After toiling on your dissertation for months, you\u2019ve finally got the conclusion written. But you\u2019re not quite done yet! Before you start proofreading, it\u2019s time to write the abstract.\r\n\r\n[caption id="attachment_31999" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Nothing to do with abstract art.[\/caption]\r\nWhat Is an Abstract?\r\nThe abstract is a short introduction to your dissertation. Imagine someone asked you to summarise your work in 30 seconds: what would you say?\r\n\r\nAfter a few false starts, you would probably outline your dissertation in broad descriptive terms. In essence, that\u2019s what your abstract should do.\r\nWhat Is It For?\r\nAn abstract is like a preview, allowing readers to determine whether your dissertation is relevant to their research. As such, it should set out the key information about your study in a clear, concise manner.\r\n\r\nAlong with key words, this will help readers find your work in a database.\r\nHow Long Should It Be?\r\nAn abstract should typically be between 100 and 500 words, although you should check your university style guide for specific advice. Trying to fit all the information you need into so few words can be tricky, so keep it simple.\r\n\r\n[caption id="attachment_2939" align="aligncenter" width="300"] A good principle in life.(Image: Jegi\/flickr)[\/caption]\r\nWhat Should It Include?\r\nYour abstract should include:\r\n\r\n \tWhat you aimed to do and why\r\n \tHow you did it\r\n \tWhat you discovered\r\n \tRecommendations (if any)\r\n\r\nAs with academic writing in general, it\u2019s often best to avoid the first person (i.e. \u2018I\u2019 and \u2018we\u2019) in an abstract unless strictly necessary. Instead, use the third person where possible:\r\nThis study reveals\u2026\r\nThe findings indicate that\u2026\r\nUsually, there\u2019s no need to include citations. All sources should be clearly cited in the main part of your study anyway, so citing them again in the abstract just cuts into your word count.\r\nWhat Tense Should I Use?\r\nWhen describing what you did during the research, you should use the past tense:\r\nThe study used a broad sample\u2026\r\nSimilarly, results can be stated in the past tense:\r\nThe tests showed that\u2026\r\nHowever, if you\u2019re describing something not specifically related to the research process, such as general truths or background information, you should use the present tense:\r\nMeditation is known to improve mental well being, therefore\u2026\r\nAs water boils at 100\u00b0C, it was important to\u2026\r\nAnd finally, the present tense is also used to report conclusions or make recommendations:\r\nThe study demonstrates that\u2026\r\nFurther study may be required to explore the consequences\u2026\r\nWith all of this in mind, you should now be ready to start writing!