Skills Hub

Write an abstract

An abstract is a concise and clear summary of:

What you set out to do and why
How you did it
What you found
Your conclusions

Your abstract should be clear to a reader who does not know about your dissertation.

Writing steps  

  1. Contents
  2. Draft 
  3. Style

1 Contents

Why did you undertake the study? What were you examining? State your research question clearly and concisely.

  • What was done and how did you do it? 
  • What did you find? State the outcomes and draw conclusions.

2 Draft 

Step 1

Practical dissertation 

Write a sentence for:

  • What the study set out to do
  • The method(s) you adopted
  • Results you achieved
  • Conclusions you draw
  • Recommendations your research leads you to make

Theoretical dissertation

Write a sentence for:

What the study set out to do/your research question

  • Themes you identified and synthesised in the literature
  • How you analysed these themes to reach your conclusions
  • Conclusions you draw

Step 2

Add further sentences as required until you reach the word count. For a practical dissertation, first add to the results and conclusions and then to the methodology. For a theoretical dissertation, focus on your argument.

Step 3

Edit your sentences for precision, clarity and conciseness.

Step 4

Add further content up to the word limit.

Step 5

Return to your abstract after 24 hours and edit it again.

3. Style


Use the active voice in general, e.g. This study aimed to investigate . . . 

Use the passive voice if you don’t need to mention who did the action, e.g.
This tool was found to be suitable.


An abstract doesn’t normally have references.


You normally use the present tense to describe results and conclusions that still apply.

Source: This section is adapted from material originally from the University of Plymouth 

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