How to Write a Winning Dissertation Abstract

A dissertation abstract is a summary of the contents in your dissertation essay.

If you enjoy reading books, then you might have the habit of checking out the back covers before reading them.

The back cover of a book contains a short synopsis or summary of that book or novel.

By reading it, you avoid reading a boring novel.

Similarly, that is how your readers will look at your dissertation abstract. The abstract should help them decide whether it’s worth reading

For this reason, you need to write a compelling and informative abstract to encourage the reader to read the rest of your project.

The good thing about abstracts is that you don’t have to write them until you finish the final paper.

Elements of a dissertation or thesis abstract

An abstract should only contain the summarized contents of your thesis project, not the topic. You should not include a description of your topic.

You should also minimize the literature review to only a few words. Remember that the reader is merely interested in the specifics of your project and not the background of the study.

Although your abstract will depend on your major, the purpose is still the same across different departments.

After reading the abstract, the reader should understand:

i). Your chosen topic

ii). Why you chose to investigate the topic

iii). Why is there a gap in your chosen topic

iv). The type of literature review you intend to use

v). Methods of research

vi).Results of your study

Vii). conclusion and recommendations

Dissertation abstracts vary in word count. For example, the Master’s thesis abstracts are usually 250 words.


The doctoral dissertation usually has at least 350 words.

Here is a dissertation abstract example:

dissertation abstract sample

Types of abstracts

There are two main types of abstracts:

1.Descriptive abstract

It is much shorter. About 100 and only includes purpose, aims, objectives, and methodology. A descriptive abstract covers the first three chapters of your dissertation. Leaving out chapter four (findings) and chapter five (results). Descriptive abstracts are mostly applicable in writing dissertation proposals.

Descriptive Abstract example:

“This project provides a critical overview and recommendation on the current state of political instability in North Korea”

In the example abstract above, you will note that it gives a description of the thesis main area of study.

2.Informative abstract

An informative abstract is a short version of your dissertation. You include all the main arguments of each chapter such as the purpose, objective, methodology, findings, and conclusions of your research study.

This means that an informative abstract is much longer than a descriptive abstract. It also focuses on summarizing the key points in the report. It is about 200 words.

types of abstracts
Types of abstracts

So how do you write a compelling dissertation abstract?

i). Write it last

Here’s the deal…

You need to finish your dissertation before writing the abstract. Don’t be in a rush to write your abstract when you are not done with your dissertation.

ii). Go straight to the point

You only have a single page to convince the reader that your dissertation is worth their time. This is not the time to make them guess what you’re trying to say. Your abstract should be clear and easy to understand.

Tooltip – avoid copy and pasting information from your dissertation into your abstract.

iii). Write two to three drafts

To avoid making mistakes when writing the dissertation abstract, write the first draft then let it rest. Go back to it after a day or two with fresh eyes and a new perspective.

You can also share your abstract with a friend to get feedback.

iv). Use Present Tense

When writing your abstract, use the present tense. Why? The subject of the dissertation abstract is the dissertation and it, for the most part, discusses the conclusion.

Grammar is not everyone’s cup of tea.


If you want to write a winning dissertation abstract, you have to master grammar.

v). Do not include Tables and figures

Tables and figures of your dissertation should not be in your abstract. They should be on their own separate pages. Also, avoid including a lengthy quotation from any author. You will have more room to include the background of study in your literature review.

vi).Ask for help from your supervisor

When stuck or need clarification, it is best to seek clarification from your supervisor. Your supervisor can give you more clarity and tell you what to correct.

vii).Avoid using technical terms

Your audience may not be familiar with the technical terms in your field. Use simple words that can be understood by the non-technical members of your audience.

Viii). Proofread your work

Dissertation abstract or not, the key to a winning abstract is revising and proofreading. You want to make everything clear and to the point.

The idea behind an abstract is to summarize the key points in your dissertation. Start revising the dissertation abstract early and avoid the last minute rush.

 The format of a dissertation abstract

Like an essay, your dissertation abstract should have an introduction, body, and conclusion. The content of the dissertation abstract should also follow a chronological order. But you don’t have to use subheadings.

Here’s the catch…

Create consistency with the flow of ideas; purpose-aims-objective-methodology-findings-discussion-recommendations. Do not outline the findings of your research before introducing your research project to the reader.

Begin by starting the most important first.

Remember: avoid adding new information in your dissertation abstract. All the information within your abstract should be in your dissertation.

To Wrap Up

Always go through your abstract to correct grammatical errors, spelling, and punctuation. Proofreading also helps you to check the flow of your work.

Are you still having problems with your dissertation abstract? What is confusing you? Let us know by commenting below…

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