The abstract may be a tiny text but it makes a big contribution.  It is not merely a summary of your thesis, but one that powerfully shares your argument.  Working on the abstract helps us communicate the story of our research in a way that focuses attention, both reader and writer, stripping down a large text to its simplest parts, in a way that does not weaken the strength of the text but foregrounds it. Writing the abstract while our research is in process can be useful for signalling the bigger steps we are taking with our work, our movements from what we know to what we don’t know, and the motivation behind these movements, our backgrounds, our social location, our investments in the journey.  How would you communicate what you’re doing in a way that is relatable….


Drafting the abstract

There are different ways of drafting an abstract, but first, here’s an approach you can use while you are still brainstorming ideas for your abstract.  It’s called, Research as story.  Here, you describe the story in narrative prose.

As you saw in the video, the research problem, previous developments in the field, your hypothesis, your methods, findings and argument can all be expressed within five lines, and without using heavy jargon.  

The next step would be to turn this into academic prose.  While some researchers structure their abstract in chronological order, summarising each chapter of their thesis into a 100 word paragraph, other researchers adopt an ‘hour glass’ approach.  They start broad outlining the field and giants in the field, then narrow down to the specifics of their research and findings, and go broad again presenting their argument and how it can contribute to the field.  This is what Kamler and Thompson (2004) have expressed through the four moves of: LOCATE, FOCUS, REPORT and ARGUE.


Suggested activities:

Attempt the Research as story exercise.

Now formalise the abstract using Kamler and Thomson (2004)’s four moves of abstract writing.


Additional resources: