One of the things I get frustrated by so much in my PhD is the writing of abstracts. Basically, you have to write say a 400 word summary of a specific part of your research that you would like to go present in say half a year’s time. So in other words: you need to make a summary of something you don’t have yet. I mean, if you don’t get any further in 6 months time, your PhD is probably not going so well.
Also, the abstract needs to be clear and understandable. Now, try writing a summary of your framework in this summary of your research. You know: the hypotheses of the framework, explaining some terminology, etc. Maybe in three sentences or so? I am absolutely convinced that someone who is not me or my supervisor will not know what I am on about.
And then there is the constant comments of my supervisor. I am at draft 11 now. And in every draft he tells me: explain this more, or give some more examples for that. Which of course gets me way above the word limit. So I have to get rid of other explanations and examples. Which my supervisor then asks me to expand on because it’s not clear enough.
In between draft 1 and draft 4, I changed the whole abstract and ended up with something very similar to draft 1 again. Then, I realised my theory had a massive problem and I cried a little. For draft 5, I sort of cut out the whole part that had the problem (which immediately solved the word-limit issue), but then I had to expand on another problem that now had an unsatisfying explanation. Thank goodness, for draft 6 I found a way out of my problem, but the explanation is rooted to deeply into the framework. For draft 7, I had to explain it better. For draft 8, I had to dumb it down because I was over the word limit. Then for draft 9, my supervisor decided I was better off swapping some paragraphs around, and for draft 10 I had to add in another definition which made me swap my paragraphs back to where they were before. But then I was over the word limit, so for draft 11 I cut out all my subtitles and the titles of the examples. I still have 4 more words to cut and then I am just under the limit. And I don’t think my abstract has turned any more clear than it was 11 drafts ago.