Dissertation Abstract

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The abstract is a summary, usually of approximately 150-300 words, of what the reader can expect to find in the dissertation. Be concise and don’t reference or use quotes in this part.

Your dissertation abstract is a highly condensed version of a longer piece of writing that highlights the major points covered. The abstract concisely describes the content and scope of the writing and reviews the contents in abbreviated form.

There are two types of abstracts typically used:

1. Descriptive Abstracts

These tell readers what information the dissertation contains, and include the purpose, methods, and scope of the report, article, or paper. A descriptive abstract will not provide results, conclusions, or recommendations, and is usually shorter than an informative abstract - usually under 100 words. Its purpose is to merely introduce the subject to reader, who must then read the dissertation to find out your results, conclusions, or recommendations.

2. Informative Abstracts

These communicate specific information from the dissertation, including the purpose, methods, and scope of the report, article, or paper. They provide the dissertation results, conclusions, and recommendations. They are short but not as short as a descriptive abstract - usually anything from a paragraph to a page or two, depending upon the length of the original work being abstracted. In any case, informative abstracts make up 10% or less of the length of the original piece. The informative abstract allows your reader to decide whether they want to read the dissertation.

Abstracts are often used where a paper is entered into a journal database. The key words that you choose for your abstract assist your paper to be identified using electronic information retrieval systems. Titles and abstracts are filed electronically, and key words are put in electronic storage. When people search for information, they enter key words related to the subject, and the computer prints out the titles of articles, papers, and reports containing those key words.

A good abstract will use one or more well developed paragraphs, which are unified, coherent, concise, and able to stand alone. It will use an introduction/body/conclusion structure which presents the dissertation's purpose, results, conclusions, and recommendations in that order. It will follow strictly the chronology of the dissertation and provide logical connections (or transitions) between the information included. A good abstract will add no new information, but simply summarise the dissertation. It will be understandable to a wide audience.

"Manuscript: something submitted in haste and returned at leisure" (Oliver Herford)

Whatever the agreed definition, this site has been created to help you write your final piece for university. It is designed to help you create long pieces of writing that are well organised, well referenced and well sourced.

Top dissertation abstract writing tips

To write an effective abstract, follow these steps:
Reread the dissertation you have written with the goal of abstracting in mind. Look specifically for these main parts of the dissertation: purpose, methods, scope, results, conclusions, and recommendations. Use the headings, outline heads, and table of contents as a guide to writing your abstract. If you're writing an abstract about another person's dissertation, the introduction and the summary are good places to begin. These areas generally cover what the dissertation emphasises. After you've finished rereading the dissertation, write a rough draft without looking back at what you're abstracting. Don't merely copy key sentences from the dissertation: you'll put in too much or too little information. You should not rely on the way material was phrased in the dissertation - you need to summarise information in a new way. Revise your rough draft to correct weaknesses in organisation, improve transitions from point to point and drop unnecessary information. Be sure to fix errors in grammar, spelling, and punctuation. It's a good idea to print out your final work in order to read it again to catch any glitches that you find.


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