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Using Dissertation Abstracts as You Search the Literature

May 10, 2015 - Posted to How to: Writing Dissertation

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Your literature review – it can be a “bear” to complete, and anything that can shorten your searches and your review will certainly be welcome. A big frustration for dissertation writers is to go through the selection process of which literature comprises a suitable fit for their research question and should thus be read in full and included in the literature review chapter.

Enter Dissertation Abstracts International

DAI (also known as ProQuest) is just a great database of dissertations and some theses. In essence, it holds all dissertations published by Americans in accredited institutions of higher learning since the late 19th century. It also holds dissertations from about 50 UK institutions and some from foreign universities in various parts of the world. Any student can access DAI through their university library system, and search the huge database for abstracts, which are now categorized by large subject fields (e.g., social science) and then narrow that search further for specific field of dissertation research.

The first thing you will pull up, obviously, is an abstract for a dissertation. Upon review of that abstract, you can then determine if that dissertation might be a worthwhile read for inclusion in your literature review chapter. Dissertation abstract reading really simplifies and streamlines your search for literature.

When you decide that a dissertation is worthy of a full read, you can order it, if you are studying in a university which is a part of ProQuest. If not, you will only be able to order a shorter review. If you read the shorter review and decide that you really need the full work, you can visit the library of an institution that is a part of DAI or ask a friend in such an institution to get it for you. They are all in PDF format so are easily saved and forwarded.

You Will be Writing an Abstract Too

Once your own dissertation is finished, you will need to produce an abstract just like the ones you read in your initial search for literature, and that will be placed in the ProQuest database as well. You have already read a number of abstracts so writing dissertation abstract drafts should not be too difficult. You will be providing a future research with a solid summary that includes the following:

  • Your research question as it was stated in your introductory chapter
  • A summary of your design and methodology
  • A summary of the results and statistical analysis
  • A brief look at any constraints and/or nuisance factors
  • Suggestions for further study in the research field.

Because dissertation abstracts should only be approximately one page, you will probably write several drafts, fine tuning and eliminating details that are not fully relevant for you to get your point across. The biggest challenge will be to reduce 12+ months of work to a single page!

If you are having difficulty producing a succinct and yet thorough abstract, it may be advisable to get some professional help. You can upload your dissertation or your preliminary abstract drafts for a field specialist at TrustedDissertations.com to review and re-write – s/he has had plenty of experience crafting exceptional abstracts. 

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