abstracts of thesis

  • How to Write an Abstract for a Dissertation or Thesis
  • Doing a PhD

What is a Thesis or Dissertation Abstract?

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines an abstract in academic writing as being “ a few sentences that give the main ideas in an article or a scientific paper ” and the Collins English Dictionary says “ an abstract of an article, document, or speech is a short piece of writing that gives the main points of it ”.

Whether you’re writing up your Master’s dissertation or PhD thesis, the abstract will be a key element of this document that you’ll want to make sure you give proper attention to.

What is the Purpose of an Abstract?

The aim of a thesis abstract is to give the reader a broad overview of what your research project was about and what you found that was novel, before he or she decides to read the entire thesis. The reality here though is that very few people will read the entire thesis, and not because they’re necessarily disinterested but because practically it’s too large a document for most people to have the time to read. The exception to this is your PhD examiner, however know that even they may not read the entire length of the document.

Some people may still skip to and read specific sections throughout your thesis such as the methodology, but the fact is that the abstract will be all that most read and will therefore be the section they base their opinions about your research on. In short, make sure you write a good, well-structured abstract.

How Long Should an Abstract Be?

If you’re a PhD student, having written your 100,000-word thesis, the abstract will be the 300 word summary included at the start of the thesis that succinctly explains the motivation for your study (i.e. why this research was needed), the main work you did (i.e. the focus of each chapter), what you found (the results) and concluding with how your research study contributed to new knowledge within your field.

Woodrow Wilson, the 28th President of the United States of America, once famously said:

abstracts of thesis

The point here is that it’s easier to talk open-endedly about a subject that you know a lot about than it is to condense the key points into a 10-minute speech; the same applies for an abstract. Three hundred words is not a lot of words which makes it even more difficult to condense three (or more) years of research into a coherent, interesting story.

What Makes a Good PhD Thesis Abstract?

Whilst the abstract is one of the first sections in your PhD thesis, practically it’s probably the last aspect that you’ll ending up writing before sending the document to print. The reason being that you can’t write a summary about what you did, what you found and what it means until you’ve done the work.

A good abstract is one that can clearly explain to the reader in 300 words:

  • What your research field actually is,
  • What the gap in knowledge was in your field,
  • The overarching aim and objectives of your PhD in response to these gaps,
  • What methods you employed to achieve these,
  • You key results and findings,
  • How your work has added to further knowledge in your field of study.

Another way to think of this structure is:

  • Introduction,
  • Aims and objectives,
  • Discussion,
  • Conclusion.

Following this ‘formulaic’ approach to writing the abstract should hopefully make it a little easier to write but you can already see here that there’s a lot of information to convey in a very limited number of words.

How Do You Write a Good PhD Thesis Abstract?

The biggest challenge you’ll have is getting all the 6 points mentioned above across in your abstract within the limit of 300 words . Your particular university may give some leeway in going a few words over this but it’s good practice to keep within this; the art of succinctly getting your information across is an important skill for a researcher to have and one that you’ll be called on to use regularly as you write papers for peer review.

Keep It Concise

Every word in the abstract is important so make sure you focus on only the key elements of your research and the main outcomes and significance of your project that you want the reader to know about. You may have come across incidental findings during your research which could be interesting to discuss but this should not happen in the abstract as you simply don’t have enough words. Furthermore, make sure everything you talk about in your thesis is actually described in the main thesis.

Make a Unique Point Each Sentence

Keep the sentences short and to the point. Each sentence should give the reader new, useful information about your research so there’s no need to write out your project title again. Give yourself one or two sentences to introduce your subject area and set the context for your project. Then another sentence or two to explain the gap in the knowledge; there’s no need or expectation for you to include references in the abstract.

Explain Your Research

Some people prefer to write their overarching aim whilst others set out their research questions as they correspond to the structure of their thesis chapters; the approach you use is up to you, as long as the reader can understand what your dissertation or thesis had set out to achieve. Knowing this will help the reader better understand if your results help to answer the research questions or if further work is needed.

Keep It Factual

Keep the content of the abstract factual; that is to say that you should avoid bringing too much or any opinion into it, which inevitably can make the writing seem vague in the points you’re trying to get across and even lacking in structure.

Write, Edit and Then Rewrite

Spend suitable time editing your text, and if necessary, completely re-writing it. Show the abstract to others and ask them to explain what they understand about your research – are they able to explain back to you each of the 6 structure points, including why your project was needed, the research questions and results, and the impact it had on your research field? It’s important that you’re able to convey what new knowledge you contributed to your field but be mindful when writing your abstract that you don’t inadvertently overstate the conclusions, impact and significance of your work.

Thesis and Dissertation Abstract Examples

Perhaps the best way to understand how to write a thesis abstract is to look at examples of what makes a good and bad abstract.

Example of A Bad Abstract

Let’s start with an example of a bad thesis abstract:

In this project on “The Analysis of the Structural Integrity of 3D Printed Polymers for use in Aircraft”, my research looked at how 3D printing of materials can help the aviation industry in the manufacture of planes. Plane parts can be made at a lower cost using 3D printing and made lighter than traditional components. This project investigated the structural integrity of EBM manufactured components, which could revolutionise the aviation industry.

What Makes This a Bad Abstract

Hopefully you’ll have spotted some of the reasons this would be considered a poor abstract, not least because the author used up valuable words by repeating the lengthy title of the project in the abstract.

Working through our checklist of the 6 key points you want to convey to the reader:

  • There has been an attempt to introduce the research area , albeit half-way through the abstract but it’s not clear if this is a materials science project about 3D printing or is it about aircraft design.
  • There’s no explanation about where the gap in the knowledge is that this project attempted to address.
  • We can see that this project was focussed on the topic of structural integrity of materials in aircraft but the actual research aims or objectives haven’t been defined.
  • There’s no mention at all of what the author actually did to investigate structural integrity. For example was this an experimental study involving real aircraft, or something in the lab, computer simulations etc.
  • The author also doesn’t tell us a single result of his research, let alone the key findings !
  • There’s a bold claim in the last sentence of the abstract that this project could revolutionise the aviation industry, and this may well be the case, but based on the abstract alone there is no evidence to support this as it’s not even clear what the author did .

This is an extreme example but is a good way to illustrate just how unhelpful a poorly written abstract can be. At only 71 words long, it definitely hasn’t maximised the amount of information that could be presented and the what they have presented has lacked clarity and structure.

A final point to note is the use of the EBM acronym, which stands for Electron Beam Melting in the context of 3D printing; this is a niche acronym for the author to assume that the reader would know the meaning of. It’s best to avoid acronyms in your abstract all together even if it’s something that you might expect most people to know about, unless you specifically define the meaning first.

Example of A Good Abstract

Having seen an example of a bad thesis abstract, now lets look at an example of a good PhD thesis abstract written about the same (fictional) project:

Additive manufacturing (AM) of titanium alloys has the potential to enable cheaper and lighter components to be produced with customised designs for use in aircraft engines. Whilst the proof-of-concept of these have been promising, the structural integrity of AM engine parts in response to full thrust and temperature variations is not clear.

The primary aim of this project was to determine the fracture modes and mechanisms of AM components designed for use in Boeing 747 engines. To achieve this an explicit finite element (FE) model was developed to simulate the environment and parameters that the engine is exposed to during flight. The FE model was validated using experimental data replicating the environmental parameters in a laboratory setting using ten AM engine components provided by the industry sponsor. The validated FE model was then used to investigate the extent of crack initiation and propagation as the environment parameters were adjusted.

This project was the first to investigate fracture patterns in AM titanium components used in aircraft engines; the key finding was that the presence of cavities within the structures due to errors in the printing process, significantly increased the risk of fracture. Secondly, the simulations showed that cracks formed within AM parts were more likely to worsen and lead to component failure at subzero temperatures when compared to conventionally manufactured parts. This has demonstrated an important safety concern which needs to be addressed before AM parts can be used in commercial aircraft.

What Makes This a Good Abstract

Having read this ‘good abstract’ you should have a much better understand about what the subject area is about, where the gap in the knowledge was, the aim of the project, the methods that were used, key results and finally the significance of these results. To break these points down further, from this good abstract we now know that:

  • The research area is around additive manufacturing (i.e. 3D printing) of materials for use in aircraft.
  • The gap in knowledge was how these materials will behave structural when used in aircraft engines.
  • The aim was specifically to investigate how the components can fracture.
  • The methods used to investigate this were a combination of computational and lab based experimental modelling.
  • The key findings were the increased risk of fracture of these components due to the way they are manufactured.
  • The significance of these findings were that it showed a potential risk of component failure that could comprise the safety of passengers and crew on the aircraft.

The abstract text has a much clearer flow through these different points in how it’s written and has made much better use of the available word count. Acronyms have even been used twice in this good abstract but they were clearly defined the first time they were introduced in the text so that there was no confusion about their meaning.

The abstract you write for your dissertation or thesis should succinctly explain to the reader why the work of your research was needed, what you did, what you found and what it means. Most people that come across your thesis, including any future employers, are likely to read only your abstract. Even just for this reason alone, it’s so important that you write the best abstract you can; this will not only convey your research effectively but also put you in the best light possible as a researcher.

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How to Write an Abstract (With Examples)

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how to write an abstract

Table of Contents

What is an abstract in a paper, how long should an abstract be, 5 steps for writing an abstract, examples of an abstract, how prowritingaid can help you write an abstract.

If you are writing a scientific research paper or a book proposal, you need to know how to write an abstract, which summarizes the contents of the paper or book.

When researchers are looking for peer-reviewed papers to use in their studies, the first place they will check is the abstract to see if it applies to their work. Therefore, your abstract is one of the most important parts of your entire paper.

In this article, we’ll explain what an abstract is, what it should include, and how to write one.

An abstract is a concise summary of the details within a report. Some abstracts give more details than others, but the main things you’ll be talking about are why you conducted the research, what you did, and what the results show.

When a reader is deciding whether to read your paper completely, they will first look at the abstract. You need to be concise in your abstract and give the reader the most important information so they can determine if they want to read the whole paper.

Remember that an abstract is the last thing you’ll want to write for the research paper because it directly references parts of the report. If you haven’t written the report, you won’t know what to include in your abstract.

If you are writing a paper for a journal or an assignment, the publication or academic institution might have specific formatting rules for how long your abstract should be. However, if they don’t, most abstracts are between 150 and 300 words long.

A short word count means your writing has to be precise and without filler words or phrases. Once you’ve written a first draft, you can always use an editing tool, such as ProWritingAid, to identify areas where you can reduce words and increase readability.

If your abstract is over the word limit, and you’ve edited it but still can’t figure out how to reduce it further, your abstract might include some things that aren’t needed. Here’s a list of three elements you can remove from your abstract:

Discussion : You don’t need to go into detail about the findings of your research because your reader will find your discussion within the paper.

Definition of terms : Your readers are interested the field you are writing about, so they are likely to understand the terms you are using. If not, they can always look them up. Your readers do not expect you to give a definition of terms in your abstract.

References and citations : You can mention there have been studies that support or have inspired your research, but you do not need to give details as the reader will find them in your bibliography.

abstracts of thesis

Good writing = better grades

ProWritingAid will help you improve the style, strength, and clarity of all your assignments.

If you’ve never written an abstract before, and you’re wondering how to write an abstract, we’ve got some steps for you to follow. It’s best to start with planning your abstract, so we’ve outlined the details you need to include in your plan before you write.

Remember to consider your audience when you’re planning and writing your abstract. They are likely to skim read your abstract, so you want to be sure your abstract delivers all the information they’re expecting to see at key points.

1. What Should an Abstract Include?

Abstracts have a lot of information to cover in a short number of words, so it’s important to know what to include. There are three elements that need to be present in your abstract:

Your context is the background for where your research sits within your field of study. You should briefly mention any previous scientific papers or experiments that have led to your hypothesis and how research develops in those studies.

Your hypothesis is your prediction of what your study will show. As you are writing your abstract after you have conducted your research, you should still include your hypothesis in your abstract because it shows the motivation for your paper.

Throughout your abstract, you also need to include keywords and phrases that will help researchers to find your article in the databases they’re searching. Make sure the keywords are specific to your field of study and the subject you’re reporting on, otherwise your article might not reach the relevant audience.

2. Can You Use First Person in an Abstract?

You might think that first person is too informal for a research paper, but it’s not. Historically, writers of academic reports avoided writing in first person to uphold the formality standards of the time. However, first person is more accepted in research papers in modern times.

