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    How to write an Abstract for Your dissertation

    Definition and Purpose of Abstracts

    So how to write an abstract for your dissertation? An abstract is a short summary of your (published or unpublished) research paper, usually about a paragraph (c. 6-7 sentences, 150-250 words) long.


    Abstract serves multiple purposes:

    An abstract lets readers get the gist or essence of your research journal paper or article quickly, in order to decide whether to read the full dissertation ;
    an abstract prepares readers to follow the detailed information, analyses, and arguments in your full dissertation ;
    and, later, an abstract helps readers remember key points from your paper.
    It’s also worth remembering that search engines and bibliographic databases use abstracts, as well as the title, to identify key terms for indexing your published dissertation . So what you include in your abstract and in your dissertation title are crucial for helping other researchers find your dissertation .

    If you are writing an abstract for a dissertation , your professor may give you specific guidelines for what to include and how to organize your abstract. Similarly, academic journals often have specific requirements for abstracts. So in addition to following the advice on this page, you should be sure to look for and follow any guidelines from the course or journal you’re writing for.

    The Contents of an Abstract

    Abstracts contain most of the following kinds of information in brief form. The body of your dissertation will, of course, develop and explain these ideas much more fully. As you will see in the samples below, the proportion of your abstract that you devote to each kind of information—and the sequence of that information—will vary, depending on the nature and genre of the paper that you are summarizing in your abstract. And in some cases, some of this information is implied, rather than stated explicitly. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, which is widely used in the social sciences, gives specific guidelines for what to include in the abstract for different kinds of dissertation —for empirical studies, literature reviews or meta-analyses, theoretical papers, methodological papers, and case studies.

    Kinds of information abstract should have:

    the context or background information for your research; the general topic under study; the specific topic of your research
    the central questions or statement of the problem your research addresses
    what’s already known about this question, what previous research has done or shown
    the main reason(s), the exigency, the rationale, the goals for your research—Why is it important to address these questions? Are you, for example, examining a new topic? Why is that topic worth examining? Are you filling a gap in previous research? Applying new methods to take a fresh look at existing ideas or data? Resolving a dispute within the literature in your field? . . .
    your research and/or analytical methods
    your main findings, results, or arguments
    the significance or implications of your findings or arguments.

    Your dissertation abstract should be intelligible on its own, without a reader’s having to read your entire dissertation . And in an abstract, you usually do not cite references—most of your abstract will describe what you have studied in your research and what you have found and what you argue in your paper. In the body of your paper, you will cite the specific literature that informs your research.

    When to Write Your Abstract
    Although you might be tempted to write your abstract first, because it will appear as the very first part of your dissertation , it’s a good idea to wait to write your abstract until after you’ve drafted your full dissertation , so that you know what you’re summarizing about the dissertation .

    Choosing Verb Tenses within Your Abstract
    The social science uses the present tense to describe general facts and interpretations that have been and are currently true, including the prevailing explanation for the social phenomenon under study. That abstract also uses the present tense to describe the methods, the findings, the arguments, and the implications of the findings from their new research study. The authors use the past tense to describe previous research. How to write an abstract for your dissertation?

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