An abstract is an important part of your thesis. It’s presented in the beginning of your thesis and is the first substantive description of your work. Think of an abstract as the first impression of your work, which automatically makes it important as it conveys what your thesis is about and what the jury/reviewers should expect from it. 

 

When should you write an abstract?

You should write an abstract at the very end, after you’ve completed your thesis. Since it’s a summary of your work, it makes it easier to write it after rather than before writing your thesis and missing out on important details. 

Remember that an abstract is a completely independent piece of text. Your reader should understand your paper just by reading the abstract. 

 

What should you include in your abstract?

An abstract should include:

  1. Your research problem and objectives
  2. Your methods
  3. Your key results and arguments
  4. Your conclusion

 

How many words should the abstract be of?

An abstract should ideally be around 150-300 words, but universities and colleges often have a strict word limit, so check that before you write it. 

 

Where should you locate the abstract?

An abstract should come after the title page and acknowledgments and before the table of contents, but on a separate page. 

 

How should you write an abstract?

  1. Start by writing the aims of the research paper. What problem does your research respond to or what research question does it address? After you identify the problem, state the objective of your research. Make sure to write this part in present tense or simple past tense, but never in future tense, because your research is already complete. 

For example: ‘This study explores the relationship between social media consumption and anxiety’ instead of ‘This study will explore the relationship between social media consumption and anxiety.’

  1. After this, indicate the research methods you used to substantiate your research question/problem. Always write this in simple past tense as it’s a completed action. Keep it to 2-3 lines and refrain from giving an insight into the methodology’s strengths and weaknesses here. 
  2. Next, summarize the research results. Write this in simple present tense and try not to write everything here, if your results are extensive. Include only the most important findings here. 
  3. Finish off your abstract with a short summary of the conclusion. What is the answer to your research? Make sure that you write it in present tense. 

 

Tips to write an abstract:

  1. Note down keywords and write 1-2 lines after each chapter. When you start writing your abstract at the end of your dissertation, refine the sentences and link them together. It will be easier to develop a cohesive and coherent abstract this way. 
  2. Read other abstract samples, preferably in the same area of study as yours. These will give you an idea of the structure and style that your abstract should follow. 
  3. Try to keep it compact. Think of it as having a typing limit, and write only what matters instead of filling it with obscure jargon. 
  4. Reverse outline. Write down the main sentences and keywords for each chapter and revise them to develop a coherent argument. 
  5. Read other abstracts, preferably in your own domain and get an idea about how your abstract will look like. 

 

So there you have it! An abstract is a summary but this article about the abstract sure isn’t! Read other articles on dissertation and thesis on our Resource Center!