If you’re still unsure whether to write in first person for your abstract, refer to any style guide rules imposed by the journal you’re writing for or your teachers if you are writing an assignment.

3. Abstract Structure

Some scientific journals have strict rules on how to structure an abstract, so it’s best to check those first. If you don’t have any style rules to follow, try using the IMRaD structure, which stands for Introduction, Methodology, Results, and Discussion.

how to structure an abstract

Following the IMRaD structure, start with an introduction. The amount of background information you should include depends on your specific research area. Adding a broad overview gives you less room to include other details. Remember to include your hypothesis in this section.

The next part of your abstract should cover your methodology. Try to include the following details if they apply to your study:

What type of research was conducted?

How were the test subjects sampled?

What were the sample sizes?

What was done to each group?

How long was the experiment?

How was data recorded and interpreted?

Following the methodology, include a sentence or two about the results, which is where your reader will determine if your research supports or contradicts their own investigations.

The results are also where most people will want to find out what your outcomes were, even if they are just mildly interested in your research area. You should be specific about all the details but as concise as possible.

The last few sentences are your conclusion. It needs to explain how your findings affect the context and whether your hypothesis was correct. Include the primary take-home message, additional findings of importance, and perspective. Also explain whether there is scope for further research into the subject of your report.

Your conclusion should be honest and give the reader the ultimate message that your research shows. Readers trust the conclusion, so make sure you’re not fabricating the results of your research. Some readers won’t read your entire paper, but this section will tell them if it’s worth them referencing it in their own study.

4. How to Start an Abstract

The first line of your abstract should give your reader the context of your report by providing background information. You can use this sentence to imply the motivation for your research.

You don’t need to use a hook phrase or device in your first sentence to grab the reader’s attention. Your reader will look to establish relevance quickly, so readability and clarity are more important than trying to persuade the reader to read on.

5. How to Format an Abstract

Most abstracts use the same formatting rules, which help the reader identify the abstract so they know where to look for it.

Here’s a list of formatting guidelines for writing an abstract:

Stick to one paragraph

Use block formatting with no indentation at the beginning

Put your abstract straight after the title and acknowledgements pages

Use present or past tense, not future tense

There are two primary types of abstract you could write for your paper—descriptive and informative.

An informative abstract is the most common, and they follow the structure mentioned previously. They are longer than descriptive abstracts because they cover more details.

Descriptive abstracts differ from informative abstracts, as they don’t include as much discussion or detail. The word count for a descriptive abstract is between 50 and 150 words.

Here is an example of an informative abstract:

A growing trend exists for authors to employ a more informal writing style that uses “we” in academic writing to acknowledge one’s stance and engagement. However, few studies have compared the ways in which the first-person pronoun “we” is used in the abstracts and conclusions of empirical papers. To address this lacuna in the literature, this study conducted a systematic corpus analysis of the use of “we” in the abstracts and conclusions of 400 articles collected from eight leading electrical and electronic (EE) engineering journals. The abstracts and conclusions were extracted to form two subcorpora, and an integrated framework was applied to analyze and seek to explain how we-clusters and we-collocations were employed. Results revealed whether authors’ use of first-person pronouns partially depends on a journal policy. The trend of using “we” showed that a yearly increase occurred in the frequency of “we” in EE journal papers, as well as the existence of three “we-use” types in the article conclusions and abstracts: exclusive, inclusive, and ambiguous. Other possible “we-use” alternatives such as “I” and other personal pronouns were used very rarely—if at all—in either section. These findings also suggest that the present tense was used more in article abstracts, but the present perfect tense was the most preferred tense in article conclusions. Both research and pedagogical implications are proffered and critically discussed.

Wang, S., Tseng, W.-T., & Johanson, R. (2021). To We or Not to We: Corpus-Based Research on First-Person Pronoun Use in Abstracts and Conclusions. SAGE Open, 11(2).

Here is an example of a descriptive abstract:

From the 1850s to the present, considerable criminological attention has focused on the development of theoretically-significant systems for classifying crime. This article reviews and attempts to evaluate a number of these efforts, and we conclude that further work on this basic task is needed. The latter part of the article explicates a conceptual foundation for a crime pattern classification system, and offers a preliminary taxonomy of crime.

Farr, K. A., & Gibbons, D. C. (1990). Observations on the Development of Crime Categories. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 34(3), 223–237.

If you want to ensure your abstract is grammatically correct and easy to read, you can use ProWritingAid to edit it. The software integrates with Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and most web browsers, so you can make the most of it wherever you’re writing your paper.

academic document type

Before you edit with ProWritingAid, make sure the suggestions you are seeing are relevant for your document by changing the document type to “Abstract” within the Academic writing style section.

You can use the Readability report to check your abstract for places to improve the clarity of your writing. Some suggestions might show you where to remove words, which is great if you’re over your word count.

We hope the five steps and examples we’ve provided help you write a great abstract for your research paper.

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The Dissertation Abstract: 101

How to write a clear & concise abstract (with examples).

By:   Madeline Fink (MSc) Reviewed By: Derek Jansen (MBA)   | June 2020

So, you’ve (finally) finished your thesis or dissertation or thesis. Now it’s time to write up your abstract (sometimes also called the executive summary). If you’re here, chances are you’re not quite sure what you need to cover in this section, or how to go about writing it. Fear not – we’ll explain it all in plain language , step by step , with clear examples .

Overview: The Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

  • What exactly is a dissertation (or thesis) abstract
  • What’s the purpose and function of the abstract
  • Why is the abstract so important
  • How to write a high-quality dissertation abstract
  • Example/sample of a quality abstract
  • Quick tips to write a high-quality dissertation abstract

What is an abstract?

Simply put, the abstract in a dissertation or thesis is a short (but well structured) summary that outlines the most important points of your research (i.e. the key takeaways). The abstract is usually 1 paragraph or about 300-500 words long (about one page), but but this can vary between universities.

A quick note regarding terminology – strictly speaking, an abstract and an executive summary are two different things when it comes to academic publications. Typically, an abstract only states what the research will be about, but doesn’t explore the findings – whereas an executive summary covers both . However, in the context of a dissertation or thesis, the abstract usually covers both, providing a summary of the full project.

In terms of content, a good dissertation abstract usually covers the following points:

  • The purpose of the research (what’s it about and why’s that important)
  • The methodology (how you carried out the research)
  • The key research findings (what answers you found)
  • The implications of these findings (what these answers mean)

We’ll explain each of these in more detail a little later in this post. Buckle up.

A good abstract should detail the purpose, the methodology, the key findings and the limitations of the research study.

What’s the purpose of the abstract?

A dissertation abstract has two main functions:

The first purpose is to  inform potential readers  of the main idea of your research without them having to read your entire piece of work. Specifically, it needs to communicate what your research is about (what were you trying to find out) and what your findings were . When readers are deciding whether to read your dissertation or thesis, the abstract is the first part they’ll consider. 

The second purpose of the abstract is to  inform search engines and dissertation databases  as they index your dissertation or thesis. The keywords and phrases in your abstract (as well as your keyword list) will often be used by these search engines to categorize your work and make it accessible to users. 

Simply put, your abstract is your shopfront display window – it’s what passers-by (both human and digital) will look at before deciding to step inside. 

The abstract serves to inform both potential readers (people) and search engine bots of the contents of your research.

Why’s it so important?

The short answer – because most people don’t have time to read your full dissertation or thesis! Time is money, after all…

If you think back to when you undertook your literature review , you’ll quickly realise just how important abstracts are! Researchers reviewing the literature on any given topic face a mountain of reading, so they need to optimise their approach. A good dissertation abstract gives the reader a “TLDR” version of your work – it helps them decide whether to continue to read it in its entirety. So, your abstract, as your shopfront display window, needs to “sell” your research to time-poor readers.

You might be thinking, “but I don’t plan to publish my dissertation”. Even so, you still need to provide an impactful abstract for your markers. Your ability to concisely summarise your work is one of the things they’re assessing, so it’s vital to invest time and effort into crafting an enticing shop window.  

A good abstract also has an added purpose for grad students . As a freshly minted graduate, your dissertation or thesis is often your most significant professional accomplishment and highlights where your unique expertise lies. Potential employers who want to know about this expertise are likely to only read the abstract (as opposed to reading your entire document) – so it needs to be good!

Think about it this way – if your thesis or dissertation were a book, then the abstract would be the blurb on the back cover. For better or worse, readers will absolutely judge your book by its cover .

Even if you have no intentions to publish  your work, you still need to provide an impactful abstract for your markers.

How to write your abstract

As we touched on earlier, your abstract should cover four important aspects of your research: the purpose , methodology , findings , and implications . Therefore, the structure of your dissertation or thesis abstract needs to reflect these four essentials, in the same order.  Let’s take a closer look at each of them, step by step:

Step 1: Describe the purpose and value of your research

Here you need to concisely explain the purpose and value of your research. In other words, you need to explain what your research set out to discover and why that’s important. When stating the purpose of research, you need to clearly discuss the following:

  • What were your research aims and research questions ?
  • Why were these aims and questions important?

It’s essential to make this section extremely clear, concise and convincing . As the opening section, this is where you’ll “hook” your reader (marker) in and get them interested in your project. If you don’t put in the effort here, you’ll likely lose their interest.

Step 2: Briefly outline your study’s methodology

In this part of your abstract, you need to very briefly explain how you went about answering your research questions . In other words, what research design and methodology you adopted in your research. Some important questions to address here include:

  • Did you take a qualitative or quantitative approach ?
  • Who/what did your sample consist of?
  • How did you collect your data?
  • How did you analyse your data?

Simply put, this section needs to address the “ how ” of your research. It doesn’t need to be lengthy (this is just a summary, after all), but it should clearly address the four questions above.

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abstracts of thesis

Step 3: Present your key findings

Next, you need to briefly highlight the key findings . Your research likely produced a wealth of data and findings, so there may be a temptation to ramble here. However, this section is just about the key findings – in other words, the answers to the original questions that you set out to address.

Again, brevity and clarity are important here. You need to concisely present the most important findings for your reader.

Step 4: Describe the implications of your research

Have you ever found yourself reading through a large report, struggling to figure out what all the findings mean in terms of the bigger picture? Well, that’s the purpose of the implications section – to highlight the “so what?” of your research. 

In this part of your abstract, you should address the following questions:

  • What is the impact of your research findings on the industry /field investigated? In other words, what’s the impact on the “real world”. 
  • What is the impact of your findings on the existing body of knowledge ? For example, do they support the existing research?
  • What might your findings mean for future research conducted on your topic?

If you include these four essential ingredients in your dissertation abstract, you’ll be on headed in a good direction.

The purpose of the implications section is to highlight the "so what?" of your research. In other words, to highlight its value.

Example: Dissertation/thesis abstract

Here is an example of an abstract from a master’s thesis, with the purpose , methods , findings , and implications colour coded.

The U.S. citizenship application process is a legal and symbolic journey shaped by many cultural processes. This research project aims to bring to light the experiences of immigrants and citizenship applicants living in Dallas, Texas, to promote a better understanding of Dallas’ increasingly diverse population. Additionally, the purpose of this project is to provide insights to a specific client, the office of Dallas Welcoming Communities and Immigrant Affairs, about Dallas’ lawful permanent residents who are eligible for citizenship and their reasons for pursuing citizenship status . The data for this project was collected through observation at various citizenship workshops and community events, as well as through semi-structured interviews with 14 U.S. citizenship applicants . Reasons for applying for U.S. citizenship discussed in this project include a desire for membership in U.S. society, access to better educational and economic opportunities, improved ease of travel and the desire to vote. Barriers to the citizenship process discussed in this project include the amount of time one must dedicate to the application, lack of clear knowledge about the process and the financial cost of the application. Other themes include the effects of capital on applicant’s experience with the citizenship process, symbolic meanings of citizenship, transnationalism and ideas of deserving and undeserving surrounding the issues of residency and U.S. citizenship. These findings indicate the need for educational resources and mentorship for Dallas-area residents applying for U.S. citizenship, as well as a need for local government programs that foster a sense of community among citizenship applicants and their neighbours.

Practical tips for writing your abstract

When crafting the abstract for your dissertation or thesis, the most powerful technique you can use is to try and put yourself in the shoes of a potential reader. Assume the reader is not an expert in the field, but is interested in the research area. In other words, write for the intelligent layman, not for the seasoned topic expert. 

