​​​This page details the formatting and requirements for abstracts that must follow the guidelines presented in the Saybrook Handbook of Format​ & Style​. These guidelines​ apply to dissertations, but they may also apply to master's projects and theses. For standard student papers, check our webpage Introduction vs. Abstract

Basic Formatting

Here are the basic formatting requirements for abstracts. For a visual representation, please refer to the Dissertation Template.​​

  • Paginate beginning with page ii and number subsequent pages sequentially.
  • Double space all lines of the abstract, except for lines including the title of the work.
  • Include the word Abstract centered at the top of the page.
  • 2 double-spaced lines below the word Abstract, the title of the work is written centered and in all caps.
  • 1 double-spaced line below the title, write the author's name
  • 1 double-spaced line below the author's name, write Saybrook University.
  • 2 double-spaced lines below the title, begin writing the text.
  • The text of the abstract (not including the heading information detailed above) must meet one of the following word limits
    • 350 words for dissertations (extended to 400 for mixed methods)
    • 150 words for theses
  • Include citations for citable statements and information.
  • Embed key words in the text of the abstract. Do not list them separately at the end.

​Content Outline

​​Empirical studies should contain four paragraphs using the outline presented below. Non-empirical studies should follow this format where possible and modify the format with the consent of your committee.

  • Paragraph 1: Overview
    • Situate the research project in the subject domain.
    • Convey the purpose, focus, and problem area of the study.
    • Provide the research question(s) for the study.
    • Discuss the literature (major links to related research, or its absence).
  • Paragraph 2: Methodology
    • Describe the method.
    • Explain the rationale for selecting the method.
    • List key demographic characteristics of research participants or other data sources.
    • Include key terms regarding the nature of the data, sampling, research design, instrumentation, and data collection.
  • Paragraph 3: Findings
    • Present the chief findings directly relevant to the research purpose and question.
    • Include terminology to indicate the form of data analysis procedure used.
    • Include supplemental findings considered important for cross-referencing.
  • Paragraph 4: Significance & Implications
    • Communicate the meaning, significance, contribution, and implications of the research.
    • Provide suggestions for further study.
Note that, for dissertations, paragraphs 1 & 2 can be written in the during the proposal phase while paragraphs 3 & 4 should be written prior to the final oral defense. ​​​

​​​​​​Abstract​​ Checklist

This Abstract Review Checklist is provided on page 18 of the Saybrook​ Handbook of Format & Style. For dissertations, this checklist must be complete and approved by a Saybrook editor before submission to the Registrar's Office for publication. ​.


  • Is it within the word count limit?
    • MA=150
    • PHD=350 (Mixed-Methods=400)
  • ​Is it double-spaced?
  • ​Is it in Times New Roman or similar serif font?
  • ​Is it 12-point?
  • Are paragraphs indented?
  • Is the heading spaced correctly?
  • Is the title capitalized?


  • ​Is the purpose, problem, or research question clearly stated?
  • Are key concepts explained?
  • Are the major links to existing research identified?
  • Is the method(s) and rationale for its selection provided?
  • Is the data source identified?
  • Is the nature of the data identified?
  • Is the method of data analysis identified?
  • ​Are the results & conclusions clearly stated?
  • Is the significance & contribution of the study clearly stated?
  • Are reference citations used for citable statements and information?
  • Is there a correct use of past and present tense?
  • Is it coherent, concise, & specific?
  • Does it report rather than evaluate the essential elements of the study?
  • Are key terms embedded in the text, not listed separately?