how to write a thesis introduction
The research question(s) are formulated.
The relevance and importance of the research is demonstrated.
First of all, make sure to really start with the introduction. If you are having trouble putting together a good introduction, start with a placeholder. That placeholder does not need to be as strong as you would like it to be, but you can always come back to it and edit it. Having a brief introduction that sets the direction will help you a lot as you write. Waiting to write the introduction until the end can leave you with a poorly written setup to an otherwise well-written paper.
A good introduction also needs to contain enough background information to allow the reader to understand the thesis statement and arguments. The amount of background information required will depend on the topic. There should be enough background information so you don’t have to spend too much time with it in the body of the thesis, but not so much that it becomes uninteresting.
A few weeks ago, I had a post on writing introductions, in which I discussed the standard three moves of an introduction. This model works very naturally in a short space such as a research proposal or article but can be harder to realize on the bigger canvas of a thesis introduction. Many thesis writers struggle with the need to provide adequate contextualizing detail before being able to give a satisfying account of their problem. Truth be told, this inclination—the feeling that our problem is so complex that any explanation will require extensive background—can be a bit of a graduate student weakness. Understanding that your thesis can be explained in a compressed fashion is often a step forward, if for no other reason than it can give you the wherewithal to answer the inevitable questions about your thesis topic without the stammering and the false starts and the over-reliance on the word ‘complicated’. I suggest that thesis writers take every possible opportunity to articulate their topic under severe space or time constraints. One possibility: look to see if your campus is having a Three Minute Thesis competition.
- Introduction to the introduction: The first step will be a short version of the three moves, often in as little as three paragraphs, ending with some sort of transition to the next section where the full context will be provided.
- Context: Here the writer can give the full context in a way that flows from what has been said in the opening. The extent of the context given here will depend on what follows the introduction; if there will be a full lit review or a full context chapter to come, the detail provided here will, of course, be less extensive. If, on the other hand, the next step after the introduction will be a discussion of method, the work of contextualizing will have to be completed in its entirely here.
- Restatement of the problem: With this more fulsome treatment of context in mind, the reader is ready to hear a restatement of the problem and significance; this statement will echo what was said in the opening, but will have much more resonance for the reader who now has a deeper understanding of the research context.
- Restatement of the response: Similarly, the response can be restated in more meaningful detail for the reader who now has a better understanding of the problem.
- Roadmap: Brief indication of how the thesis will proceed.
Above, we have mentioned the main parts that must be included in the thesis or dissertation introduction. Let’s see what information you need to write in each of those parts. Make sure you read all the points thoroughly to include all the needed elements to your writing.
- What is the topic of your paper;
- What part of the general topic needs further investigations, research and why;
- Your thesis statement.
Similarly, if you have a dedicated theory chapter, you will not need to spend too much time on developing your theory framework.
Here you provide all the detail necessary to situate the study and make sense of the opening few paragraphs.