- The abstract is an important component of your thesis. Presented at the beginning of the thesis, it is likely the first substantive description of your work read by an external examiner. You should view it as an opportunity to set accurate expectations.
- The abstract is a summary of the whole thesis. It presents all the major elements of your work in a highly condensed form.
- An abstract often functions, together with the thesis title, as a stand-alone text. Abstracts appear, absent the full text of the thesis, in bibliographic indexes such as PsycInfo. They may also be presented in announcements of the thesis examination. Most readers who encounter your abstract in a bibliographic database or receive an email announcing your research presentation will never retrieve the full text or attend the presentation.
- An abstract is not merely an introduction in the sense of a preface, preamble, or advance organizer that prepares the reader for the thesis. In addition to that function, it must be capable of substituting for the whole thesis when there is insufficient time and space for the full text.
Abstracts give readers a chance to decide whether the work is of interest for them.
The actual process of writing an abstract will force you to justify and clearly state your aims, to show how your methodology fits the aims, to highlight the major findings and to determine the significance of what you have done. The beauty of it is that you can talk about this in very short paragraphs and see if the whole works.
The final, finished abstract has to be as good as you can make it. It is the first thing your reader will turn to and therefore controls what the first impression of your work will be.