbing even though you will have only a few hundred works to work with. So it is crucial to efficiently communicate your research work in the most concise manner. Never stuff your dissertation abstract with needless words and avoid vague verbiage that would make no sense to the readers.
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Learn the art of writing a great dissertation abstract by reading dissertation abstract samples. It would make sense to look at how other people in your academic subject have written their abstracts. If you have already conducted your dissertation literature review then you might have already read many research paper abstracts – which you could use to get useful insights into how to format your own dissertation abstract. Here is a dissertation abstract example to help you get started.
Other researchers will look for key terms specific to your field of research to figure out the purpose and nature of your dissertation paper. Make sure to include relevant terminology necessary for understanding.
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