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Thesis summary: this is how you do it!

The moment has arrived: the end of your thesis is in sight. All you have to do is write the thesis summary. The summary for your thesis is also called a management summary and can be seen as a mini version of your thesis. It is therefore important that in your thesis summary, you explain to the reader what your thesis is about and what they can expect from it. But how to write a thesis summary? Stuvia takes you through the functions, length, and structure of the thesis summary. We also give you a checklist with several examples.

The functions of a thesis summary

You write a thesis summary for various reasons:

  1. To introduce the topic and research question of your thesis;
  2. To give the reader an explanation of your thesis;
  3. To briefly describe the main results of your thesis.

In other words, the management summary of your thesis is a representation of the key elements of your thesis. You want to tell the reader what you have discovered and what the significance of that discovery is. Always make sure to write in an academic writing style that matches the writing style of the rest of your thesis.

How long should a thesis summary be?

A thesis summary should not be longer than one A4 page. The thesis summary is on one of the first pages of your thesis. Generally, it is inserted right before the table of contents. However, do not write your thesis summary until the rest of your thesis is finished. This way, you can integrate all parts of your thesis into the management summary. Also, spend enough time writing your thesis summary, since it is the first part of your thesis that readers, also the person who is grading your thesis, will come across.

Your college or university may have specific requirements on the maximum number of words in your thesis summary or on where it is placed in your document. Be sure to check this to avoid unpleasant surprises.

The structure of your thesis summary

Now that you know more about the functions of your thesis summary, its length, and its location in your thesis, it is time to structure your thesis summary. It is important that in your thesis summary, you address only the most important parts of your thesis, such as:

  • The topic of your thesis, including the research question, objective, and problem statement and why this topic appealed to you;
  • The research method applied and answer to the question "How did I conduct my research?";
  • The main research findings from the different chapters;
  • The answer to your main research question and the conclusion.

Since you only have limited space in the management summary of your thesis, you can only write a few lines for each section. So, keep it short by only mentioning the most important findings that helped you answer the main research question. One tip is to write one or a few sentences about each chapter. By putting those sentences together, you will already be far on your way toward a good thesis summary. Keep reading for more tips.

Checklist for a good thesis summary

By using the checklist below, you can be sure that you're on the right track to writing a good thesis summary:

  • Your thesis summary is one page (A4 size);
  • You have inserted the summary before the table of contents;
  • You have stated the research question at the beginning of the summary;
  • You have stated the objective(s) of your thesis;
  • You have highlighted the problem statement of your research;
  • You have explained the research methods and approach you used;
  • You have listed the main results (by writing a few sentences per chapter);
  • You have explained the results;
  • You have answered the research question of your thesis.

In addition, always make sure that your thesis summary only contains information that is mentioned elsewhere in your thesis.
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