From a technical point of view, if the beginning of a dissertation is a page with an abstract and then an introductory part, it is possible to assume that you are supposed to work on them before the other sections. Still, it is a totally wrong assumption. Although a dissertation introduction and abstract are read first, it is recommended to write them along with the conclusion when the body of the paper is already completed.
Why Is It So?
First of all, this method is called retrospective writing and it ensures that the connection between the introduction and conclusion can be strong and both of them will fit with the ideas presented in the paper body.
Secondly, you can save a lot of time as you cannot predict how the ideas evolve and what you will think about tomorrow. If you work on the introduction first, you will most probably redo it several times as new approaches in the body will lead to immediate changes in the introductory part.
Thirdly, only after you have collected all the information to construct a complete picture for the readers you can give its concise content in an abstract.
We will try to give you a review of the dissertation introduction so that you could get all the details for effective writing. We will also try to equip you with all the knowledge needed to escape common mistakes the students make while writing an introduction chapter.
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How to Write an Introduction Chapter: Guide to Follow
According to the academic standards of dissertation writing, the introduction is supposed to perform the following functions:
- Give all the preliminary details from the research background to ensure the readers’ understanding of the context.
- Identify the study focus clearly.
- Specify the value of your dissertation.
- State what the aims and objectives of the research are.
When you try to collect all the guidelines on how to write a dissertation introduction, you get to know that it should contain the first mentioning of the ‘background information’ and you should work on the other three points as well.
It is possible to make a combination of the mentioned points so that your specific research needs were suited. Besides, you can have additional features along with the mentioned obligatory ones. For instance, it is not forbidden to let the readers know about the research questions in the introductory part and some students do that to ensure that the research framework is exposed to the readers along with the research aims and objectives. It is not against the rules to mention and analyze the research methods either at the beginning of the section with methodology or the end of literature review.
As for the length of the introduction to a dissertation, there is no universal approach and it generally depends on the overall length of the dissertation. Typically, the acceptable percentage of the introduction in the context of the whole dissertation is in the range between 5 and 7 percent.
It is necessary to make sure that the introduction includes sub-sections and they have corresponding subheadings with the focus on the main references and sources to be used throughout the research. It is one more argument in favor of writing the introduction at the final stage of work. After you have completed the section of a literature review, you will be sure which sources are used in your work and you will write about them in the introductory part.
The Background Section
What is the main aim of the background part? First of all, the students work on it to ensure the readers’ understanding of the topic. Mere statement of the research context and reasons why you chose this subject to analyze will be absolutely inappropriate.
It is important for the readers to understand whether your research deserves their attention. You can help them by specifying which gap exists between the addressed topic and the present-day research. The students often make a common mistake merely stating that they consider the topic to be exciting. It is a wrong method of justifying the validity of research as there should be a well-grounded need in a certain research, not just an interest of the researcher, however sincere it might be. Writing a dissertation introduction cannot be done without a background section, otherwise the readers will be confused.
Therefore, it is time to start outlining the research background via specifying which important aspects of the researched topic should be informed to the readers from the very beginning. It would be good to start with writing down up to seven names of authors or readings that impacted your choice and perspective in the research. All of them are mentioned in the section of a literature review. Having identified them, you should also add some notes on their value and relevance to your chosen topic.
Moreover, you can also reflect on the key terms that the readers should know not to be confused with the text you have prepared. Your dissertation may include a list of abbreviations or even a glossary, but this section should also focus on several terms to help the readers figure out what the research is devoted to. Inexperienced students mostly make one of the typical mistakes of introduction dissertation writing: they either make it too long or too short. The background details typically take up to two pages. What you need to do is to get closer to the focus of the research and give only the most basic details that will enable the readers get an insight into the research context.
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The aim of the research focus is twofold: first of all, it gives information about the focus of the research, which is absolutely apparent; secondly, it provides the study rationale.
You should be able to specify the areas that you aim to analyze; besides, you are expected to explain the reasons why the research has to be done. It is crucial to note that the focus of the research should be connected with the background details already provided. Your paper should have a continuous flow even if the sections are written in different months. The readers should see that the connection between the sections is ensured; so, you have to use corresponding transitional phrases.
The part on a research focus is followed by the explanation of research aims, value, and objectives, so you have to touch upon the research direction as well. The readers will highly value your attempts to help them understand the focus of your research, so you should mention it in the first lines clearly. Introduce the main focus and explain the reasons why this particular research is essential. This section will be followed with presentation of the overall aims and objectives.
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One subsection of the dissertation introduction should be devoted to presentation of the research value. Those readers who evaluate the work you have done will go through this part with acute interest. You can simply add one or two paragraphs to add the value and clarify why your research is significant.
The students frequently ignore this sub-section and that is a great mistake they make. There is no universal approach to presenting the answer to the question on the research value. It is possible to offer the topic that requires investigation and analysis as there is lack of them. It is also adequate to search for the topic, looking at the problem from a new angle to add value to a research. You can also research some problems that require urgent study, for instance in medicine. It does not matter which approach you will choose, the main thing is to be clear in stating the value of the conducted research.
Objectives of the Research
First of all, it is important to differentiate between the aims and objectives which require different treatment. Typically, both of them are created at the stage of proposal, so you should follow the principles of proper arrangement and clarity of ideas while presenting them. Generally, there is an overall aim in every research project. It has to be stated concisely and specifically so that there were no misunderstandings or confusion.
The overall aim defines the corresponding objectives with further explanations about the methods of meeting the set aim. The objectives can be presented in a numerical list or they may take a form of bullet points.
Identification of the objectives for your research should take into account four principles:
- Clarity – there should be no ambiguity in any of the objectives;
- Appropriateness – the relevance of the objectives to the topic is evident;
- Focus – the objectives should be distinct and you should state how they will contribute to achievement of the overall aim.
Working of the objectives for your research, it is essential to take into consideration the following aspects:
- You should use a separate key word for every objective. Use this as a verb at the beginning of the objective, for instance, ‘determine’, ‘analyze’, ‘explore’, ‘study’, ‘identify’, and so on.
- You should start from the easiest objective.
- You should find a balance in numbers – three to five objectives are reasonable, while six are excessive. Being able to ensure this numerical balance, you will ensure the logical and clear presentation of ideas.
Do not forget that all the mentioned objectives should be addressed in the actual research. It is a wrong approach to mention them cursorily and then disregard. The section of dissertation introduction is similar to others as it also needs referencing in the sections of discussion, findings, and conclusion.
This part of the dissertation is presented here in the basic requirements and principles. For sure, there can be additional details you would like to include, for instance, the outline or research questions that have been already discussed above. The most important thing about the introduction is to make it clear and organized. In that case, you will definitely succeed!