Writing an Abstract for Your Research Paper

Definition and Purpose of Abstracts

An abstract is a short summary of your (published or unpublished) research paper, usually about a paragraph (c. 6-7 sentences, 150-250 words) long. A well-written abstract serves multiple purposes:

  • an abstract lets readers get the gist or essence of your paper or article quickly, in order to decide whether to read the full paper;
  • an abstract prepares readers to follow the detailed information, analyses, and arguments in your full paper;
  • and, later, an abstract helps readers remember key points from your paper.

It’s also worth remembering that search engines and bibliographic databases use abstracts, as well as the title, to identify key terms for indexing your published paper. So what you include in your abstract and in your title are crucial for helping other researchers find your paper or article.

If you are writing an abstract for a course paper, your professor may give you specific guidelines for what to include and how to organize your abstract. Similarly, academic journals often have specific requirements for abstracts. So in addition to following the advice on this page, you should be sure to look for and follow any guidelines from the course or journal you’re writing for.

The Contents of an Abstract

Abstracts contain most of the following kinds of information in brief form. The body of your paper will, of course, develop and explain these ideas much more fully. As you will see in the samples below, the proportion of your abstract that you devote to each kind of information—and the sequence of that information—will vary, depending on the nature and genre of the paper that you are summarizing in your abstract. And in some cases, some of this information is implied, rather than stated explicitly. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association , which is widely used in the social sciences, gives specific guidelines for what to include in the abstract for different kinds of papers—for empirical studies, literature reviews or meta-analyses, theoretical papers, methodological papers, and case studies.

Here are the typical kinds of information found in most abstracts:

  • the context or background information for your research; the general topic under study; the specific topic of your research
  • the central questions or statement of the problem your research addresses
  • what’s already known about this question, what previous research has done or shown
  • the main reason(s) , the exigency, the rationale , the goals for your research—Why is it important to address these questions? Are you, for example, examining a new topic? Why is that topic worth examining? Are you filling a gap in previous research? Applying new methods to take a fresh look at existing ideas or data? Resolving a dispute within the literature in your field? . . .
  • your research and/or analytical methods
  • your main findings , results , or arguments
  • the significance or implications of your findings or arguments.

Your abstract should be intelligible on its own, without a reader’s having to read your entire paper. And in an abstract, you usually do not cite references—most of your abstract will describe what you have studied in your research and what you have found and what you argue in your paper. In the body of your paper, you will cite the specific literature that informs your research.

When to Write Your Abstract

Although you might be tempted to write your abstract first because it will appear as the very first part of your paper, it’s a good idea to wait to write your abstract until after you’ve drafted your full paper, so that you know what you’re summarizing.

What follows are some sample abstracts in published papers or articles, all written by faculty at UW-Madison who come from a variety of disciplines. We have annotated these samples to help you see the work that these authors are doing within their abstracts.

Choosing Verb Tenses within Your Abstract

The social science sample (Sample 1) below uses the present tense to describe general facts and interpretations that have been and are currently true, including the prevailing explanation for the social phenomenon under study. That abstract also uses the present tense to describe the methods, the findings, the arguments, and the implications of the findings from their new research study. The authors use the past tense to describe previous research.

The humanities sample (Sample 2) below uses the past tense to describe completed events in the past (the texts created in the pulp fiction industry in the 1970s and 80s) and uses the present tense to describe what is happening in those texts, to explain the significance or meaning of those texts, and to describe the arguments presented in the article.

The science samples (Samples 3 and 4) below use the past tense to describe what previous research studies have done and the research the authors have conducted, the methods they have followed, and what they have found. In their rationale or justification for their research (what remains to be done), they use the present tense. They also use the present tense to introduce their study (in Sample 3, “Here we report . . .”) and to explain the significance of their study (In Sample 3, This reprogramming . . . “provides a scalable cell source for. . .”).

Sample Abstract 1

From the social sciences.

Reporting new findings about the reasons for increasing economic homogamy among spouses

Gonalons-Pons, Pilar, and Christine R. Schwartz. “Trends in Economic Homogamy: Changes in Assortative Mating or the Division of Labor in Marriage?” Demography , vol. 54, no. 3, 2017, pp. 985-1005.

“The growing economic resemblance of spouses has contributed to rising inequality by increasing the number of couples in which there are two high- or two low-earning partners. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence introduces the topic under study (the “economic resemblance of spouses”). This sentence also implies the question underlying this research study: what are the various causes—and the interrelationships among them—for this trend?] The dominant explanation for this trend is increased assortative mating. Previous research has primarily relied on cross-sectional data and thus has been unable to disentangle changes in assortative mating from changes in the division of spouses’ paid labor—a potentially key mechanism given the dramatic rise in wives’ labor supply. [Annotation for the previous two sentences: These next two sentences explain what previous research has demonstrated. By pointing out the limitations in the methods that were used in previous studies, they also provide a rationale for new research.] We use data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to decompose the increase in the correlation between spouses’ earnings and its contribution to inequality between 1970 and 2013 into parts due to (a) changes in assortative mating, and (b) changes in the division of paid labor. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The data, research and analytical methods used in this new study.] Contrary to what has often been assumed, the rise of economic homogamy and its contribution to inequality is largely attributable to changes in the division of paid labor rather than changes in sorting on earnings or earnings potential. Our findings indicate that the rise of economic homogamy cannot be explained by hypotheses centered on meeting and matching opportunities, and they show where in this process inequality is generated and where it is not.” (p. 985) [Annotation for the previous two sentences: The major findings from and implications and significance of this study.]

Sample Abstract 2

From the humanities.

Analyzing underground pulp fiction publications in Tanzania, this article makes an argument about the cultural significance of those publications

Emily Callaci. “Street Textuality: Socialism, Masculinity, and Urban Belonging in Tanzania’s Pulp Fiction Publishing Industry, 1975-1985.” Comparative Studies in Society and History , vol. 59, no. 1, 2017, pp. 183-210.

“From the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s, a network of young urban migrant men created an underground pulp fiction publishing industry in the city of Dar es Salaam. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence introduces the context for this research and announces the topic under study.] As texts that were produced in the underground economy of a city whose trajectory was increasingly charted outside of formalized planning and investment, these novellas reveal more than their narrative content alone. These texts were active components in the urban social worlds of the young men who produced them. They reveal a mode of urbanism otherwise obscured by narratives of decolonization, in which urban belonging was constituted less by national citizenship than by the construction of social networks, economic connections, and the crafting of reputations. This article argues that pulp fiction novellas of socialist era Dar es Salaam are artifacts of emergent forms of male sociability and mobility. In printing fictional stories about urban life on pilfered paper and ink, and distributing their texts through informal channels, these writers not only described urban communities, reputations, and networks, but also actually created them.” (p. 210) [Annotation for the previous sentences: The remaining sentences in this abstract interweave other essential information for an abstract for this article. The implied research questions: What do these texts mean? What is their historical and cultural significance, produced at this time, in this location, by these authors? The argument and the significance of this analysis in microcosm: these texts “reveal a mode or urbanism otherwise obscured . . .”; and “This article argues that pulp fiction novellas. . . .” This section also implies what previous historical research has obscured. And through the details in its argumentative claims, this section of the abstract implies the kinds of methods the author has used to interpret the novellas and the concepts under study (e.g., male sociability and mobility, urban communities, reputations, network. . . ).]

Sample Abstract/Summary 3

From the sciences.

Reporting a new method for reprogramming adult mouse fibroblasts into induced cardiac progenitor cells

Lalit, Pratik A., Max R. Salick, Daryl O. Nelson, Jayne M. Squirrell, Christina M. Shafer, Neel G. Patel, Imaan Saeed, Eric G. Schmuck, Yogananda S. Markandeya, Rachel Wong, Martin R. Lea, Kevin W. Eliceiri, Timothy A. Hacker, Wendy C. Crone, Michael Kyba, Daniel J. Garry, Ron Stewart, James A. Thomson, Karen M. Downs, Gary E. Lyons, and Timothy J. Kamp. “Lineage Reprogramming of Fibroblasts into Proliferative Induced Cardiac Progenitor Cells by Defined Factors.” Cell Stem Cell , vol. 18, 2016, pp. 354-367.

“Several studies have reported reprogramming of fibroblasts into induced cardiomyocytes; however, reprogramming into proliferative induced cardiac progenitor cells (iCPCs) remains to be accomplished. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence announces the topic under study, summarizes what’s already known or been accomplished in previous research, and signals the rationale and goals are for the new research and the problem that the new research solves: How can researchers reprogram fibroblasts into iCPCs?] Here we report that a combination of 11 or 5 cardiac factors along with canonical Wnt and JAK/STAT signaling reprogrammed adult mouse cardiac, lung, and tail tip fibroblasts into iCPCs. The iCPCs were cardiac mesoderm-restricted progenitors that could be expanded extensively while maintaining multipo-tency to differentiate into cardiomyocytes, smooth muscle cells, and endothelial cells in vitro. Moreover, iCPCs injected into the cardiac crescent of mouse embryos differentiated into cardiomyocytes. iCPCs transplanted into the post-myocardial infarction mouse heart improved survival and differentiated into cardiomyocytes, smooth muscle cells, and endothelial cells. [Annotation for the previous four sentences: The methods the researchers developed to achieve their goal and a description of the results.] Lineage reprogramming of adult somatic cells into iCPCs provides a scalable cell source for drug discovery, disease modeling, and cardiac regenerative therapy.” (p. 354) [Annotation for the previous sentence: The significance or implications—for drug discovery, disease modeling, and therapy—of this reprogramming of adult somatic cells into iCPCs.]

Sample Abstract 4, a Structured Abstract

Reporting results about the effectiveness of antibiotic therapy in managing acute bacterial sinusitis, from a rigorously controlled study

Note: This journal requires authors to organize their abstract into four specific sections, with strict word limits. Because the headings for this structured abstract are self-explanatory, we have chosen not to add annotations to this sample abstract.

Wald, Ellen R., David Nash, and Jens Eickhoff. “Effectiveness of Amoxicillin/Clavulanate Potassium in the Treatment of Acute Bacterial Sinusitis in Children.” Pediatrics , vol. 124, no. 1, 2009, pp. 9-15.

“OBJECTIVE: The role of antibiotic therapy in managing acute bacterial sinusitis (ABS) in children is controversial. The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of high-dose amoxicillin/potassium clavulanate in the treatment of children diagnosed with ABS.

METHODS : This was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Children 1 to 10 years of age with a clinical presentation compatible with ABS were eligible for participation. Patients were stratified according to age (<6 or ≥6 years) and clinical severity and randomly assigned to receive either amoxicillin (90 mg/kg) with potassium clavulanate (6.4 mg/kg) or placebo. A symptom survey was performed on days 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 20, and 30. Patients were examined on day 14. Children’s conditions were rated as cured, improved, or failed according to scoring rules.

RESULTS: Two thousand one hundred thirty-five children with respiratory complaints were screened for enrollment; 139 (6.5%) had ABS. Fifty-eight patients were enrolled, and 56 were randomly assigned. The mean age was 6630 months. Fifty (89%) patients presented with persistent symptoms, and 6 (11%) presented with nonpersistent symptoms. In 24 (43%) children, the illness was classified as mild, whereas in the remaining 32 (57%) children it was severe. Of the 28 children who received the antibiotic, 14 (50%) were cured, 4 (14%) were improved, 4(14%) experienced treatment failure, and 6 (21%) withdrew. Of the 28children who received placebo, 4 (14%) were cured, 5 (18%) improved, and 19 (68%) experienced treatment failure. Children receiving the antibiotic were more likely to be cured (50% vs 14%) and less likely to have treatment failure (14% vs 68%) than children receiving the placebo.

CONCLUSIONS : ABS is a common complication of viral upper respiratory infections. Amoxicillin/potassium clavulanate results in significantly more cures and fewer failures than placebo, according to parental report of time to resolution.” (9)

Some Excellent Advice about Writing Abstracts for Basic Science Research Papers, by Professor Adriano Aguzzi from the Institute of Neuropathology at the University of Zurich:

how long should a dissertation abstract be

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how long should a dissertation abstract be

  • 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:

how long should a dissertation abstract be

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 Long Should an Abstract be?

By Laura Brown on 14th February 2019

The length of an abstract may vary depending on the type of research. However, ideally, an abstract should be something around 100 to 500 words . Now, there are many factors that play an important role in identifying how long should an abstract be for a dissertation.