Start by trying to answer the question “why should I read this dissertation?”

Remember the WWHS.

Make sure you include the  what , why ,  how , and  so what  of your research in your abstract:

  • What you studied (who and where are included in this part)
  • Why the topic was important
  • How you designed your study (i.e. your research methodology)
  • So what were the big findings and implications of your research

Keep it simple.

Use terminology appropriate to your field of study, but don’t overload your abstract with big words and jargon that cloud the meaning and make your writing difficult to digest. A good abstract should appeal to all levels of potential readers and should be a (relatively) easy read. Remember, you need to write for the intelligent layman.

Be specific.

When writing your abstract, clearly outline your most important findings and insights and don’t worry about “giving away” too much about your research – there’s no need to withhold information. This is the one way your abstract is not like a blurb on the back of a book – the reader should be able to clearly understand the key takeaways of your thesis or dissertation after reading the abstract. Of course, if they then want more detail, they need to step into the restaurant and try out the menu.

abstracts of thesis

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Writing A Dissertation/Thesis Abstract



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Writing an Abstract

What is an abstract.

An abstract is a 150- to 250-word paragraph that provides readers with a quick overview of your essay or report and its organization. It should express your thesis (or central idea) and your key points; it should also suggest any implications or applications of the research you discuss in the paper.

According to Carole Slade, an abstract is “a concise summary of the entire paper.”

The function of an abstract is to describe, not to evaluate or defend, the paper.

The abstract should begin with a brief but precise statement of the problem or issue, followed by a description of the research method and design, the major findings, and the conclusions reached.

The abstract should contain the most important key words referring to method and content: these facilitate access to the abstract by computer search and enable a reader to decide whether to read the entire dissertation.

Note: Your abstract should read like an overview of your paper, not a proposal for what you intended to study or accomplish. Avoid beginning your sentences with phrases like, “This essay will examine...” or “In this research paper I will attempt to prove...”  

(The examples above are taken from Form and Style (10th ed.), by Carole Slade; The Scott, Foresman Handbook for Writers (5th ed.); and the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (5th ed.).)

Note: The following are specifications for an abstract in APA style, used in the social sciences, such as psychology or anthropology. If you are in another discipline, check with your professor about the format for the abstract.

Writing an Abstract for an IMRaD Paper

Many papers in the social sciences, natural sciences, and engineering sciences follow IMRaD structure: their main sections are entitled Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion. People use the abstract to decide whether to read the rest of the paper, so the abstract for such a paper is important.

Because the abstract provides the highlights of the paper, you should draft your abstract after you have written a full draft of the paper. Doing so, you can summarize what you’ve already written in the paper as you compose the abstract.

Typically, an abstract for an IMRaD paper or presentation is one or two paragraphs long (120 – 500 words). Abstracts usually spend

25% of their space on the purpose and importance of the research (Introduction)

25% of their space on what you did (Methods)

35% of their space on what you found (Results)

15% of their space on the implications of the research

Try to avoid these common problems in IMRaD abstracts:

1. The abstract provides a statement of what the paper will ask or explore rather than what it found:

X This report examines the causes of oversleeping. (What did it find out about these causes?) √ Individuals oversleep because they go to bed too late, forget to set their alarms, and keep their rooms dark.

2. The abstract provides general categories rather than specific details in the findings:

X The study draws conclusions about which variables are most important in choosing a movie theater. (What, specifically, are these variables?)

√ The study concludes that the most important variables in choosing a movie theater are comfortable seats and high-quality popcorn.

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Q: How to write an abstract for my thesis?

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Asked by ismail boudine on 20 Apr, 2019

The abstract of a thesis or dissertation is a summary of the entire thesis and presents in a highly condensed form, the different sections or elements of your thesis. The abstract is a crucial part of your thesis as anyone who comes across your work will likely read the abstract first to decide whether your work will be worth reading. The examiner will also most likely read your abstract to form an idea about your thesis. Therefore, it is important that you spend time and effort to write a good abstract.

Since an abstract is essentially the summary of your entire thesis, it is best to write the abstract at the end, once you are done with the entire thesis. That way, you will have a clear idea of what each chapter of your thesis is about. The abstract of a thesis or dissertation is usually around 300-350 words long and is written in a separate page after the title page of the thesis. 

The abstract of a thesis should include the following elements:

1. Motivation and problem statement: You should begin your abstract by explaining the problem you are studying, the purpose behind your study, and the study objectives.

2. Methodology: You should then explain the approach you have used in your investigation, the methods used to collect data, and the nature of evidence expected.

3. Results: The abstract of a scientific work should include specific data that indicates the results of your research. Non-scientific studies generally discuss the results in a more generic way.

4. Conclusions/implications: Explain the larger implications of your findings, especially with regard to the problem you have stated at the beginning. Also mention how your work adds to the existing body of knowledge on the topic and how it provides direction for future research.

You will also find this course useful:  A simple guide on how to write a thesis

Related reading:

  • How do I go about writing my masters thesis?
  • Tips on rewriting your thesis as a journal article

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Answered by Editage Insights on 07 May, 2019

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Writing Guides  /  15 Abstract Examples: A Comprehensive Guide

15 Abstract Examples: A Comprehensive Guide

abstract examples

Demystifying Abstract Writing

An abstract represents a concise, well-articulated summary of an academic piece or research. But writing an abstract goes beyond merely creating a summary. In this piece, we’ll delve into examples of abstracts to illuminate what they truly are, along with the necessary tone, style, and word counts.

You’ll also see how diverse abstract writing can be, tailored according to the subject area. For instance, an abstract for empirical research in the sciences contrasts greatly from that of a humanities article.

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The Importance of Abstracts: Why Do We Write Them?

Every abstract you encounter, including our abstract writing example, has a few core characteristics. The primary role of an abstract is to encapsulate the essential points of a research article, much like a book’s back cover. The back jacket often influences whether you buy the book or not.

Similarly, academic papers are often behind paywalls, and the abstract assists readers in deciding if they should purchase the article. If you’re a student or researcher, the abstract helps you gauge whether the article is worth your time.

Furthermore, abstracts promote ongoing research in your field by incorporating keywords that allow others to locate your work. Knowing how to write a good abstract contributes to your professionalism, especially crucial for graduate-level studies. This skill might be vital when submitting your research to peer-reviewed journals or soliciting grant funding.

Breaking Down an Abstract: What’s Inside?

The contents of an abstract heavily rely on the type of study, research design, and subject area. An abstract may contain a succinct background statement highlighting the research’s significance, a problem statement, the methodologies used, a synopsis of the results, and the conclusions drawn.

When it comes to writing an abstract for a research paper, striking a balance between consciousness and informative detail is essential. Our examples of abstracts will help you grasp this balance better.

Moreover, you’ll learn how to format abstracts variably, matching the requirements of your degree program or publication guidelines.

Key Elements to Include in Your Abstract

  • Brief Background: Introduce the importance of the research from your point of view.
  • Problem Statement: Define the issue your research addresses, commonly referred to as the thesis statement.
  • Methodology: Describe the research methods you employed.
  • Synopsis: This should include a summary of your results and conclusions.
  • Keywords: Implement terms that others will use to find your article.

Types of Abstracts

  • Descriptive Abstracts: These give an overview of the source material without delving into results and conclusions.
  • Informative Abstracts: These offer a more detailed look into your research, including the purpose, methods, results, and conclusions.
  • Always write your abstract in the present tense.
  • Keep track of word counts to maintain brevity.
  • The original text should guide your abstract.
  • Always provide a good synopsis in your abstract.
  • If needed, use your abstract to draft a compelling query letter.
  • Consider providing a literature review abstract if your research involves an extensive review of existing literature.

Types of Abstract

According to the Purdue Online Writing Lab resource, there are two different types of abstract: informational and descriptive.

Although informative and descriptive abstracts seem similar, they are different in a few key ways.

An informative abstract contains all the information related to the research, including the results and the conclusion.

A descriptive abstract is typically much shorter, and does not provide as much information. Rather, the descriptive abstract just tells the reader what the research or the article is about and not much more.

The descriptive abstract is more of a tagline or a teaser, whereas the informative abstract is more like a summary.

You will find both types of abstracts in the examples below.

Abstract Examples

Informative abstract example 1.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) has been correlated with leadership effectiveness in organizations. Using a mixed-methods approach, this study assesses the importance of emotional intelligence on academic performance at the high school level.

The Emotional Intelligence rating scale was used, as well as semi-structured interviews with teachers. Participant grades were collected. Emotional intelligence was found to correlate positively with academic success. Implications for pedagogical practice are discussed.


This is a typical informative abstract for empirical social sciences research. Most informative abstracts proceed in a logical fashion to reflect the organization of the main paper: with sections on the background, methods, results, and conclusions.

Informative Abstract Example 2

Social learning takes place through observations of others within a community. In diverse urban landscapes and through digital media, social learning may be qualitatively different from the social learning that takes place within families and tightly-knit social circles.

This study examines the differences between social learning that takes place in the home versus social learning that takes place from watching celebrities and other role models online. Results show that social learning takes place with equal efficacy. These results show that social learning does not just take place within known social circles, and that observations of others can lead to multiple types of learning.

This is a typical informative abstract for empirical social science research. After the background statement, the author discusses the problem statement or research question, followed by the results and the conclusions.

Informative Abstract Example 3

Few studies have examined the connection between visual imagery and emotional reactions to news media consumption. This study addresses the gap in the literature via the use of content analysis. Content analysis methods were used to analyze five news media television sites over the course of six months.

Using the Yolanda Metrics method, the researchers ascertained ten main words that were used throughout each of the news media sites. Implications and suggestions for future research are included.

This abstract provides an informative synopsis of a quantitative study on content analysis. The author provides the background information, addresses the methods, and also outlines the conclusions of the research.

Informative Abstract Example 4

This study explores the relationship between nurse educator theoretical viewpoints and nursing outcomes. Using a qualitative descriptive study, the researchers conducted face-to-face interviews with nursing students and nurse educators. The results show that nurse educator theoretical viewpoints had a direct bearing on nurse self-concept. Nurse educators should be cognizant of their biases and theoretical viewpoints when instructing students.

This example showcases how to write an abstract for a qualitative study. Qualitative studies also have clearly defined research methods. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind the general principles of informative abstract writing. Always begin with the research question or problem statement, and proceed to offer a one-sentence description of study methods and results.

Informative Abstract Example 5

Aboriginal people have poorer health outcomes versus their counterparts from other ethnic groups. In this study, public health researchers conducted an epidemiological data analysis using results from the Transcultural Health Report. Using a chi-square test, the researchers found that there is a direct correlation between ethnicity and health status. Policymakers should consider introducing methods for reducing health disparities among minority groups.

This informative abstract details the methods used in the report. As with other informative abstracts, it is written in the past tense. The abstract provides the reader with a summary of the research that has already been conducted.

Informative Abstract Example 6

We examine the contradictions of decolonization as official state policy. Using themes related to decolonization from the literature, we discuss how oppressed people develop cogent policies that create new systems of power. Intersectionality is also discussed.

Through a historical analysis, it was found that decolonization and political identity construction take place not as reactionary pathways but as deliberate means of regaining access to power and privilege. The cultivation of new political and social identities promotes social cohesion in formerly colonized nation-states, paving the way for future means of identity construction.

This abstract is informative but because it does not involve a unique empirical research design, it is written in a different manner from other informative abstracts. The researchers use tone, style, and diction that parallels that which takes place within the body of the text. The main themes are elucidated.

Informative Abstract Example 7

The implementation of a nationwide mandatory vaccination program against influenza in the country of Maconda was designed to lower rates of preventable illnesses. This study was designed to measure the cost-effectiveness of the mandatory vaccination program.

This is a cohort study designed to assess the rates of new influenza cases among both children (age > 8 years) and adults (age > 18 years). Using the National Reference Data Report of Maconda, the researchers compiled new case data (n = 2034) from 2014 to 2018.

A total of 45 new cases were reported during the years of 2014 and 2015, and after that, the number of new cases dropped by 74%.

The significant decrease in new influenza cases can be attributed to the introduction of mandatory vaccination.


The mandatory vaccination program proves cost-effective given its efficacy in controlling the disease.

This method of writing an informative abstract divides the content into respective subject headers. This style makes the abstract easier for some readers to scan quickly.

