What Is a Dissertation Abstract and How to Write It

What are dissertation abstracts?


An abstract is a truly essential element of a dissertation – its “visiting card.” In an abstract, you present the selection of the dissertation topic, describe the relevance of scientific issues and consider the level of elaboration of it in literature. The abstract contains the main ideas and conclusions of the dissertation, the points on the author’s contribution to research activities, the degree of novelty and the possibility of the practical application of results.

It may be a misconception of writing the abstract, but many students think that if they copy the basic definitions and interpretation of the dissertation and create an abstract from it, the work is complete. In fact, it should be written as an independent research project, designed to ensure that the reader not only understands the basic idea of your work, but also that the reader is able to catch some characteristic features. The proven fact is that the impression from the dissertation greatly depends on the abstract.


Your abstract will be read by every person who is familiar with your work, the number of such people clearly exceeding 40-50 people. But properly, your dissertation will be read only by three to five people. Therefore, emphasis should be placed on your dissertation abstract.

You can choose from two abstract styles that are commonly used by students all over the world:

  1. The descriptive abstract. Simply, it’s a description of every chapter of your dissertation, in order to help the reader understand what information is waiting in your work. The reader can decide what parts are more interesting and what parts may be missed. Take into consideration that this style is rarely used now, as it doesn’t show the real essence of scientific work, so maybe your tutor will advise you to use the other abstract style.
  2. The informative abstract. This style is usually more acceptable by tutors, as it presents the real essence of the dissertation. An informative description should show your motivation, the significance of your scientific work, your research strategies and methods, and the main finding and the conclusion. Within a single paper, you should present your dissertation as a marvelous and interesting invention. This writing may be hard, but it’s the “face” of your dissertation.

What does a dissertation abstract contain?

The structure of an abstract consists of these parts:

The introduction – The general characteristics of the work are described here (justification of the relevance, novelty of research, the author’s personal contribution to the study of the problem, the formulation of the object and the subject of scientific research, clear goals and specific objectives of the dissertation).

The main part – The essence of the thesis is revealed here (main stages, research approaches, the methodology applied, the volume and structure of the thesis, and conclusions). Regarding the findings, they must be supported by accurate, objective data, and if there are some assumptions, they should be specified.

A bibliographic list of the author’s publications on the subject of the research should be drawn up in accordance with the required style mentioned by your tutor.

How long should a dissertation abstract be?
Usually, a dissertation abstract is between 150 and 350 words long (if the length is not mentioned by your college).

How to search for dissertation abstracts online and what is Dissertation Abstracts International(DAI)?

DAI is one of the oldest published catalogues of dissertation abstracts in the United States. All US universities with accreditation send dissertation abstracts from their graduates to ProQuest. The database is divided into sections: humanity and social sciences, sciences and engineering and European Dissertations (now it’s a separate product: DAI-C). So, if you need to learn more on how to write dissertation abstracts and form your own point of view, DAI is there to help.

How to access Dissertation Abstracts International?

The PQDT database contains not only abstracts, but also full texts (available in .PDF format). Access is limited, but you can go in your college library and request a particular document. If your library network is connected with ProQuest, you also have the ability to search full texts there.

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