How to Write the Introduction of a Dissertation – Guide & Tips
Published byat August 31st, 2021 , Revised On October 10, 2023
Introducing your Dissertation Topic
What would you tell someone if they asked you to introduce yourself? You’d probably start with your name, what you do for a living…etc., etc., etc. Think of your dissertation. How would you go about it if you had to introduce it to the world for the first time?
Keep this forefront in your mind for the remainder of this guide: you are introducing your research to the world that doesn’t even know it exists. Every word, phrase and line you write in your introduction will stand for the strength of your dissertation’s character.
This is not very different from how, in real life, if someone fails to introduce themselves properly (such as leaving out what they do for a living, where they live, etc.) to a stranger, it leaves a lasting impression on the stranger.
Don’t leave your dissertation a stranger among other strangers. Let’s review the little, basic concepts we already have at the back of our minds, perhaps, to piece them together in one body: an introduction.
What Goes Inside an Introduction
The exact ingredients of a dissertation or thesis introduction chapter vary depending on your chosen research topic, your university’s guidelines, and your academic subject – but they are generally mixed in one sequence or another to introduce an academic argument.
The critical elements of an excellent dissertation introduction include a definition of the selected research topic, a reference to previous studies on the subject, a statement of the value of the subject for academic and scientific communities, a clear aim/purpose of the study, a list of your objectives, a reference to viewpoints of other researchers and a justification for the research.
Topic Discussion versus Topic Introduction
Discussing and introducing a topic are two highly different aspects of dissertation introduction writing. You might find it easy to discuss a topic, but introducing it is much trickier.
The introduction is the first thing a reader reads; thus, it must be to the point, informative, engaging, and enjoyable. Even if one of these elements is missing, the reader will not be motivated to continue reading the paper and will move on to something different.
So, it’s critical to fully understand how to write the introduction of a dissertation before starting the actual write-up.
When writing a dissertation introduction, one has to explain the title, discuss the topic and present a background so that readers understand what your research is about and what results you expect to achieve at the end of the research work.
As a standard practice, you might work on your dissertation introduction chapter several times. Once when you’re working on your proposal and the second time when writing your actual dissertation.
Many academics argue that the Introduction chapter should be the last section of the dissertation paper you should complete, but by no means is it the last part you would think of because this is where your research starts from.
Write the draft introduction as early as possible. You should write it at the same time as the proposal submission, although you must revise and edit it many times before it takes the final shape.
Considering its importance, many students remain unsure of how to write the introduction of a dissertation. Here are some of the essential elements of how to write the introduction of a dissertation that’ll provide much-needed dissertation introduction writing help.
Below are some guidelines for you to learn to write a flawless first-class dissertation paper.
Steps of Writing a Dissertation Introduction
1. Research Background – Writing a Dissertation Introduction
This is the very first section of your introduction. Building a background of your chosen topic will help you understand more about the topic and help readers know why the general research area is problematic, interesting, central, important, etc.
Your research background should include significant concepts related to your dissertation topic. This will give your supervisor and markers an idea that you’ve investigated the research problem thoroughly and know the various aspects of your topic.
The introduction to a dissertation shouldn’t talk only about other research work in the same area, as this will be discussed in the literature review section. Moreover, this section should not include the research design and data collection method(s).
For instance, if your research is based on job satisfaction measures of a specific country, the content of the introduction chapter will generally be about job satisfaction and its impact.
2. Significance of the Research
As a researcher, you must demonstrate how your research will provide value to the scientific and academic communities. If your dissertation is based on a specific company or industry, you need to explain why that industry and company were chosen.
If you’re comparing, explain why you’re doing so and what this research will yield. Regardless of your chosen research topic, explain thoroughly in this section why this research is being conducted and what benefits it will serve.
The idea here is to convince your supervisor and readers that the concept should be researched to find a solution to a problem.
3. Research Problem
Once you’ve described the main research problem and the importance of your research, the next step would be to present your problem statement, i.e., why this research is being conducted and its purpose.
This is one of the essential aspects of writing a dissertation’s introduction. Doing so will help your readers understand what you intend to do in this research and what they should expect from this study.
Presenting the research problem competently is crucial in persuading your readers to read other parts of the dissertation paper. This research problem is the crux of your dissertation, i.e., it gives a direction as to why this research is being carried out, and what issues the study will consider.
For example, if your dissertation is based on measuring the job satisfaction of a specific organisation, your research problem should talk about the problem the company is facing and how your research will help the company to solve that.
If your dissertation is not based on any specific organisation, you can explain the common issues that companies face when they do not consider job satisfaction as a pillar of business growth and elaborate on how your research will help them realise its importance.
4. Research Question(s)
The central part of your introduction is the research question, which should be based on your research problem and the dissertation title. Combining these two aspects will help you formulate an exciting yet manageable research question.
Your research question is what your research aims to answer and around which your dissertation will revolve. The research question should be specific and concise.
It should be a one- or two-line question you’ve set out to answer through your dissertation. For the job satisfaction example, a sample research question could be, how does job satisfaction positively impact employee performance?