Informative Abstract Example 8

Mindfulness-based meditation and mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques have been shown to reduce burnout and improve employee engagement. Using a pretest/posttest design, the researchers randomly assigned nurses (n = 136) to the control and experimental groups. The Kabat-Zinn mindfulness-based stress reduction technique was used as the primary intervention for the experimental group.

Quantitative findings revealed significant improvements on self-report scales for depression and anxiety. Nurse leaders and administrators should consider implementing a mindfulness-based stress reduction program to reduce burnout and improve overall nurse performance.

This abstract contains all the necessary information you would need to make an assessment of whether the research was pertinent to your study. When you are writing an informative abstract, consider taking one sentence from each of the sections in your research (introduction/background, methods, results, and conclusion).

Descriptive Abstract Example 1

What inspires individuals to become members of a new religious movement, or a “cult”? This review of the literature offers some suggestions as to the psychological and sociological motivations for joining a new religious movement, offering suggestions for future research.

Unlike informative abstracts, descriptive abstracts simply alert the reader of the main gist of the article. Reading this abstract does not tell you exactly what the researchers found out about their subject, but it does let the reader know what the overall subject matter was and the methods used to conduct the research.

Descriptive Abstract Example 2

With few remaining survivors of the Holocaust, it becomes critical for historians to gather as much data that can contribute to an overall understanding of the ways trauma has been incorporated into identity. Interviews with five Holocaust survivors reveal new information about the role that art and music played in self-healing and community healing.

This descriptive abstract does not give too much information away, simply telling the reader that the researcher used interviews and a case study research design. Although it is a brief description of the study, the researchers succinctly summarize the contents and results.

Descriptive Abstract Example 3

Absurdist theater and literature have had a strong influence on playwrights in France and England. This analysis of absurdist theater addresses the primary symbols being used in absurdist literature and traces the evolution of those symbols as they parallel historical events.

As with most descriptive abstracts, this example is short. You can use descriptive abstracts to provide the reader with a summary of non-empirical research such as literary criticism.

Descriptive Abstract Example 4

The architecture of Oscar Niemeyer reflects socialist sensibilities in the urban planning of Brasilia. This research explores the philosophical underpinnings of Niemeyer’s design through an analysis of several of the main elements of the National Congress of Brazil. Implications and influences of Niemeyer’s work are also discussed.

Note how with the descriptive abstract, you are writing about the research in a more abstract and detached way than when you write an informative abstract.

Descriptive Abstract Example 5

Jacques Derrida has written extensively on the symbolism and the metonymy of September 11. In this research, we critique Derrida’s position, on the grounds that terrorism is better understood from within a neo-realist framework. Derrida’s analysis lacks coherence, is pompous and verbose, and is unnecessarily abstract when considering the need for a cogent counterterrorism strategy.

Like most descriptive abstracts, this encapsulates the main idea of the research but does not necessarily follow the same format as you might use in an informative abstract. Whereas an informative abstract follows the chronological format used in the paper you present, with introduction, methods, findings, and conclusion, a descriptive abstract only focuses on the main idea.

Descriptive Abstract Example 6

The Five Factor model of personality has been well established in the literature and is one of the most reliable and valid methods of assessing success. In this study, we use the Five Factor model to show when the qualities of neuroticism and introversion, which have been typically linked with low rates of success, are actually correlated with achievement in certain job sectors. Implications and suggestions for clinicians are discussed.

This descriptive abstract does not discuss the methodology used in the research, which is what differentiates it from an informative abstract. However, the description does include the basic elements contained in the report.

Descriptive Abstract Example 7

This is a case study of a medium-sized company, analyzing the competencies required for entering into the Indian retail market. Focusing on Mumbai and Bangalore, the expansion into these markets reveals potential challenges for European firms. A comparison case with a failed expansion into Wuhan, China is given, offering an explanation for how there are no global cross-cultural competencies that can be applied in all cases.

While this descriptive abstract shows the reader what the paper addresses, the methods and results are omitted. A descriptive abstract is shorter than an informative abstract.

Which Type of Abstract Should I Use?

Check with your professors or academic advisors, or with the editor of the peer-reviewed journal before determining which type of abstract is right for you.

If you have conducted original empirical research in the social sciences, you will most likely want to use an informative abstract.

However, when you are writing about the arts or humanities, a descriptive abstract might work best.

What Information Should I Include in An Abstract?

The information you include in the abstract will depend on the substantive content of your report.

Consider breaking down your abstract into five separate components, corresponding roughly with the structure of your original research.

You can write one or two sentences on each of these sections:

For Original Empirical Research

1. Background/Introductory Sentence

If you have conducted, or are going to conduct, an original research, then consider the following elements for your abstract:

What was your hypothesis?

What has the previous literature said about your subject?

What was the gap in the literature you are filling with your research?

What are the research questions?

What problem are you trying to solve?

What theoretical viewpoint or approach did you take?

What was your research design (qualitative, quantitative, multi-factorial, mixed-methods)?

What was the setting? Did you conduct a clinical analysis? Or did you conduct a systematic review of literature or a meta-analysis of data?

How many subjects were there?

How did you collect data?

How did you analyze the data?

What methodological weaknesses need to be mentioned?

III. Results

If this was a qualitative study, what were the major findings?

If this was a quantitative study, what were the major findings? Was there an alpha coefficient? What was the standard deviation?

Were the results statistically significant?

1. Discussion

Did the results prove or disprove the hypothesis ?

Were the results significant enough to inform future research?

How do your results link up with previous research? Does your research confirm or go beyond prior literature?

1. Conclusions/Recommendations

What do your results say about the research question or problem statement?

If you had to make a policy recommendation or offer suggestions to other scholars, what would you say?

Are there any concluding thoughts or overarching impressions?

Writing Abstracts for Literary Criticism and Humanities Research

Writing abstracts for research that is not empirical in nature does not involve the same steps as you might use when composing an abstract for the sciences or social sciences.

When writing an abstract for the arts and humanities, consider the following outline, writing one or two sentences for each section:

1. Background/Introduction

What other scholars have said before.

Why you agree or disagree.

Why this is important to study.

1. Your methods or approach

How did you conduct your research?

Did you analyze a specific text, case study, or work of art?

Are you comparing and contrasting?

What philosophical or theoretical model did you use?

III. Findings

What did you discover in the course of your research?

1. Discussion/Conclusion

How are your findings meaningful?

What new discoveries have you made?

How does your work contribute to the discourse?

General Tips for Writing Abstracts

The best way to improve your abstract writing skills is to read more abstracts. When you read other abstracts, you will understand more about what is expected, and what you should include or leave out from the abstract.

Reading abstracts helps you become more familiar with the tone and style, as well as the structure of abstracts.

Write your abstract after you have completed your research.

Many successful abstracts actually take the first sentence from each section of your research, such as the introduction/background, review of literature, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion.

Although it is a good idea to write the results of your original research, avoid giving too much detail. Instead, focus on what really matters.

A good abstract is like an elevator pitch.

While there is no absolute rule for how long an abstract should be, a general rule of thumb is around 100-150 words. However, some descriptive abstracts may be shorter than that, and some informative abstracts could be longer.

How to Write a Synopsis

Writing a synopsis involves summarizing a work’s key elements, including the narrative arc, major plot points, character development, rising action, and plot twists. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to create a compelling synopsis.

  • Outline the Narrative Arc: Start by defining your story’s beginning, middle, and end. This includes the introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution.
  • Identify Major Plot Points: Major plot points are crucial events that propel your story forward. Identify these critical moments and explain how they contribute to the narrative arc.
  • Discuss Character Development: Characters are the backbone of your story. Describe your characters at the start of the story and demonstrate how they evolve by the end.
  • Illustrate Rising Action: The rising action is a series of events that lead to the climax of your story. Ensure to discuss these events and how they build suspense and momentum.
  • Include Plot Twists: If your story has unexpected turns or surprises, highlight these plot twists in your synopsis. However, ensure these twists aren’t revealed too abruptly.

Remember, a synopsis should provide a complete overview of your story. It’s different from a teaser or back cover blurb — your objective isn’t to create suspense, but to succinctly present the whole narrative.

How Long Should a Summary Be

The length of a summary varies based on the complexity and length of the original work. However, as a rule of thumb, a summary should ideally be no more than 10-15% of the original text’s word count. This ensures you cover the significant plot points, character development, narrative arc, rising action, and plot twists without going into excessive detail.

For instance, if you’re summarizing a 300-page novel, your summary may be about 30 pages. If you’re summarizing a short 5-page article, a half-page to one-page summary should suffice.

Remember, the goal of a summary is to condense the source material, maintaining the core ideas and crucial information while trimming unnecessary details. Always aim for brevity and clarity in your summaries.

Abstracts are even shorter versions of executive summaries. Although abstracts are brief and seem relatively easy, they can be challenging to write. If you are struggling to write your abstract, just consider the main ideas of your original research paper and pretend that you are summarizing that research for a friend.

If you would like more examples of strong abstracts in your field of research, or need help composing your abstract or conducting research, call a writing tutor.

“Abstracts,” (n.d.). The Writing Center. https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/abstracts/

Koopman, P. (1997). How to write an abstract. https://users.ece.cmu.edu/~koopman/essays/abstract.html

University of Massachusetts, Amherst (n.d.). Writing an abstract.

“Writing Report Abstracts,” (n.d.). Purdue Online Writing Lab. https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/656/1/

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  • How to Write an Abstract | Steps & Examples

How to Write an Abstract | Steps & Examples

Published on 1 March 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on 10 October 2022 by Eoghan Ryan.

An abstract is a short summary of a longer work (such as a dissertation or research paper ). The abstract concisely reports the aims and outcomes of your research, so that readers know exactly what your paper is about.

Although the structure may vary slightly depending on your discipline, your abstract should describe the purpose of your work, the methods you’ve used, and the conclusions you’ve drawn.

One common way to structure your abstract is to use the IMRaD structure. This stands for:

  • Introduction

Abstracts are usually around 100–300 words, but there’s often a strict word limit, so make sure to check the relevant requirements.

In a dissertation or thesis , include the abstract on a separate page, after the title page and acknowledgements but before the table of contents .

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Table of contents

Abstract example, when to write an abstract, step 1: introduction, step 2: methods, step 3: results, step 4: discussion, tips for writing an abstract, frequently asked questions about abstracts.

Hover over the different parts of the abstract to see how it is constructed.

This paper examines the role of silent movies as a mode of shared experience in the UK during the early twentieth century. At this time, high immigration rates resulted in a significant percentage of non-English-speaking citizens. These immigrants faced numerous economic and social obstacles, including exclusion from public entertainment and modes of discourse (newspapers, theater, radio).

Incorporating evidence from reviews, personal correspondence, and diaries, this study demonstrates that silent films were an affordable and inclusive source of entertainment. It argues for the accessible economic and representational nature of early cinema. These concerns are particularly evident in the low price of admission and in the democratic nature of the actors’ exaggerated gestures, which allowed the plots and action to be easily grasped by a diverse audience despite language barriers.

Keywords: silent movies, immigration, public discourse, entertainment, early cinema, language barriers.

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You will almost always have to include an abstract when:

  • Completing a thesis or dissertation
  • Submitting a research paper to an academic journal
  • Writing a book proposal
  • Applying for research grants

It’s easiest to write your abstract last, because it’s a summary of the work you’ve already done. Your abstract should:

  • Be a self-contained text, not an excerpt from your paper
  • Be fully understandable on its own
  • Reflect the structure of your larger work

Start by clearly defining the purpose of your research. What practical or theoretical problem does the research respond to, or what research question did you aim to answer?

You can include some brief context on the social or academic relevance of your topic, but don’t go into detailed background information. If your abstract uses specialised terms that would be unfamiliar to the average academic reader or that have various different meanings, give a concise definition.

After identifying the problem, state the objective of your research. Use verbs like “investigate,” “test,” “analyse,” or “evaluate” to describe exactly what you set out to do.

This part of the abstract can be written in the present or past simple tense  but should never refer to the future, as the research is already complete.

  • This study will investigate the relationship between coffee consumption and productivity.
  • This study investigates the relationship between coffee consumption and productivity.

Next, indicate the research methods that you used to answer your question. This part should be a straightforward description of what you did in one or two sentences. It is usually written in the past simple tense, as it refers to completed actions.

  • Structured interviews will be conducted with 25 participants.
  • Structured interviews were conducted with 25 participants.

