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How Do I Write A Dissertation Abstract

USEFUL PHRASES

Useful phrases when writing a dissertation abstract

This section sets out some useful phrases that you can use and build on when writing your undergraduate or master's level dissertation abstract. As the section, How to structure your dissertation abstract explains, the abstract has a number of components, typically including: (a) study background and significance; (b) components of your research strategy; (c) findings; and (d) conclusions. The phrases below build on these four components.

COMPONENT #1
Build the background to the study

  • Introductory sentences

    This study (dissertation, research)?

    aims to illuminate?
    examines the role of...
    explores why...
    investigates the effects of...
    assesses the impact of...on...
    developed and tested the idea that...

    I...

    investigated the role of...
    outline how...
    introduce the concept of...
    extend prior work on...
    examine the relationship between...and...
    identify...
    evaluate these...by...

    In this study (dissertation, research) I...

    propose a model of...

  • Leading with research questions

    This study (dissertation, research)...

    is motivated by two research questions: (1) [Insert research question one]? (2) [Insert research question two]? To examine these questions, the study?

    "[Insert a research question]?" is a fundamental question in [the name of your area of interest]. We suggest [argue] that a new generation of research in this area needs to address the extended question: [Insert your research question]?

  • Leading with research hypotheses

    This study (dissertation, research)...

    offers two hypotheses: (1) [insert research hypothesis one]; and (2) [insert research hypothesis two].

    tested hypotheses regarding the relationship between...and...

    It was

    hypothesized that [insert variable] is negatively [positively] related to...

    hypothesized that [insert variable] is more negatively [positively] related to [insert variable] than [insert variable].

  • Leading with a dissertation aim or goals

    This study (dissertation, research)...

    has three goals: (1) [insert goal one], (2) [insert goal two], and (3) [insert goal three].

  • Literature component

    Previous research (extent research, previous studies, or prior studies)...

    indicates that...
    offers a descriptive account of...
    has shown that...

    Literature on [insert area of the literature] has focused almost exclusively on...

    Synthesizing [e.g., name of theories], this research built and tested a theoretical model linking...

    This model addresses X (e.g., 2) major gaps in the literature.

    Drawing on [insert name] research, we argue that...

    In bridging the two literature gaps, a model of [insert text] is proposed.

  • Significance of the study

    We develop theory to explain how...

    Our most important contribution is...

    This study advances our understanding of...

    To date, no systematic investigation has considered...

    We examine how organisations use [insert text] to overcome...

COMPONENT #2
Components of research strategy

We conducted...

in-depth case studies of [X number of private/public] enterprises in [country].

a laboratory experiment and a field study to test our hypotheses.

an inductive study of...

We employed...

multiple methods to test...

Using...

a sample of [X number of people, firms, data, objects, e.g., doctors, banks, songs], we collected data from three sources [e.g., X, Y and Z].

comparative case analysis, this research explored the role of...

To illustrate these ideas, [insert company name or type] was used as a case study to show how...

We tested these hypotheses using [e.g., student test score] data to measure [e.g., teacher performance].

We developed a 9-item scale to measure...

Using data from...

COMPONENT #3
Major findings

The findings from the research...

illustrate how...

show that the impact of [insert text] on [insert text] is more complex than previously thought/assumed.

address a controversial belief among practitioners that...

illustrate the antecedents and consequences of [insert text] and [insert text] in...

suggest that the effect of [variable X] on [variable Y] was moderated over time when...

A predicted, the...

Contrary to our expectations...

COMPONENT #4
Conclusion

The results, implications for managers, and future research are discussed.

Theoretical contributions and managerial implications of the findings are discussed.

The findings...

provide support for the key arguments.

support the prediction that...

support the model:

offer insights into...

prompt a re-thinking of [insert your area of interest]

We conclude that...

If you would like us to add more of these kinds of phrases, please leave us feedback.

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When you apply for any full-time teaching position at colleges and universities it is usually a good idea to include an abstract of your dissertation unless the advertisement clearly indicates otherwise. Remember: in most cases, you'll be applying to a department that has no historian in your field, and therefore you need to find ways to make your abstract appealing to others. Imagine a committee composed of faculty in this department with whom you have never discussed academic subjects; that's who you should be writing for. Do not use your formal dissertation abstract, the one that is officially submitted along with your thesis; this sort of abstract is generally too narrow and technical. Try to keep the abstract to no more than one single-spaced page or two 1.5-spaced pages.

Many will submit the same abstract with all job applications, but you might want to consider tailoring your abstract to the particular job you are applying for. What you should stress will depend partly on the department to which you are applying. To learn about the department you should use the AHA’s Guide to Departments of History (online if you are a member of the AHA, or available in Dealy 615) to identify the faculty's areas of coverage, research interests, and degree-granting institutions. All departments will want to see evidence that you know how to do research, but beyond that some departments will be particularly interested in theoretical or methodological sophistication, some will want to fill particular thematic niches (e.g. economic or religious history), and some will simply want to know that the dissertation is intelligently framed and interesting. A look at the recent hires will tell you a lot about the direction the department is going, and could help you decide whether to stress, say, your dissertation's contribution to medieval liturgy or to the anthropology of ritual in preindustrial societies; to take another example, one department may be particularly interested that you do Irish history, whereas another will want to know that you work on gender. Do not, of course, get yourself in the position of writing an abstract that you cannot back up in an interview.

Center the title of your dissertation at the top of the abstract, and be sure to include your name and institution somewhere. As with all abstracts, you should plan on writing 3 or 4 paragraphs that discuss, in turn, the state of the question, the sources and methodology, and your conclusions. In the first paragraph, do the best you can to place your topic in a very large framework appealing to non-specialists; if you are tailoring the abstract to the job, this would be the place to bring that out. In the bulk of the abstract, however, don't be afraid to write at length about the things you are most enthusiastic about; even if it ends up seeming a little narrow or parochial, your enthusiasm will be infectious. In addition to outlining the content of your thesis and pointing out your conclusions, make sure that the abstract indicates in some way your dissertation’s original contribution to specific debates or issues. Do not bother describing or identifying your research trips, prestigious sources of funding, major adviser, or timetable for completion; this is what your cover letter is for.

When you've finished a first draft, have your adviser(s) read it over, and see if you can get a candid opinion from someone who is not your adviser. It will take you several drafts to get the tone and content right.

D. Smail (1999), updated by M. Kowaleski (2009)

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