The Abstract

Once a PhD proposal has been accepted by a Department it then will need to go through the administrative processes of the University to be confirmed. Essentially, the proposal goes to Senate and is voted on. By and large the Senate will accept the proposal because it has Departmental approval; in theory the members of the Graduate Committee in any given Department are the real experts on what is worthy and what is not and thus the Senate’s approval is just a rubber stamp. Still, there is one thing the Senate looks for, and that’s a good abstract.Abstract writing is, I think, the hardest of all academic disciplines. In the space of a paragraph (or a page, in re a dissertation) you must summarise the work you are undertaking. Many abstracts are written before the main work is completed (most conference attendees, for instance, have a fairly good idea for a talk and send out an abstract to gauge interest) and the danger in preparing such a piece of copy is that you have to sound definite and vague at the same time (which is much harder than you would think it would be). I hate writing abstracts, mostly because I tend to become quite tangential when I summarise things.I do not know of a PhD Proposal that has been rejected outright because it had a bad abstract, but I do know that some PhDs have been delayed by months because the Senate did not feel the abstract was quite right. All the abstracts of a given University need to have the same feel; it allows potential sponsors, benefactors, et al, to be abel to judge the output of the University with ease. It also allows the University as a whole to be able to look at and co-ordinate its Graduate Studies without having to interview each student. As the Senate Committee for Graduate Studies meets monthly, a bad abstract means having to wait another month before it can be voted on again.My abstract follows. I think it is a silly document, but needs must as the devil drives.Whatever that means.The Abstract