In this post, we will discuss the ideal length of your abstract. But, to be aware of the required length of an abstract, it is mandatory to understand the word “ abstract ” and be aware of the question, “ is abstract included in word count? “.

What Is An Abstract?

The brief summary of any paper is termed as an abstract. It can contain all the main points of the paper. That’s the reason authors of essay writing service consider it the most vital part of any composition. In some publications, it is also termed a synopsis or a precis . A good abstract is one that gives all the information of the paper. It gives the idea to the reader whether they should read the complete paper or not.

Is Abstract Included In Word Count?

Everything before the main text, including abstracts, acknowledgements, content tables, executive summaries, etc., is not included in the word count of the dissertation. Similarly, all the components after the main text, i.e., bibliography, references, and appendices, are not included in the word count.

Now, to write a good abstract, a few things must be kept in mind. An important point to consider is the word count of an abstract. It should not exceed more than the required limit. The length of an abstract varies with the discipline, the total word count and the requirement of the publisher.

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How Long Should An Abstract Be

How Long Should A Dissertation Abstract Be?

The length of an abstract fluctuates with the requirement. However, the typical length of an abstract is from 100 to 500 words, but it is suggested that an abstract should not be more than one page. Rarely it can go more than one page but just fewer words.

According to the APA style manual, the suggested word count in an abstract should be between 150 to 250 words . However, some professors may have definite word requirements, so it is better to ask. Also, the abstract should be written in paragraph format.

Most MLA abstracts range between 150 – 250 words . It is also said that too-long abstracts are useless because they do not give specific information about the complete written paper.

In Harvard styles, abstracts mostly range from 100 to 300 words in length . But it is better to ask the professor because some universities have their own requirements for the abstract.

As per AMA style guidelines, the abstract length is restricted to 175 words . The abstract in AMA style should give key components of the complete research.

In Chicago style, the synopsis or abstract word count must remain below 300 . But it is compulsory to put all the essential points in the synopsis.

In A Scientific Paper

Every paper has its own requirements, where the scientific paper is concerned; the abstract length of scientific papers are limited to 250 words maximum. So, it is better to write fewer words than the given limit.

Acquire Help in Writing Your Dissertation Abstract

10000-Word Dissertations

As mentioned above, the word count of an abstract also varies with the size of the dissertation. Do students often look for the answers on how long an abstract should be for a 10000-word dissertation? Well, if your dissertation is around 10000 words, then the abstract should be 300 – 350 words long . It is because such dissertations contain much information, and making the summary of all the information requires some more words.

For A Conference Paper

As the abstract is a snapshot of the complete paper, it should be concise and informative. The requirement of length of an abstract paper varies with the publisher’s requirement. However, the suggested range is a maximum of 250 words .

Thesis / Dissertation

After completing the dissertation of the thesis, the last part should be the abstract. It gives a brief idea and highlights the main points of the whole dissertation. It usually embraces the reader to read the rest of the dissertation. So as not to take much time for the reader, the abstract should be 200 to 350 words in range. Also, it is suggested not to write the abstract in the future tense.

Journal Article

The range of abstracts of journal articles is between 75 to 150 words . It is good to present all the information in the most concise way, so it is suggested not to go beyond the limit.

The abstract of the lab report should be one paragraph, like 100 – 200 words . The report abstract should contain important facets of the report. It can include purpose, key findings, significance and conclusion.

For A Literature Review

The summary of a literature review should be according to the length of the literature. Typically, the literature review ranges from 3000 to 5000 words, so the abstract should be between 100 – 150 words . The abstract must not evaluate the original work but should just summarise it.

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How Long Should An Abstract Be For A Research Paper?

The abstract recaps the major and important aspects of the whole research paper, and it should not be more than 300 words . However, it is good that words should be less than 300 words.

For A Presentation

The length of the presentation abstract should be around 200 to 250 words . The abstract for the presentation should contain concise and informative information.

Any Other Paper

The abstract of the paper should be 100 – 500 words long . Just make sure that all essential points should be covered in the same abstract.

How To Write An Abstract Under Limited Words

While writing an abstract, you will always need to keep an eye on the word limit. We have very often observed abstracts being returned to students for making them shorter. It is easy for the reviewers to ask you to be more concise, but when you have already summed up your hardships and workings of some months or years in a 200-300 word statement, it becomes arduous to reduce it more.

We have come up with some simple tips that will help you to write an abstract within a word limit.

Bonus Tip: Keep tracking your abstract word count by enabling the word count feature in MS Word or pressing ctrl+shift+c if you are working in Google Docs.

An impressive way to start your abstract is by writing a draft. Keep in consideration your complete paper and the whole journey. There is no need to be concerned about the number of words at this stage. The first draft is more about understanding and papering down the essential aspects of your paper.

Creating First Draft

  • Extract the objectives from the paper’s introduction and conclusion from the discussion.
  • Highlight the information from the methodology section and make sure it is relevant.
  • Bracket the findings from the result section.
  • Combine the above-highlighted information into a single paragraph.
  • Now, condense this information based on research keywords without explaining the methods used.
  • Delete extra words or any irrelevant background information.
  • Revise the paragraph to convey only essential information.

Don’ts Of Writing An Abstract

  • Avoid writing information that is not in the original paper.
  • Do not add abbreviations until a term appears two or more times.
  • Skip background information, detailed methodology and literature review.
  • Omit bibliography, citation, references, graphs and tables.

Revision & Editing

  • Finally, work on the conciseness of the abstract.
  • Check for the flow of English and logical sentences.
  • Look for grammatical errors and make suitable corrections.

With the help of these tips and the word guide provided in the article, you will be able to understand how many words an abstract should be and create an eye-catching abstract for your paper. Still, if you face any difficulty, don’t forget to concern our experts.

What is an abstract?

The abstract is a brief summary of the paper.

Does abstract count in the word count of the paper?

No, the abstract is not counted with the word count of the paper.

How long is an abstract for a dissertation?

Typically an abstract should be around 100 to 500 words.

  • APA: https://www.verywellmind.com/how-to-write-an-abstract-2794845
  • MLA: https://www.wikihow.com/Write-an-Abstract-in-MLA-Style
  • Harvard: https://gsas.harvard.edu/degree-requirements/dissertations/formatting-your-dissertation
  • AMA: https://www.ama.org/journal-of-international-marketing-submission-guidelines/
  • Chicago: https://www.ieee-pvsc.org/PVSC46/authors-abstracts.php
  • Scientific Paper: https://www.sciencebuddies.org/science-fair-projects/science-fair/how-to-write-a-science-fair-project-abstract
  • 10,000 Words Dissertation: https://www.sfu.ca/~jcnesbit/HowToWriteAbstract.htm
  • Conference Paper: https://www.ul.ie/ctl/sites/default/files/how_to_write_an_abstract_for_a_conference_paper.pdf
  • Lab Report: https://advice.writing.utoronto.ca/types-of-writing/lab-report/
  • Research Paper: http://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/abstract
  • Presentation: https://study.com/academy/lesson/how-to-write-an-abstract-for-a-presentation.html

Laura Brown

Laura Brown, a senior content writer who writes actionable blogs at Crowd Writer.

Frequently asked questions

How long is a dissertation abstract.

An abstract for a thesis or dissertation is usually around 200–300 words. There’s often a strict word limit, so make sure to check your university’s requirements.

Frequently asked questions: Dissertation

Dissertation word counts vary widely across different fields, institutions, and levels of education:

  • An undergraduate dissertation is typically 8,000–15,000 words
  • A master’s dissertation is typically 12,000–50,000 words
  • A PhD thesis is typically book-length: 70,000–100,000 words

However, none of these are strict guidelines – your word count may be lower or higher than the numbers stated here. Always check the guidelines provided by your university to determine how long your own dissertation should be.

A dissertation prospectus or proposal describes what or who you plan to research for your dissertation. It delves into why, when, where, and how you will do your research, as well as helps you choose a type of research to pursue. You should also determine whether you plan to pursue qualitative or quantitative methods and what your research design will look like.

It should outline all of the decisions you have taken about your project, from your dissertation topic to your hypotheses and research objectives , ready to be approved by your supervisor or committee.

Note that some departments require a defense component, where you present your prospectus to your committee orally.

A thesis is typically written by students finishing up a bachelor’s or Master’s degree. Some educational institutions, particularly in the liberal arts, have mandatory theses, but they are often not mandatory to graduate from bachelor’s degrees. It is more common for a thesis to be a graduation requirement from a Master’s degree.

Even if not mandatory, you may want to consider writing a thesis if you:

  • Plan to attend graduate school soon
  • Have a particular topic you’d like to study more in-depth
  • Are considering a career in research
  • Would like a capstone experience to tie up your academic experience

The conclusion of your thesis or dissertation should include the following:

  • A restatement of your research question
  • A summary of your key arguments and/or results
  • A short discussion of the implications of your research

The conclusion of your thesis or dissertation shouldn’t take up more than 5–7% of your overall word count.

For a stronger dissertation conclusion , avoid including:

  • Important evidence or analysis that wasn’t mentioned in the discussion section and results section
  • Generic concluding phrases (e.g. “In conclusion …”)
  • Weak statements that undermine your argument (e.g., “There are good points on both sides of this issue.”)

Your conclusion should leave the reader with a strong, decisive impression of your work.

While it may be tempting to present new arguments or evidence in your thesis or disseration conclusion , especially if you have a particularly striking argument you’d like to finish your analysis with, you shouldn’t. Theses and dissertations follow a more formal structure than this.

All your findings and arguments should be presented in the body of the text (more specifically in the discussion section and results section .) The conclusion is meant to summarize and reflect on the evidence and arguments you have already presented, not introduce new ones.

A theoretical framework can sometimes be integrated into a  literature review chapter , but it can also be included as its own chapter or section in your dissertation . As a rule of thumb, if your research involves dealing with a lot of complex theories, it’s a good idea to include a separate theoretical framework chapter.

A literature review and a theoretical framework are not the same thing and cannot be used interchangeably. While a theoretical framework describes the theoretical underpinnings of your work, a literature review critically evaluates existing research relating to your topic. You’ll likely need both in your dissertation .

While a theoretical framework describes the theoretical underpinnings of your work based on existing research, a conceptual framework allows you to draw your own conclusions, mapping out the variables you may use in your study and the interplay between them.

A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical first steps in your writing process. It helps you to lay out and organize your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding what kind of research you’d like to undertake.

Generally, an outline contains information on the different sections included in your thesis or dissertation , such as:

  • Your anticipated title
  • Your abstract
  • Your chapters (sometimes subdivided into further topics like literature review , research methods , avenues for future research, etc.)

When you mention different chapters within your text, it’s considered best to use Roman numerals for most citation styles. However, the most important thing here is to remain consistent whenever using numbers in your dissertation .

In most styles, the title page is used purely to provide information and doesn’t include any images. Ask your supervisor if you are allowed to include an image on the title page before doing so. If you do decide to include one, make sure to check whether you need permission from the creator of the image.

Include a note directly beneath the image acknowledging where it comes from, beginning with the word “ Note .” (italicized and followed by a period). Include a citation and copyright attribution . Don’t title, number, or label the image as a figure , since it doesn’t appear in your main text.

Definitional terms often fall into the category of common knowledge , meaning that they don’t necessarily have to be cited. This guidance can apply to your thesis or dissertation glossary as well.

However, if you’d prefer to cite your sources , you can follow guidance for citing dictionary entries in MLA or APA style for your glossary.

A glossary is a collection of words pertaining to a specific topic. In your thesis or dissertation, it’s a list of all terms you used that may not immediately be obvious to your reader. In contrast, an index is a list of the contents of your work organized by page number.

The title page of your thesis or dissertation goes first, before all other content or lists that you may choose to include.

The title page of your thesis or dissertation should include your name, department, institution, degree program, and submission date.

Glossaries are not mandatory, but if you use a lot of technical or field-specific terms, it may improve readability to add one to your thesis or dissertation. Your educational institution may also require them, so be sure to check their specific guidelines.

A glossary or “glossary of terms” is a collection of words pertaining to a specific topic. In your thesis or dissertation, it’s a list of all terms you used that may not immediately be obvious to your reader. Your glossary only needs to include terms that your reader may not be familiar with, and is intended to enhance their understanding of your work.

