You have finally reached the point where you have selected a topic, probably written a proposal and had it approved, constructed a dissertation outline. You now have to start writing your dissertation. Whether you choose to do the parts of your dissertation chronologically or randomly, you will at some point need to write a befitting introduction.
The introduction is the first chapter of your dissertation. It is essential as it draws your readers' attention and invites them to read your dissertation either with admiration or just for the sake of it. Therefore, it is vital to have a powerful beginning to ensure that your assessors, graders, or markers yearn to read the next sentence, paragraph, chapter, and the entire dissertation.
A good dissertation introduction has seven parts, sets the stage for your research, announces the focus and direction of your dissertation, and tells your readers the what, why, and how. The seven parts of a dissertation, same as a thesis, include the opening section, background, research problem, research aims/objectives and questions, significance, limitations and the overall structure.
From our analysis, writing a dissertation or thesis introduction that incorporates these seven parts in the first chapter automatically signals your professor or supervisor that you were thorough, keen, and determined when writing. It is why some people write dissertations or theses that are never objected to or sent for endless revisions. So let's look at the technicalities of writing a good thesis or dissertation introduction chapter.
Assuming that the introduction, much like the abstract, are the first parts of your thesis or dissertation that will be read first, they ought to be written first. However, in most cases, unless unavoidable, writing the introduction, conclusion, and abstract after all the other parts are done actually works for the best of your grades.
If you do so, you get a conclusion that matches your introduction, save on time, and write an abstract containing condensed information about your dissertation. As long as you maintain the structure of your dissertation or thesis and the desired flow, there is nothing to panic about.
Writing the introduction retrospectively, skipping the norms, allows you to write an introduction that accurately represents the information in the dissertation in a balanced manner. This means that your readers will get a vivid picture of what to expect as they dive deeper.
Secondly, writing the conclusion last saves you time because you will write the facts as they should instead of editing and re-writing the introduction if things and ideas change along the way.
Besides, you can also get an introduction that matches the conclusion, which by far ensures that the information is corroborated and tied up to one another.
Planning and writing the introduction after completing your other chapters actually saves you time, makes it easier to present facts as they are, and ensures a good flow of ideas.
As mentioned before, the introduction of your dissertation and thesis alike is the first chapter of your dissertation or thesis. And as a rule, the dissertation introduction must play the roles we define below:
The background information part of the dissertation always appears among the first parts of the introduction. In some instances, it can act as the opening, especially when you have to watch the word count or avoid redundancy and repetition of facts. The structure of the other components of the dissertation introduction varies depending on preference.
As you settle to write the introduction section, it is imperative to understand the critical components or sections that build the introduction. Having combed through thousands of dissertations, which were ranked high, we have determined a pattern. Before writing this guide, we held consultative meetings and talked to some of the longest-serving professors.
All we can say is that a seven-part dissertation introduction comprehensively sets the pace for the rest of the paragraphs in a dissertation as it does in a thesis. Therefore, writing an introduction covering these sections will mean that you are ready to scoop the whole grade.
The seven sections make a dissertation or thesis score the best grades for the introduction section.
Like a porch in a house that serves so many purposes, an opening section of a dissertation introduction equally serves many purposes. First, it is the section where you provide a brief overview of everything you will cover in the introduction chapter.
Its main purpose is to engage the readers. As such, it has to be concise, clear, and direct to the point. In addition, it should make it possible for your readers to digest the gist of your dissertation and what to expect thereof.
A good opening section does not leave room for mistakes. Instead, it is where you pitch your research idea or concept.
Although there is no specific formula or approach to writing this short section, you can include sentences that talk about:
As we have caution above, it has to be as short and engaging as possible. So it can be four to five sentences long or 1-2 paragraphs.
The main reason you have a background information section is to expose your readers to the dissertation topic. Therefore, having your readers know the reasons would suffice instead of simply stating the study's focus, context, and scope and why you opted to conduct research.
With the previous section focusing on a high-level overview of your thesis or dissertation, you need to set the pace for your research topic, which is achieved through the background to your study.
This section needs to present a broad overview of your topic specifically. You have already had it approved, written a proposal on it, conducted research, and you are writing a dissertation that reports the findings systematically.
So, you need also to include contextual factors such as a brief history of the topic, why it is researchable, critical developments in the field, significant research findings in the area, and any other details that cement the authority of your topic. You can begin from broad to narrow concepts so that your readers can have a foundational understanding of your research interests and research significance.
If, for instance, you are writing a dissertation about using prognostics in healthcare, your background information section should entail:
Also known as the problem statement section, this is where you introduce your readers to the specifics of your research. You are answering the question: what prompted you to do this research or select this topic?
Since the background section has already intimated to your readers the potential research problem (or maybe a bunch of problems), the statement of problem section then narrows the focus by highlighting the specific research problem that the research addresses.
A research problem refers to a question or issue that does not have a well-established or lucid answer in the existing research. The research problem exists where there is a research gap, prompting researchers and scholars to research and answer the question or questions.
When presenting the research problem, you need to ensure that it is clear, concise, and unambiguous. Quote what research gap you identified to exist through your preliminary literature review, primarily written when writing a dissertation proposal.