Look up dissertation introduction examples online or ask your friends to get an idea of how an ideal research question is formed. Or you can review our dissertation introduction example here and research question examples here.
Once you’ve formed your research question, pick out vital elements from it, based on which you will then prepare your theoretical framework and literature review. You will come back to your research question again when concluding your dissertation.
A sample hypothesis could be job satisfaction is positively linked to employee job performance. The results of your dissertation could be in favour of this dissertation or against it.
Tip: Read up about what alternative, null, one-tailed and two-tailed hypotheses are so you can better formulate the hypothesis for your dissertation. Following are the definitions for each term, as retrieved from Trochim et al.’s Research Methods: The Essential Knowledge Base (2016):
- Alternative hypothesis (H1): “A specific statement of prediction that usually states what you expect will happen in your study.”
- Null hypothesis (H0): “The hypothesis that describes the possible outcomes other than the alternative hypothesis. Usually, the null hypothesis predicts there will be no effect of a program or treatment you are studying.”
- One-tailed hypothesis: “A hypothesis that specifies a direction; for example, when your hypothesis predicts that your program will increase the outcome.”
- Two-tailed hypothesis: “A hypothesis that does not specify a direction. For example, if you hypothesise that your program or intervention will affect an outcome, but you are unwilling to specify whether that effect will be positive or negative, you are using a two-tailed hypothesis.”
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Interesting read: 10 ways to write a practical introduction fast.
5. Research Aims and Objectives
Next, the research aims and objectives. Aims and objectives are broad statements of desired results of your dissertation. They reflect the expectations of the topic and research and address the long-term project outcomes.
These statements should use the concepts accurately, must be focused, should be able to convey your research intentions and serve as steps that communicate how your research question will be answered.
You should formulate your aims and objectives based on your topic, research question, or hypothesis. These are simple statements and are an extension of your research question.
Through the aims and objectives, you communicate to your readers what aspects of research you’ve considered and how you intend to answer your research question.
Usually, these statements initiate with words like ‘to explore’, ‘to study’, ‘to assess’, ‘to critically assess’, ‘to understand’, ‘to evaluate’ etc.
You could ask your supervisor to provide some thesis introduction examples to help you understand better how aims and objectives are formulated. More examples are here.
Your aims and objectives should be interrelated and connect to your research question and problem. If they do not, they’ll be considered vague and too broad in scope.
Always ensure your research aims and objectives are concise, brief, and relevant.
6. Research Limitations
This section is sometimes a part of the dissertation methodology section; however, it is usually included in the introduction of a dissertation.
Every research has some limitations. Thus, it is normal for you to experience certain limitations when conducting your study.
You could experience research design limitations, data limitations or even financial limitations. Regardless of which type of limitation you may experience, your dissertation would be impacted. Thus, it would be best if you mentioned them without any hesitation.
When including this section in the introduction, make sure that you clearly state the type of constraint you experienced. This will help your supervisor understand what problems you went through while working on your dissertation.
However, one aspect that you should take care of is that your results, in no way, should be influenced by these restrictions. The results should not be compromised, or your dissertation will not be deemed authentic and reliable.
After you’ve mentioned your research limitations, discuss how you overcame them to produce a perfect dissertation.
Also read: How to Write Dissertation Methodology.
7. Outline of the Dissertation
Even though this isn’t a mandatory sub-section of the introduction chapter, good introductory chapters in dissertations outline what’s to follow in the preceding chapters.
Because your tutor might want to glance over it to see how you plan your dissertation and what sections you’d include; based on what sections you include and how you intend to research and cover them, they’d provide feedback for you to improve.
Usually, this section discusses what sections you plan to include and what concepts and aspects each section entails. A standard dissertation consists of five sections: chapters, introduction, literature review, methodology, results and discussion, and conclusion.
Some dissertation assignments do not use the same chapter for results and discussion. Instead, they split it into two different chapters, making six chapters. Check with your supervisor regarding which format you should follow.
When discussing the outline of your dissertation, remember that you’d have to mention what each section involves. Discuss all the significant aspects of each section to give a brief overview of what your dissertation contains, and this is precisely what our dissertation outline service provides.
Writing a dissertation introduction might seem complicated, but it is not if you understand what is expected of you. To understand the required elements and make sure that you focus on all of them.
Include all the aspects to ensure your supervisor and other readers can easily understand how you intend to undertake your research.
Dissertation Introduction Samples & Examples
Check out some basic samples of dissertation introduction chapters to get started.
FAQs about Dissertation Introduction
It’s used to introduce key constructs, ideas, models and/or theories etc. relating to the topic; things that you will be basing the remainder of your dissertation on.
There is more than one way of starting a dissertation’s introductory chapter. You can begin by stating a problem in your area of interest, review relevant literature, identify the gap, and introduce your topic. Or, you can go the opposite way, too. It’s all entirely up to your discretion. However, be consistent in the format you choose to write in.
It can range from 1000 to 2000 words for a master’s dissertation, but for a higher-level dissertation, it mostly ranges from 8,000 to 10,000 words’ introduction chapter. In the end, though, it depends on the guidelines provided to you by your department.