Don’t evaluate validity or obstacles here — the goal is not to give an account of the methodology’s strengths and weaknesses, but to give the reader a quick insight into the overall approach and procedures you used.

Next, summarise the main research results . This part of the abstract can be in the present or past simple tense.

  • Our analysis has shown a strong correlation between coffee consumption and productivity.
  • Our analysis shows a strong correlation between coffee consumption and productivity.
  • Our analysis showed a strong correlation between coffee consumption and productivity.

Depending on how long and complex your research is, you may not be able to include all results here. Try to highlight only the most important findings that will allow the reader to understand your conclusions.

Finally, you should discuss the main conclusions of your research : what is your answer to the problem or question? The reader should finish with a clear understanding of the central point that your research has proved or argued. Conclusions are usually written in the present simple tense.

  • We concluded that coffee consumption increases productivity.
  • We conclude that coffee consumption increases productivity.

If there are important limitations to your research (for example, related to your sample size or methods), you should mention them briefly in the abstract. This allows the reader to accurately assess the credibility and generalisability of your research.

If your aim was to solve a practical problem, your discussion might include recommendations for implementation. If relevant, you can briefly make suggestions for further research.

If your paper will be published, you might have to add a list of keywords at the end of the abstract. These keywords should reference the most important elements of the research to help potential readers find your paper during their own literature searches.

Be aware that some publication manuals, such as APA Style , have specific formatting requirements for these keywords.

It can be a real challenge to condense your whole work into just a couple of hundred words, but the abstract will be the first (and sometimes only) part that people read, so it’s important to get it right. These strategies can help you get started.

Read other abstracts

The best way to learn the conventions of writing an abstract in your discipline is to read other people’s. You probably already read lots of journal article abstracts while conducting your literature review —try using them as a framework for structure and style.

You can also find lots of dissertation abstract examples in thesis and dissertation databases .

Reverse outline

Not all abstracts will contain precisely the same elements. For longer works, you can write your abstract through a process of reverse outlining.

For each chapter or section, list keywords and draft one to two sentences that summarise the central point or argument. This will give you a framework of your abstract’s structure. Next, revise the sentences to make connections and show how the argument develops.

Write clearly and concisely

A good abstract is short but impactful, so make sure every word counts. Each sentence should clearly communicate one main point.

To keep your abstract or summary short and clear:

  • Avoid passive sentences: Passive constructions are often unnecessarily long. You can easily make them shorter and clearer by using the active voice.
  • Avoid long sentences: Substitute longer expressions for concise expressions or single words (e.g., “In order to” for “To”).
  • Avoid obscure jargon: The abstract should be understandable to readers who are not familiar with your topic.
  • Avoid repetition and filler words: Replace nouns with pronouns when possible and eliminate unnecessary words.
  • Avoid detailed descriptions: An abstract is not expected to provide detailed definitions, background information, or discussions of other scholars’ work. Instead, include this information in the body of your thesis or paper.

If you’re struggling to edit down to the required length, you can get help from expert editors with Scribbr’s professional proofreading services .

Check your formatting

If you are writing a thesis or dissertation or submitting to a journal, there are often specific formatting requirements for the abstract—make sure to check the guidelines and format your work correctly. For APA research papers you can follow the APA abstract format .

Checklist: Abstract

The word count is within the required length, or a maximum of one page.

The abstract appears after the title page and acknowledgements and before the table of contents .

I have clearly stated my research problem and objectives.

I have briefly described my methodology .

I have summarized the most important results .

I have stated my main conclusions .

I have mentioned any important limitations and recommendations.

The abstract can be understood by someone without prior knowledge of the topic.

You've written a great abstract! Use the other checklists to continue improving your thesis or dissertation.

An abstract is a concise summary of an academic text (such as a journal article or dissertation ). It serves two main purposes:

  • To help potential readers determine the relevance of your paper for their own research.
  • To communicate your key findings to those who don’t have time to read the whole paper.

Abstracts are often indexed along with keywords on academic databases, so they make your work more easily findable. Since the abstract is the first thing any reader sees, it’s important that it clearly and accurately summarises the contents of your paper.

An abstract for a thesis or dissertation is usually around 150–300 words. There’s often a strict word limit, so make sure to check your university’s requirements.

The abstract is the very last thing you write. You should only write it after your research is complete, so that you can accurately summarize the entirety of your thesis or paper.

Avoid citing sources in your abstract . There are two reasons for this:

  • The abstract should focus on your original research, not on the work of others.
  • The abstract should be self-contained and fully understandable without reference to other sources.

There are some circumstances where you might need to mention other sources in an abstract: for example, if your research responds directly to another study or focuses on the work of a single theorist. In general, though, don’t include citations unless absolutely necessary.

The abstract appears on its own page, after the title page and acknowledgements but before the table of contents .

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How to Write an Abstract for Your Thesis or Dissertation What is an Abstract? The abstract is an important component of your thesis. Presented at the beginning of the thesis, it is likely the first substantive description of your work read by an external examiner. You should view it as an opportunity to set accurate expectations. The abstract is a summary of the whole thesis. It presents all the major elements of your work in a highly condensed form. An abstract often functions, together with the thesis title, as a stand-alone text. Abstracts appear, absent the full text of the thesis, in bibliographic indexes such as PsycInfo. They may also be presented in announcements of the thesis examination. Most readers who encounter your abstract in a bibliographic database or receive an email announcing your research presentation will never retrieve the full text or attend the presentation. An abstract is not merely an introduction in the sense of a preface, preamble, or advance organizer that prepares the reader for the thesis. In addition to that function, it must be capable of substituting for the whole thesis when there is insufficient time and space for the full text. Size and Structure Currently, the maximum sizes for abstracts submitted to Canada's National Archive are 150 words (Masters thesis) and 350 words (Doctoral dissertation). To preserve visual coherence, you may wish to limit the abstract for your doctoral dissertation to one double-spaced page, about 280 words. The structure of the abstract should mirror the structure of the whole thesis, and should represent all its major elements. For example, if your thesis has five chapters (introduction, literature review, methodology, results, conclusion), there should be one or more sentences assigned to summarize each chapter. Clearly Specify Your Research Questions As in the thesis itself, your research questions are critical in ensuring that the abstract is coherent and logically structured. They form the skeleton to which other elements adhere. They should be presented near the beginning of the abstract. There is only room for one to three questions. If there are more than three major research questions in your thesis, you should consider restructuring them by reducing some to subsidiary status. Don't Forget the Results The most common error in abstracts is failure to present results. The primary function of your thesis (and by extension your abstract) is not to tell readers what you did, it is to tell them what you discovered. Other information, such as the account of your research methods, is needed mainly to back the claims you make about your results. Approximately the last half of the abstract should be dedicated to summarizing and interpreting your results. Updated 2008.09.11 © John C. Nesbit


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How to Write an Abstract for a Dissertation or Thesis: Guide & Examples

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FAQ About Dissertation Abstract Writing

1. why is a dissertation abstract important.

Dissertation abstracts are important because they give readers a brief overview of your research. They succinctly introduce critical information and study’s key points to help readers decide if reading your thesis is worth their time. During indexing, an abstract allows categorizing and filtering papers through keyword searches. Consequently, this helps readers to easily find your paper when searching for information on a specific topic.

2. When should I write an abstract for a dissertation or thesis?

You are supposed to write a dissertation or thesis abstract after completing research and finishing work on your paper. This way, you can write précis that accurately reflects all necessary information without missing any important details. Writing your thesis précis last also lets you provide the right keywords to help readers find your dissertation.

3. What should a dissertation abstract include?

A dissertation abstract should include a research problem, goals and objectives, methods, results, and study implications. Ensure that you incorporate enough information so readers can get an idea of your thesis's content without reading it through. Use relevant keywords to ensure readers can easily find your paper when searching for information on a specific topic.

4. How to write a strong dissertation abstract?

To write a strong abstract for a dissertation, you should state your research problem, write in an active voice, use simple language, and provide relevant information. Additionally, write and edit your précis several times until it is clear and concise, and verify that it accurately mirrors your paper’s content. Reviewing several samples is also helpful for understanding how to write your own.

Joe Eckel is an expert on Dissertations writing. He makes sure that each student gets precious insights on composing A-grade academic writing.

A dissertation abstract is a brief summary of a dissertation, typically between 150-300 words. It is a standalone piece of writing that gives the reader an overview of the main ideas and findings of the dissertation.

Generally, this section should include:

You need to write an excellent abstract for a dissertation or thesis, since it's the first thing a comitteee will review. Continue reading through to learn how to write a dissertation abstract. In this article, we will discuss its purpose, length, structure and writing steps. Moreover, for reference purposes, this article will include abstract examples for a dissertation and thesis and offer extra guidance on top of that.

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Dissertation abstracts, by definition, are summaries of a thesis's content, usually between 200 and 300 words, used to inform readers about the contents of the study in a quick way. A thesis or dissertation abstract briefly overviews the entire thesis. Dissertation abstracts are found at the beginning of every study, providing the research recap, results, and conclusions. It usually goes right after your title page and before your dissertation table of contents . An abstract for a dissertation (alternatively called “précis” further in the article) should clearly state the main topic of your paper, its overall purpose, and any important research questions or findings. It should also contain any necessary keywords that direct readers to relevant information. In addition, it addresses any implications for further research that may stem from its field. Writing strong précis requires you to think carefully, as they are the critical components that attract readers to peruse your paper.

The primary purpose of an abstract in a dissertation or thesis is to give readers a basic understanding of the completed work. Also, it should create an interest in the topic to motivate readers to read further. Writing an abstract for a dissertation is essential for many reasons: 

In general, an abstract of a thesis or a dissertation is a bridge between the research and potential readers.

Making a good dissertation abstract requires excellent organization and clarity of thought. Proper specimens must provide convincing arguments supporting your thesis. Writing an effective dissertation abstract requires students to be concise and write engagingly. Below is a list of things that makes it outstanding:

Abstracts should be long enough to convey the key points of every thesis, yet brief enough to capture readers' attention. A dissertation abstract length should typically be between 200-300 words, i.e., 1 page. But usually, length is indicated in the requirements. Remember that your primary goal here is to provide an engaging and informative thesis summary. Note that following the instructions and templates set forth by your university will ensure your thesis or dissertation abstract meets the writing criteria and adheres to all relevant standards.

Dissertation abstracts can be organized in different ways and vary slightly depending on your work requirements. However, each abstract of a dissertation should incorporate elements like keywords, methods, results, and conclusions. The structure of a thesis or a dissertation abstract should account for the components included below:

Below is an example that shows how a dissertation abstract looks, how to structure it and where each part is located. Use this template to organize your own summary. 

There are several things you should do beforehand in order to write a good abstract for a dissertation or thesis. They include:

Remember, it's advisable to write an abstract for a thesis paper or dissertation last. Even though it’s always located in the beginning of the work, nevertheless, it should be written last. This way, your summary will be more accurate because the main argument and conclusions are already known when the work is mostly finished - it is incomparably easier to write a dissertation abstract after completing your thesis. Additionally, you should write it last because the contents and scope of the thesis may have changed during the writing process. So, create your dissertation abstract as a last step to help ensure that it precisely reflects the content of your project.

Writing dissertation abstracts requires careful attention to details and adherence to writing requirements. Refer to the rubric or guidelines that you were presented with to identify aspects to keep in mind and important elements, such as correct length and writing style, and then make sure to comprehensively include them. Careful consideration of these requirements ensures that your writing meets every criterion and standard provided by your supervisor to increase the chances that your master's thesis is accepted and approved.   

Before starting to write a dissertation or thesis abstract you should choose the appropriate type. Several options are available, and it is essential to pick one that best suits your dissertation's subject. Depending on their purpose, there exist 3 types of dissertation abstracts: 

Informative one offers readers a concise overview of your research, its purpose, and any relevant background information. Additionally, this type includes brief summaries of all results and dissertation conclusions .  A descriptive abstract in a dissertation or thesis provides a quick overview of the research, but it doesn't incorporate any evaluation or analysis because it only offers a snapshot of the study and makes no claims.

Critical abstract gives readers an in-depth overview of the research and include an evaluative component. This means that this type also summarizes and analyzes research data, discusses implications, and makes claims about the achievements of your study. In addition, it examines the research data and recounts its implications. 

Choose the correct type of dissertation abstract to ensure that it meets your paper’s demands.

