What is the purpose of the dissertation or thesis introduction chapter?
The introduction chapter has the following functions:
To outline the importance of the topic in a broader context. Also known as establishing research territory, the introduction chapter provides the background information for the reader to understand the context of the study. As such, giving reference to existing studies in the field or the topic area is key to creating an appropriate context.
Second, the introduction chapter should explain the significance of your research to the discipline or field of focus. Therefore, the introduction should state the central argument of the study, its objectives, the methods, and its limitations.
Third, the introduction should justify the need for the research in the field by identifying the existing gap it aims to fill as well as the research problems it will address.
The components of introduction of dissertation or thesis
1. Opening section
The opening section of the introduction chapter provides a brief overview of the chapter. It needs to be written in a clear and concise statement that is easy to understand and digest. Like other writings, an academic paper should strive to engage the reader in order to capture their attention towards the topic in question. This is important in order to sell the research idea to the academic reviewers. This section should include:
- An introduction to the overall field of the study in a sentence
- An introduction to the research problem in a sentence
- One sentence introducing to the aims and objectives of the research
- Introduction of the layout of the introduction chapter in a sentence
2. Study background
This is the second section of the introduction chapter where you provide a foundation for the research topic. The section should give a broad overview of the topic of study and relevant current trends. It aims at providing the foundational understanding of the research topic to the reader. It should be written in an easy-to-understand language by explaining any industry-specific jargon. For academic papers often marked by professors, you may not need to explain the complex terminologies. However, if submitting a research paper for review in the industry then explaining the terminologies would be important because your research is likely to land in the hands of non-technical teams or those outside your industry.
3. The research problem
This is where you provide specific information about the research problem to be addressed in the study. A research problem by definition is an issue that lacks well-established answers in the existing research. It identifies a need to fill an information gap or provide solid proof where there is inconsistent or conflicting information. As such, you are required to clarify the missing literature and the need to fill the gap. This section should consist of: the current state of research, the literature gap, the need to fill the gap.
4. The research objectives and aims, and questions
After identifying the research problem, the next step is to outline the research objectives and aims to explain your solution to the research problem. This should start by stating the aims of the research or the high-level statement of what the study aims to achieve. The aims should be followed by an outline of the research objectives which focuses on the specific actions towards achieving the aims. Finally, state the research questions that the study will answer. The research questions are representations of condensed aims and objectives into questions to be answered.
This section answers the question of why. It aims at highlighting the importance of the research by stating explicitly how the study findings will be significant to the world. It involves an explanation of how the research will be important to the academia or industry in terms of the difference and implications it will have. This is where you sell the value of the study. If your research is industry-focused, then this is where you need to convince funders why the study is worth investing in. Similarly, for academic research, you need to convince the markers or reviewers that the study is worth committing to the entire thesis or dissertation.
The thesis or dissertation often has some inherent limitations or limitations due to other factors beyond the control of the researcher. These include time or budget constraints or knowledge limitations. This is the section where the potential limitations of the research are discussed. Limitations are inevitable in research, and it is important to recognize and be transparent about them upfront to help future research. Some of the areas to consider in outlining research limitations include the methodology, the scope, generalizability, and resources.
7. The structural outline
The final section of the introduction chapter of the thesis or dissertation is a structural outline to provide a roadmap to the structure of the paper. It involves a short summary of the purpose and content of the chapters of the paper in about 1 or 2 sentences about each chapter.
Common mistakes in creating the introduction of dissertation or thesis
Some of the common mistakes people make when creating an introduction chapter for thesis or dissertation include:
a) Providing too much detail
The introduction chapter should only contain enough information to contextualize the research. However, providing too many details may confuse the reader. People also tend to make unnecessary repetitions which may not only bore the reader but can also affect the paper rating especially if it is submitted for marking.
b) Not following a coherent structure
It is important to follow the structure discussed above to ensure that the reader is able to follow through and understand your paper. For instance, discussing the importance of a study before providing its background information can confuse the reader.
c) Use of technical language or industry jargons
As stated earlier technical terms can limit the understanding of the reader especially if they are non-technical. While the study may rely on industry jargon, it is important to provide clear definitions of every jargon to make the paper readable and digestible.
Sample dissertation or thesis introduction
Here is a sample of an introductory chapter of a dissertation or thesis to help you get started.