Postgraduate Writing in Details: How to Write a Dissertation Abstract

Abstract is Written Before Rather Than After

The dissertation abstract is an important element of every dissertation. The dissertation abstract is the shortest part of the dissertation and, therefore, most students want to write this part of it first rather than after they are finished. The abstract for your dissertation is typically written after your dissertation is complete, not before. Why? Well, you cannot summarize something you have written before you have written it, right?

Dissertation Abstracts are Important

Dissertation abstracts are important because they are filed in library search engines so that whenever someone conducts a search for subjects that your research contains, your dissertation will pop up.

The Dissertation Abstract is Short

The dissertation abstract is a short, 250 to300 word overview of what all your dissertation is about, and why the particular study you are writing about needed to be addressed. It also addresses the kind of evidence you will use in your dissertation. This particular element of the dissertation is crucial –- the why of the dissertation. The specific why is why the dissertation is an important study that needed to be conducted.


The dissertation abstract always follows a very specific format. Most abstracts will be formatted a very certain way as well, and the rules for these formatting instructions are typically on file in every department. Because these are short, you’ll want to make sure that you include every aspect of them by clearly following the kinds of rules I will discuss here.

Paragraph one

In the first two sentences, your reader should know why your study is important. More than that, it should articulate (state clearly) what exactly you aim to study, prove, argue in this book-length study. This part of the abstract should be three to four sentences long.

Paragraph Two

Addresses why the problem is challenging – why it has not been approached yet, why it is important, and such things.

Paragraph 3

This part of your abstract will discuss how you went about researching the problem. You can discuss the major sources you consulted and ended up including in your work and the theories you developed as you reviewed the research.

Paragraph 4

What is the conclusion you’ve made because of the research. What is the impact of your dissertation. What is a new area of research that will need to be addressed because of your ground-breaking findings.

So, now that you’ve made me sit up and take notice, what is the impact? What does your approach/result enable?

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