Writing a good abstract for a dissertation or thesis is essential as it provides a brief overview of the completed research. So, how to write a dissertation abstract? First of all, the right approach is dictated by an institution's specific requirements. However, a basic structure should include the title, an introduction to your topic, research methodology, findings, and conclusions. Composing noteworthy precis allows you to flaunt your capabilities and grants readers a concise glimpse of the research. Doing this can make an immense impact on those reviewing your paper.

An abstract for thesis paper or dissertation is mainly dependent on the purpose of your study. Students need to identify all goals and objectives of their research before writing their précis - the reason being to ensure that the investigation’s progress and all its consequent findings are described simply and intelligibly. Additionally, one should provide some background information about their study. A short general description helps your reader acknowledge and connect with the research question. But don’t dive too deep into details, since more details are provided when writing a dissertation introduction . Scholars should write every dissertation abstract accurately and in a coherent way to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding of the area. This is the first section that potential readers will see, and it should serve as a precise overview of an entire document. Therefore, researchers writing abstracts of a thesis or dissertation should do it with great care and attention to details.

A writer needs to elaborate on their methodological approach in an abstract of PhD dissertation since it acts as a brief summary of a whole research and should include an explanation of all methods used there. Dissertation and thesis abstracts discuss the research methodology by providing information sufficient enough to understand the underlying research question, data collection methods, and approach employed. Additionally, they should explain the analysis or interpretation of the data. This will help readers to gain a much better understanding of the research process and allow them to evaluate the data quality. Mention whether your methodology is quantitative or qualitative since this information is essential for readers to grasp your study's context and scope. Additionally, comment on the sources used and any other evidence collected. Furthermore, explain why you chose the method in the first place. All in all, addressing methodology is a crucial part of writing abstracts of a thesis or dissertation, as it will allow people to understand exactly how you arrived at your conclusions.

Write your abstract for dissertation in a way that includes an overview of the research problem, your proposed solution, and any limitations or constraints you faced. Students need to briefly and clearly describe all key findings from the research. You must ensure that the results mentioned in an abstract of a thesis or dissertation are supported with evidence from body chapters.  Write about any crucial trends or patterns that emerged from the study. They should be discussed in detail, as this information can often provide valuable insight into your topic. Be sure to include any correlations or relationships found as a result of the study. Correlation, in this context, refers to any association between two or more variables.  Finally, write about any implications or conclusions drawn from your results: this is an essential element when writing an abstract for dissertation since it allows readers to firmly comprehend the study’s significance.

Knowing how to write an abstract for dissertation is critical in conveying your work to a broad audience. Summarizing can be challenging (since precis is a summary in itself), but it is an essential part of any successful work. So, as a final step, conclude this section with a brief overview of the topic, outline the course of your research and its main results, and answer the paper’s central question.  Summarizing an abstract of your dissertation is done to give readers a succinct impression of the entire paper, making an accurate and concise overview of all its key points and consequent conclusions. In every PhD dissertation abstract , wrap up its summary by addressing any unanswered questions and discussing any potential implications of the research.

Format depends on the style (APA, MLA, Harvard, Chicago), which varies according to your subject's discipline. Style to use is usually mentioned in the instructions, and students should follow them closely to ensure formatting accuracy. These styles have guidelines that inform you about the formatting of titles, headings and subheadings, margins, page numbers, abstracts, and tell what font size and family or line spacing are required. Using a consistent formatting style ensures proper readability and might even influence paper’s overall structure. Another formatting concern to consider when writing dissertation and thesis abstracts is their layout. Most commonly, your paper should have a one-inch margin on all sides with double spacing. Be sure to familiarize yourself with the right guidelines to get the correct information on how to write dissertation abstract in APA format and ensure that it meets formatting standards.

When writing thesis abstracts, it is essential to include keywords. Keywords are phrases or words that help readers identify main topics of your paper and make it easier for them to find any information they need. Keywords should usually be placed at the end of a dissertation abstract and written in italics. In addition, include keywords that represent your paper's primary research interests and topics. Lastly, use keywords throughout your thesis to ensure that your précis accurately reflect an entire paper's content.

When writing, checking out thesis and dissertation abstracts examples from experts can provide a valuable reference point for structuring and formatting your own précis. When searching for an excellent sample template, engaging the assistance of a professional writer can be highly beneficial. Their expertise and knowledge offer helpful insight into creating an exemplary document that exceeds all expectations. Examples of dissertation abstracts from different topics are commonly available in scholarly journals and websites. We also encourage you to go and search your university or other local library catalogue -  multiple useful samples can surely be found there. From our part, we will attach 2 free examples for inspiration.

Dissertation abstract example

Thesis abstract example

Need a custom summary or a whole work? Contact StudyCrumb and get proficient assistance with PhD writing or dissertation proposal help .

Writing a dissertation or PhD thesis abstract is not an easy task. You must ensure that it accurately reflects your paper's content. In this context, we will provide top-class tips on how to write an abstract in a dissertation or thesis for you to succeed. Combined with an example of a dissertation abstract above, you can rest assured that you'll do everything correctly. Below are extra tips on how to write a thesis abstract:

The bottom line when it comes to how to write a dissertation abstract is that you basically need to mirror your study's essence on a much lower scale. Specifically, students should keep their précis concise, use simple language, include relevant information, and write several drafts. Don't forget to review your précis and make sure they are precise enough. In addition, make sure to include all keywords so readers can find your paper quickly. You are encouraged to examine several sample dissertation abstracts to understand how to write your own.

  • Research problem and questions
  • Research methodology
  • Key findings and results
  • Original contribution
  • Practical or theoretical implications.
  • Offers a summary and gives readers an overview of what they should expect from your study.
  • Provides an opportunity to showcase the research done, highlighting its importance and impact.
  • Identifies any unexplored research gaps to inform future studies and direct the current state of knowledge on the topic.
  • Maintains clear and concise summary style
  • Includes essential keywords for search engine optimization
  • Accurately conveys the scope of the thesis
  • Strictly adheres to the word count limit specified in your instructions
  • Written from a third-person point of view
  • Includes objectives, approach, and findings
  • Uses simple language without jargon
  • Avoids overgeneralized statements or vague claims.
  • Title Accurately reflects the topic of your thesis.
  • Introduction Provides an overview of your research, its purpose, and any relevant background information.
  • Methods/ Approach Gives an outline of the methods used to conduct your research.
  • Results Summarizes your findings.
  • Conclusions Provides an overview of your research's accomplishments and implications.
  • Keywords Includes keywords that accurately describe your thesis.
  • Reviewing set requirements and making sure you clearly understand the expectations
  • Reading other research works to get an idea of what to include in yours
  • Writing a few drafts before submitting your final version, which will ensure that it's in the best state possible.
  • Informative
  • Descriptive
  • Keep it concise, not lengthy - around 300 words.
  • Focus on the “what”, “why”, “how”, and “so what” of your research.
  • Be specific and concrete: avoid generalization.
  • Use simple language: précis should be easy to understand for readers unfamiliar with your topic.
  • Provide enough relevant information so your readers can grasp a main idea without necessarily reading your paper in its entirety.
  • Write and edit your abstract several times until every sentence is clear and concise.
  • Verify accuracy: make sure that précis reflect your content precisely.

What Is a Dissertation Abstract?

Purpose of a dissertation or thesis abstract, what makes a good abstract for a dissertation, how long should a dissertation abstract be, dissertation abstract structure, things to consider before writing a dissertation abstract, write an abstract for a dissertation last, carefully read requirements, choose the right type of dissertation abstracts, how to write an abstract for a dissertation or thesis, 1. identify the purpose of your study, 2. discuss methodology, 3. describe the key results, 4. summarize an abstract for a dissertation, how to format an abstract in dissertation, keywords in a dissertation abstract, thesis and dissertation abstract examples, extra tips on writing a dissertation abstract, bottom line on how to write a dissertation or thesis abstract.

Dissertation Abstract


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Writing an abstract - a six point checklist (with samples)

Posted in: abstract , dissertations

abstracts of thesis

The abstract is a vital part of any research paper. It is the shop front for your work, and the first stop for your reader. It should provide a clear and succinct summary of your study, and encourage your readers to read more. An effective abstract, therefore should answer the following questions:

  • Why did you do this study or project?
  • What did you do and how?
  • What did you find?
  • What do your findings mean?

So here's our run down of the key elements of a well-written abstract.

  • Size - A succinct and well written abstract should be between approximately 100- 250 words.
  • Background - An effective abstract usually includes some scene-setting information which might include what is already known about the subject, related to the paper in question (a few short sentences).
  • Purpose  - The abstract should also set out the purpose of your research, in other words, what is not known about the subject and hence what the study intended to examine (or what the paper seeks to present).
  • Methods - The methods section should contain enough information to enable the reader to understand what was done, and how. It should include brief details of the research design, sample size, duration of study, and so on.
  • Results - The results section is the most important part of the abstract. This is because readers who skim an abstract do so to learn about the findings of the study. The results section should therefore contain as much detail about the findings as the journal word count permits.
  • Conclusion - This section should contain the most important take-home message of the study, expressed in a few precisely worded sentences. Usually, the finding highlighted here relates to the primary outcomes of the study. However, other important or unexpected findings should also be mentioned. It is also customary, but not essential, to express an opinion about the theoretical or practical implications of the findings, or the importance of their findings for the field. Thus, the conclusions may contain three elements:
  • The primary take-home message.
  • Any additional findings of importance.
  • Implications for future studies.

abstract 1

Example Abstract 2: Engineering Development and validation of a three-dimensional finite element model of the pelvic bone.


Abstract from: Dalstra, M., Huiskes, R. and Van Erning, L., 1995. Development and validation of a three-dimensional finite element model of the pelvic bone. Journal of biomechanical engineering, 117(3), pp.272-278.

And finally...  A word on abstract types and styles

Abstract types can differ according to subject discipline. You need to determine therefore which type of abstract you should include with your paper. Here are two of the most common types with examples.

Informative Abstract

The majority of abstracts are informative. While they still do not critique or evaluate a work, they do more than describe it. A good informative abstract acts as a surrogate for the work itself. That is, the researcher presents and explains all the main arguments and the important results and evidence in the paper. An informative abstract includes the information that can be found in a descriptive abstract [purpose, methods, scope] but it also includes the results and conclusions of the research and the recommendations of the author. The length varies according to discipline, but an informative abstract is usually no more than 300 words in length.

Descriptive Abstract A descriptive abstract indicates the type of information found in the work. It makes no judgements about the work, nor does it provide results or conclusions of the research. It does incorporate key words found in the text and may include the purpose, methods, and scope of the research. Essentially, the descriptive abstract only describes the work being summarised. Some researchers consider it an outline of the work, rather than a summary. Descriptive abstracts are usually very short, 100 words or less.

Adapted from Andrade C. How to write a good abstract for a scientific paper or conference presentation. Indian J Psychiatry. 2011 Apr;53(2):172-5. doi: 10.4103/0019-5545.82558. PMID: 21772657; PMCID: PMC3136027 .

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How to Write an Abstract for Your Paper

Matt Ellis

An abstract is a self-contained summary of a larger work, such as research and scientific papers or general academic papers . Usually situated at the beginning of such works, the abstract is meant to “preview” the bigger document. This helps readers and other researchers find what they’re looking for and understand the magnitude of what’s discussed. 

Like the trailer for a movie, an abstract can determine whether or not someone becomes interested in your work. Aside from enticing readers, abstracts are also useful organizational tools that help other researchers and academics find papers relevant to their work.  

Because of their specific requirements, it’s best to know a little about how to write an abstract before doing it. This guide explains the basics of writing an abstract for beginners, including what to put in them and some expert tips on writing them. 

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What’s the purpose of an abstract?

The main purpose of an abstract is to help people decide whether or not to read the entire academic paper. After all, titles can be misleading and don’t get into specifics like methodology or results. Imagine paying for and downloading a hundred-page dissertation on what you believe is relevant to your research on the Caucasus region—only to find out it’s about the other Georgia. 

Likewise, abstracts can encourage financial support for grant proposals and fundraising. If you lack the funding for your research, your proposal abstract would outline the costs and benefits of your project. This way, potential investors could make an informed decision, or jump to the relevant section of your proposal to see the details. 

Abstracts are also incredibly useful for indexing. They make it easier for researchers to find precisely what they need without wasting time skimming actual papers. And because abstracts sometimes touch on the results of a paper, researchers and students can see right away if the paper can be used as evidence or a citation to support their own theses. 

