An abstract is an indispensable element of most research projects, and dissertation is not an exception. It is placed in the beginning of the paper and it serves a purpose of explaining what the paper will explore. An abstract is usually associated with the “set expectations” – what a writer wants to achieve by conducting research on the chosen topic.
An abstract is a short and concise summary of the whole paper. You should introduce all major elements from your dissertation.
Every abstract should be separated from the rest of the text. Moreover, it should appear as a standalone document. Usually scholarly databases publish only abstracts in the bibliographic index and you are likely to find this part only (the rest of the text is usually hidden). The abstract should give a reader enough information if he/she should continue reading the whole dissertation or the rest of the text does not relate to the topic and you can continue searching.
Writers should differentiate between an abstract and introduction since they serve different purposes. For sure, one can find many similar features. However, introduction simply involves a reader into a general understanding of the topic. An abstract, in its nature, is a complete overview of the whole paper.
Structure and Size of an Abstract
You should carefully read professor’s instructions to learn about the length of your abstract. In general, it takes between 150-350 words in thesis and dissertation writing.
If you want to maintain coherence (make your paper parts logically structured), you can dedicate one double-spaced page (300 words) to your abstract.
The structure of your abstract should correspond to the sequence of chapters in your dissertation. You should deliberately discuss main elements in the same way as they are presented in dissertation.
For example, if your dissertation includes such chapters: introduction, literature reviews, methodology, implications, etc., you will have to dedicate at least one sentence summarizing each chapter.
Clearly Identify the Research Question(s)
Dissertation and thesis writing is all about your research question and issues that you attempted to explore. Always be precise and clearly mention your research question in the abstract, which will guide your reader in the right direction.
If you have several research questions, all of them should be enumerated in the beginning of the chapter.
Usually students are allowed to discuss 1-3 research questions per one paper. They should be mentioned in a logical sequence (from the least important to the most important – secondary questions should be presented at once).
Always State Your Results!
Some writers think that they should overlook discussing results in the abstract, which remains one of the common mistakes.
Your abstract should not only present your research questions and main paper parts, but also state what you have actually discovered. However, do not present unnecessary details like enumeration of all possible methods that helped you discover the topic, etc.
A part of abstract writing takes summarizing and interpreting of findings. However, do not present all your results because the reader may be reluctant to read your text after retrieving most of information from your abstract.