A glossary is a collection of words pertaining to a specific topic. In your thesis or dissertation, it’s a list of all terms you used that may not immediately be obvious to your reader. In contrast, dictionaries are more general collections of words.

An abbreviation is a shortened version of an existing word, such as Dr. for Doctor. In contrast, an acronym uses the first letter of each word to create a wholly new word, such as UNESCO (an acronym for the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization).

As a rule of thumb, write the explanation in full the first time you use an acronym or abbreviation. You can then proceed with the shortened version. However, if the abbreviation is very common (like PC, USA, or DNA), then you can use the abbreviated version from the get-go.

Be sure to add each abbreviation in your list of abbreviations !

If you only used a few abbreviations in your thesis or dissertation , you don’t necessarily need to include a list of abbreviations .

If your abbreviations are numerous, or if you think they won’t be known to your audience, it’s never a bad idea to add one. They can also improve readability, minimizing confusion about abbreviations unfamiliar to your reader.

A list of abbreviations is a list of all the abbreviations that you used in your thesis or dissertation. It should appear at the beginning of your document, with items in alphabetical order, just after your table of contents .

Your list of tables and figures should go directly after your table of contents in your thesis or dissertation.

Lists of figures and tables are often not required, and aren’t particularly common. They specifically aren’t required for APA-Style, though you should be careful to follow their other guidelines for figures and tables .

If you have many figures and tables in your thesis or dissertation, include one may help you stay organized. Your educational institution may require them, so be sure to check their guidelines.

A list of figures and tables compiles all of the figures and tables that you used in your thesis or dissertation and displays them with the page number where they can be found.

The table of contents in a thesis or dissertation always goes between your abstract and your introduction .

You may acknowledge God in your dissertation acknowledgements , but be sure to follow academic convention by also thanking the members of academia, as well as family, colleagues, and friends who helped you.

A literature review is a survey of credible sources on a topic, often used in dissertations , theses, and research papers . Literature reviews give an overview of knowledge on a subject, helping you identify relevant theories and methods, as well as gaps in existing research. Literature reviews are set up similarly to other  academic texts , with an introduction , a main body, and a conclusion .

An  annotated bibliography is a list of  source references that has a short description (called an annotation ) for each of the sources. It is often assigned as part of the research process for a  paper .  

In a thesis or dissertation, the discussion is an in-depth exploration of the results, going into detail about the meaning of your findings and citing relevant sources to put them in context.

The conclusion is more shorter and more general: it concisely answers your main research question and makes recommendations based on your overall findings.

In the discussion , you explore the meaning and relevance of your research results , explaining how they fit with existing research and theory. Discuss:

  • Your  interpretations : what do the results tell us?
  • The  implications : why do the results matter?
  • The  limitation s : what can’t the results tell us?

The results chapter or section simply and objectively reports what you found, without speculating on why you found these results. The discussion interprets the meaning of the results, puts them in context, and explains why they matter.

In qualitative research , results and discussion are sometimes combined. But in quantitative research , it’s considered important to separate the objective results from your interpretation of them.

Results are usually written in the past tense , because they are describing the outcome of completed actions.

The results chapter of a thesis or dissertation presents your research results concisely and objectively.

In quantitative research , for each question or hypothesis , state:

  • The type of analysis used
  • Relevant results in the form of descriptive and inferential statistics
  • Whether or not the alternative hypothesis was supported

In qualitative research , for each question or theme, describe:

  • Recurring patterns
  • Significant or representative individual responses
  • Relevant quotations from the data

Don’t interpret or speculate in the results chapter.

To automatically insert a table of contents in Microsoft Word, follow these steps:

  • Apply heading styles throughout the document.
  • In the references section in the ribbon, locate the Table of Contents group.
  • Click the arrow next to the Table of Contents icon and select Custom Table of Contents.
  • Select which levels of headings you would like to include in the table of contents.

Make sure to update your table of contents if you move text or change headings. To update, simply right click and select Update Field.

All level 1 and 2 headings should be included in your table of contents . That means the titles of your chapters and the main sections within them.

The contents should also include all appendices and the lists of tables and figures, if applicable, as well as your reference list .

Do not include the acknowledgements or abstract in the table of contents.

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

In a thesis or dissertation, the acknowledgements should usually be no longer than one page. There is no minimum length.

The acknowledgements are generally included at the very beginning of your thesis , directly after the title page and before the abstract .

Yes, it’s important to thank your supervisor(s) in the acknowledgements section of your thesis or dissertation .

Even if you feel your supervisor did not contribute greatly to the final product, you must acknowledge them, if only for a very brief thank you. If you do not include your supervisor, it may be seen as a snub.

In the acknowledgements of your thesis or dissertation, you should first thank those who helped you academically or professionally, such as your supervisor, funders, and other academics.

Then you can include personal thanks to friends, family members, or anyone else who supported you during the process.

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Tips for writing a PhD dissertation: FAQs answered

From how to choose a topic to writing the abstract and managing work-life balance through the years it takes to complete a doctorate, here we collect expert advice to get you through the PhD writing process

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Embarking on a PhD is “probably the most challenging task that a young scholar attempts to do”, write Mark Stephan Felix and Ian Smith in their practical guide to dissertation and thesis writing. After years of reading and research to answer a specific question or proposition, the candidate will submit about 80,000 words that explain their methods and results and demonstrate their unique contribution to knowledge. Here are the answers to frequently asked questions about writing a doctoral thesis or dissertation.

What’s the difference between a dissertation and a thesis?

Whatever the genre of the doctorate, a PhD must offer an original contribution to knowledge. The terms “dissertation” and “thesis” both refer to the long-form piece of work produced at the end of a research project and are often used interchangeably. Which one is used might depend on the country, discipline or university. In the UK, “thesis” is generally used for the work done for a PhD, while a “dissertation” is written for a master’s degree. The US did the same until the 1960s, says Oxbridge Essays, when the convention switched, and references appeared to a “master’s thesis” and “doctoral dissertation”. To complicate matters further, undergraduate long essays are also sometimes referred to as a thesis or dissertation.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “thesis” as “a dissertation, especially by a candidate for a degree” and “dissertation” as “a detailed discourse on a subject, especially one submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of a degree or diploma”.

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The title “doctor of philosophy”, incidentally, comes from the degree’s origins, write Dr Felix, an associate professor at Mahidol University in Thailand, and Dr Smith, retired associate professor of education at the University of Sydney , whose co-authored guide focuses on the social sciences. The PhD was first awarded in the 19th century by the philosophy departments of German universities, which at that time taught science, social science and liberal arts.

How long should a PhD thesis be?

A PhD thesis (or dissertation) is typically 60,000 to 120,000 words ( 100 to 300 pages in length ) organised into chapters, divisions and subdivisions (with roughly 10,000 words per chapter) – from introduction (with clear aims and objectives) to conclusion.

The structure of a dissertation will vary depending on discipline (humanities, social sciences and STEM all have their own conventions), location and institution. Examples and guides to structure proliferate online. The University of Salford , for example, lists: title page, declaration, acknowledgements, abstract, table of contents, lists of figures, tables and abbreviations (where needed), chapters, appendices and references.

A scientific-style thesis will likely need: introduction, literature review, materials and methods, results, discussion, bibliography and references.

As well as checking the overall criteria and expectations of your institution for your research, consult your school handbook for the required length and format (font, layout conventions and so on) for your dissertation.

A PhD takes three to four years to complete; this might extend to six to eight years for a part-time doctorate.

What are the steps for completing a PhD?

Before you get started in earnest , you’ll likely have found a potential supervisor, who will guide your PhD journey, and done a research proposal (which outlines what you plan to research and how) as part of your application, as well as a literature review of existing scholarship in the field, which may form part of your final submission.

In the UK, PhD candidates undertake original research and write the results in a thesis or dissertation, says author and vlogger Simon Clark , who posted videos to YouTube throughout his own PhD journey . Then they submit the thesis in hard copy and attend the viva voce (which is Latin for “living voice” and is also called an oral defence or doctoral defence) to convince the examiners that their work is original, understood and all their own. Afterwards, if necessary, they make changes and resubmit. If the changes are approved, the degree is awarded.

The steps are similar in Australia , although candidates are mostly assessed on their thesis only; some universities may include taught courses, and some use a viva voce. A PhD in Australia usually takes three years full time.

In the US, the PhD process begins with taught classes (similar to a taught master’s) and a comprehensive exam (called a “field exam” or “dissertation qualifying exam”) before the candidate embarks on their original research. The whole journey takes four to six years.

A PhD candidate will need three skills and attitudes to get through their doctoral studies, says Tara Brabazon , professor of cultural studies at Flinders University in Australia who has written extensively about the PhD journey :

  • master the academic foundational skills (research, writing, ability to navigate different modalities)
  • time-management skills and the ability to focus on reading and writing
  • determined motivation to do a PhD.

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How do I choose the topic for my PhD dissertation or thesis?

It’s important to find a topic that will sustain your interest for the years it will take to complete a PhD. “Finding a sustainable topic is the most important thing you [as a PhD student] would do,” says Dr Brabazon in a video for Times Higher Education . “Write down on a big piece of paper all the topics, all the ideas, all the questions that really interest you, and start to cross out all the ones that might just be a passing interest.” Also, she says, impose the “Who cares? Who gives a damn?” question to decide if the topic will be useful in a future academic career.

The availability of funding and scholarships is also often an important factor in this decision, says veteran PhD supervisor Richard Godwin, from Harper Adams University .

Define a gap in knowledge – and one that can be questioned, explored, researched and written about in the time available to you, says Gina Wisker, head of the Centre for Learning and Teaching at the University of Brighton. “Set some boundaries,” she advises. “Don’t try to ask everything related to your topic in every way.”

James Hartley, research professor in psychology at Keele University, says it can also be useful to think about topics that spark general interest. If you do pick something that taps into the zeitgeist, your findings are more likely to be noticed.

You also need to find someone else who is interested in it, too. For STEM candidates , this will probably be a case of joining a team of people working in a similar area where, ideally, scholarship funding is available. A centre for doctoral training (CDT) or doctoral training partnership (DTP) will advertise research projects. For those in the liberal arts and social sciences, it will be a matter of identifying a suitable supervisor .

Avoid topics that are too broad (hunger across a whole country, for example) or too narrow (hunger in a single street) to yield useful solutions of academic significance, write Mark Stephan Felix and Ian Smith. And ensure that you’re not repeating previous research or trying to solve a problem that has already been answered. A PhD thesis must be original.

What is a thesis proposal?

After you have read widely to refine your topic and ensure that it and your research methods are original, and discussed your project with a (potential) supervisor, you’re ready to write a thesis proposal , a document of 1,500 to 3,000 words that sets out the proposed direction of your research. In the UK, a research proposal is usually part of the application process for admission to a research degree. As with the final dissertation itself, format varies among disciplines, institutions and countries but will usually contain title page, aims, literature review, methodology, timetable and bibliography. Examples of research proposals are available online.

How to write an abstract for a dissertation or thesis

The abstract presents your thesis to the wider world – and as such may be its most important element , says the NUI Galway writing guide. It outlines the why, how, what and so what of the thesis . Unlike the introduction, which provides background but not research findings, the abstract summarises all sections of the dissertation in a concise, thorough, focused way and demonstrates how well the writer understands their material. Check word-length limits with your university – and stick to them. About 300 to 500 words is a rough guide ­– but it can be up to 1,000 words.

The abstract is also important for selection and indexing of your thesis, according to the University of Melbourne guide , so be sure to include searchable keywords.

It is the first thing to be read but the last element you should write. However, Pat Thomson , professor of education at the University of Nottingham , advises that it is not something to be tackled at the last minute.

How to write a stellar conclusion

As well as chapter conclusions, a thesis often has an overall conclusion to draw together the key points covered and to reflect on the unique contribution to knowledge. It can comment on future implications of the research and open up new ideas emanating from the work. It is shorter and more general than the discussion chapter , says online editing site Scribbr, and reiterates how the work answers the main question posed at the beginning of the thesis. The conclusion chapter also often discusses the limitations of the research (time, scope, word limit, access) in a constructive manner.

It can be useful to keep a collection of ideas as you go – in the online forum DoctoralWriting SIG , academic developer Claire Aitchison, of the University of South Australia , suggests using a “conclusions bank” for themes and inspirations, and using free-writing to keep this final section fresh. (Just when you feel you’ve run out of steam.) Avoid aggrandising or exaggerating the impact of your work. It should remind the reader what has been done, and why it matters.

