How to Write a Dissertation Abstract: Detailed Guide with Clear Steps

posted by Laura Callisen 23 Sep 2021
Table of contents:

Students cannot submit their dissertations until they learn how to write a dissertation abstract. Many underestimate the importance of this part, but the truth is, it’s vital because it is something your readers see first. An abstract is a summary of the goals and results of your work. It’s pretty short, so you need to know how to shape it. Our guide was developed by college and university academicians who have personal knowledge of how abstracts should look like. Read it and find answers to all your questions!

What Is a Dissertation Abstract: Basic Facts

Whenever students need help writing a paper for college, they have to understand their own tasks. The abstract isn’t the exception. Like we already established, it is a short overview of the entire project that gives readers a clear idea of what they are going to read about. It should roughly consist of five major parts. We’ll explore them in detail below, but for now, let’s figure out what they are.

  • Research statement
  • Objectives
  • Methods
  • Key Findings
  • Conclusion

The Main Aims of Abstracts

Writing a dissertation abstract is done for several reasons. For one thing, it allows you to re-read your own work and understand the most relevant facts about it. What makes dissertation process easier. It also gives you a chance to understand your findings better since you have to summarize them by making an emphasis on the crucial bits. Another major goal is to stimulate interest in your readers. If you ever searched for articles online to use them in your school essays, you likely sorted through them by reading their titles and abstracts. This is exactly what other people do, too. Abstract lets them understand what dissertation is about, whether they should read it completely or discard it and look for another source.
When it comes to professors, they are obviously going to read your project anyway, but dissertation abstract sample lets them draw preliminary conclusions. First impressions are important, so if you manage to make your abstract professional and on point, it’ll help the committee form a positive opinion. It’s a win-win situation for everyone: your work gets better chances at recognition, while your readers understand what they’ll be reading about.

Length of Abstract in Dissertations

Students often ask a common question: what is the approximate dissertation abstract length or how to structure a dissertation? For short essays and papers, it’s about 100 words, but for larger projects like thesis, it’s 300 words. 300 words is one complete page of content — it isn’t much, especially if dissertation length is 50+ pages, so students need to be very laconic. Note that your university might have its own word limit: be sure to ask your supervisor about it. Some might ask for shorter abstracts, others could demand longer ones that might even exceed 600 words.

Sample Dissertation Abstract on a Random Topic

Students often say, “I need help writing my dissertation,” and there is no better way to ensure it than by showing them detailed examples. Check the sample we’ve constructed. We are going to add different formatting to specific parts of our abstract: see an explanation for what they mean below the text. Our chosen topic is Comparison of How Wealthy and Poor Murder Suspects Are Treated by Law Enforcement.
“In the US, there is an acute problem of how law enforcement treats wealthy vs. poor murder suspects.” — Problem statement.

“Starting from early years and up to modern times, people like O. J. Simpson and John and Patsy Ramsey avoided prosecution only because of their money, well-respected public image, and connections. By contrast, many people with low socioeconomic status are prosecuted on the basis of weak evidence and not granted even basic rights that each American citizen should be eligible for.” — Background.

“This research analyzes why wealth is a major factor that shapes treatment of murder suspects by the US law enforcement. To test the hypothesis, it explores 8 different crimes and makes a case study to compare how one’s socioeconomic status affects attitude of authorities.” — Hypothesis and aims of research.
“A comprehensive survey was distributed between forty involved people about their experiences and opinions on what happened and why.” — Methods.

“The results indicated that wealthy people stand a 67% higher chance to avoid prosecution than lower-class representatives.” — Results.

“It is suggested that criminal justice law be amended to ensure equal treatment regardless of what one’s background is.” — Implications & recommendations.

When Students Should Write an Abstract

When students start their work or look for dissertation writer, they generally expect to be writing dissertation abstracts from the start. It’s understandable: abstract is placed after acknowledgments, right before the table of contents. People read it before touching the introduction or body. But at the same time, an abstract must reflect your entire work, and it cannot do that unless you know what your findings and their implications are. So when you start your project, leave some space on the page with acknowledgments. Go back to it after you completed all sections and create your abstract on their basis.

Describing Aims of Your Research in an Abstract

How to write a good abstract? Start by pointing out your main research questions. What are you exploring? What are the goals of your work? Apart from formulating the aims, include info about the background, too. For example, tell your audience how this problem occurred, since when it has been taking place, whether it is acute or not, etc.

Don’t use too many details, though. Remember the question, “How long should an abstract be?” Generally, its size shouldn’t exceed 300 words, so you need to be concise and make your statements short. Use verbs like “analyze,” “investigate,” “study”, and other similar ones for outlining your plans and making them sound professional. Also, never use the future tense in an abstract. You could write your sentences in the Presence or Past Simple only. After all, the abstract is a reflection of a whole dissertation: it describes an already complete work.  

