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What Makes A Good Dissertation Abstract: A Quick Guide


The abstract for your dissertation is an essential component of your document. It is required by most supervisors in most fields of study. The exact details of the format and guidelines for the abstract may vary a little from one discipline to the next, but there are many similarities as well.

The following guidelines will help you to create a good abstract for your dissertation paper. You can tweak these instructions to suit the details you have been assigned.

What is an Abstract?

  • It is the first thing people will read when they pick up your paper. It is a summary of the entire paper, in a page or less. It must contain the most important parts. It is a representation of all the major elements contained in your paper. These elements must appear in a highly condensed form.
  • It functions as stand-alone text. If someone can’t read your paper, they should be able to get a full idea of what it’s about by reading the abstract only.
  • Abstracts are used to index your paper in online scholastic data banks.
  • It is not an introduction or preamble. It must substitute for the entire paper.

Size and Structure of an Abstract

Usually the maximum size for an abstract is limited to between 150 and 350 words. If you want to maintain visual coherence with your paper, then use one double-spaced page, which usually turns out to be around 280 words.

Make sure the structure and format of the abstract mirrors that of the rest of your paper, representing each of its elements. For example, use the same margin width, etc. If your paper has 5 chapters then there needs to be at least one sentence in your abstract representing each of the 5 chapters.

The research questions should be clearly specified and form a framework to which the other elements of the abstract adhere. They should be near the beginning.

The Results are a Key Component

Many students fail to present their findings or results in the abstract; this is a common and somewhat fatal error. Make sure you include a summary of the results. After all the primary purpose of your paper isn’t just to tell the reader what you did, but also to tell them what you discovered. A condensed account of your research methods is necessary in order to back the claims you make.