Al ingresar a la universidad los y las estudiantes se enfrentan al desafío de leer, escribir y comunicarse oralmente según las convenciones y modos de pensar que son propios de las diferentes disciplinas. ¿Te has enfrentado ya a leer un capítulo de libro teórico, a escribir un informe de laboratorio o a preparar una defensa de examen oral?. Pues bien, en estos recursos encontrarás herramientas para enfrentar estos y otros desafíos similares.

The Thesis Abstract

What is the thesis abstract?

It is a brief text that synthesizes the framework, methodology, results and main conclusions of a thesis.

What is the purpose of the thesis abstract?

Its purpose is to briefly and appealingly introduce the main findings and contributions of your thesis.

Why is the thesis abstract important?

Because it’s the first part of your work that your reviewers will read. It’s a good opportunity to make a first good impression, by showing your advisor and reviewers how original, rigorous or meaningful your work is before they start reading every section in detail. Thus, it’s very important that you create an abstract that highlights the strengths of your thesis.

Thesis delivery path: The following is a simple scheme to show the steps you take when writing a thesis:


Step 1

Write full thesis (introduction, purpose, method, result, and conclusion)

Step 2

Write thesis abstract

Step 3

Present thesis to the evaluation committee

Step 4

Evaluation committee reads abstract, then full thesis

Step 5

Thesis is sent back with comments and possibly a final grade

Activate your prior knowledge

  • Have you written abstracts before? What strategies have you used to highlight the strengths of your work?
  • Have you summarized the contents of your thesis, either orally or in writing? How did you choose what information to include or leave out?
  • Have you read other theses while writing your own? Do you remember how those authors presented their abstracts?


“After I finish writing the thesis, I write a list of ideas that must go on the abstract, so this presents the most important points of my work, keeping it simple. On the list I include: why I chose the topic, the objectives, the steps I followed to get to my objective, and finally, a preview of my conclusions. Having this list physically in front of me, I begin writing my abstract, paying attention to the quantity of words or lines requested for this part.”

PhD student, Philosophy Department,
Universidad de Chile

Planning, drafting, revising

Writing is a complex process that includes different activities, strategies and moments. Some people start by brainstorming before writing, while others prefer to start writing right away. What strategies work better? Here are some ideas to help you face the process of writing a thesis abstract in English.

Writing Tip

The most common grammar structure in an abstract is the passive voice. This structure focuses the attention on the action and not the author. For example: Indiana Jones was directed by Steven Spielberg. We focus on the movie and on the fact that it “was directed” (that is why it goes at the beginning), and not on the director. Learn more about this here.

Check the instructions or guidelines

Before writing your abstract, take a look at the instructions for your thesis given by your department. Are there any specific requirements on format or structure? If there are guidelines, it is best to follow them while writing your abstract.

Be sure of the strengths of your thesis

Before starting writing your abstract, be aware of the main contribution of your thesis for your disciplinary field; it could be its originality, its methodological orientation or its practical usefulness. Don’t be shy and highlight all the good qualities of your work.

Look at some thesis abstracts from your field

As you will see here, the thesis abstract follows a 5-part structure: introduction, purpose, method, results and conclusion. However, this may change from one field to another. Thus, it’s very important that you read other works and see how others handled their abstracts. You can find examples for your discipline in: Repositorio Académico de la Universidad de Chile.

Revise your writing

Consider time to revise your writing. Ideally, you should wait at least a couple of hours (and preferably a couple of days) before going over your abstract to check for any mistakes. Some prefer revising right away, but this may be problematic as what you wrote is still fresh in your thoughts, and you may inadvertently “fix” mistakes in your mind. If you leave your abstract alone for a while, problems will be more apparent and easier for you to fix.


“I think that before writing the abstract, it is necessary to practice writing in English, and get some feedback, hopefully from an expert. For example, in my case, I had the chance to take a course where I could practice writing short essays. Some of the strategies that I learnt during that course were: make a list of topics to include, check vocabulary used in other abstracts, start writing in English right away, be aware of the quantity of words, remember the characteristics of English as a language (different to Spanish), verify the tenses used.”

Master student, Nutrition and Food Technology Institute,
Universidad de Chile


What do you know about the topic?

Show the committee that your thesis deals with an interesting topic, and present it in an appealing way. Express the importance of the topic to be studied, or the need to expand the study of this since there is a lack of evidence. This is called a research gap. Use phrases or expressions to show this gap: “Even though some studies have covered this topic, there is not enough investigation of it…”

Writing Tip

Since the number of words is limited, the use of simple tenses could help you to reduce your final amount. Present simple or past simple have specific uses. Go to the “In-depth” section for more details.

Questions to help you draft

  • How can you emphasize the relevance of the topic?
  • How can you show the contributions of the study?
  • How can you highlight the necesity of further research on the topic?

What is your study about?

Describe your research in terms of its purpose or study design. For the former, you can declare your main purpose: “the purpose of this research was…” or “this study aims to…”, for example. You could also emphasize your study design: “this is a longitudinal study that compares…”, “this correlational study describes how…”

Questions to help you draft

  • How can you present the topic of your study clearly?
  • What is the purpose of your study?
  • What is your study design?

How was your study conducted?

Show the reviewers that you followed a reliable, accurate method in your research. Highlight all relevant aspects like the context of the study, your sample size, the type of participants, or your data collection and analysis procedures. Sometimes, the study design (qualitative, descriptive, correlational, etc.) is stated in this section.

Remember to include details of your methodology; this is essential for the presentation of your thesis. This will show that your work was rigorous and based on a clear and replicable procedure.