Explaining Your Methods

In an example of an abstract we shared, you can see that methods are an important part. They show what actions a researcher took for completing their study and arriving at their conclusions. Avoid going into details and discussing what problems you faced, how long your research took, etc. The goal here is to make it clear in what way you performed your study. For example, state that you used verbal or online interviews, distributed questionnaires, or retrieved the already existing data from some sources. This point shouldn’t be longer than one or two sentences.

Outlining Your Results

How to write an abstract for a dissertation that makes a positive impression on people? By describing your results in a way that resonates with people and makes them interested in learning more. What have you found after gathering data and analyzing it? Was your hypothesis confirmed? Again, use only present or past tenses.  

The important thing is to not overdo it. Check our dissertation abstract example: we described the results of our research in just one sentence, even though in the work itself, they took about 15 pages. Focus on key details. Answer the main question without bothering with smaller nuances — your readers will see them later, once they actually start reading. Also remember that if you're not sure in your result, you can always ask for help from editor for dissertation

Building Conclusions

How to write an abstract conclusion? Only in the present tense. The conclusion is a vast concept that covers several possible definitions at once: you could share the implications of your research, make a general conclusion, or even offer a recommendation. You could also do everything at once — just be brief about it. What do your results mean in the bigger picture?  What populations might benefit or suffer if more research is or isn’t done? What could improve the situation and solve the problem? If you faced some obstacles when doing research, point them out, too. It will make people more tolerant of bias or weak points of your dissertation.  

Include Relevant Keywords

In most cases, dissertation abstracts have keywords. These are words that describe the project best and help interested readers find what they are looking for. Think about them carefully. You cannot include 15 or 20 keywords: something between 3 and 5 is usually the acceptable norm. How would you characterize your dissertation? What are its main points?  Place your keywords under the text of an abstract. Usually, they should be in italics, but it depends on what academic formatting style your university requires you to follow.

Tips for Writing a Good Abstract

If you need help with a dissertation, you could always find a professional agency and ask its representatives, “Could you write my essay for me for cheap by my deadline?” But if you plan on writing it or abstract by yourself, here are some tips that you’ll find useful.

  • Check sample dissertation abstracts before writing your own. It is always better to look at what other people wrote before you try your hand at it. Perhaps your college will provide you with a sample. If not, look for it online. We gave you an example, but there are much more available on the Internet. Pay attention to tone, phrases, structure, and length; then try doing something similar with your abstract.  
  • Create dissertation proposal abstract. Before writing an actual abstract, make an outline. Write brief comments on what you’ll be including for each required part, like “research question,” “background,” “findings,” etc.
  • Use your unique findings only. Don’t include info about literature review, other people’s research, or even general facts that come from someone else. Focus on your ideas and your intentions. What did you explore and why? What were you looking for, how did you do that, and what did you find? It doesn’t mean that you won’t have to use sources in dissertation — obviously, it’s not the case. Find relevant articles or books, ask experts, “Do my annotated bibliography for me” if you don’t want to bother with formatting and details, just don’t mention any of it in an abstract.  
  • Be concise. As it is evident from our abstract example, it shouldn’t take many words. One page (300 words) is enough, although we recommend asking your supervisor for clarification. Write only about key points and nothing else. There will be time for mentioning everything in the text of dissertation itself.

FAQ about Dissertation Abstract

When should I write my abstract?

Students should write their abstracts last after they have completed all other sections. The reason for it is simple: abstract outlines key points from an entire dissertation, so it cannot be written until other parts are done.

Can I cite sources in an abstract?

No, you shouldn’t do that. Abstract is a reflection of original research, it shouldn’t be based on anything else. People who read it should get a clear idea of what your work is about without the need to verify your sources.

Where does the abstract go in a thesis or dissertation?

It should be placed after the page with acknowledgments and before table of contents. 

Laura Callisen

Blog writer for GrabMyEssay


Hello there! I am Laura Callisen, and I fancy myself to be a modern “Renaissance person.” I suppose my 30-something self began my incredible journey after having been born in Stavanger, Norway and then immigrating to the U.S. (Utah, actually) at the age of 5. I am certain that this change was more of a cultural “shock” for my parents than for me, because I quickly mastered the language and was clever enough to “play the game” of public education in America. After graduating from Skyline High School, where I spent two years as the school newspaper editor, obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in English and journalism from the University of Utah was a natural culmination of my love for writing.

My inclination to be socially conscious led me to lots of community outreach and volunteering during my college years, especially in the areas of educational and housing improvement for the poor and a number of environmental crusades. My passion for philosophy and travel have now taken over, and I am enthralled with the widely varied value systems of all cultures in which I can immerse myself, if only temporarily. My life as a freelance writer allows a freedom I never want to sacrifice for a stuffy office!

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