An introduction provides thesis writers with an opportunity to write about the significance of their thesis paper. The thesis introduction chapter can also provide information on thesis limitations, thesis organization, and thesis methodology.
A good thesis introduction is recognized by its clear indication of thesis scope and boundaries, topic development—relationships within topics, and evidence for claims made in the thesis.
This guide can be used when writing both master and PhD thesis introductions.
When writing a thesis introduction, writers must ask themselves the following questions:
- What does my research question ask?
- Where will the focus be on my paper?
- What will the purpose of my thesis be?
Are introduction chapters even necessary when writing a thesis paper? Yes, they are necessary! Introduction chapters are very important in thesis papers. If the paper has no introduction chapter, it may be seen as disorganized and ambiguous.
- A thesis/dissertation introduction provides writers with an opportunity to discuss the significance of their thesis paper.
- The introduction chapter of a thesis paper helps the writer provide a roadmap for the entire paper. It gives readers an overall view of what to expect from the paper. Furthermore, it challenges readers’ thinking and broadens their perspectives on the topic/ issues at hand.
Components of a Thesis Introduction Chapter (Outline)
There are six components of a thesis introduction to be considered.
1. Opening section
2. Background information
3. Statement of the research problem
4. Research focus (research aims, objectives and questions)
5. Significance of the research (Research value)
This is the first section that sets the tone for the entire paper. This is where writers must hook readers and not lose their attention. If this fails to capture the reader’s attention, the rest of the thesis introduction will be considered boring and useless.
To engage readers, writers should write the opening section in a creative format with an interesting introduction sentence. The opening sentence of the thesis introduction must be clear, concise and ideally contains keywords for quick retrieval.
Ideally, an opening section should have the following.
- An interesting introduction sentence
- An interesting comment on the research question/thesis topic
- A statement of the significance of the thesis
- An indication of what readers will learn from this thesis paper.
The background section of the thesis introduction should provide readers with related information that eases the readers’ understanding of the topic.
Students writing a thesis paper must be familiar with and understand the background information of their topic. Going through relevant literature is necessary.
Readers need to know what has been discovered about the issue/topic covered in the previous research.
This section does not need to be too long or tedious. The aim here is to introduce readers to the topic, setting up the rest of the thesis paper.
This section allows the writer to lay the foundation of the paper, giving a brief history of the topic. Even though you will have a glossary list, the background section introduces a few terms that you think are essential.
Mistakes to avoid while writing this section.
- Writing too much information.
- Writing too little.
This is an important section of the thesis introduction as it clearly states the paper’s key focus. In this section, students must provide a clear and concise statement on what issue or problem they aim to address through their thesis paper.
A research problem is a statement that presents an opportunity for investigation and analysis. Research problems seek to find answers to questions that the existing research has not yet addressed.
When writing the paragraph of the research problem, ensure to address the existing research, identify the gap/gaps, and state why these gaps are problems that need attention.
The following is an example of a research problem.
“The existing literature (reference) suggests that work-family conflict is harmful to employees and organizations alike. There has been significant research into the causes, effects and mitigation of this kind of stress in recent years.
However, there is a gap in understanding how to prevent work-family conflict among shift workers or those working rotating hours. The problem is that these types of employees – often working in industries such as healthcare – find themselves working unplanned and unanticipated work hours alongside their family commitments.
This lack of understanding means organizations are unable to address and accommodate the needs and expectations of their shift workers, despite evidence that this could significantly improve both job satisfaction and organizational commitment (reference).”
After identifying the research problems, the writer must then state what they aim to achieve through their thesis paper. This statement is called research focus and should be clear and concise, summarizing the main point of what students are doing in their papers.
The term research questions refer to specific queries that seek answers to the research problem identified. It requires students to ask questions about the data in an effort to answer the research problem.
The following are what research questions might look like in your thesis introduction:
- In what ways can organizations adapt their policies to assist employees with work-family conflicts?