Nowadays, abstracts are also important for search engine optimization (SEO)—namely, for getting digital copies of your paper to appear in search engine results. If someone Googles the words used in your abstract, the link to your paper will appear higher in the search results, making it more likely to get clicks. 

How long should an abstract be? 

Abstracts are typically 100–250 words and comprise one or two paragraphs . However, more complex papers require more complex abstracts, so you may need to stretch it out to cover everything. It’s not uncommon to see abstracts that fill an entire page, especially in advanced scientific works. 

When do you need to write an abstract? 

Abstracts are only for lengthy, often complicated texts, as with scientific and research papers. Similar academic papers—including doctorate dissertations, master’s theses, or elaborate literary criticisms —may also demand them as well. If you’re learning how to write a thesis paper for college , you’ll want to know how to write an abstract, too. 

Specifically, most scientific journals and grant proposals require an abstract for submissions. Conference papers often involve them as well, as do book proposals and other fundraising endeavors. 

However, most writing, in particular casual and creative writing, doesn’t need an abstract. 

Types of abstracts

There are two main types of abstracts: informative and descriptive. Most abstracts fall into the informative category, with descriptive abstracts reserved for less formal papers. 

Informative abstracts

Informative abstracts discuss all the need-to-know details of your paper: purpose, method, scope, results, and conclusion. They’re the go-to format for scientific and research papers. 

Informative abstracts attempt to outline the entire paper without going into specifics. They’re written for quick reference, favor efficiency over style, and tend to lack personality. 

Descriptive abstracts

Descriptive abstracts are a little more personable and focus more on enticing readers. They don’t care as much for data and details, and instead read more like overviews that don’t give too much away. Think of descriptive abstracts like synopses on the back of a book. 

Because they don’t delve too deep, descriptive abstracts are shorter than informative abstracts, closer to 100 words, and in a single paragraph. In particular, they don’t cover areas like results or conclusions — you have to read the paper to satisfy your curiosity. 

Since they’re so informal, descriptive abstracts are more at home in artistic criticisms and entertaining papers than in scientific articles. 

What to include in an abstract

As part of a formal document, informative abstracts adhere to more scientific and data-based structures. Like the paper itself, abstracts should include all of the IMRaD elements: Introduction , Methods , Results , and Discussion . 

This handy acronym is a great way to remember what parts to include in your abstract. There are some other areas you might need as well, which we also explain at the end. 


The beginning of your abstract should provide a broad overview of the entire project, just like the thesis statement. You can also use this section of your abstract to write out your hypothesis or research question. 

In the one or two sentences at the top, you want to disclose the purpose of your paper, such as what problem it attempts to solve and why the reader should be interested. You’ll also need to explain the context around it, including any historical references. 

This section covers the methodology of your research, or how you collected the data. This is crucial for verifying the credibility of your paper — abstracts with no methodology or suspicious methods won’t be taken seriously by the scientific community. 

If you’re using original research, you should disclose which analytical methods you used to collect your data, including descriptions of instruments, software, or participants. If you’re expounding on previous data, this is a good place to cite which data and from where to avoid plagiarism . 

For informative abstracts, it’s okay to “give away the ending.” In one or two sentences, summarize the results of your paper and the conclusive outcome. Remember that the goal of most abstracts is to inform, not entice, so mentioning your results here can help others better classify and categorize your paper. 

This is often the biggest section of your abstract. It involves most of the concrete details surrounding your paper, so don’t be afraid to give it an extra sentence or two compared to the others. 

The discussion section explains the ultimate conclusion and its ramifications. Based on the data and examination, what can we take away from this paper? The discussion section often goes beyond the scope of the project itself, including the implications of the research or what it adds to its field as a whole. 

Other inclusions

Aside from the IMRaD aspects, your abstract may require some of the following areas:

  • Keywords — Like hashtags for research papers, keywords list out the topics discussed in your paper so interested people can find it more easily, especially with online formats. The APA format (explained below) has specific requirements for listing keywords, so double-check there before listing yours. 
  • Ethical concerns — If your research deals with ethically gray areas, i.e., testing on animals, you may want to point out any concerns here, or issue reassurances. 
  • Consequences — If your research disproves or challenges a popular theory or belief, it’s good to mention that in the abstract — especially if you have new evidence to back it up. 
  • Conflicts of Interest/Disclosures — Although different forums have different rules on disclosing conflicts of interests, it’s generally best to mention them in your abstract. For example, maybe you received funding from a biased party. 

If you’re ever in doubt about what to include in your abstract, just remember that it should act as a succinct summary of your entire paper. Include all the relevant points, but only the highlights. 

Abstract formats

In general, abstracts are pretty uniform since they’re exclusive to formal documents. That said, there are a couple of technical formats you should be aware of. 

APA format  

The American Psychological Association (APA) has specific guidelines for their papers in the interest of consistency. Here’s what the 7th edition Publication Manual has to say about formatting abstracts:

  • Double-space your text.
  • Set page margins at 1 inch (2.54 cm).
  • Write the word “Abstract” at the top of the page, centered and in a bold font.
  • Don’t indent the first line.
  • Keep your abstract under 250 words.
  • Include a running header and page numbers on all pages, including the abstract.

Abstract keywords have their own particular guidelines as well: 

  • Label the section as “ Keywords: ” with italics.
  • Indent the first line at 0.5 inches, but leave subsequent lines as is.
  • Write your keywords on the same line as the label.
  • Use lower-case letters.
  • Use commas, but not conjunctions.

Structured abstracts

Structured abstracts are a relatively new format for scientific papers, originating in the late 1980s. Basically, you just separate your abstract into smaller subsections — typically based on the IMRaD categories — and label them accordingly. 

The idea is to enhance scannability; for example, if readers are only interested in the methodology, they can skip right to the methodology. The actual writing of structured abstracts, though, is more-or-less the same as traditional ones. 

Unstructured abstracts are still the convention, though, so double-check beforehand to see which one is preferred.

3 expert tips for writing abstracts

1 autonomous works.

Abstracts are meant to be self-contained, autonomous works. They should act as standalone documents, often with a beginning, middle, and end. The thinking is that, even if you never read the actual paper, you’ll still understand the entire scope of the project just from the abstract. 

Keep that in mind when you write your abstract: it should be a microcosm of the entire piece, with all the key points, but none of the details. 

2 Write the abstract last

Because the abstract comes first, it’s tempting to write it first. However, writing the abstract at the end is more effective since you have a better understanding of what is actually in your paper. You’ll also discover new implications as you write, and perhaps even shift the structure a bit. In any event, you’re better prepared to write the abstract once the main paper is completed. 

3 Abstracts are not introductions

A common misconception is to write your abstract like an introduction — after all, it’s the first section of your paper. However, abstracts follow a different set of guidelines, so don’t make this mistake. 

Abstracts are summaries, designed to encapsulate the findings of your paper and assist with organization and searchability. A good abstract includes background information and context, not to mention results and conclusions. Abstracts are also self-contained, and can be read independently of the rest of the paper. 

Introductions, by contrast, serve to gradually bring the reader up to speed on the topic. Their goals are less clinical and more personable, with room to elaborate and build anticipation. Introductions are also an integral part of the paper, and feel incomplete if read independently. 

Give your formal writing the My Fair Lady treatment

Formal papers — the kind that requires abstracts — need formal language. But for most of us, that means changing the way we communicate or even think. You may want to consider the My Fair Lady treatment, which is to say, having a skilled mentor coach what you say. 

Grammarly Premium now offers a new Set Goals feature that helps you tailor your language to your audience or intention. All you have to do is set the goals of a particular piece of writing and Grammarly will customize your feedback accordingly. For example, you can select the knowledge level of your readers, the formality of the tone, and the domain or field you’re writing for (i.e., academic, creative, business, etc.). You can even set a tone to sound more analytical or respectful! 

Here’s a tip: Grammarly’s  Citation Generator  ensures your essays have flawless citations and no plagiarism. Try it for citing abstracts in Chicago , MLA , and APA styles.

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An abstract summarizes, usually in one paragraph of 300 words or less, the major aspects of the entire paper in a prescribed sequence that includes: 1) the overall purpose of the study and the research problem(s) you investigated; 2) the basic design of the study; 3) major findings or trends found as a result of your analysis; and, 4) a brief summary of your interpretations and conclusions.

Writing an Abstract. The Writing Center. Clarion University, 2009; Writing an Abstract for Your Research Paper. The Writing Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison; Koltay, Tibor. Abstracts and Abstracting: A Genre and Set of Skills for the Twenty-first Century . Oxford, UK: Chandos Publishing, 2010;

Importance of a Good Abstract

Sometimes your professor will ask you to include an abstract, or general summary of your work, with your research paper. The abstract allows you to elaborate upon each major aspect of the paper and helps readers decide whether they want to read the rest of the paper. Therefore, enough key information [e.g., summary results, observations, trends, etc.] must be included to make the abstract useful to someone who may want to examine your work.

How do you know when you have enough information in your abstract? A simple rule-of-thumb is to imagine that you are another researcher doing a similar study. Then ask yourself: if your abstract was the only part of the paper you could access, would you be happy with the amount of information presented there? Does it tell the whole story about your study? If the answer is "no" then the abstract likely needs to be revised.

Farkas, David K. “A Scheme for Understanding and Writing Summaries.” Technical Communication 67 (August 2020): 45-60;  How to Write a Research Abstract. Office of Undergraduate Research. University of Kentucky; Staiger, David L. “What Today’s Students Need to Know about Writing Abstracts.” International Journal of Business Communication January 3 (1966): 29-33; Swales, John M. and Christine B. Feak. Abstracts and the Writing of Abstracts . Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2009.

Structure and Writing Style

I.  Types of Abstracts

To begin, you need to determine which type of abstract you should include with your paper. There are four general types.

Critical Abstract A critical abstract provides, in addition to describing main findings and information, a judgment or comment about the study’s validity, reliability, or completeness. The researcher evaluates the paper and often compares it with other works on the same subject. Critical abstracts are generally 400-500 words in length due to the additional interpretive commentary. These types of abstracts are used infrequently.

Descriptive Abstract A descriptive abstract indicates the type of information found in the work. It makes no judgments about the work, nor does it provide results or conclusions of the research. It does incorporate key words found in the text and may include the purpose, methods, and scope of the research. Essentially, the descriptive abstract only describes the work being summarized. Some researchers consider it an outline of the work, rather than a summary. Descriptive abstracts are usually very short, 100 words or less. Informative Abstract The majority of abstracts are informative. While they still do not critique or evaluate a work, they do more than describe it. A good informative abstract acts as a surrogate for the work itself. That is, the researcher presents and explains all the main arguments and the important results and evidence in the paper. An informative abstract includes the information that can be found in a descriptive abstract [purpose, methods, scope] but it also includes the results and conclusions of the research and the recommendations of the author. The length varies according to discipline, but an informative abstract is usually no more than 300 words in length.

Highlight Abstract A highlight abstract is specifically written to attract the reader’s attention to the study. No pretense is made of there being either a balanced or complete picture of the paper and, in fact, incomplete and leading remarks may be used to spark the reader’s interest. In that a highlight abstract cannot stand independent of its associated article, it is not a true abstract and, therefore, rarely used in academic writing.

II.  Writing Style

Use the active voice when possible , but note that much of your abstract may require passive sentence constructions. Regardless, write your abstract using concise, but complete, sentences. Get to the point quickly and always use the past tense because you are reporting on a study that has been completed.

Abstracts should be formatted as a single paragraph in a block format and with no paragraph indentations. In most cases, the abstract page immediately follows the title page. Do not number the page. Rules set forth in writing manual vary but, in general, you should center the word "Abstract" at the top of the page with double spacing between the heading and the abstract. The final sentences of an abstract concisely summarize your study’s conclusions, implications, or applications to practice and, if appropriate, can be followed by a statement about the need for additional research revealed from the findings.

Composing Your Abstract

Although it is the first section of your paper, the abstract should be written last since it will summarize the contents of your entire paper. A good strategy to begin composing your abstract is to take whole sentences or key phrases from each section of the paper and put them in a sequence that summarizes the contents. Then revise or add connecting phrases or words to make the narrative flow clearly and smoothly. Note that statistical findings should be reported parenthetically [i.e., written in parentheses].

