Writing a dissertation is tough going. You have so much to plan and prepare for, and sometimes in the middle of all that the Abstract gets lost. An Abstract can seem like a minor detail, after all it’s only a few words on the paper, right? But this is the first thing, after the title and your name that a reader will read. Here are some helpful tips on how to give it the energy to get those readers interested:
An abstract should only be a hundred or two hundred words, three hundred at the most. If you’re going over that, stop and try again. The goal here is to be precise and prudent with your words. Say as much as you can with as little as you can.
If your dissertation has a couple of chapters then your Abstract should give one or two sentences on each. Don’t over-do it. Just find the one sentence that surmises each chapter. You also want to let the reader know what to expect. You don’t have to tell them everything, but give an idea of your methods and your thinking.
You want to hook your readers in, not turn them off. A long and boring abstract that rambles about this and that is going to do you no favors. What you want is to give the reader a glimpse, a small taste of what’s to come. The Abstract should arouse their interest. You can do this with simple phrasing and strong sentences. Keep them snappy and keep feeding out bits of information, like breadcrumbs to the rest of the paper.
Your Abstract should show the reader a brief glimpse of what you discovered. Don’t go into detail, you do that in the paper itself, but give them a rough idea of what to expect. The last portion of your Abstract should be dedicated to results. After all, who wants to read a pointless paper? So show them you accomplished something with that opening abstract and let them demand to figure out how you did it. That’s what gets a reader interested, and that makes for a great Abstract.
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