The abstract is an important component of your thesis. Presented at the beginning of the thesis, it is likely the first substantive description of your work read by an external examiner. You should view it as an opportunity to set accurate expectations.
But way before then, the abstract needs to win over the target examiner. Perhaps because the doctoral abstract is so often written in a hurry when candidates and supervisors are immersed in the final stages, exhausted and in a rush to progress things towards examination, inadequate attention is paid to this small but crucial piece of writing.
Imagine receiving an invitation to examine a doctoral thesis. The email, probably a standard template sent by a grad school, is likely to begin by buttering you up with some generic comments about your reputation or expertise, it might include official forms with examination criteria, instructions and procedures.
It will be accompanied by the thesis abstract. So, if you were that potential examiner, what would you like from the abstract that might help you decide if you wanted to take on the task of examining?
Doing a little bit of homework to investigate disciplinary norms is always a good starting point. Some abstracts provide an overview of the research itself, while others focus on summarising the thesis or dissertation. This distinction will likely impact the choice of verb tense.
For example, descriptions of the research may use the simple past tense The research showed that …whereas commentary on the thesis is likely to use present simple tense This thesis explores…. Some suggest the abstract should mirror the structure of the thesis.
But I do think the abstract should speak to the key components that make up the research. For example, the thesis may have a non-traditional structure — an exegesis or a series of papers — but the abstract should provide a holistic overview.
In most cases the study will be explained by giving a clear and early statement of the issue or problem under investigation, then indicate what literature was brought to the investigation, how the research was undertaken and what was found out.
Some disciplines favour longer abstracts up to 2 pages in length; however, in my opinion, a short abstract is preferable. It seems obvious to say, but well-structured paragraphs that break the text into clear segments of information is advantageous — especially when so much of the text is dense with weighty material.
As with any abstract, focussed and precise writing is the way to go. Time markers and location-specific indicators are worthy of special care.
A PhD is an international qualification, so local identifiers rarely work: An abstract should play to these. This segment can be especially difficult to write because it requires a particular kind of authorial voice and confidence that sometimes is only just developing in the very final stages of candidature.
A well-written, well-structured abstract provides a sense of the researcher and the research. If the abstract is neat and crisp, comprehensive and well written, if it provides the essential elements that enable one to make a judgement about the thesis, then hopefully, a potential examiner is already starting to engage with the task.The doctoral dissertations and licentiate theses written at the University of Turku Faculty of Humanities must include an abstract both in Finnish and in English.
The abstract should be.
A good abstract can vary from - words for doctoral thesis and words for masters and bachelors thesis. A thesis or dissertation should contain the following.
The doctoral dissertations and licentiate theses written at the University of Turku Faculty of Humanities must include an abstract both in Finnish and in English. The abstract should be. An abstract has nothing to do with the introduction of your thesis/dissertation.
We cannot stress this enough — it is a full summary of your paper, and it should represent your entire thesis when and where including the full text is impossible.
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