Although different disciplines will have specific components required in their dissertations, there are some basic structural components that are relevant for most. This basic manual will focus on how to compose a postgraduate dissertation abstract. A well written abstract should let the reader quickly know whether a particular dissertation is relevant to their work, without having to spend too much time browsing all of its contents. The four basic components are:
Background and Significance
A proper abstract should be no more than half a page long and look a lot closer to a long paragraph than not. You won’t have a lot of room to providing an in-depth background or significance, so stick to just a few sentences. Consider things like the purpose of your research, reasons you decided to conduct this particular study, and any problems that might exist with the study. All of this should help you come down with reasons why your study is significant to the field.
The next few sentences in your abstract should discuss the strategy and methodologies you used to gather your information. This might vary tremendously depending on your discipline and generally accepted approach (e.g., survey, lab testing, reading, etc.), so you should consider how much of a role your strategy played in the outcome of your work. In a lot of humanities subjects where most research is conducted in a library you might only have to state that you focused your readings on certain works. In other disciplines you might need to state the kind of experiments or lab testing you conducted.
Results and Findings
Immediately after discussing your strategy you should move on to put forth your major findings. Don’t use this section to include your data; it should only be a two or three sentence summary of your research and be focused on addressing the questions you had before starting your work and in addressing your thesis.
The final portion of your postgraduate dissertation abstract should simply state the conclusions you have drawn from your research and findings. Address questions like what it is that was learned, what the implications are and whether there are any limitations to your research or its methodologies. It’s okay to have missed the mark with your hypothesis. The idea is that any other researcher can view this section and know exactly what would happen if he or she conducted the same study.