How to Write a Dissertation Introduction?
Writing an introduction will be one of the first things you do while writing your dissertation. This blog will detail the various dissertation components, the introduction format, and the things to keep in mind while compiling an introduction for your dissertation or thesis.
What is a Dissertation Introduction?
The introduction is the part of your dissertation that comes right after the Tables of Contents. An Introduction will be the first chapter of your dissertation and it should reflect on the quality and set the mood for the entire dissertation.
A strong beginning for your dissertation is necessary to draw in the reader and titillate their curiosity.
It is important to write a sharp and clear introduction that will set the stage for your dissertation by clearly outlining the purpose, direction, and the objectives of your research. The language of the introduction should have the same objectivity and rigorousness as the rest of your dissertation. It is a glimpse into the rest of your research and it should not feel like a standalone piece.
A dissertation introduction should include the following:
Topic and context:
The introduction should introduce the research topic and contextualize it within the existing literature.
Outline the focus and scope of research:
It should show that the researcher has clarity on the focus of the research as well as its scope.
Need for the research:
Point out why your research is relevant and what gap it will fill in the existing literature. Mention how your research will fit in with the work already existing related to the topic.
Questions and objectives:
Clearly state what your research question is aiming to answer. You could also mention the methods by which the research aims to find out resolutions.
Overview of the research:
The introduction should provide an overview of the following chapters.
When to Write an Introduction for your Dissertation?
A dissertation introduction would come at the very beginning of your dissertation. However, you don’t have to start your dissertation with this section. Everyone has their own way of prioritizing, carrying out, and penning down their research. If you have a clear idea about how you are going to structure your dissertation, then you could start with the introduction and later revise it after its completion.
So, it doesn’t have to be the first section you write for your dissertation. You could always do that at the end of your research, but it is a good idea to have a rough draft of your introduction along with the abstract in the beginning so that those can guide you during the course of your research.
If you have written a research proposal, in the beginning, you could use that for reference while writing the introduction for your dissertation. It is important to revise your introduction as your research progresses to lay a solid foundation for your dissertation.
Components of a Good Introduction
An introduction to a dissertation usually has the following 4 components:
a). Topic and Context:
Begin the introduction by presenting your topic and providing background information or relevant literature about your topic of interest. It is always important to contextualize your research and situate it within the existing literature.
The topic should create interest in the reader and the aim of the topic should be convincing to the reader. The introduction should tell the reader why the topic is timely or what it adds to a particular field of study.
Examples of two research topics and their contexts are given below:
The effectiveness in using cocoa butter as a remedy for nipple cracks in breastfeeding mothers.
The Context for Topic-1:
According to a study conducted by […], 75% of mothers experience nipple cracks and pain after 3 days of postpartum, which might last up to 2 weeks and lessen post that period. Many of them do not seek medical help for the pain they experience and may resort to certain home remedies. Our study indicates that using cocoa butter could be an effective solution in reducing the nipple pain and cracks of breastfeeding mothers.
The effect of prolonged working hours on the mental health conditions of Israeli nurses who care for patients with terminal dementia.
The Context for Topic-2:
It has been found that many Israeli nurses who work for nursing houses for patients with terminal dementia mostly work overtime and suffer from several mental health conditions. The study aims to analyse how the current situation for health care workers could be enhanced.
b). Focus and Scope of the Research
After you have provided a brief introduction about the topic of your research along with the context for the relevance of the research, you should narrow it down to the focus of your study and the scope of your research. In order to do that you can attempt to answer the following questions:
- Is there any particular geographical area your study is concerned with?
- What is the time period that your research covers?
- Are there any demographics or populations that your study is concerned with?
- What specific aspects or categories of the broader area of research is your topic going to expand on?
In the case of Topic 1, “The effectiveness of cocoa butter as a solution for nipple cracks and pain in breastfeeding women,” the focus could lie in comparing the use of cocoa butter with other conventional modes of treating nipple cracks. The focus and scope part for this topic could point out details about the participants of the study, mention the geographical location where the study took place, and mention the relevant previous studies related to it or related to the usage of other materials in treating cracks.
In the case of Topic 2, “The effect of prolonged work hours on the mental health conditions of Israeli nurses who care for patients with terminal dementia,” details could be added about the sample taken under study (age, geographical location, ethnicity, etc.), the research methodologies used (were the nurses interviewed or asked to take a survey). The ways in which their mental health conditions were analyzed could also be mentioned.
c). The Need for Research
This is the part of the introduction where you mention why you are carrying out a particular study. This part shows the motivations you have for doing your research and how you believe the research will offer some new insight.
You could start by giving a brief overview of the existing research in the field, indicating how there is a gap in the research or an area that needs further research. You could as well aim to destabilize the existing research and propose a new theory. But, whatever you do, it is important that you can clearly identify a problem in the literature for which you aim to offer solutions.
The relevance of your dissertation might depend on the field of your work. In certain fields, it might have practical, real-life implications, while some research may have theoretical implications.
For this part of your introduction, you should aim to answer the following questions:
- How is your research solving a practical or theoretical problem?
- How is the topic addressing a gap in the existing literature?
- How will it build on the existing research?
- How is it proposing a newer understanding of the topic?
This part would include substantiating the data for the problem. For example, for Topic 1, this part should answer how the use of cocoa butter would practically solve the problem of nipple cracks. It would deal with the therapeutical effects of cocoa butter and present the statistical data for the low proportion of women who seek treatment for the issue after their postpartum.
d). Questions and Objectives
This is an important part of the introduction of your dissertation. Setting the questions and objectives of your topic of research allow the reader to set expectations for what will follow in your dissertation. The way you formulate your research questions and the associated objectives depends on your topic, area of study, and your discipline.
You should clearly state the central aim of your research in your introduction. You can mention the research methods that are employed in your dissertation and this part could be drawn from your chapter on research methodology (if there is one). The surveys conducted, questionnaires sent out, and the experiments conducted will all come under this section. The variables that are considered for the study will also come under this section. For example, the age, gender, and region of the respondents could be mentioned here.
In the case of Topic 2, this part would provide the statistical analysis of the respondents and aim to answer questions related to how the mental health of the nurses affects the treatment offered to the patients as well as the job satisfaction experienced by the nurses. It should offer solutions as to how the situation could be changed.
e). An Overview of the Dissertation
Once you have successfully stated the context for the research, the gap in the existing literature, the scope for further research, and the research question, you should mention how you plan to go about your research.
Here, you will state the methods you have used for the particular study and briefly mention the results that you have obtained. An overview of a dissertation is basically a short summary that concludes your research. This is where you present the new observations your study has managed to gather.
Basically, the structure of a good dissertation follows the structure of your dissertation as well. It should be clear and concise, and your arguments should flow systematically as with the rest of the dissertation. Writing an introduction would be easy as long as you include all the necessary components and they follow a logical pattern.