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Abstract of a thesis

Date published by Date updated: December 27, 2016

A part of every thesis is the executive summary. This summary or abstract is the first part of your thesis that will be read. Only after reading the abstract is the thesis further reviewed. Therefore, it is important that the abstract is well written and that you draw out the correct information here.

The abstract has three functions

1. Explanation of the title of your thesis

The first function of the abstract is to further explain the title of your thesis. This allows readers of your thesis to better determine if your thesis is interesting enough for them to read. A well-written abstract can encourage more people to consider your thesis important and, thus, to intend to read it.

2. Short version of your thesis

Secondly, the abstract serves as a short version for readers who don’t have the time to read the complete thesis. Often, managers and scientists read only the abstract and not the entire piece.

3. Overview of your thesis

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 thesis. A well-written abstract ensures that difficult material in your thesis 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 thesis, 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 tenseThe 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 tenseThe 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 thesis. If you have used hypotheses in your thesis, 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 thesis, you have to introduce acronyms when you use them.

Source referencing

Just like with the rest of your thesis 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.

Example abstract

We made an example of an abstract in which we used all of the points of the checklist..

Show example

Abstract checklist

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Article by Bas Swaen

Bas is co-founder of Scribbr. Bas loves to teach and is an experienced thesis writer. He tries to help students with writing clear and easy to comprehend articles about difficult topics.

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