As researchers, doctoral students have already relied on abstracts to glean the relevance of an article. In the same way, the doctoral abstract is the general overview of the dissertation  proposal and the subsequent dissertation manuscript. The abstract has a distinct purpose to highlight the major points/issues of the research for the reader.

Abstracts are  widely read and, therefore, must appeal to the needs of a diverse audience while maintaining the integrity of the manuscript. In many ways, the abstract is the dispassionate (or objective) summary of the dissertation designed to inform any reader about the content and context of the research. Well-written abstracts provide a concise synopsis of the essential content and direction of the research, and any reader should be able to grasp the relevance of the material. Abstracts summarize and typically do not include any reference to tables, quotes, or data not included in the dissertation. Abstracts are also used by libraries and databases to help catalog published material. Abstracts should be appreciated in their entirety, and as a result, there’s nothing abstract about the abstract.

Writing the Condensed Abstract (One Paragraph)

The dissertation abstract should be 150-350 words* and describe in non-evaluative language the focus and theoretical context of the research and its implications. Typically, dissertation abstracts have four segments:  the statement of the problem, the method, the results or findings, and the conclusion or implications. Here’s a handy guide in writing abstracts:

  • Introduction: compose a sentence (or two) defining the topic and identifying the value of the research.
  • Context of Study: describe/discuss necessary information leading up to the study.
  • Statement of the Problem: explicitly state the focus & context of your research.
  • Methodology: provide a precise explanation of the methods chosen for the research.
  • Results & Findings: write a few sentences explaining the results of your research and the implications to your field.
  • Research: refer to your research and summarize your results or conclusions.


The abstract has its unique page in both the doctoral proposal and dissertation. Center the term “Abstract” on the page and follow the program’s handbook regarding other formatting expectations (e.g. running heads). Do not indent the first line. Avoid direct quotes and citations.** Remember, an abstract should be:

  • A focused and condensed paragraph highlighting the aspects of the research study;
  • A combined brief summary and analysis of the problem;
  • Developed sufficiently to aid researchers in identifying the context & relevance of the research.
  • At the end, include the requisite statement indicating the access of the dissertation on both AURA and Ohiolink (see below)
  • Include Keywords relevant to the area of research (See below)

Other Elements:

Include this Final Statement for AU dissertations: This dissertation is available in open access at AURA, and Ohio Link ETD Center,

Keywords: Below the abstract,  include keywords relevant to your dissertation. There’s a limited “field” of 255 characters, so be selective. Try to also use these words in your title for greater success in online research. Keywords are terms that relate to the dissertation topic, focus, population, methodology and area of study. Be selective with these terms as they will be used in the upload process of the dissertation and will be the terms that will bring your dissertation to other readers’ attention. So, think about the terms and their synonyms that another researcher might use that will bring your dissertation up in a search. Also consider alternate spellings and conduct  a Google Scholar Search prior to the final deposit on AURA. Avoid metaphorical words or abstractions. Here’s an example:

Keywords: workplace bullying, organizational trauma, corporate nepotism, case study

Dissertation Title: Nepotism and its Effects on Bullying in Corporate Environment: A Case Study Approach***

Peer Review: Having a peer reader is sometimes the easiest way to ensure that your abstract is successful.  Work with colleagues and read abstracts to see if the four segments listed above are included.  Upon reading it, you should have a clear idea of the topic, conclusions, and direction of what follows. If not, help each other by asking questions and identifying areas of concern in the discussion.

* The title, name of institution, and any other prefatory information outside the “content paragraph(s)” are not included in the word count. Hyphenated words ( rock-forming, multi-disciplinary, etc.) are counted as 2 words.

**Any deviation may be approved by your committee chair.

***All examples are purely fictitious.