How to format a bibliography (or where to find a reliable model)

Most universities use a preferred style of references , writes THE associate editor Ingrid Curl. Make sure you know what this is and follow it. “One of the most common errors in academic writing is to cite papers in the text that do not then appear in the bibliography. All references in your thesis need to be cross-checked with the bibliography before submission. Using a database during your research can save a great deal of time in the writing-up process.”

A bibliography contains not only works cited explicitly but also those that have informed or contributed to the research – and as such illustrates its scope; works are not limited to written publications but include sources such as film or visual art.

Examiners can start marking from the back of the script, writes Dr Brabazon. “Just as cooks are judged by their ingredients and implements, we judge doctoral students by the calibre of their sources,” she advises. She also says that candidates should be prepared to speak in an oral examination of the PhD about any texts included in their bibliography, especially if there is a disconnect between the thesis and the texts listed.

Can I use informal language in my PhD?

Don’t write like a stereotypical academic , say Kevin Haggerty, professor of sociology at the University of Alberta , and Aaron Doyle, associate professor in sociology at Carleton University , in their tongue-in-cheek guide to the PhD journey. “If you cannot write clearly and persuasively, everything about PhD study becomes harder.” Avoid jargon, exotic words, passive voice and long, convoluted sentences – and work on it consistently. “Writing is like playing guitar; it can improve only through consistent, concerted effort.”

Be deliberate and take care with your writing . “Write your first draft, leave it and then come back to it with a critical eye. Look objectively at the writing and read it closely for style and sense,” advises THE ’s Ms Curl. “Look out for common errors such as dangling modifiers, subject-verb disagreement and inconsistency. If you are too involved with the text to be able to take a step back and do this, then ask a friend or colleague to read it with a critical eye. Remember Hemingway’s advice: ‘Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.’ Clarity is key.”

How often should a PhD candidate meet with their supervisor?

Since the PhD supervisor provides a range of support and advice – including on research techniques, planning and submission – regular formal supervisions are essential, as is establishing a line of contact such as email if the candidate needs help or advice outside arranged times. The frequency varies according to university, discipline and individual scholars.

Once a week is ideal, says Dr Brabazon. She also advocates a two-hour initial meeting to establish the foundations of the candidate-supervisor relationship .

The University of Edinburgh guide to writing a thesis suggests that creating a timetable of supervisor meetings right at the beginning of the research process will allow candidates to ensure that their work stays on track throughout. The meetings are also the place to get regular feedback on draft chapters.

“A clear structure and a solid framework are vital for research,” writes Dr Godwin on THE Campus . Use your supervisor to establish this and provide a realistic view of what can be achieved. “It is vital to help students identify the true scientific merit, the practical significance of their work and its value to society.”

How to proofread your dissertation (what to look for)

Proofreading is the final step before printing and submission. Give yourself time to ensure that your work is the best it can be . Don’t leave proofreading to the last minute; ideally, break it up into a few close-reading sessions. Find a quiet place without distractions. A checklist can help ensure that all aspects are covered.

Proofing is often helped by a change of format – so it can be easier to read a printout rather than working off the screen – or by reading sections out of order. Fresh eyes are better at spotting typographical errors and inconsistencies, so leave time between writing and proofreading. Check with your university’s policies before asking another person to proofread your thesis for you.

As well as close details such as spelling and grammar, check that all sections are complete, all required elements are included , and nothing is repeated or redundant. Don’t forget to check headings and subheadings. Does the text flow from one section to another? Is the structure clear? Is the work a coherent whole with a clear line throughout?

Ensure consistency in, for example, UK v US spellings, capitalisation, format, numbers (digits or words, commas, units of measurement), contractions, italics and hyphenation. Spellchecks and online plagiarism checkers are also your friend.

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How do you manage your time to complete a PhD dissertation?

Treat your PhD like a full-time job, that is, with an eight-hour working day. Within that, you’ll need to plan your time in a way that gives a sense of progress . Setbacks and periods where it feels as if you are treading water are all but inevitable, so keeping track of small wins is important, writes A Happy PhD blogger Luis P. Prieto.

Be specific with your goals – use the SMART acronym (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely).

And it’s never too soon to start writing – even if early drafts are overwritten and discarded.

“ Write little and write often . Many of us make the mistake of taking to writing as one would take to a sprint, in other words, with relatively short bursts of intense activity. Whilst this can prove productive, generally speaking it is not sustainable…In addition to sustaining your activity, writing little bits on a frequent basis ensures that you progress with your thinking. The comfort of remaining in abstract thought is common; writing forces us to concretise our thinking,” says Christian Gilliam, AHSS researcher developer at the University of Cambridge ’s Centre for Teaching and Learning.

Make time to write. “If you are more alert early in the day, find times that suit you in the morning; if you are a ‘night person’, block out some writing sessions in the evenings,” advises NUI Galway’s Dermot Burns, a lecturer in English and creative arts. Set targets, keep daily notes of experiment details that you will need in your thesis, don’t confuse writing with editing or revising – and always back up your work.

What work-life balance tips should I follow to complete my dissertation?

During your PhD programme, you may have opportunities to take part in professional development activities, such as teaching, attending academic conferences and publishing your work. Your research may include residencies, field trips or archive visits. This will require time-management skills as well as prioritising where you devote your energy and factoring in rest and relaxation. Organise your routine to suit your needs , and plan for steady and regular progress.

How to deal with setbacks while writing a thesis or dissertation

Have a contingency plan for delays or roadblocks such as unexpected results.

Accept that writing is messy, first drafts are imperfect, and writer’s block is inevitable, says Dr Burns. His tips for breaking it include relaxation to free your mind from clutter, writing a plan and drawing a mind map of key points for clarity. He also advises feedback, reflection and revision: “Progressing from a rough version of your thoughts to a superior and workable text takes time, effort, different perspectives and some expertise.”

“Academia can be a relentlessly brutal merry-go-round of rejection, rebuttal and failure,” writes Lorraine Hope , professor of applied cognitive psychology at the University of Portsmouth, on THE Campus. Resilience is important. Ensure that you and your supervisor have a relationship that supports open, frank, judgement-free communication.

If you found this interesting and want advice and insight from academics and university staff delivered direct to your inbox each week, sign up for the THE Campus newsletter .

Authoring a PhD Thesis: How to Plan, Draft, Write and Finish a Doctoral Dissertation (2003), by Patrick Dunleavy

Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis (1998), by Joan Balker

Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping with the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles (2015), by Noelle Sterne

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Dissertation Abstract

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Dissertation Abstract Writing - A Quick Guide

Published on: Nov 5, 2019

Last updated on: Nov 12, 2023

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Many students face challenges when it comes to writing an effective dissertation abstract. They often struggle to condense their extensive research into a concise yet informative summary.

A well-crafted abstract can draw readers in, provide a clear overview of your work, and leave a lasting impression. On the other hand, a poorly written abstract may deter potential readers, making it imperative to get it right.

In this blog, we'll provide you with a comprehensive guide on how to write a dissertation abstract that not only meets the necessary academic standards but also captivates your audience. 

With expert insights and step-by-step instructions, you'll gain the skills and knowledge needed to create an abstract that stands out.

Let's dive into the art of crafting a winning dissertation abstract.

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What Exactly is a Dissertation Abstract?

A dissertation abstract is a concise summary that provides a snapshot of your entire dissertation . 

It's a crucial component, typically found at the beginning of your dissertation, and serves as a teaser or trailer for your research. Think of it as the first impression your work makes on your readers.

In essence, the abstract is your opportunity to convey the essence of your study in a succinct and engaging manner. It should cover the main objectives, methodology, findings, and conclusions of your research. While it might seem like a mere formality, it plays a pivotal role in the academic world and beyond.

Purpose of a Dissertation Abstract

The dissertation abstract has a distinct purpose, serving several vital roles in the academic and research world:

  • Snapshot of Your Work

It acts as a concise snapshot of your entire dissertation, giving readers a quick overview of your research. This is especially useful for busy academics and researchers who want to evaluate the relevance of your work to their own studies.

  • Discoverability

A well-crafted abstract includes keywords and phrases relevant to your research, making your work more discoverable in academic databases and search engines..

  • Clarity and Conciseness

It challenges you to communicate your research effectively in a limited word count. This exercise encourages you to distill complex ideas into simple, clear language, promoting a deeper understanding of your work.

  • Decision-Making Tool

For those deciding whether to read your full dissertation, the abstract plays a critical role. It helps readers determine if your research aligns with their interests and needs, saving them time and guiding their choices.

  • Academic Significance

In academic and research circles, the abstract can act as a standalone work. Researchers often use abstracts to quickly assess the value and relevance of a study before committing to reading the entire paper.

  • Professional Applications

Beyond the academic world, a dissertation abstract can also have professional implications. Potential employers and organizations often use them to assess a candidate's research abilities, critical thinking, and the potential for future contributions.

Dissertation Abstract Structure

The structure of a dissertation abstract is a critical aspect of creating an effective summary of your research. 

A well-structured abstract ensures that your readers can quickly grasp the key elements of your study. Here's a typical structure to follow:

  • Introduction
  • Objective or Hypothesis
  • Methodology
  • Key Findings
  • Conclusions and Implications

Remember that while your abstract should be structured, conciseness is the key. It's a challenge to convey all of this information effectively within a limited word count. 

Each section should be using clear and straightforward language. Aim to give readers a sense of what your dissertation is about without overwhelming them with details.

How Long Should a Dissertation Abstract Be?

The ideal length of a dissertation abstract can vary depending on institutional guidelines, but a typical abstract should be concise and to the point. 

It's often recommended to keep it within the range of 150 to 300 words. While some institutions might allow slightly longer abstracts, it's crucial to remain as concise as possible. 

The goal is to provide a comprehensive summary of your research while being mindful of the limited word count. 

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How to Write a Dissertation Abstract

Writing an abstract is an art that requires precision and conciseness. To create an abstract that engages readers and accurately represents your research, follow these guidelines for each section:

1. Introduce the Research Problem

Begin with a compelling introduction that clearly states the research problem or question your dissertation addresses. 

Provide context by briefly explaining the background of the study and why it's important. The introduction should draw readers in and make them want to learn more.

2.  State the Main Objective or Hypothesis

After the introduction, present the main objective or hypothesis of your research. This should be a clear and specific statement of what you intended to achieve in your study. 

This section sets the stage for what readers can expect in terms of the study's focus.

3.  Describe Your Research Methods

Provide a concise description of the research methods you used. Mention whether your research employed qualitative , quantitative , or mixed methods. 

Briefly explain the data collection techniques, sampling methods, and any analytical tools or software used. Keep it informative while being succinct so readers understand your approach.

For instance , if your thesis abstract involved surveys and data analysis, you could say:

4. Summarize Key Findings

Summarize the most significant findings of your research. Focus on the main results, trends, or discoveries that emerged from your study. 

Use quantitative data, statistics, or qualitative insights, as appropriate, to support your findings. Highlight the key takeaways that contribute to your field of study.

For example , your thesis or dissertation revealed a concerning trend, you could state: 

5.  Conclude and Discuss Implications

Conclude your abstract by summarizing the conclusions you drew from your research. Discuss the broader implications of your findings and their significance.

Answer the "so what" question – explain why your research matters, both academically and practically.

6.  Include Relevant Keywords

Include a list of relevant keywords or phrases. These are crucial for ensuring your work is discoverable in academic databases and search engines. 

Choose terms commonly used in your field and reflect the main themes of your research.

Take a look at this dissertation abstract example for a more comprehensive understanding

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Dissertation Abstract Sample

The best way to understand how to write a great dissertation abstract is to look at some examples. These dissertation examples will help you understand how a good abstract is constructed.

Law Dissertation Abstract Example

Dissertation Abstract Humanities

Thesis Dissertation Abstract

Tips for Writing an Effective Dissertation Abstract

Crafting a compelling dissertation abstract is essential to grab the attention of your target audience and provide a clear overview of your research. 

