PhD writing tips

Where To Look For The Best Sample Dissertation Abstracts

An abstract is a succinct summary of a much larger project, such as a research report, thesis, or dissertation. It concisely describes the scope and contact of the project, and identifies what the objectives are, the methodology and findings, and intended results or conclusions. It is a description of what you specifically are doing in your project, not a topic description (what you are doing the project on).  These two types of descriptions are easy to get confused.  Most abstracts are usually very short, so it is important not to get too detailed. 

Where to find the best samples

  • Do a general search online.
  • Visit your school's website and browse the archives.
  • Literary journals are a great source for locating published dissertations, including the abstracts.
  • Seek out the dissertations done by the most significant contributors to your field and see how theirs was done.

In order to assist you when you find samples to look through, I have given you a guide below of what they should look and what should be included. This way you will be able to ensure that you are looking at the best samples when you do locate them!

Variations by discipline

Abstracts do vary between disciplines, and sometimes even within the disciplines themselves.  The social sciences and hard sciences generally put more emphasis on the methodology than humanities abstracts. Humanities generally use more time explaining what the objectives are. However, within single disciplines they often differ quite widely.  Talk to a professor or members of your committee to find out about the expectations for your discipline.

What should be included in an abstract?

No matter what discipline you are writing for, there are four main sections of information that should be included:

  • State the main objective
  • Outline the methods
  • Results obtained or intended results if the project has not been completed yet
  • Conclusions on your project's implications

What should the Objective section contain?

What is the main issue or problem? The problem you intend to solve should be set out in the first few sentences. You can put your hypothesis here if you like.

What should the Methods section contain?

What did you do? Concisely explain the steps you used to solve the problem or exploring the issue. 

What should the Results section contain?

What did you find? This section should list the outcomes or results of work done up to this point. 

What should the Conclusion section contain?

What did you learn? The closing should contain a statement of the project’s implications in your field.

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