A part of every dissertation or thesis is the executive summary. This summary or abstract is the first part of your dissertation that will be read. Only after reading the abstract is the dissertation further reviewed. Therefore, it is important that the abstract is well written and that you draw out the correct information here.
The dissertation abstract has three functions
1. Explanation of the title of your dissertation
The first function of the abstract is to further explain the title of your dissertation. This allows readers of your dissertation to better determine if your dissertation is interesting enough for them to read. A well-written abstract can encourage more people to consider your dissertation important and, thus, to intend to read it.
2. Short version of your dissertation
Secondly, the abstract serves as a short version for readers who don’t have the time to read the complete dissertation. Often, managers and scientists read only the abstract and not the entire piece.
3. Overview of your dissertation
Third, the abstract’s function is to serve as an overview of what readers can expect. This makes it easier for the reader to understand and to place in context the material in the dissertation. A well-written abstract ensures that difficult material in your dissertation is better understood.
Length, place and time of the abstract
A rough rule of thumb for the length of the abstract is no more than five percent of the entire dissertation, with a maximum of one page. The reason behind this rule is that it must always be possible to quickly review the abstract.
Place the abstract after the preface and before the table of contents. Write the abstract in the present tense or present perfect tense.
Examples abstract in present tense or present perfect tense
Example of present tense: The study shows that the majority of the respondents prefer to watch a film at the movie theater rather than at home on TV.
Example of present perfect tense: The study has shown that the majority of the respondents prefer to watch a film at the movie theater rather than at home on TV.
What should be in the abstract?
For each paragraph, answer the following questions:
- What is the problem? Indicate the objective, problem statement and research questions of your dissertation. If you have used hypotheses in your dissertation, indicate them here.
- What has been done? Briefly explain the method and approach of your research.
- What has been discovered? Provide a summary of the most important results and your conclusion.
- What do your findings mean? Summarize the key points from the discussion and present your recommendations.
Use of acronyms
Since your reader should be able to read and understand your abstract without going through the rest of your dissertation, you have to introduce acronyms when you use them.
Just like with the rest of your dissertation you have to include references when you use a source. However, in an abstract you often don’t use any references because you mainly write about your own findings and research.
We made an example of an abstract in which we used all of the points of the checklist..
Several non-profit environmental organizations are trying to counter the adverse effects of climate change. To finance their activities, they require donations. However, in today's society the number of people who donate to environmental organizations is decreasing, which is creating a funding gap. If organizations are to be able to continue their work, the number of donations must increase.
The aim of this study is to determine how individuals' intentions to donate to an environmental organization can be increased. To this end, the research question is as follows: To what extent does a potential donor's social distance to the victims of climate change portrayed in fund-raising campaigns affect his or her intention to make a donation? In this context, social distance is the extent to which people feel they are in the same social group (i.e., in-group) or another social group (i.e., out-group) in relation to climate change victims.
The research question is answered through an experiment that entails distributing an online questionnaire to respondents. These respondents are randomly divided into two conditions (namely large and small social distance). Based on their classification, they are then asked to comment on a different image from a fund-raising campaign. The responses received show that feeling a large social distance leads to more donation intentions that feeling a small social distance. These results indicate that social distance does have an impact on donation intentions.
On this basis, it is recommended that environmental groups portray a significant social distance in fund-raising campaigns for their climate change activities. Further research could be undertaken to identify other factors it would be helpful for such organizations to bear in mind when selecting the best images for such campaigns.