Here are some valuable tips to ensure your abstract is effective:

  • Clarity and Brevity : Keep your dissertation or thesis abstract clear and concise. Avoid jargon or overly technical language. 
  • Focus on Key Information : Highlight the most significant aspects of your research questions. Readers should grasp the main points and relevance of your work quickly.
  • Stay within Word Limit : Adhere to the word limit specified by your institution or guidelines. Typically, abstracts are limited to 150-300 words.
  • Be Accurate and Honest : Ensure that your abstract accurately represents your research. Don't make exaggerated claims or overstate your findings.
  • Edit and Proofread : Carefully proofread your abstract for grammar and spelling errors. A well-edited abstract demonstrates professionalism.
  • Consider Your Audience : Keep in mind your target audience, whether it's academic peers, potential employers, or a general readership. Tailor your abstract to their level of understanding.
  • Write in the Past Tense: Abstracts typically use past tense when referring to your research, as it has already been completed.
  • Seek Feedback : Before finalizing your abstract, get feedback from peers, advisors, or writing experts. Their insights can help refine your content.

In conclusion, the dissertation abstract serves as a powerful gateway in the world of academia. It's the gateway to your research, the lens through which your work is viewed by others. 

By following a structured approach, focusing on key elements, and adhering to word limits, you can write a dissertation abstract that stands out.

Ready to create an outstanding dissertation abstract that leaves a lasting impression? Get in touch with our dissertation writing service for expert guidance.

Our online paper writing service has a team of highly qualified writers for all subjects. We can assist you at every step, from formulating a research question to writing a draft and ensuring accurate formatting and citations. 

Simply reach out to us and get excellent custom dissertation writing help!

Cathy A. (Literature, Marketing)

Cathy has been been working as an author on our platform for over five years now. She has a Masters degree in mass communication and is well-versed in the art of writing. Cathy is a professional who takes her work seriously and is widely appreciated by clients for her excellent writing skills.

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

Posted in: abstract , dissertations

how long should a dissertation abstract be

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: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3136027/ )

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Navigating the dissertation process: my tips for final years

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  • Formatting Your Dissertation
  • Introduction

Harvard Griffin GSAS strives to provide students with timely, accurate, and clear information. If you need help understanding a specific policy, please contact the office that administers that policy.

  • Application for Degree
  • Credit for Completed Graduate Work
  • Ad Hoc Degree Programs
  • Acknowledging the Work of Others
  • Advanced Planning
  • Dissertation Submission Checklist
  • Publishing Options
  • Submitting Your Dissertation
  • English Language Proficiency
  • PhD Program Requirements
  • Secondary Fields
  • Year of Graduate Study (G-Year)
  • Master's Degrees
  • Grade and Examination Requirements
  • Conduct and Safety
  • Financial Aid
  • Registration

On this page:

Language of the Dissertation

Page and text requirements, body of text, tables, figures, and captions, dissertation acceptance certificate, copyright statement.

  • Table of Contents

Front and Back Matter

Supplemental material, dissertations comprising previously published works, top ten formatting errors, further questions.

  • Related Contacts and Forms

When preparing the dissertation for submission, students must follow strict formatting requirements. Any deviation from these requirements may lead to rejection of the dissertation and delay in the conferral of the degree.

The language of the dissertation is ordinarily English, although some departments whose subject matter involves foreign languages may accept a dissertation written in a language other than English.

Most dissertations are 100 to 300 pages in length. All dissertations should be divided into appropriate sections, and long dissertations may need chapters, main divisions, and subdivisions.

  • 8½ x 11 inches, unless a musical score is included
  • At least 1 inch for all margins
  • Body of text: double spacing
  • Block quotations, footnotes, and bibliographies: single spacing within each entry but double spacing between each entry
  • Table of contents, list of tables, list of figures or illustrations, and lengthy tables: single spacing may be used

Fonts and Point Size

Use 10-12 point size. Fonts must be embedded in the PDF file to ensure all characters display correctly. 

Recommended Fonts

If you are unsure whether your chosen font will display correctly, use one of the following fonts: 

If fonts are not embedded, non-English characters may not appear as intended. Fonts embedded improperly will be published to DASH as-is. It is the student’s responsibility to make sure that fonts are embedded properly prior to submission. 

Instructions for Embedding Fonts

To embed your fonts in recent versions of Word, follow these instructions from Microsoft:

  • Click the File tab and then click Options .
  • In the left column, select the Save tab.
  • Clear the Do not embed common system fonts check box.

For reference, below are some instructions from ProQuest UMI for embedding fonts in older file formats:

To embed your fonts in Microsoft Word 2010:

  • In the File pull-down menu click on Options .
  • Choose Save on the left sidebar.
  • Check the box next to Embed fonts in the file.
  • Click the OK button.
  • Save the document.

Note that when saving as a PDF, make sure to go to “more options” and save as “PDF/A compliant”

To embed your fonts in Microsoft Word 2007:

  • Click the circular Office button in the upper left corner of Microsoft Word.
  • A new window will display. In the bottom right corner select Word Options . 
  • Choose Save from the left sidebar.

Using Microsoft Word on a Mac:

Microsoft Word 2008 on a Mac OS X computer will automatically embed your fonts while converting your document to a PDF file.

If you are converting to PDF using Acrobat Professional (instructions courtesy of the Graduate Thesis Office at Iowa State University):  

  • Open your document in Microsoft Word. 
  • Click on the Adobe PDF tab at the top. Select "Change Conversion Settings." 
  • Click on Advanced Settings. 
  • Click on the Fonts folder on the left side of the new window. In the lower box on the right, delete any fonts that appear in the "Never Embed" box. Then click "OK." 
  • If prompted to save these new settings, save them as "Embed all fonts." 
  • Now the Change Conversion Settings window should show "embed all fonts" in the Conversion Settings drop-down list and it should be selected. Click "OK" again. 
  • Click on the Adobe PDF link at the top again. This time select Convert to Adobe PDF. Depending on the size of your document and the speed of your computer, this process can take 1-15 minutes. 
  • After your document is converted, select the "File" tab at the top of the page. Then select "Document Properties." 
  • Click on the "Fonts" tab. Carefully check all of your fonts. They should all show "(Embedded Subset)" after the font name. 
  •  If you see "(Embedded Subset)" after all fonts, you have succeeded.

The font used in the body of the text must also be used in headers, page numbers, and footnotes. Exceptions are made only for tables and figures created with different software and inserted into the document.

Tables and figures must be placed as close as possible to their first mention in the text. They may be placed on a page with no text above or below, or they may be placed directly into the text. If a table or a figure is alone on a page (with no narrative), it should be centered within the margins on the page. Tables may take up more than one page as long as they obey all rules about margins. Tables and figures referred to in the text may not be placed at the end of the chapter or at the end of the dissertation.

  • Given the standards of the discipline, dissertations in the Department of History of Art and Architecture and the Department of Architecture, Landscape Architecture, and Urban Planning often place illustrations at the end of the dissertation.

Figure and table numbering must be continuous throughout the dissertation or by chapter (e.g., 1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.2, etc.). Two figures or tables cannot be designated with the same number. If you have repeating images that you need to cite more than once, label them with their number and A, B, etc. 

Headings should be placed at the top of tables. While no specific rules for the format of table headings and figure captions are required, a consistent format must be used throughout the dissertation (contact your department for style manuals appropriate to the field).

Captions should appear at the bottom of any figures. If the figure takes up the entire page, the caption should be placed alone on the preceding page, centered vertically and horizontally within the margins.

Each page receives a separate page number. When a figure or table title is on a preceding page, the second and subsequent pages of the figure or table should say, for example, “Figure 5 (Continued).” In such an instance, the list of figures or tables will list the page number containing the title. The word “figure” should be written in full (not abbreviated), and the “F” should be capitalized (e.g., Figure 5). In instances where the caption continues on a second page, the “(Continued)” notation should appear on the second and any subsequent page. The figure/table and the caption are viewed as one entity and the numbering should show correlation between all pages. Each page must include a header.

Landscape orientation figures and tables must be positioned correctly and bound at the top so that the top of the figure or table will be at the left margin. Figure and table headings/captions are placed with the same orientation as the figure or table when on the same page. When on a separate page, headings/captions are always placed in portrait orientation, regardless of the orientation of the figure or table. Page numbers are always placed as if the figure were vertical on the page.

If a graphic artist does the figures, Harvard Griffin GSAS will accept lettering done by the artist only within the figure. Figures done with software are acceptable if the figures are clear and legible. Legends and titles done by the same process as the figures will be accepted if they too are clear, legible, and run at least 10 or 12 characters per inch. Otherwise, legends and captions should be printed with the same font used in the text.

Original illustrations, photographs, and fine arts prints may be scanned and included, centered between the margins on a page with no text above or below.

Use of Third-Party Content

In addition to the student's own writing, dissertations often contain third-party content or in-copyright content owned by parties other than you, the student who authored the dissertation. The Office for Scholarly Communication recommends consulting the information below about fair use, which allows individuals to use in-copyright content, on a limited basis and for specific purposes, without seeking permission from copyright holders.

Because your dissertation will be made available for online distribution through DASH , Harvard's open-access repository, it is important that any third-party content in it may be made available in this way.

Fair Use and Copyright 

What is fair use?

Fair use is a provision in copyright law that allows the use of a certain amount of copyrighted material without seeking permission. Fair use is format- and media-agnostic. This means fair use may apply to images (including photographs, illustrations, and paintings), quoting at length from literature, videos, and music regardless of the format. 

How do I determine whether my use of an image or other third-party content in my dissertation is fair use?  

There are four factors you will need to consider when making a fair use claim.

1) For what purpose is your work going to be used?

  • Nonprofit, educational, scholarly, or research use favors fair use. Commercial, non-educational uses, often do not favor fair use.
  • A transformative use (repurposing or recontextualizing the in-copyright material) favors fair use. Examining, analyzing, and explicating the material in a meaningful way, so as to enhance a reader's understanding, strengthens your fair use argument. In other words, can you make the point in the thesis without using, for instance, an in-copyright image? Is that image necessary to your dissertation? If not, perhaps, for copyright reasons, you should not include the image.  

2) What is the nature of the work to be used?

  • Published, fact-based content favors fair use and includes scholarly analysis in published academic venues. 
  • Creative works, including artistic images, are afforded more protection under copyright, and depending on your use in light of the other factors, may be less likely to favor fair use; however, this does not preclude considerations of fair use for creative content altogether.

3) How much of the work is going to be used?  

  • Small, or less significant, amounts favor fair use. A good rule of thumb is to use only as much of the in-copyright content as necessary to serve your purpose. Can you use a thumbnail rather than a full-resolution image? Can you use a black-and-white photo instead of color? Can you quote select passages instead of including several pages of the content? These simple changes bolster your fair use of the material.

4) What potential effect on the market for that work may your use have?

  • If there is a market for licensing this exact use or type of educational material, then this weighs against fair use. If however, there would likely be no effect on the potential commercial market, or if it is not possible to obtain permission to use the work, then this favors fair use. 

For further assistance with fair use, consult the Office for Scholarly Communication's guide, Fair Use: Made for the Harvard Community and the Office of the General Counsel's Copyright and Fair Use: A Guide for the Harvard Community .

What are my options if I don’t have a strong fair use claim? 

Consider the following options if you find you cannot reasonably make a fair use claim for the content you wish to incorporate:

  • Seek permission from the copyright holder. 
  • Use openly licensed content as an alternative to the original third-party content you intended to use. Openly-licensed content grants permission up-front for reuse of in-copyright content, provided your use meets the terms of the open license.
  • Use content in the public domain, as this content is not in-copyright and is therefore free of all copyright restrictions. Whereas third-party content is owned by parties other than you, no one owns content in the public domain; everyone, therefore, has the right to use it.

For use of images in your dissertation, please consult this guide to Finding Public Domain & Creative Commons Media , which is a great resource for finding images without copyright restrictions. 

Who can help me with questions about copyright and fair use?

Contact your Copyright First Responder . Please note, Copyright First Responders assist with questions concerning copyright and fair use, but do not assist with the process of obtaining permission from copyright holders.

Pages should be assigned a number except for the Dissertation Acceptance Certificate . Preliminary pages (abstract, table of contents, list of tables, graphs, illustrations, and preface) should use small Roman numerals (i, ii, iii, iv, v, etc.). All pages must contain text or images.  

Count the title page as page i and the copyright page as page ii, but do not print page numbers on either page .

For the body of text, use Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, etc.) starting with page 1 on the first page of text. Page numbers must be centered throughout the manuscript at the top or bottom. Every numbered page must be consecutively ordered, including tables, graphs, illustrations, and bibliography/index (if included); letter suffixes (such as 10a, 10b, etc.) are not allowed. It is customary not to have a page number on the page containing a chapter heading.

