What is a dissertation abstract? When you are pursuing a doctorate degree, it is necessary to write a lengthy research paper called the dissertation. The dissertation abstract is an essential component of this paper because it gives the reader a good understanding about your research, and can even determine whether they use your work when doing their own research projects.
A full dissertation itself can be hundreds of pages long, which means very few people would have the time to read it in its entirety. On the other hand, the dissertation abstract summarizes all of the key elements of the research, including its purpose, relevance, and what you uncovered. If the reader decides to read the entire paper, they will have a good idea about what to expect.
Note that the abstract is not the same thing as the introduction, which has its own section. Rather, it serves as a preface that sets the reader up for what the entire dissertation involves.
The Purpose of the Dissertation Abstract
Not sure how to write a dissertation abstract? Let us take a look at the process. First, the essence of the dissertation abstract is to provide the reader with a summarize of the entire research, not just the meat of the research but also the results and conclusions. A well-written dissertation abstract might even convince that reader to take the time to read your dissertation.
The dissertation starts with a cover page and in most cases is followed by the abstract, although you should consult your advisor as they might ask you to place it somewhere else. An effective dissertation abstract highlights the purpose of the research, the problems being investigated, questions related to the hypothesis, and your choice of methodology. If the project involves research participants, they will be discussed here as well. Ultimately, the dissertation abstract serves two important functions: it helps with indexing and it promotes your research project.
- Indexing: When researchers look for research related to their area, scholarly databases will provide them with dissertation abstract, not the full dissertation itself. The best way to help researchers find your paper is by including key terms in the abstract.
- Promotion: Dissertation papers are really long and few people have the time to read all of them straight through. Instead, they need to choose the ones that are most relevant. A good abstract allows them to decide whether reading your dissertation would make sense.
Parts of the Abstract
A dissertation abstract fits into four possible categories: informative, critical, highlight and descriptive. Although they each attempt to carry out the same objectives, it is useful to familiarize yourself with all of them, including how they are written so that you can select the most appropriate type. Note that in some cases your advisor might tell you which abstract to write.
- Informative: This type incorporates the important parts of your paper, in particular the purpose, methods and scope.
- Critical: This serves as a critique of the dissertation, including opinions and comments.
- Highlight: This abstract includes information that the reader might find interesting. This is the best option for getting their attention.
- Descriptive: This serves as an objective outline, laying out the details that the reader would uncover if they decide to read the entire dissertation.
How Should the Dissertation Abstract Look?
Before you start writing the abstract, make sure to consult with your advisor and follow their directions. By understanding how it needs to be written, you will save yourself the trouble of having to make major changes.
Most abstracts should be around 150 to 300 words double-spaced. In other words, it should be concise and to the point. The summary of the different elements should be written in the same order as the dissertation itself.
Editing, Proofreading, and Finishing
Resist the temptation to submit your dissertation abstract as is. If you want to successfully obtain your PhD, a perfectly polished abstract free of typos and grammar mistakes is a must. Ask a friend or classmate to look it over. If they can make sense of it, you have achieved your goals. You should also make sure it is factually correct. All of this makes a big difference, so do not skip this step!
What Makes for a Good Dissertation Abstract?
No matter which type of abstract you write, here are some universal features and goals:
- The abstract is not merely a summary of the work, it should explain to the reader why it makes an important contribution to its area of research.
- It helps determine whether your work should be referenced in another researcher’s literature review.
- It focuses on what the core issues of the research are, not on how it was written. Thus, you would not want to state (First, I did this, then I did that…)
- It should be clear and to the point. Given how short the abstract must be, every word needs to be deliberate and purposeful.
- It includes keywords. While you want to include words for the purpose of indexing your work, you want to avoid making it too technical. Researchers from both your field of study and other similar areas need to be able to access the work.
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