The introduction is the first chapter of your thesis or dissertation and appears right after the table of contents. It’s essential to draw the reader in with a strong beginning. Set the stage for your research with a clear focus, purpose, and direction. The thesis introduction or dissertation should contain the following:
Thesis Introduction Guidelines
• Identify clearly, accurately, and with as much precision as possible the topic, problem, or phenomenon on which your research focuses. This can be done at any point in the introduction, but mentioning it in a brief and engaging manner near the beginning and then developing it into a more comprehensive statement often works well.
• Provide background information for the topic you are exploring. This can take many forms including a survey of the history of the occurrence of the problem or phenomenon and a summary or brief review of previous research on the topic.
• Explain the value or significance of your research, which is often achieved as or immediately after you introduce background material. Significance can be demonstrated by describing the impact of a problem, its complexity or mysterious nature, its occurrence, and persistence, and the number of people or regions affected.
• Indicate gaps, problems, misconceptions, and the like in the published research on your topic or in your subject area, and suggest how your research aims to fill those gaps, resolve the problems and correct any misconceptions by presenting new ways of perceiving and understanding the situation.
• Introduce, usually briefly, the methods and approaches you have adopted or devised to investigate the topic or problem. Your methodology need not be new, but it should be the most effective possible, and for postgraduate research, it is usually best if its application to the problem is in some way innovative, so do emphasize those aspects.
• Describe the context of the research. The intellectual and theoretical context of your research might be covered in your discussion of the background or scholarship, but it can be described separately. The physical context of the research should also be clarified by explaining where your research takes place, who is involved and why the location you have chosen is appropriate.
• Establish a conceptual framework for the thesis or dissertation. A conceptual framework is very much like an accurate textual map of the territory investigated in your research, so it should allow you to include in meaningful ways everything you wish to report, discuss, interpret and argue.
• Outline the aims and objectives of your research. The aims and objectives of a thesis or dissertation should not only be reasonable and attainable but also clearly stated, so displaying them in a list can be particularly effective and so can numbering them in order of importance.
• Present your research questions and hypotheses. Determining exactly what your research questions and hypotheses are can be an excellent means of defining and understanding your research more clearly, and therefore reporting it more effectively to your readers. A list can be helpful here as well, and you may want to arrange questions and hypotheses in relation to your methods.
• Define or clarify any key theories, specialized terminology, archaic vocabulary, unusual concepts, or nonstandard abbreviations that you make extensive use of in the thesis or dissertation.
• Explain the ethical considerations associated with your research and its methodology. Generally speaking, ethical issues arise in research that uses living subjects, and your university will almost certainly have regulations about how such subjects can be used in your research.
• Provide a brief summary of the contents of the thesis or dissertation. Academic and scientific writing tends to lay out the ground of a document for its readers, and this can be an excellent way of connecting the end of your introduction to the beginning of your next chapter or section.
Remember as you are working to observe guidelines and heed the expert advice you receive that the primary goal of any scholarly introduction is to set the stage for writing about the procedures and results of the research. You, therefore, need to provide your readers with everything they require to understand the nature, value, and meaning of the research you describe in greater detail in the chapters and sections to come.