  • Check pagination carefully. Account for all pages.

A copy of the Dissertation Acceptance Certificate (DAC) should appear as the first page. This page should not be counted or numbered. The DAC will appear in the online version of the published dissertation. The author name and date on the DAC and title page should be the same. 

The dissertation begins with the title page; the title should be as concise as possible and should provide an accurate description of the dissertation. The author name and date on the DAC and title page should be the same. 

  • Do not print a page number on the title page. It is understood to be page  i  for counting purposes only.

A copyright notice should appear on a separate page immediately following the title page and include the copyright symbol ©, the year of first publication of the work, and the name of the author:

© [ year ] [ Author’s Name ] All rights reserved.

Alternatively, students may choose to license their work openly under a  Creative Commons  license. The author remains the copyright holder while at the same time granting up-front permission to others to read, share, and (depending on the license) adapt the work, so long as proper attribution is given. (By default, under copyright law, the author reserves all rights; under a Creative Commons license, the author reserves some rights.)

  • Do  not  print a page number on the copyright page. It is understood to be page  ii  for counting purposes only.

An abstract, numbered as page  iii , should immediately follow the copyright page and should state the problem, describe the methods and procedures used, and give the main results or conclusions of the research. The abstract will appear in the online and bound versions of the dissertation and will be published by ProQuest. There is no maximum word count for the abstract. 

  • double-spaced
  • left-justified
  • indented on the first line of each paragraph
  • The author’s name, right justified
  • The words “Dissertation Advisor:” followed by the advisor’s name, left-justified (a maximum of two advisors is allowed)
  • Title of the dissertation, centered, several lines below author and advisor

Dissertations divided into sections must contain a table of contents that lists, at minimum, the major headings in the following order:

  • Front Matter
  • Body of Text
  • Back Matter

Front matter includes (if applicable):

  • acknowledgements of help or encouragement from individuals or institutions
  • a dedication
  • a list of illustrations or tables
  • a glossary of terms
  • one or more epigraphs.

Back matter includes (if applicable):

  • bibliography
  • supplemental materials, including figures and tables
  • an index (in rare instances).

Supplemental figures and tables must be placed at the end of the dissertation in an appendix, not within or at the end of a chapter. If additional digital information (including audio, video, image, or datasets) will accompany the main body of the dissertation, it should be uploaded as a supplemental file through ProQuest ETD . Supplemental material will be available in DASH and ProQuest and preserved digitally in the Harvard University Archives.

As a matter of copyright, dissertations comprising the student's previously published works must be authorized for distribution from DASH. The guidelines in this section pertain to any previously published material that requires permission from publishers or other rightsholders before it may be distributed from DASH. Please note:

  • Authors whose publishing agreements grant the publisher exclusive rights to display, distribute, and create derivative works will need to seek the publisher's permission for nonexclusive use of the underlying works before the dissertation may be distributed from DASH.
  • Authors whose publishing agreements indicate the authors have retained the relevant nonexclusive rights to the original materials for display, distribution, and the creation of derivative works may distribute the dissertation as a whole from DASH without need for further permissions.

It is recommended that authors consult their publishing agreements directly to determine whether and to what extent they may have transferred exclusive rights under copyright. The Office for Scholarly Communication (OSC) is available to help the author determine whether she has retained the necessary rights or requires permission. Please note, however, the Office of Scholarly Communication is not able to assist with the permissions process itself.

  • Missing Dissertation Acceptance Certificate.  The first page of the PDF dissertation file should be a scanned copy of the Dissertation Acceptance Certificate (DAC). This page should not be counted or numbered as a part of the dissertation pagination.
  • Conflicts Between the DAC and the Title Page.  The DAC and the dissertation title page must match exactly, meaning that the author name and the title on the title page must match that on the DAC. If you use your full middle name or just an initial on one document, it must be the same on the other document.  
  • Abstract Formatting Errors. The advisor name should be left-justified, and the author's name should be right-justified. Up to two advisor names are allowed. The Abstract should be double spaced and include the page title “Abstract,” as well as the page number “iii.” There is no maximum word count for the abstract. 
  •  The front matter should be numbered using Roman numerals (iii, iv, v, …). The title page and the copyright page should be counted but not numbered. The first printed page number should appear on the Abstract page (iii). 
  • The body of the dissertation should be numbered using Arabic numbers (1, 2, 3, …). The first page of the body of the text should begin with page 1. Pagination may not continue from the front matter. 
  • All page numbers should be centered either at the top or the bottom of the page.
  • Figures and tables Figures and tables must be placed within the text, as close to their first mention as possible. Figures and tables that span more than one page must be labeled on each page. Any second and subsequent page of the figure/table must include the “(Continued)” notation. This applies to figure captions as well as images. Each page of a figure/table must be accounted for and appropriately labeled. All figures/tables must have a unique number. They may not repeat within the dissertation.
  • Any figures/tables placed in a horizontal orientation must be placed with the top of the figure/ table on the left-hand side. The top of the figure/table should be aligned with the spine of the dissertation when it is bound. 
  • Page numbers must be placed in the same location on all pages of the dissertation, centered, at the bottom or top of the page. Page numbers may not appear under the table/ figure.
  • Supplemental Figures and Tables. Supplemental figures and tables must be placed at the back of the dissertation in an appendix. They should not be placed at the back of the chapter. 
  • Permission Letters Copyright. permission letters must be uploaded as a supplemental file, titled ‘do_not_publish_permission_letters,” within the dissertation submission tool.
  •  DAC Attachment. The signed Dissertation Acceptance Certificate must additionally be uploaded as a document in the "Administrative Documents" section when submitting in Proquest ETD . Dissertation submission is not complete until all documents have been received and accepted.
  • Overall Formatting. The entire document should be checked after all revisions, and before submitting online, to spot any inconsistencies or PDF conversion glitches.
  • You can view dissertations successfully published from your department in DASH . This is a great place to check for specific formatting and area-specific conventions.
  • Contact the  Office of Student Affairs  with further questions.


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How to write a dissertation abstract, published by steve tippins on may 25, 2020 may 25, 2020.

Last Updated on: 3rd June 2022, 04:27 am

The abstract is where you “sell” your dissertation. In over 95% of the cases, the first thing people see will be your dissertation’s abstract. If others (such as potential employers or fellow researchers) are going to be looking at your dissertation, you have to get their interest in the abstract. 

How do you get people’s interest? Think about what you wanted to know when you were searching, and that’s what needs to be in the abstract (in addition to anything that your school requires). 

Normally dissertation abstracts are a page or less. You’ll want to include the problem you were looking at, the questions you wanted to answer, and the methodology you used. Also include what you found and what it means (the implications). For a more in-depth explanation of what to include, see the sample outline below.

Advice for Writing a Dissertation Abstract

two blonde women sitting on the stairs and chatting

Every word is important in a dissertation abstract. Because the space you have is so limited, you want to make sure that every word and phrase helps the reader understand what they’re going to gain when they read the entire document. On the other hand, you don’t want to put everything in the abstract because you want them to read the actual paper.

Avoid the temptation to make it more than a page long. The truth is, people aren’t going to read a multiple-page abstract, which means they won’t read your dissertation. Don’t think of it as condensing 100+ pages of material down into one page. Rather, think of it as giving an introduction to what is contained in the pages of your dissertation.

Some schools have a rubric to follow. If they do have one, follow it to the letter. This will save you time and help you please your committee more easily. There’s also usually a good reason behind the requirements they set out, so it will improve the quality of your abstract overall.

While it takes a certain artfulness to be concise, the abstract should be a relatively easy section to write. Basically, you just have to tell people what you did. You don’t need to report any new information or do anything you haven’t already done while writing your dissertation.

Dissertation Abstract Sample Outline

woman sitting on the campus stairs and working on her laptop

Traditionally, abstracts are less than a page in length, are not indented, and contain no citations. While different universities may have slightly different requirements, most want to see some variation of the following:

  • Introduce the study topic and articulate the research problem.
  • State the purpose of the study
  • State the research method 
  • Concisely describe the overall research design, methods, and data analysis procedures.
  • Identify the participants.
  • Present key results 
  • Outline conclusions and recommendations

What Comes After Writing Your Dissertation Abstract?

Writing your dissertation abstract means you’ve completed your study. Congratulations! As you move through the final phases of getting your degree and into your new career path, you may need support navigating today’s competitive job market. 

Academic jobs are more competitive than ever, and starting your own business is best done with the guidance of someone who’s done it before. Take a look at my academic career coaching services and book a free 30-minute consultation .

If you’re still working on your dissertation, I also offer dissertation coaching and dissertation editing services.

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Steve Tippins

Steve Tippins, PhD, has thrived in academia for over thirty years. He continues to love teaching in addition to coaching recent PhD graduates as well as students writing their dissertations. Learn more about his dissertation coaching and career coaching services. Book a Free Consultation with Steve Tippins

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

Dissertation abstract

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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:

  • Research problem and questions
  • Research methodology
  • Key findings and results
  • Original contribution
  • Practical or theoretical implications.

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.

In case you are in a hurry, feel free to buy dissertation from our professional writers. Our experts are qualified and have solid experience in writing Ph.D. academic works.

What Is a Dissertation Abstract?

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.

Dissertation Abstract

Purpose of a Dissertation or Thesis Abstract

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: 

  • 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.

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

What Makes a Good Abstract for a Dissertation?

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:

  • 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.

How Long Should a Dissertation Abstract Be?

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 Abstract Structure

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:

  • 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.

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. 

Dissertation Abstract

Things to Consider Before Writing a Dissertation Abstract

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

  • 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.

Write an Abstract for a Dissertation Last

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.

Carefully Read Requirements

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.   

Choose the Right Type of Dissertation Abstracts

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
  • Descriptive

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.

How to Write an Abstract for a Dissertation or Thesis?

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.

1. Identify the Purpose of Your Study

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.

2. Discuss Methodology

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.

3. Describe the Key Results

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.

4. Summarize an Abstract for a Dissertation

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.

How to Format an Abstract in Dissertation

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.

Keywords in a Dissertation Abstract

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.

Thesis and Dissertation Abstract Examples

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

Dissertation Abstract Example

Thesis 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 .

Extra Tips on Writing a Dissertation Abstract

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:

  • 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.

Bottom Line on How to Write a Dissertation or 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.


Are you still struggling with your abstract? Contact our dissertation writing service and our qualified writers will gladly help you with this uneasy task. They will make sure it is delivered strictly on time and meets all requirements!  

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.


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Dissertation Structure & Layout 101: How to structure your dissertation, thesis or research project.

By: Derek Jansen (MBA) Reviewed By: David Phair (PhD) | July 2019

So, you’ve got a decent understanding of what a dissertation is , you’ve chosen your topic and hopefully you’ve received approval for your research proposal . Awesome! Now its time to start the actual dissertation or thesis writing journey.

To craft a high-quality document, the very first thing you need to understand is dissertation structure . In this post, we’ll walk you through the generic dissertation structure and layout, step by step. We’ll start with the big picture, and then zoom into each chapter to briefly discuss the core contents. If you’re just starting out on your research journey, you should start with this post, which covers the big-picture process of how to write a dissertation or thesis .

Dissertation structure and layout - the basics

*The Caveat *

In this post, we’ll be discussing a traditional dissertation/thesis structure and layout, which is generally used for social science research across universities, whether in the US, UK, Europe or Australia. However, some universities may have small variations on this structure (extra chapters, merged chapters, slightly different ordering, etc).

So, always check with your university if they have a prescribed structure or layout that they expect you to work with. If not, it’s safe to assume the structure we’ll discuss here is suitable. And even if they do have a prescribed structure, you’ll still get value from this post as we’ll explain the core contents of each section.  

Overview: S tructuring a dissertation or thesis

  • Acknowledgements page
  • Abstract (or executive summary)
  • Table of contents , list of figures and tables
  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Chapter 2: Literature review
  • Chapter 3: Methodology
  • Chapter 4: Results
  • Chapter 5: Discussion
  • Chapter 6: Conclusion
  • Reference list

As I mentioned, some universities will have slight variations on this structure. For example, they want an additional “personal reflection chapter”, or they might prefer the results and discussion chapter to be merged into one. Regardless, the overarching flow will always be the same, as this flow reflects the research process , which we discussed here – i.e.:

  • The introduction chapter presents the core research question and aims .
  • The literature review chapter assesses what the current research says about this question.
  • The methodology, results and discussion chapters go about undertaking new research about this question.
  • The conclusion chapter (attempts to) answer the core research question .

