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Writing a Dissertation Abstract - Turning a Mountain into a Mole Hill

That’s what it feels like. Your dissertation is a mountain of research and writing. It is somewhere between 150-200 pages long. And now, your last task is to condense the entire piece down to a single page.

You’ve read other abstracts, and you have even found a pretty good sample abstract for a dissertation in your research field. So, you have a clear idea of how to write a dissertation abstract, at least what needs to be included.

how to write a dissertation abstract

The issue is this: when it comes down to you consolidating your own work, which has consumed at least a year of your life, the task is not so easy. Writing a dissertation abstract becomes one of those things that may in fact consume many more hours of your time.

Elements of that Abstract

As you begin to think about how to write an abstract for a dissertation, remember that it has one overriding purpose – to inform future researchers about your study and to provide enough detail so they can determine if your work has relevancy to their own research.

There are usually four sections in an abstract – check your department guidelines for the details.  As you study other abstract, you will also find some useful phrases that are common to all abstracts that you can incorporate. In general, however, here is how the sections play out.

  1. Background and Significance

Why did you choose this specific study? What earlier research led you to your research questions – are you replicating, adding to, or modifying what came before. A statement of your research questions should be included.

  1. Describe the Design and the Methodology You Used

Was your study qualitative or quantitative? What was your sample population? Was the design a random sampling, control and experimental groups, matched pairs? Briefly explain how you collected your data and how you analyzed it.

This is the tough part, because there will be so much you want to say but cannot.

  1. Briefly Describe the Major Findings

What was the answer to your research question? What level of significance did you find?

  1. Your Conclusions

What did you learn? What are the implications for future research? Be brief and don’t overstate the significance of your findings.

You will not follow the structure of an essay with an intro, body and conclusion. You don’t have the space for that. Just title each section and write it. In all, your abstract should be 250-300 words – no more - and it needs to all fit on one page.

It’s Tough

Even though you know how to write abstract for dissertation, you will probably have far too much content with your first draft. Keep consolidating and eliminating anything you can reasonably leave out. Sometimes, it is best to contact a dissertation abstract writing service and get a professional Ph.D. who has written many of these before.

writing a dissertation abstract

Don’t Agonize Over This

Writing a dissertation abstract is not an impossible task. Study plenty of examples of other abstracts in your research area; write your first draft without worrying about length. Go back and start eliminating. And if writing an abstract for a dissertation is just frustrating you too much, get some professional help.