The abstract of a dissertation is an important part of the work. It should provide a short summary of the research, identifying the key aspects of the work, allowing readers to determine if the content will be relevant to their reading or research needs. These tips will help you write an effective abstract.

  1. Read abstracts from past papers and projects within the same discipline before writing your own. Reading other abstracts will provide insights regarding appropriate content and general structure.
  2. When writing the abstract ensure it has all the required elements. The abstract should include a statement regarding the main topic and purpose of the dissertation, the type of methodology used to gather the data, the research findings, and a summary of the conclusions.
  3. Abstracts are only a summary so need to be written concisely. Good composition may require the writer to create several versions of the abstract before refining it. Once the initial abstract is written, including all relevant elements, edit the draft by rephrasing sentences and eliminating unnecessary content. The editing process may need to be repeated several times to create a succinct abstract.
  4. Limit the length of the abstract. The most common abstract length is 250 – 300 words; this is usually sufficient to give a good overview of the dissertation while remaining easy to read. However, the actual length may vary depending on many factors including the length of the dissertation and instructions provided by the educational institution.
  5. The style of writing in the abstract should match the academic style of the dissertation. Conciseness should not mean simplification; ensure appropriate technical terms are used where required and avoid any sentences which may be interpreted as dumbing down the content.
  6. While it is advisable to use appropriate technical terms, it is also necessary to avoid unnecessary verbosity. The abstract should be easy to read; superfluous language may reduce readability while taking up space without adding any value to the text.
  7. Ensure that the abstract provides a balanced view of the dissertation content. During the literature review and the research presentation the student should ensure a balanced view is offered. The balance should also be present in the abstract; research findings will usually face limitations or constraints which should be recognised within the abstract, such as stating the findings may apply only to specific populations.
  8. Only write the abstract after you have completed the dissertation. Place it at the beginning of the thesis on the first page following the title, before the thanks or acknowledgements and the table of contents.
  9. Proofread, proofread, and proofread again. The abstract is the first part of the paper any reader or assessor will see. Weak presentation of content with spelling or grammatical errors is likely to give a poor first impression and may be interpreted as indicating tardiness in the main text of the dissertation. Conversely, good impressions may predispose readers towards positive reactions.
  10. Get an independent third party to read the abstract once it is completed. Make sure the reader understands what the dissertation is about and the main findings. If the independent reader cannot determine the content from reading the abstract adjust the abstract.