In other words, the dissertation structure and layout reflect the research process of asking a well-defined question(s), investigating, and then answering the question – see below.

A dissertation's structure reflect the research process

To restate that – the structure and layout of a dissertation reflect the flow of the overall research process . This is essential to understand, as each chapter will make a lot more sense if you “get” this concept. If you’re not familiar with the research process, read this post before going further.

Right. Now that we’ve covered the big picture, let’s dive a little deeper into the details of each section and chapter. Oh and by the way, you can also grab our free dissertation/thesis template here to help speed things up.

The title page of your dissertation is the very first impression the marker will get of your work, so it pays to invest some time thinking about your title. But what makes for a good title? A strong title needs to be 3 things:

  • Succinct (not overly lengthy or verbose)
  • Specific (not vague or ambiguous)
  • Representative of the research you’re undertaking (clearly linked to your research questions)

Typically, a good title includes mention of the following:

  • The broader area of the research (i.e. the overarching topic)
  • The specific focus of your research (i.e. your specific context)
  • Indication of research design (e.g. quantitative , qualitative , or  mixed methods ).

For example:

A quantitative investigation [research design] into the antecedents of organisational trust [broader area] in the UK retail forex trading market [specific context/area of focus].

Again, some universities may have specific requirements regarding the format and structure of the title, so it’s worth double-checking expectations with your institution (if there’s no mention in the brief or study material).

Dissertations stacked up


This page provides you with an opportunity to say thank you to those who helped you along your research journey. Generally, it’s optional (and won’t count towards your marks), but it is academic best practice to include this.

So, who do you say thanks to? Well, there’s no prescribed requirements, but it’s common to mention the following people:

  • Your dissertation supervisor or committee.
  • Any professors, lecturers or academics that helped you understand the topic or methodologies.
  • Any tutors, mentors or advisors.
  • Your family and friends, especially spouse (for adult learners studying part-time).

There’s no need for lengthy rambling. Just state who you’re thankful to and for what (e.g. thank you to my supervisor, John Doe, for his endless patience and attentiveness) – be sincere. In terms of length, you should keep this to a page or less.

Abstract or executive summary

The dissertation abstract (or executive summary for some degrees) serves to provide the first-time reader (and marker or moderator) with a big-picture view of your research project. It should give them an understanding of the key insights and findings from the research, without them needing to read the rest of the report – in other words, it should be able to stand alone .

For it to stand alone, your abstract should cover the following key points (at a minimum):

  • Your research questions and aims – what key question(s) did your research aim to answer?
  • Your methodology – how did you go about investigating the topic and finding answers to your research question(s)?
  • Your findings – following your own research, what did do you discover?
  • Your conclusions – based on your findings, what conclusions did you draw? What answers did you find to your research question(s)?

So, in much the same way the dissertation structure mimics the research process, your abstract or executive summary should reflect the research process, from the initial stage of asking the original question to the final stage of answering that question.

In practical terms, it’s a good idea to write this section up last , once all your core chapters are complete. Otherwise, you’ll end up writing and rewriting this section multiple times (just wasting time). For a step by step guide on how to write a strong executive summary, check out this post .

Need a helping hand?

how long should a dissertation abstract be

Table of contents

This section is straightforward. You’ll typically present your table of contents (TOC) first, followed by the two lists – figures and tables. I recommend that you use Microsoft Word’s automatic table of contents generator to generate your TOC. If you’re not familiar with this functionality, the video below explains it simply:

If you find that your table of contents is overly lengthy, consider removing one level of depth. Oftentimes, this can be done without detracting from the usefulness of the TOC.

Right, now that the “admin” sections are out of the way, its time to move on to your core chapters. These chapters are the heart of your dissertation and are where you’ll earn the marks. The first chapter is the introduction chapter – as you would expect, this is the time to introduce your research…

It’s important to understand that even though you’ve provided an overview of your research in your abstract, your introduction needs to be written as if the reader has not read that (remember, the abstract is essentially a standalone document). So, your introduction chapter needs to start from the very beginning, and should address the following questions:

  • What will you be investigating (in plain-language, big picture-level)?
  • Why is that worth investigating? How is it important to academia or business? How is it sufficiently original?
  • What are your research aims and research question(s)? Note that the research questions can sometimes be presented at the end of the literature review (next chapter).
  • What is the scope of your study? In other words, what will and won’t you cover ?
  • How will you approach your research? In other words, what methodology will you adopt?
  • How will you structure your dissertation? What are the core chapters and what will you do in each of them?

These are just the bare basic requirements for your intro chapter. Some universities will want additional bells and whistles in the intro chapter, so be sure to carefully read your brief or consult your research supervisor.

If done right, your introduction chapter will set a clear direction for the rest of your dissertation. Specifically, it will make it clear to the reader (and marker) exactly what you’ll be investigating, why that’s important, and how you’ll be going about the investigation. Conversely, if your introduction chapter leaves a first-time reader wondering what exactly you’ll be researching, you’ve still got some work to do.

Now that you’ve set a clear direction with your introduction chapter, the next step is the literature review . In this section, you will analyse the existing research (typically academic journal articles and high-quality industry publications), with a view to understanding the following questions:

  • What does the literature currently say about the topic you’re investigating?
  • Is the literature lacking or well established? Is it divided or in disagreement?
  • How does your research fit into the bigger picture?
  • How does your research contribute something original?
  • How does the methodology of previous studies help you develop your own?

Depending on the nature of your study, you may also present a conceptual framework towards the end of your literature review, which you will then test in your actual research.

Again, some universities will want you to focus on some of these areas more than others, some will have additional or fewer requirements, and so on. Therefore, as always, its important to review your brief and/or discuss with your supervisor, so that you know exactly what’s expected of your literature review chapter.

Dissertation writing

Now that you’ve investigated the current state of knowledge in your literature review chapter and are familiar with the existing key theories, models and frameworks, its time to design your own research. Enter the methodology chapter – the most “science-ey” of the chapters…

In this chapter, you need to address two critical questions:

  • Exactly HOW will you carry out your research (i.e. what is your intended research design)?
  • Exactly WHY have you chosen to do things this way (i.e. how do you justify your design)?

Remember, the dissertation part of your degree is first and foremost about developing and demonstrating research skills . Therefore, the markers want to see that you know which methods to use, can clearly articulate why you’ve chosen then, and know how to deploy them effectively.

Importantly, this chapter requires detail – don’t hold back on the specifics. State exactly what you’ll be doing, with who, when, for how long, etc. Moreover, for every design choice you make, make sure you justify it.

In practice, you will likely end up coming back to this chapter once you’ve undertaken all your data collection and analysis, and revise it based on changes you made during the analysis phase. This is perfectly fine. Its natural for you to add an additional analysis technique, scrap an old one, etc based on where your data lead you. Of course, I’m talking about small changes here – not a fundamental switch from qualitative to quantitative, which will likely send your supervisor in a spin!

You’ve now collected your data and undertaken your analysis, whether qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods. In this chapter, you’ll present the raw results of your analysis . For example, in the case of a quant study, you’ll present the demographic data, descriptive statistics, inferential statistics , etc.

Typically, Chapter 4 is simply a presentation and description of the data, not a discussion of the meaning of the data. In other words, it’s descriptive, rather than analytical – the meaning is discussed in Chapter 5. However, some universities will want you to combine chapters 4 and 5, so that you both present and interpret the meaning of the data at the same time. Check with your institution what their preference is.

Now that you’ve presented the data analysis results, its time to interpret and analyse them. In other words, its time to discuss what they mean, especially in relation to your research question(s).

What you discuss here will depend largely on your chosen methodology. For example, if you’ve gone the quantitative route, you might discuss the relationships between variables . If you’ve gone the qualitative route, you might discuss key themes and the meanings thereof. It all depends on what your research design choices were.

Most importantly, you need to discuss your results in relation to your research questions and aims, as well as the existing literature. What do the results tell you about your research questions? Are they aligned with the existing research or at odds? If so, why might this be? Dig deep into your findings and explain what the findings suggest, in plain English.

The final chapter – you’ve made it! Now that you’ve discussed your interpretation of the results, its time to bring it back to the beginning with the conclusion chapter . In other words, its time to (attempt to) answer your original research question s (from way back in chapter 1). Clearly state what your conclusions are in terms of your research questions. This might feel a bit repetitive, as you would have touched on this in the previous chapter, but its important to bring the discussion full circle and explicitly state your answer(s) to the research question(s).

Dissertation and thesis prep

Next, you’ll typically discuss the implications of your findings? In other words, you’ve answered your research questions – but what does this mean for the real world (or even for academia)? What should now be done differently, given the new insight you’ve generated?

Lastly, you should discuss the limitations of your research, as well as what this means for future research in the area. No study is perfect, especially not a Masters-level. Discuss the shortcomings of your research. Perhaps your methodology was limited, perhaps your sample size was small or not representative, etc, etc. Don’t be afraid to critique your work – the markers want to see that you can identify the limitations of your work. This is a strength, not a weakness. Be brutal!

This marks the end of your core chapters – woohoo! From here on out, it’s pretty smooth sailing.

The reference list is straightforward. It should contain a list of all resources cited in your dissertation, in the required format, e.g. APA , Harvard, etc.

It’s essential that you use reference management software for your dissertation. Do NOT try handle your referencing manually – its far too error prone. On a reference list of multiple pages, you’re going to make mistake. To this end, I suggest considering either Mendeley or Zotero. Both are free and provide a very straightforward interface to ensure that your referencing is 100% on point. I’ve included a simple how-to video for the Mendeley software (my personal favourite) below:

Some universities may ask you to include a bibliography, as opposed to a reference list. These two things are not the same . A bibliography is similar to a reference list, except that it also includes resources which informed your thinking but were not directly cited in your dissertation. So, double-check your brief and make sure you use the right one.

The very last piece of the puzzle is the appendix or set of appendices. This is where you’ll include any supporting data and evidence. Importantly, supporting is the keyword here.

Your appendices should provide additional “nice to know”, depth-adding information, which is not critical to the core analysis. Appendices should not be used as a way to cut down word count (see this post which covers how to reduce word count ). In other words, don’t place content that is critical to the core analysis here, just to save word count. You will not earn marks on any content in the appendices, so don’t try to play the system!

Time to recap…

And there you have it – the traditional dissertation structure and layout, from A-Z. To recap, the core structure for a dissertation or thesis is (typically) as follows:

  • Acknowledgments page

Most importantly, the core chapters should reflect the research process (asking, investigating and answering your research question). Moreover, the research question(s) should form the golden thread throughout your dissertation structure. Everything should revolve around the research questions, and as you’ve seen, they should form both the start point (i.e. introduction chapter) and the endpoint (i.e. conclusion chapter).

I hope this post has provided you with clarity about the traditional dissertation/thesis structure and layout. If you have any questions or comments, please leave a comment below, or feel free to get in touch with us. Also, be sure to check out the rest of the  Grad Coach Blog .

how long should a dissertation abstract be

Psst… there’s more (for free)

This post is part of our dissertation mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project. 

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Dissertation and thesis defense 101



many thanks i found it very useful

Derek Jansen

Glad to hear that, Arun. Good luck writing your dissertation.


Such clear practical logical advice. I very much needed to read this to keep me focused in stead of fretting.. Perfect now ready to start my research!


what about scientific fields like computer or engineering thesis what is the difference in the structure? thank you very much


Thanks so much this helped me a lot!

Ade Adeniyi

Very helpful and accessible. What I like most is how practical the advice is along with helpful tools/ links.

Thanks Ade!


Thank you so much sir.. It was really helpful..

You’re welcome!

Jp Raimundo

Hi! How many words maximum should contain the abstract?

Karmelia Renatee

Thank you so much 😊 Find this at the right moment

You’re most welcome. Good luck with your dissertation.


best ever benefit i got on right time thank you

Krishnan iyer

Many times Clarity and vision of destination of dissertation is what makes the difference between good ,average and great researchers the same way a great automobile driver is fast with clarity of address and Clear weather conditions .

I guess Great researcher = great ideas + knowledge + great and fast data collection and modeling + great writing + high clarity on all these

You have given immense clarity from start to end.

