Writing a dissertation abstract
Despite being just 150 to 350 words long (in most cases), the Abstract is arguably one of the most important parts of your dissertation. In this short space, the abstract must capture the essence of your dissertation. This includes the problem being tackled (and the motivation behind this), the significance of your research, the research strategy guiding it, as well as the major findings and conclusions. The perfect informative abstract is one where the reader could choose not to read on but would still understand the essence of your dissertation. At the same time, a poorly constructed dissertation abstract can mislead the reader into thinking the study is about something it is not, confusing them from the very start.
In most cases, you will be expected to use an informative, rather than descriptive style, when writing your dissertation abstract. However, since this is not always the case, we briefly explain the difference between the two abstract styles - descriptive and informative - in the section, Choosing between dissertation abstract styles: Descriptive or informative. With the abstract being one of the most important parts of your dissertation, we explain the need for good structure, internal consistency, effective weighting between sections, amongst other factors, in the section, What readers expect from a dissertation abstract. We also highlight what readers are not looking for.
Even though every dissertation is different, there is a fairly common way to effectively structure your dissertation abstract. In the section, How to structure your dissertation abstract, we take you through the important components that the abstract should address, including the problem being addressed, the significance of the study, components of your research strategy, results and conclusions. Finally, knowing what you want to say and how to express that on the page are two different things. In the section, Useful phrases when writing a dissertation abstract, we set out phrases that you can use and build on when writing your dissertation abstract.