The dissertation abstract describes in a succinct but engaging manner the argument and content of your dissertation. It should clearly indicate the project’s overall contribution to current scholarship, its specific chapters with the particular discussions and analyses they articulate, and the major texts (if it is a literature dissertation) and authors considered.
The primary goal of the dissertation abstract is to capture the interest of members of the hiring committee. Because it will provide more information about your major project than is possible in your application letter, the abstract is an opportunity to distinguish yourself and the quality of your thinking and work and to help the committee begin thinking of you as a potential colleague. The abstract may be sent with the initial application materials as a supplement to the letter and c.v. (even if not requested).
- Length: approximately 1-2 pages (single-spaced) or 500 words.
- Include your name, dissertation title, and dissertation director.
- Devote separate paragraphs to short descriptions of each chapter; mark them clearly.
- Edit and proofread the document carefully.
- Ask your dissertation director and at least one other person to read and comment on the abstract.
- Invest time in composing this document as it will stand as the basis of many of your subsequent descriptions of your project (it is useful not just as the material from which interview questions often come, but also for later grant applications, and possibly as the basis of your book proposal).
- Present your argument in terms suitable to an introduction to your project.
- Do not overwhelm your readers with details; help your audience see the forest, not just the trees.
- Do not expect that your readers will be conversant with your topic. Provide brief, orienting explanations as needed.
- Avoid specialized vocabulary or overly technical language as much as possible. Demonstrate your sophistication in the field and in your research using language that does not presuppose your readers’ familiarity with the technical aspects of your own specialty.