Alwyn Malan

Morning. Where will I write the definitions of what I’m referring to in my report?


Thank you so much Derek, I was almost lost! Thanks a tonnnn! Have a great day!

yemi Amos

Thanks ! so concise and valuable

Kgomotso Siwelane

This was very helpful. Clear and concise. I know exactly what to do now.

dauda sesay

Thank you for allowing me to go through briefly. I hope to find time to continue.

Patrick Mwathi

Really useful to me. Thanks a thousand times

Adao Bundi

Very interesting! It will definitely set me and many more for success. highly recommended.


Thank you soo much sir, for the opportunity to express my skills

mwepu Ilunga

Usefull, thanks a lot. Really clear


Very nice and easy to understand. Thank you .

Chrisogonas Odhiambo

That was incredibly useful. Thanks Grad Coach Crew!


My stress level just dropped at least 15 points after watching this. Just starting my thesis for my grad program and I feel a lot more capable now! Thanks for such a clear and helpful video, Emma and the GradCoach team!


Do we need to mention the number of words the dissertation contains in the main document?

It depends on your university’s requirements, so it would be best to check with them 🙂


Such a helpful post to help me get started with structuring my masters dissertation, thank you!

Simon Le

Great video; I appreciate that helpful information

Brhane Kidane

It is so necessary or avital course


This blog is very informative for my research. Thank you


Doctoral students are required to fill out the National Research Council’s Survey of Earned Doctorates

Emmanuel Manjolo

wow this is an amazing gain in my life

Paul I Thoronka

This is so good

Tesfay haftu

How can i arrange my specific objectives in my dissertation?


  • What Is A Literature Review (In A Dissertation Or Thesis) - Grad Coach - […] is to write the actual literature review chapter (this is usually the second chapter in a typical dissertation or…

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How to Write a Dissertation Abstract in 2024

A dissertation or thesis abstract is a short summary outlining the purpose and scope of a dissertation or a thesis. An abstract succinctly explains the outcomes and the goal of a longer work so that the reader would know what to expect out of it.

A dissertation abstract reflects the author’s grasp of the research topic and sets the tone for the dissertation.

It is always a good idea to write your thesis abstract or the abstract for your dissertation at the very end after you’ve completed your research. However, many universities ask for an abstract before you begin work on your dissertation so as to grasp your understanding of the topic. In that case, you are expected to form an abstract based on your preliminary research and based on how you plan to carry out your research.

Table of Contents

What does a dissertation or thesis abstract include.

  • An outline of the research problem and the proposed objectives
  • The research methodology
  • Key arguments or results
  • The conclusion of the dissertation

How Long Should an Abstract be?

The length of an abstract for a dissertation might vary from university to university as well as from program to program. Ideally, the length of an abstract is between 300 words to 500 words. It is always a good idea to check the requirements a university or journal might have about the word count of the dissertation abstract before submitting it.

An abstract is often included on a separate page in a dissertation or thesis. It should come after the title page as well as the acknowledgments but should be placed before the table of contents.

When to Write an Abstract?

An abstract is always included when you are submitting a thesis, research, or a research paper or while sending a research paper to an academic journal.

In most cases, an abstract is something that you write at the very end of your research. It should not seem like an extension of your research or a disjointed portion and should be complete by itself. It should be a stand-alone piece that strokes the reader’s curiosity to read your paper. Sometimes, universities might ask for an abstract before approving your topic for a dissertation or thesis. In that case, an abstract is submitted to show that the student has a clear idea about how to go about the research.

What Should a Dissertation Abstract Include?

As an abstract reflects the quality of a larger work, it should contain 4 key components.

1. Aim of the research :

If the aim or purpose of the research is not clear from the abstract section of your dissertation, it might leave the impression that your research has nothing new to offer. So, the abstract should be able to tell the reader or the examiner about what practical or theoretical problem the research is responding to (in other words, the research question) and what outcomes you expect to derive or what is the new thing that makes your dissertation stand apart.

You can write the aim of the dissertation or thesis in your abstract after proving the context or background for the research. A detailed background is not necessary and not possible, so only the most relevant information should be included. Once the background of your study is established and the gap in the existing literature is analyzed, you should propose the objective of your study.

It is usually preferred to use the present or simple past tense while stating the objective. This is because an abstract should be as precise and concise as possible and should reflect the same kind of rigorousness and objectivity that your dissertation will have. Find below examples of how to frame an objective for your abstract based on the use of language.

2. Method of research (the research methodology) :

After the objective of the study is stated, we move on to the methods used to conduct the research. This part should be a straightforward description of the kind of research methodology that you have used (quantitative or qualitative) in one or two sentences.

If the full thesis or dissertation is submitted, then the methodology is usually written in the simple past tense as it indicates the past action. There is no need to explain the validity of the methodology or the obstacles faced during the process in this part. Those parts only need to be included in the research methodology section of the dissertation. The goal is just to give the reader a basic insight into how you have conducted the research.

3. Outcomes of the research :

The results or the outcomes section should be included in the concluding paragraph of the abstract. This part summarizes the resolutions offered to the problem statement identified initially in the abstract. The outcome of the study should be indicated in clear terms.

Depending on the length and complexity of your research, you can decide what to include in this part. Ideally, it should not exceed 3-4 sentences. If the outcomes are complex, you could just mention the relevant ones that the reader would be able to understand without wanting further elaboration. Results are often written in the present or simple past tense.

4. The conclusion of the abstract

Particular care should be given to the way you frame the conclusion of your abstract. In this part, the main conclusions of your research should be stated. The conclusion should clearly answer the problem statement that you have proposed initially in your abstract.

The conclusion should tell the reader what your research has accomplished and what new knowledge it is adding to the existing ones. Conclusions are usually written in the simple present tense.

Keywords are added at the end of a dissertation or abstract if it is going to be published. The keyword gives the reader an idea about the essential concepts in the dissertation or thesis. They also provide visibility to your paper when others search the related words on a search engine. So, you should make sure that you add only the most important and relevant words related to your dissertation in the keywords’ section.

Example of a Dissertation Abstract

how long should a dissertation abstract be

How to Structure your Dissertation or Thesis Abstract?

Abstract for the dissertation can be structured in the following way:

  • As the abstract would be around 300-500 words, it is better to divide it into 2-3 paragraphs.
  • More than three paragraphs might not be recommended as the abstract is of very short length.
  • The aim of the research should be mentioned in the first paragraph or the introductory paragraph of the abstract.
  • You should not start writing the abstract by directly stating the aim. Instead, provide background information about your area of research in 2-3 lines.
  • You could even start your abstract by stating the problem statement.
  • The background information on the existing literature would give the reader information about where your dissertation or thesis is situated.
  • The background information or short literature review would be followed by the problem statement or vice versa according to your arguments.
  • The problem statement identifies the gap in the existing literature.
  • Following the problem statement, you should propose what research question you aim to answer.
  • The last paragraph mentions the results or the outcomes/conclusion of the study. You could even make suggestions for future studies in this part.

Tips for writing an abstract

Writing an abstract can be challenging as you need to filter down the most relevant aspects of your dissertation into 300-500 words. This means that you will have to omit a lot of information while providing enough to interest the reader or evaluator. Here are some tips to get started on your abstract:

Tips to help you write an abstract :

  • Chapter by chapter method :

List the keywords and draft a few sentences outlining the relevance of each chapter of your dissertation or thesis. The short summary of each chapter should be related to your central argument. Combine them together and fill in the gaps. Add in more information and remove the unnecessary ones as you revise the draft.

  • Read other abstracts:

This is the best way to learn the conventions of abstract writing in your area of research. Notice how other well-accepted research abstracts present their ideas. Make a list of what you find interesting in those.

  • Write many versions of the rough drafts:

Ultimately, it is important not to wait for the perfect version. The perfect version won’t happen unless you keep writing. Write mediocre abstracts and notice what is wrong with those versions. Write multiple versions of the abstract in different ways and work on that which you think reads the best.

  • Make it compact:

Revision is an important aspect of perfecting any academic writing. Revise, change the words, and write in different ways but keep it compact. An abstract is a condensed piece of your dissertation so it should reflect that compactness.

  • Keep editing:

This is one of the most important steps in writing an abstract for any academic piece. Even if you think the abstract looks perfect, come back to it after a while, and let someone else, a professional editor or a senior, have a look over it.

Let’s Conclude

So, there you go! We have outlined all the steps and tips we consider necessary before you write your dissertation . We have covered what a dissertation abstract should include, the dissertation abstract structure that you need to keep in mind, and have included tips and an example of a dissertation to help you get to it!

-Lily Brooke

how long should a dissertation abstract be

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Preparing the Dissertation Abstract

Job advertisements vary in what they request upfront. Minimally, you will be asked to send a letter of application and vita. Some ads also specifically request a dissertation abstract.  Whether or not an abstract is explicitly solicited as part of the initial application, you can and should send a dissertation abstract along with your application letter and CV.

Like the letter of application, you should strictly observe the conventions on the length and formatting of the dissertation abstract. The finished document should be  two pages ,  single-spaced, in normal (12 point) font, with standard margins . You should avoid going over two pages (even if it’s just by a line or two). Conversely, it is not to your advantage to shorten it further: when you’re limited to two pages, it doesn’t look good if it appears that you don’t have sufficient material to fill them.

The initial one or two paragraphs of the abstract (approximately half a page) should offer an overview of the project: its issues and methods, other relevant work engaged, stakes and contexts. While you might want to repeat a key sentence or formulation that appears in your letter of application, the opening to the abstract should  not  simply reproduce the paragraph on the dissertation included in your letter. Think of these opening paragraphs instead as an opportunity to flesh out and supplement what you say in the letter. For example, you might want to foreground a different strand of your argument (something that complements without simply repeating what was headlined in the letter). This opening is also an opportunity to situate your project more fully in relation to relevant scholarship in your field(s). Where the description in your letter most likely had to sound a single note (as in, my dissertation takes up X), here you have the relative luxury of space to detail (the interrelation between) a set of concerns (as in, my dissertation takes up X as it illuminates Y in the context of Z). You might want to conclude these introductory paragraphs by discussing your aspirations for the project– what you aim to achieve; how you hope your intervention will advance this or that scholarly conversation.

The body of the abstract should consist of a  detailed chapter outline , in which you explain the main argument (or preoccupation) of individual chapters, specific materials engaged, rationale for that selection, and analytical yield. This is your opportunity to demonstrate the design of the project and, ideally, to show how individual chapters comprise a series of discrete discussions or investigations that cumulatively amount to more than the sum of their parts. This is also your opportunity to foreground your innovation in the choice or juxtaposition of texts, or perhaps original archival research accomplished.

A few cautions: If you choose to enter the job market before finishing and defending the dissertation, you should be sure that individual chapter descriptions are nevertheless complete and persuasive. You should be able to generate a solid and compelling account even of a chapter you may not yet have composed, or finished composing. (If you can’t generate a coherent and detailed description of  all  your chapters, completed and in progress, it is definitely too early to apply.) Think of the dissertation abstract as an occasion to map out both the broad contours of your dissertation (the overarching concerns; the kind of intervention you seek to make; the readers you aim to hail) and the specific pathways through which you pursue your inquiry. Search committees will notice if portions of the map are missing or vague. Conversely, a finely crafted, readable map will help to persuade them that you can be finished and defended before the start of the next academic year.

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    Abstract or executive summary. The dissertation abstract (or executive summary for some degrees) serves to provide the first-time reader (and marker or moderator) with a big-picture view of your research project. It should give them an understanding of the key insights and findings from the research, without them needing to read the rest of the report - in other words, it should be able to ...

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    Ideally, the length of an abstract is between 300 words to 500 words. It is always a good idea to check the requirements a university or journal might have about the word count of the dissertation abstract before submitting it. An abstract is often included on a separate page in a dissertation or thesis.

  20. Preparing the Dissertation Abstract

    Like the letter of application, you should strictly observe the conventions on the length and formatting of the dissertation abstract. The finished document should be two pages , single-spaced, in normal (12 point) font, with standard margins. You should avoid going over two pages (even if it's just by a line or two).

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    How long should a Ph.D. thesis abstract be? All abstracts follow a similar number of words. Your Ph.D. thesis abstract should also be between 200 to 300 words. Can an abstract be 100 words? Most abstracts are between 200 and 300 words. However, there are certain papers that don't require as many.