Tips on Writing an Abstract for a Dissertation

Even though an abstract for a dissertation is usually short – mostly varying from only 150 words up to 350 words – it could be argued this is one of the most essential parts of such an important document. In such a short chapter, an abstract should capture a dissertation’s overall essence. This means giving an overview of the issue being addressed, underlining the importance of the research, describing the strategy behind the research, listing the key findings, and setting out any conclusions you arrive at. The ideal abstract is a chapter that is informative and enables the reader to decide whether or not to continue reading, but still provides them with an understanding of the essence of the work. By the same token, an abstract that is badly-written can be misleading and confusing, causing the reader to think at the outset that the paper is based on something other than is really the case.          

Mostly in dissertation writing, the informative style is favored over the descriptive style. However, because this is not a hard and fast rule, it is worth explaining how the two styles of abstract writing differ. So, which style should you choose – the informative or the descriptive style? Since an abstract is such a hugely important part of a dissertation, it is important to understand why this chapter should be well-structured, internally consistent, and effectively weighted between other chapters. As well as outlining what readers expect to find in a dissertation, it is also important to know what they do not expect to see.     

While dissertations differ from one to another, there is one reasonably common structure that applies to almost every abstract. In our section on Abstract Structure, we talk you through all the vital components that this chapter should cover – such as an outline of the problem under analysis, why the study is significant, the strategy used to undertake any research, what results were obtained, and what conclusions were reached. Last but not least, there is a great difference between knowing what message it is you want to convey and actually conveying this on paper. We also provide a Useful Phrase section where we offer some helpful phrases you can use and expand on when writing an abstract for your dissertation.