How to Write an Abstract for Your Thesis or Dissertation
What is an Abstract?
- The abstract is an important component of your thesis. Presented at the beginning of the thesis, it is likely the first substantive description of your work read by an external examiner. You should view it as an opportunity to set accurate expectations.
- The abstract is a summary of the whole thesis. It presents all the major elements of your work in a highly condensed form.
- An abstract often functions, together with the thesis title, as a stand-alone text. Abstracts appear, absent the full text of the thesis, in bibliographic indexes such as PsycInfo. They may also be presented in announcements of the thesis examination. Most readers who encounter your abstract in a bibliographic database or receive an email announcing your research presentation will never retrieve the full text or attend the presentation.
- 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.
Size and Structure
Clearly Specify Your Research Questions
- Currently, the maximum sizes for abstracts submitted to Canada's National Archive are 150 words (Masters thesis) and 350 words (Doctoral dissertation).
- To preserve visual coherence, you may wish to limit the abstract for your doctoral dissertation to one double-spaced page, about 280 words.
- The structure of the abstract should mirror the structure of the whole thesis, and should represent all its major elements.
- For example, if your thesis has five chapters (introduction, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion), there should be one or more sentences assigned to summarize each chapter.
- As in the thesis itself, your research questions are critical in ensuring that the abstract is coherent and logically structured. They form the skeleton to which other elements adhere.
- They should be presented near the beginning of the abstract.
- There is only room for one to three questions. If there are more than three major research questions in your thesis, you should consider restructuring them by reducing some to subsidiary status.
Don't Forget the Results
- The most common error in abstracts is failure to present results.
- The primary function of your thesis (and by extension your abstract) is not to tell readers what you did, it is to tell them what you discovered. Other information, such as the account of your research methods, is needed mainly to back the claims you make about your results.
- Approximately the last half of the abstract should be dedicated to summarizing and interpreting your results.
© John C. Nesbit
How To Write A Dissertation Abstract In The Humanities: Useful Hints
An abstract is the short version or a summary of your overall work. It is not a review or evaluation of the work rather presents a mini version of your research and project. An abstract in humanities will talk about the main thesis, conclusion, and the summary of the larger work. You need to remember that the abstract is not an excerpt of the work but an original paper that you have to write on your own. This is a critical section in your dissertation as it helps the readers identify the core purpose of your assignment and the citation of the sources.
In order to write a winning abstract you need to remember the logical order of the sentences and ideas. You should present the most important information first and then follow a descending order in that matter. The type, style, and format of the paper stay the same as the original dissertation and you only write an abstract after completing the entire assignment. This helps you follow the same direction as your assignment. You can place keywords and phrases in a strategic manner that will help the reader determine the core focus of your research. The language you use in this paper needs to be clear, concise, and bold. You should only include technical terms if they are a part of the original paper as well.
To help you write an abstract for a project in humanities, these steps will keep your work interesting, precise, and relevant. Remember that you need to follow the same structure as listed below if you want the reader to make logical sense out of your assignment.
- The first sentence in your abstract needs to identify the reason for why you are writing this paper, you need to show what is the larger significance of your work to the target audience
- The second thing you need to write is the problem you will tackle in your paper. Precisely, this defines the scope of your work and you can use the thesis statement or main theme of your paper to elaborate this
- The third sentence will show your proposed solution to the problem and the methods you use for collecting this evidence. In a humanity paper, you need to show the types of evidence and the processes you use for collecting your data
- The fourth sentence after the methodology will explain the results of your paper. You need to show the results you gathered from certain evidence in your assignment
- Finally, show the interpretation of these results in application of your work