Writing an abstract is one of the most difficult pieces of writing you will do for your dissertation, but one of the most important. Your abstract needs to be both concise and descriptive, meeting the word count required by your style guide yet containing important keywords for those searching the abstract database.
But like any exercise, you need to do some warm-ups before you get into the heavy exercise. Consider these brain-stretching activities to help you begin.
- In brainstorming/stream of consciousness mode, pick any 20 words that describe your research project.
- Rank these terms from 1 to 20 based on how accurately they describe your research.
- Grab a thesaurus and examine your words one by one, looking for any synonyms that convey a more precise meaning. Rank your words again.
- Navigate to the abstract database and search for the top 5 words from the list you created.
- Peruse the abstracts that you find.
- Write your own abstract, utilizing the most precise words describing your research.
When writing your abstract, think of writing each of the following 5 parts of the abstract as succinctly as possible: thesis statement, problem, hypothesis, methodology, research, and results.
Thesis statement. You should always begin with your thesis statement. In fact, your thesis should guide every stage of your writing process. You should even print your thesis statement and tape it to your computer screen where you can always see it as you write. Yes, it is that important so that it can keep you on track. It is too easy to chase rabbits.
Problem. Your statement of the problem reveals both the necessity for your research and your passion for the topic. Clearly define the problem your research faces and why you are tackling it. You will probably need to delineate specifically what your research will address and what will need to be bracketed for later research.
Methodology. Your methodology will shape and inform the kind of research you pursue and the information you receive. Your research plan should be included here, flowing essentially from the methodology.
Hypothesis. This is your educated guess about what the research will reveal. It should be concise and evident that it is testable. This will essentially be the portion of your writing that has the longest lasting impact upon readers.
Results. Your actual research will either help support or overturn the hypothesis that you started with. You will draw conclusions and give implications for further study. Triple check your data and draw implications carefully.
Follow these steps to help you write the best abstract possible.
- Write succinctly. In each of these five areas, make yourself convey that part of your project in no more than 2 sentences.
- Cut, refine, polish, and cut some more, until you are satisfied.
- Divide these 5 portions of the abstract and send to 5 different friends to proofread. Let them critique what is missing from your writing and what would help them understand that portion of the abstract better.
- Use their input to edit your abstract to the most concise presentation possible.
- Send the finished abstract to those same 5 friends for their review.
- Use their input to refine your abstract again.
If you need further help, consider utilizing an editing service to help with cuts and polishing.