College assignments, specifically the requirements when writing papers, can cause confusion for new students. Both forms of relaying information are utilized for different reasons but can be found within the same writing piece on occasion. Understanding the difference between two formats of information such as an abstract and thesis statement is important in professional writing at the college level. A strong thesis statement allows the reader to know what the stance of the writer is before reading through the full paper. An abstract allows the reader to understand at a glance what the full article is about.
An abstract is a short body of writing that is used to summarize a longer piece of writing. A dissertation for a doctoral program contains an abstract. The abstract information varies on the discipline that the writing addresses. In 1997, Philip Koopman from Carnegie Mellon University highlighted common considerations of an abstract to include the motivation, approach, problem statement, results and conclusion summarized into a brief document. The abstract is used to index the larger work or to simply describe the larger work. Abstracts allow researchers or readers to grasp the overall content of the full piece of writing within a paragraph or two.
A thesis statement is a claim by the writer that can be argued or disputed by others. The statement is typically one sentence but may contain more in rare circumstances. The sentence(s) will describe what the writer wants to specifically discuss about the central topic. The rule of thumb is not to state a fact but to take a position regarding the facts. Thesis statements appear in a variety of writing pieces from small writing assignments within a college course or a major submission for degree requirements.
Although the thesis statement and abstract are different entities, they share a number of similarities. John December and Susan Katz who wrote for the Rensselaer Writing Center and the University of North Carolina highlight that both the abstract and thesis statement should be written after the significant body of the paper is complete. Both require significant research and consideration before formulation. It is also not uncommon to find both a thesis statement and abstract within the same writing piece.
The significant difference between an abstract and a thesis statement is the purpose behind each. While the abstract summarizes the important aspects of a complete writing piece, the thesis statement lays out only the position a writer is offering within the document. The abstract is longer in length and contains at least five factors regarding the writing it introduces. The thesis statement is short and contains one significant piece of information to inform the reader.