To write it well, structure your statement of the problem as a three-part paragraph or statement. Specifically, include these three parts:
This section is slightly easier because it is expected that you have created these when writing the proposal for ethical clearance of your research project. This means that, as a matter of formality, you will only be reorganizing them and further refining them if needed.
Aims and objectives are two different things and should never be confused but treated so. You will have an overall aim or objective and a set of specific objectives or aims. Your readers should tell the direction of your research or its focus by reading the aims and objectives section. Alongside the research aims and objectives, you equally need to develop and write your research questions, or sometimes the hypotheses. In a nutshell, you will be explaining what you are going to do about your reported research problem.
Therefore, ensure that you clearly state the research aim, which is the main goal or the overarching purpose of your thesis or dissertation. Let your audience know what you intend to do by writing a high-level statement of what your dissertation or thesis achieves.
An example is:
"Given that prognostics is a merely developed field in healthcare computing and informatics, this study examines and evaluates the reasons it is time to implement high-level prognostics in healthcare computing and informatics as a means of solving health information challenges in Florida."
With the aim specified, you now need to clarify the research objectives. Your research objectives are pragmatic and more specific things you undertake.
Examples given the example of aim above:
In other words, the objectives specifically outline the actions you will take to achieve your research aims. You break down the aims of your research into actionable, pragmatic, and specific objectives.
As part of this section, you need to state the research questions—the research questions tone down your aims and objectives. The questions should be what your thesis or dissertation seeks to answer. These are the ones you directly answer in the conclusion chapter of your thesis or dissertation. As you might have guessed, the research questions are adopted from the research objectives – they mimic the objectives of the dissertation.
As you write this section, be specific enough. Focus on a country, county, region, area, city, or a specific population. It helps establish necessary boundaries so that your scope is well defined. Doing so allows for in-depth inquiry into your problem or issue.
What you researched is now clear, but the argument for the importance or significance of your study. Mostly, this is something you had written when writing your proposal. However, since you have conducted the research, you only need to rephrase it into past tense rather than future tense in the proposal.
You've already alluded to the significance in the early sections, such as background and research problem sections. Still, it is unclear how the study will benefit the audience and the world.
In this section, tell the world how your findings will apply in academia, professional practice, or anywhere it may be. How does the research make a difference, and what implications does the difference have?
This section outlines the value of your research.
And because you have talked so good about your research and yourself, you need to cover the potential limitations. Selling your research to the readers and hoping you met their expectations alone does not cut it. It would help if you pointed out the potential limitations of your research.
Since you had envisioned this already in your research proposal, it is time to change the tenses and maybe add some more limitations and delimitations that you have discovered in the course of your research.
The rationale here is that no single piece of research is perfect. When writing a dissertation or thesis, you will face issues such as constrained budgets, light schedules, and limited experience as a researcher. The same applies to a thesis. In most cases, the dissertation comes as the second formal research project you are undertaking if you wrote an undergraduate thesis. Therefore, you have to recognize the limitations and be transparent to your readers. Some common areas where you can spot the limitations include:
Instead of shying away from mentioning some of the limitations, consider letting your markers know. It helps demonstrate that you understand your research design, care for future researchers, and understand the scope of your research better.
With everything essential for a dissertation introduction already felt into place, you need to wind up the introduction by giving a quick outline of the dissertation. This section provides your reader with a sort of road map or structure of what to expect as they read through the subsequent chapters of your dissertation.
This section only has a brief summary of each chapter in simple terms. You will write each chapter's respective purpose and contents, including the introduction chapter.
Utmost, you need a sentence or two explaining what each chapter has to orient your readers into your entire dissertation. Avoid being detailed as it is just an outline.
An overview of the dissertation's structure helps guide the readers through the dissertation or thesis. It should summarize each chapter and show its contribution to the central aim of the entire dissertation. Use a few sentences to describe the contents of each chapter. Nevertheless, when you are dealing with a complex topic or area of research, you should focus on having a whole paragraph for every chapter. However, this depends on the word count and the approved outline. You will need to consult your supervisor.
Ultimately, writing a good introduction for your dissertation is a recipe for success. It has to be logical, organized and flowing. In addition, it should have an overview and background sections that offer foundational grounding to your readers.
It should also have a problem statement section explaining the problem you have researched. You should also include the aims, objectives, and research questions that guided the research before writing the dissertation. Finally, a significance section is also necessary as it elucidates the value of your research to academia and the entire world.
The limitation section should also feature to explain the limitations of your research. Finally, wrap up the introduction by providing a structural outline that provides a breakdown of the chapters or what your readers should expect.
We have researched what works and what does not. Time is of the essence, and for professors marking dissertations, orderliness is not sacrificed. When you organize your introduction chapter to include these seven sections, you will be on the right track to develop an engaging dissertation or thesis. Who is so stingy to give a high score for a high-level and rock-solid introduction chapter? We bet nobody.
If there are additional components that your supervisor wants you to include as part of the introduction, countercheck and include them for better grading. For now, all the best with writing your dissertation.