Before handing in your final paper, check to make sure that the information in the abstract completely agrees with what you have written in the paper. Think of the abstract as a sequential set of complete sentences describing the most crucial information using the fewest necessary words. The abstract SHOULD NOT contain:

  • A catchy introductory phrase, provocative quote, or other device to grab the reader's attention,
  • Lengthy background or contextual information,
  • Redundant phrases, unnecessary adverbs and adjectives, and repetitive information;
  • Acronyms or abbreviations,
  • References to other literature [say something like, "current research shows that..." or "studies have indicated..."],
  • Using ellipticals [i.e., ending with "..."] or incomplete sentences,
  • Jargon or terms that may be confusing to the reader,
  • Citations to other works, and
  • Any sort of image, illustration, figure, or table, or references to them.

Abstract. Writing Center. University of Kansas; Abstract. The Structure, Format, Content, and Style of a Journal-Style Scientific Paper. Department of Biology. Bates College; Abstracts. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Borko, Harold and Seymour Chatman. "Criteria for Acceptable Abstracts: A Survey of Abstracters' Instructions." American Documentation 14 (April 1963): 149-160; Abstracts. The Writer’s Handbook. Writing Center. University of Wisconsin, Madison; Hartley, James and Lucy Betts. "Common Weaknesses in Traditional Abstracts in the Social Sciences." Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 60 (October 2009): 2010-2018; Koltay, Tibor. Abstracts and Abstracting: A Genre and Set of Skills for the Twenty-first Century. Oxford, UK: Chandos Publishing, 2010; Procter, Margaret. The Abstract. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Riordan, Laura. “Mastering the Art of Abstracts.” The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association 115 (January 2015 ): 41-47; Writing Report Abstracts. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Writing Abstracts. Writing Tutorial Services, Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning. Indiana University; Koltay, Tibor. Abstracts and Abstracting: A Genre and Set of Skills for the Twenty-First Century . Oxford, UK: 2010; Writing an Abstract for Your Research Paper. The Writing Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Writing Tip

Never Cite Just the Abstract!

Citing to just a journal article's abstract does not confirm for the reader that you have conducted a thorough or reliable review of the literature. If the full-text is not available, go to the USC Libraries main page and enter the title of the article [NOT the title of the journal]. If the Libraries have a subscription to the journal, the article should appear with a link to the full-text or to the journal publisher page where you can get the article. If the article does not appear, try searching Google Scholar using the link on the USC Libraries main page. If you still can't find the article after doing this, contact a librarian or you can request it from our free i nterlibrary loan and document delivery service .

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The PhD Proofreaders

What is a dissertation abstract and how do I write one for my PhD?

Feb 12, 2019

write a phd thesis abstract

There are a lot of posts that talk about how to write an abstract. Most say that you should write your abstract to impress your examiner.

We say that you need to flip things upside down: sure, your examiner will read it and want to see that you’ve written it well, but you should actually have your next boss in mind when you write it.

When you apply for your first academic job, the abstract may be the only part of your thesis that your new boss will read. They may not have the time or energy to read the whole thesis, so the abstract plays a crucial role. You should write it as if you academic career depends on it.

In this guide we talk about how to write an outstanding abstract that will (hopefully) land you a job.

If you haven’t already, make sure you download our PhD Writing Template , which you can use in conjunction with this guide to supercharge your PhD.

What is an abstract?

  This is fairly straightforward stuff, but let us be clear so we are all on the same page.

An abstract is a short summary at the beginning of the PhD that sums up the research, summarises the separate sections of the thesis and outlines the contribution.

It is typically used by those wishing to get a broad understanding of a piece of research prior to reading the entire thesis.

When you apply for your first academic job, the hiring manager will take a look through applicants’ abstracts (as well as your CV and covering letter) to create a shortlist. If you are lucky enough to do well at an interview, your potential new boss will take another look through it before deciding whether to offer you the job.

Why don’t they read the whole thing? Apart from the fact that they’re way too busy to read 200+ pages, a well written abstract actually contains all they need to know. It is a way of letting them see what your research is about, what contribution it makes, what your understanding of the field is and how or whether you will fit into the department.

So, you need to write it well.

But, don’t underestimate how hard it is to write a PhD thesis abstract. You have to condense hundred of pages and years of work into a few hundred words (exactly how many will depend on your university, so double check with them before you start writing).

How do I write a good PhD abstract?

abstracts of thesis

Some blog posts use keywords to summarise the content (this one does, scroll down to see them). The abstract is similar. It’s an extended set of keywords to summarise a complex piece of research.

Above all, your PhD abstract should answer the question: ‘so what’ ? In other words, what is the contribution of your thesis to the field?

If you’ve been using our PhD writing template you’ll know that, to do this, your abstract should address six questions:

  • What is the reason for writing the thesis?
  • What are the current approaches and gaps in the literature?
  • What are your research question(s) and aims?
  • Which methodology have you used?
  • What are the main findings?
  • What are the main conclusions and implications?

One thing that should be obvious is that you can’t write your abstract until the study itself has been written. It’ll typically be the last thing you write (alongside the acknowledgements).

But how can I write a great one?

  The tricky thing about writing a great PhD abstract is that you haven’t got much space to answer the six questions above. There are a few things to consider though that will help to elevate your writing and make your abstract as efficient as possible:

  • Give a good first impression by writing in short clear sentences
  • Don’t repeat the title in the abstract
  • Don’t cite references
  • Use keywords from the document
  • Respect the word limit
  • Don’t be vague – the abstract should be a self contained summary of the research, so don’t introduce ambiguous words or complex terms
  • Focus on just four or five essential points, concepts, or findings. Don’t, for example, try to explain your entire theoretical framework
  • Edit it carefully. Make sure every word is relevant (you haven’t got room for wasted words) and that each sentence has maximum impact
  • Avoid lengthy background information
  • Don’t mention anything that isn’t discussed in the thesis
  • Avoid overstatements
  • Don’t spin your findings, contribution or significance to make your research sound grander or more influential that it actually is

Examples of a good and bad abstract

abstracts of thesis

We can see that the bad abstract fails to answer the six questions posed above. It reads more like a PhD proposal, rather than a summary of a piece of research.


  • It doesn’t discuss the reason why the thesis was written
  • It doesn’t outline the gaps in the literature
  • It doesn’t outline the research questions or aims
  • It doesn’t discuss the methods
  • It doesn’t discuss the findings
  • It doesn’t discuss the conclusions and implications of the research.

It is also too short, lacks adequate keywords and introduces unnecessary detail. The abbreviations and references only serve to confuse the reader and the claim that the thesis will ‘develop a new theory of climate change’ is both vague and over-ambitious. The reader will see through this.

abstracts of thesis

The good abstract though does a much better job at answering the six questions and summarising the research.

  • The reason why the thesis was written is stated: ‘We do so to better enable policy makers and academics to understand the nuances of multi-level climate governance’ and….’it informs our theoretical understanding of climate governance by introducing a focus on local government hitherto lacking, and informs our empirical understanding of housing and recycling policy.’
  • The gap is clearly defined: ‘The theory has neglected to account for the role of local governments.’
  • The research question are laid out: ‘We ask to what extent and in what ways local governments in the UK’…
  • The methods are hinted at: ‘Using a case study…’
  • The findings are summarised: ‘We show that local governments are both implementers and interpreters of policy. We also show that they make innovative contributions to and influence the direction of national policy.’
  • The conclusions and implications are clear: ‘The significance of this study is that it informs our theoretical understanding of climate governance by introducing a focus on local government hitherto lacking, and informs our empirical understanding of housing and recycling policy.’

This abstract is of a much better length, and it fully summarises what the thesis is about. We can see that if someone (i.e. your hiring manager) were to read just this abstract, they’d understand what your thesis is about and the contribution that it makes.

abstracts of thesis

Your PhD thesis. All on one page. 

Use our free PhD structure template to quickly visualise every element of your thesis. 

I can’t summarise my thesis, what do I do?

  We suggest you fill out our PhD Writing Template . We’ve designed it so that you can visualise your PhD on one page and easily see the main components. It’s really easy to use. It asks you a few questions related to each section of your thesis. As you answer them, you develop a synopsis. You can use that synopsis to inform your abstract. If you haven’t downloaded it, you can find it here.

  Like everything related to writing, it takes practice before you get great at writing abstracts. Follow our tips and you’ll have a head start over others.

Remember, you’re not writing your abstract for anyone other than your hiring manager. Make sure it showcases the best of your research and shows your skills as both a researcher and a writer.

If you’re struggling, send us your abstract by email and we’ll have give you free advice on how to improve it.

Hello, Doctor…

Sounds good, doesn’t it?  Be able to call yourself Doctor sooner with our five-star rated How to Write A PhD email-course. Learn everything your supervisor should have taught you about planning and completing a PhD.

Now half price. Join hundreds of other students and become a better thesis writer, or your money back. 

Share this:


Hello! I am a first year PhD student and I am interested in your Thesis writing course. However, I don’t have Paypal, thus I would like to know if there is an alternative way for you to get paid. I hope so, because I have been “following” you and I think the course can be really useful for me 🙂 Hope to hear from you soon. Best wishes, Belén Merelas

Dr. Max Lempriere

Thanks for the comment – I have sent you an email.


Hello! I am a Master’s student and I have applied for a PhD position. The professors have asked me to write a short abstract-like text, based on a brief sentence they will send me, related to the project study. How am I supposed to write a text like that when I don’t have the whole paper, the methods, results etc? Thank you in advance!

Hi Maria. I’m afraid that without knowing more about your topic or subject I am unable to give you advice on this. Sorry I can’t help in the way you may have hoped.

Anna H. Smith

Thank u so much… your tips have really helped me to broaden my scope on the idea of how to write an abstract for my Ph.D. course. This is so thoughtful of you… The article is very informative and helpful…Thanks again!

I’m so pleased. Thanks for your lovely words. They’re music to my ears.


Very insightful Thanks

Glad you think so. Good luck with the writing.

Peter Manyoni

Thank you so much Doc

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    Below are extra tips on how to write a thesis abstract: Keep it concise, not lengthy - around 300 words. Focus on the "what", "why", "how", and "so what" of your research. Be specific and concrete: avoid generalization. Use simple language: précis should be easy to understand for readers unfamiliar with your topic.

  18. Writing an abstract

    Methods - The methods section should contain enough information to enable the reader to understand what was done, and how. It should include brief details of the research design, sample size, duration of study, and so on. Results - The results section is the most important part of the abstract. This is because readers who skim an abstract do so ...

  19. How to Write an Abstract for Your Paper

    Set page margins at 1 inch (2.54 cm). Write the word "Abstract" at the top of the page, centered and in a bold font. Don't indent the first line. Keep your abstract under 250 words. Include a running header and page numbers on all pages, including the abstract.

  20. 3. The Abstract

    An abstract summarizes, usually in one paragraph of 300 words or less, the major aspects of the entire paper in a prescribed sequence that includes: 1) the overall purpose of the study and the research problem(s) you investigated; 2) the basic design of the study; 3) major findings or trends found as a result of your analysis; and, 4) a brief summary of your interpretations and conclusions.

  21. What is a dissertation abstract

    An abstract is a short summary at the beginning of the PhD that sums up the research, summarises the separate sections of the thesis and outlines the contribution. It is typically used by those wishing to get a broad understanding of a piece of research prior to reading the entire thesis. When you apply for your first academic job, the hiring ...

  22. PDF Abstracts

    Abstracts may include: 1. The thesis of the work, usually in the first sentence. 2. Background information that places the work in the larger body of literature. 3. The same chronological structure as the original work. How not to write a abstract: 1. Do not refer extensively to other works. 2. Do not add information not contained in the ...

  23. A Bibliometric Approach to the Thesis of the Happy-Productive Worker—A

    In an organizational context marked by a concern for well-being, decent working conditions, and the proliferation of events associated with happiness, a theory called the happy-productive worker thesis (HPW) emerged. This thesis is based on the premise that happy workers are more productive than their opposites.

  24. ERIC

    This study aimed at analyzing the errors identified in undergraduate thesis abstracts written by 28 students of an English Education study program in Jakarta. Data were analyzed using UAM Corpus Tool. The results show that, successively, the types of errors most frequently committed in the corpus are: (1) grammatical errors; (2) phrasing errors ...

  25. Can we detect consciousness in newborn infants?: Neuron

    Conscious experiences in infants remain poorly understood. In this NeuroView, Passos-Ferreira discusses recent evidence for and against consciousness in newborn babies. She argues that the weight of evidence from neuroimaging and behavioral studies supports the thesis that newborn infants are conscious.