Questions to help you draft

  • What methodological aspect do you consider relevant to understand your research?
  • Should you describe your sample size or sampling procedures?
  • Should you mention the analysis procedures?

What were your findings?

Show some of the interesting findings of your study, highlighting the most meaningful ones. Consider mentioning the general tendency of your data, and later focus on some specific findings. For example, “the study shows a correlation between teaching methods and learning results. Specifically, it was observed…”.

Your research probably generated lots of results, but which ones should you include in the abstract? Always mention the ones that answer directly to your purpose, hypothesis or research questions: those are essential!

Questions to help you draft

  • Which findings do you find more relevant?
  • Which of your findings do you think best answer your research question?
  • Which of your findings do you consider a contribution to your field of study?

What do your findings mean?

Give an interpretation of your results. You can explain what they mean, what their implications or practical applications are. For example, in the area of engineering, we could find a conclusion such as: “The trails performed show that the instrument is useful for the prediction and study of the high traffic zones of the city”. You could also include phrases that explicitly state the contribution of your study, for example you can write: “this study aims to be a contribution for…”.

Finish your abstract with an elegant phrase that your reviewers will remember. You could highlight an interesting finding, the relevance of your study on the field, or the implication of your findings, among other options. Remember: you have to persuade the committee of the significance of your work!

Questions to help you draft

  • What do your results mean?
  • How are these findings important?
  • What would be an attractive phrase to conclude your abstract?

Writing Tip

A sentence in English is usually not longer than two lines. In average, in academic writing, a sentence is usually 15 to 20 words long. As a general rule, a sentence should contain one main verb, and, in some cases, a secondary verb. For example:

Recent research has proven that people best understand sentences that are around 17 to 20 words long in average.

This sentence has 19 words – including numbers. Its main verb is “has proven”, while “are” acts as a secondary verb, presenting a derived idea from the first part of the sentence. For further information about length or sentence construction, go to the “in-depth” section.


When writing, it’s important to organize our ideas before hand, decide on the main topic, and follow a certain style. In the case of a thesis abstract, you already have all the items mentioned before, but it we suggest you read some other abstracts, especially if you have specific requirements to meet. Try reading thesis abstracts from other students in your same area, preferably from the same university. If you study at Universidad de Chile, you can find such works at the Repositorio Académico.

Let’s check the structure of the thesis abstract in the following example!

parallax layer

Example 1

First, look at the following example to review the sections in an abstract. This is from a publication of the University of Malta, for samples of dissertation titles and abstracts.

Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation: A Case Study on International Awardsnseñanza técnico profesional, desde las percepciones de los docentes

The objective of this dissertation is to explore the relationship between innovation and social entrepreneurship, to investigate the ways in which social entrepreneurship can be innovative, and to understand how such innovativeness can be evaluated. In order to complete the research objectives, six international awards of social entrepreneurship have been investigated. A representative of each organization has been interviewed and organizational documents have been researched. The findings show a strong connection between innovation and social entrepreneurship, a relationship that can be considered inherent to the concept of social entrepreneurship. The most common types of innovations among social entrepreneurs are found to be (1) the use and reuse of existing assets of marginalized groups, (2) the provision of tailor made service packages to the ones in need, (3) business model innovation, (4) incremental technological innovation and (5) the opening of newmarkets. Social entrepreneurs can be labeled as creative imitators and constant innovators. The most widespread system of assessment among the investigated organizations regarding the evaluation of the relative innovativeness of social entrepreneurship is the utilization of experts. These findings shed light on the topic of social entrepreneurship which, in spite of the interest demonstrated by scholars in the topic, is still in its infancy where research is concerned.
About this example, there are some aspects that you can notice. Firstly, one of the sections mentioned before was omitted: the introduction. This is an author decision, and it depends on many possible reasons: restricted number of words, author style of writing, focus on other aspects, among others. Second, notice also, how the author extends in the results part, listing the most relevant findings of the study. This can be a form of attracting readers and also, to impress to possible evaluators on the richness of the research. Finally, you have the power to decide on the sections, and extension of each of them, in your abstract, however, it is recommended to include always purpose and results.

Let’s check the next example for some grammar and style highlights!

parallax layer

Example 2

In this second example, let’s look at some key words or expressions you can use while writing your thesis abstract.

Synthesis, doping and characterization of furfuryl alcohol resin and phenol-furfuryl alcohol resin aimed at the optimization of glass-like carbon processing

Given the growing importance of glassy carbon material in strategic areas, due to its intrinsic characteristics, such as lower density and good thermal and electrical conductivity values, several studies have been observed looking for new polymeric precursors and tighter processing parameters. Similarly, this study aims to establish synthesis routes for furfuryl and phenol-furfuryl alcohol resins and their doping with copper particles, in order to produce reticulated glassy carbon (RGC) electrodes. Within this context different formulations of furfuryl and phenol-furfuryl alcohol resins were synthesized by variation of the monomers – furfuryl alcohol, phenol and formaldehyde, respectively. Confirmation of the success of the synthesis was undertaken using FT-IR spectroscopy, gas chromatography, thermal analyses by differential scanning calorimetry (DSC) and carbon yield content measurements that present results between 27 and 45 per cent of carbon. After this, the specimens were doped with copper colloidal particles. The doped and non doped resins were catalyzed, impregnated in polyurethane (PU) foams and carbonized, in order to obtain the reticulated glassy carbon. Optical and Scanning Electron Microscopy analysis show the homogeneity of PU foams impregnation and uniform texture of RGC specimens. Compression results present the best values for RGC resulting from the carbonization with furfuryl alcohol acid resin (0.55 MPa).



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