The dissertation abstract is a much misunderstood and feared piece of the jigsaw which makes up your dissertation project. It sounds scary and different, and the title of it suggests some kind of Salvador Dali painting in words.
In reality, writing a dissertation abstract is, in fact, simply condensing your whole dissertation into a summary - that’s it. Of course, nothing is ever that simple, and there are a few ground rules and guidelines to follow - and some very good reasons for following them. We are going to look at some of these and give you some background on making your abstract stand out.
Condensing anything down to it’s main message is always a challenge. Trying to reduce months of work and hours of research into a couple of pages takes some ruthless editing and thought. Your abstract for dissertation needs to find a balance between being so short on information that nobody knows what your dissertation is about, and so much information that it becomes a mini-dissertation of it’s own.
There is a wealth of advice and guidance out there on the subject. Articles about writing the dissertation are especially commonplace.
Articles on writing the research paper summary are rarer, but there are still quite a few, even from a quick Google search.
Before you start, you should check the guidelines of your school, college or university. There are many variations, and some insist on a set format for their dissertation abstracts. There is little point in taking the time and trouble to write and hone a stunning abstract, only to find that it will not be accepted because it is in APA, or MLA when it should have been in Turabian, (yes, that is a real format).
The best way of tackling it is to speak to your tutor and get advice as to how it should be done and what is expected. After all, who has more experience of dealing with the problems?
In precising your work, you will find that you have to become more objective than you may be used to. You will have to discard and dismiss, what you might consider being important and useful points, in favor of some that may not be as detailed as you would like. Bear in mind that a dissertation abstract is always a compromise.
But why is it regarded as being so important? The main reason is that it is the one piece of your dissertation which will be lodged on file - in dissertation abstract databases worldwide. These are looked at, (you have probably looked at them yourself - to research your own dissertation) by researchers who need a brief, concise overview of a project in order to decide whether it covers their subject or field, and will be useful to them.
Bear this in mind when writing your abstract and you will not go far wrong. Instead of writing it as a condensed version of your project, try to look upon it more as a sales pitch - and “sell” your dissertation to the reader.
Let’s briefly go through some pointers here:
Firstly, aim at two pages in length. One page is too short - over two pages - too long. Fill the second page or it looks like you may have run out of ideas.
Try and split it into three parts. An introduction, covering the overview and aims of the project. The body of the abstract, which covers the research, methods and observations. Finally, of course, the conclusion, which draws your arguments and reasoning together into a coherent and persuasive conclusion as to why you should read the whole dissertation.
If you make sure that your abstract covers, what was done, why it was done, how it was done, what was found, and the significance of the findings - then you will have covered all the bases.
Get a third party, who doesn’t necessarily know the subject to critique it - that way you will know whether the most salient points are coming across.
Keep your language in a form where it is neither too intellectual nor too simple - there is a system which will analyze your writing to give you an idea of what level you are writing at - at the same time as counting your words - perfect!
We hope that this has been a helpful summary of the main points that should be considered when sorting out your dissertation abstract and that you will be able to present a piece of work which will both inform and show off the depth and scope of your project to a wider audience.
There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing your peers taking your research and using it as the foundation or basis for their own research and writing. It does your CV and resume no harm either ...
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