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Writing An Abstract For Dissertation

1. Purpose. The purpose of an abstract is to summarise in a systematic and formulaic manner the content of your dissertation. The abstract serves as a short-hand for the entire piece, indicating whether or not it would be worthwhile to read. Bear this purpose in mind when drafting your own abstract.

2. Length. Typically an abstract should not exceed one page of text, but it is essential to check departmental specifications to be sure that your abstract conforms with requirements. Exceeding stated limitations in length is a serious failure which will indicate a lack of understanding as to the purpose of an abstract.

3. Avoid verbosity. The biggest challenge in writing an abstract is to retain focus and not exceed the word count. It is therefore necessary here to avoid unnecessarily florid and superfluous language. Keep it simple, clear and within specifications.

4. Thoroughness. The abstract must represent the entire dissertation, not just certain elements of it. Objectives, reviewed literature, methodology, analysis and conclusions: all should be summarised in the abstract. Remember that abstracts are used to inform the reader of what they are about to read, so don’t leave too many surprises.

5. Terminology. The inclusion of key terms – both general and specific to your subject area – will provide a means for browsing research academics to identify the character and purpose of your dissertation as a whole.

6. Authority. Set the tone for your dissertation by establishing an authoritative academic voice early on in your abstract. Demonstrate your comfort with the academic register to set up the impression that your work is professional and credible.

7. Salesmanship. A rather crass way to think about the purpose of your abstract, perhaps, but useful nonetheless. Academics will read your abstract to decide whether or not your dissertation as a whole is likely to be useful to them. Indicate the significance of your research and emphasise the rigour of your methods.

8. Balance. In the same way that the dissertation as a whole must maintain the proper share of space between different chapters, so too the abstract should reflect this balance. Look at the marking criteria to see which aspects carry how many marks, and organise your abstract appropriately.

9. Clarity of expression. As already mentioned, abstracts require a concise writing style to keep the word count low. In summarising such a large volume of material, be mindful also of the danger of obscurity and lack of clarity. Make sure the abstract is not entirely incomprehensible to an intelligent layman.

10. Consult published material. As with many aspects of writing a dissertation, useful models and templates can be found in comparable published material. Read published dissertations and familiarise yourself with how good abstracts are written.

USEFUL PHRASES

Useful phrases when writing a dissertation abstract

This section sets out some useful phrases that you can use and build on when writing your undergraduate or master's level dissertation abstract. As the section, How to structure your dissertation abstract explains, the abstract has a number of components, typically including: (a) study background and significance; (b) components of your research strategy; (c) findings; and (d) conclusions. The phrases below build on these four components.

COMPONENT #1
Build the background to the study

  • Introductory sentences

    This study (dissertation, research)?

    aims to illuminate?
    examines the role of...
    explores why...
    investigates the effects of...
    assesses the impact of...on...
    developed and tested the idea that...

    I...

    investigated the role of...
    outline how...
    introduce the concept of...
    extend prior work on...
    examine the relationship between...and...
    identify...
    evaluate these...by...

    In this study (dissertation, research) I...

    propose a model of...

  • Leading with research questions

    This study (dissertation, research)...

    is motivated by two research questions: (1) [Insert research question one]? (2) [Insert research question two]? To examine these questions, the study?

    "[Insert a research question]?" is a fundamental question in [the name of your area of interest]. We suggest [argue] that a new generation of research in this area needs to address the extended question: [Insert your research question]?

  • Leading with research hypotheses

    This study (dissertation, research)...

    offers two hypotheses: (1) [insert research hypothesis one]; and (2) [insert research hypothesis two].

    tested hypotheses regarding the relationship between...and...

    It was

    hypothesized that [insert variable] is negatively [positively] related to...

    hypothesized that [insert variable] is more negatively [positively] related to [insert variable] than [insert variable].

  • Leading with a dissertation aim or goals

    This study (dissertation, research)...

    has three goals: (1) [insert goal one], (2) [insert goal two], and (3) [insert goal three].

  • Literature component

    Previous research (extent research, previous studies, or prior studies)...

    indicates that...
    offers a descriptive account of...
    has shown that...

    Literature on [insert area of the literature] has focused almost exclusively on...

    Synthesizing [e.g., name of theories], this research built and tested a theoretical model linking...

    This model addresses X (e.g., 2) major gaps in the literature.

    Drawing on [insert name] research, we argue that...

    In bridging the two literature gaps, a model of [insert text] is proposed.

  • Significance of the study

    We develop theory to explain how...

    Our most important contribution is...

    This study advances our understanding of...

    To date, no systematic investigation has considered...

    We examine how organisations use [insert text] to overcome...

COMPONENT #2
Components of research strategy

We conducted...

in-depth case studies of [X number of private/public] enterprises in [country].

a laboratory experiment and a field study to test our hypotheses.

an inductive study of...

We employed...

multiple methods to test...

Using...

a sample of [X number of people, firms, data, objects, e.g., doctors, banks, songs], we collected data from three sources [e.g., X, Y and Z].

comparative case analysis, this research explored the role of...

To illustrate these ideas, [insert company name or type] was used as a case study to show how...

We tested these hypotheses using [e.g., student test score] data to measure [e.g., teacher performance].

We developed a 9-item scale to measure...

Using data from...

COMPONENT #3
Major findings

The findings from the research...

illustrate how...

show that the impact of [insert text] on [insert text] is more complex than previously thought/assumed.

address a controversial belief among practitioners that...

illustrate the antecedents and consequences of [insert text] and [insert text] in...

suggest that the effect of [variable X] on [variable Y] was moderated over time when...

A predicted, the...

Contrary to our expectations...

COMPONENT #4
Conclusion

The results, implications for managers, and future research are discussed.

Theoretical contributions and managerial implications of the findings are discussed.

The findings...

provide support for the key arguments.

support the prediction that...

support the model:

offer insights into...

prompt a re-thinking of [insert your area of interest]

We conclude that...

If you would like us to add more of these kinds of phrases, please leave us feedback.

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