- What are the approaches to work-family conflict management among shift workers in healthcare organizations?
The research questions should lead to new insights and understanding of a topic. It is important that they do not discuss theories, frameworks or models already established in related literature. Here, students need to demonstrate originality and create a new path for future study.
A research objective is a goal that clearly states what students aim to achieve in their thesis paper. It should not be confused with the research questions. These are statements written to indicate what you want to do in your chosen topic area, based on the literature review findings. They usually begin with “To.”
Here are some examples:
- To develop or adapt an existing framework/model for work-family conflict management among shift workers.
- To examine the approaches to work-family conflict management among shift workers in healthcare organizations.
- To compare two or more models, theories or frameworks that serve as best practices for work-family conflict management among shift workers in healthcare organizations.
In this section, the scope of the thesis paper is discussed. What will be covered and what will not be covered. It may be necessary to exclude certain aspects of the problem being investigated if they are considered out of scope.
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This section briefly outlines the research methods undertaken to answer the research questions and achieve the objectives stated in the thesis introduction.
The following is an example of a methodology section:
“In order to explore how organizations can adapt their policies to assist employees with work-family conflict, this study adopts a qualitative approach that will allow for an in-depth understanding of this problem. An in-depth, semi-structured interview guide was developed and used with 10 case study participants (5 from each organization).
Data analysis involves the application of a framework to analyze and interpret interview data. This enabled deep understanding into how employees perceive work-family conflict management within their organizations.”
The significance of the research refers to why this topic is important and should convince the reader that it deserves attention. The statement about its importance may be supported by previous studies, statistics, and comparison with other studies, policy implications or any number of arguments. Still, it must be clear to the reader.
An example of a statement describing the significance of a study could be:
“The topic of managing work-family conflict among shift workers has been a focus of interest across the business and organizational pieces of literature. Although a number of studies have investigated best practices in this area, few have been conducted from an Australian perspective. This paper seeks to address this gap in the literature.”
Here, you should mention any limitations to your research. It is important to be open about any issues, including ones that may compromise the validity of your results. Also, discuss the approaches taken to mitigate these limitations.
The following are some examples of limitations to a study:
- Possible social desirability or political correctness biases among participants.
- Insufficient number of participants to make generalizations about an organization as a whole. However, the participants do represent key stakeholder groups.
- Possible sampling error. The sample is selective and not representative of the entire population.
- Desirable traits required for participants to be included in the study may have been a confounding factor.
The thesis introduction sets out the point of the research, the problem being addressed, how it will be addressed, and its significance to researchers and practitioners alike.
Like in any other academic writing process, you should be systematic in your approach. The following steps will help you plan and write a good introduction:
What is it exactly that you want to gain from this paper? Is it an academic pursuit, a desire to improve things, or just pure curiosity?
Explain how your topic falls within the broader context of your subject. If this is an academic study, explain its place in the existing literature and research on the topic.
Collect all relevant materials that will help you find answers to the research questions.
Writing down two or three possible approaches may be helpful before deciding on one that best suits your purpose.
Do some critical thinking and self-evaluation of this draft before presenting it for review or submission. It is very important to check if all the objectives of your paper are addressed and reflected in the introduction.
Proofread carefully and thoroughly check for errors or typos in grammar, punctuation or spelling.
Ask somebody else to read it through to get fresh eyes on it and improve the quality of your paper. It will be helpful to get somebody knowledgeable about writing such papers (e.g., a supervisor, academic advisor, thesis committee member) to read through your introduction.
Too much information in your introduction will confuse the reader. Also, most research journals have word limits for submissions. Avoid overcrowding the page with unnecessary elements.
Keep your thesis introduction focused and concise. Get straight to the point without trying to demonstrate how smart you are or fill up the space with your research questions or hypothesis. If you can’t explain what you are going to examine without going off on a tangent, chances are there might be a gap in your research.
Any thesis introduction needs to demonstrate an understanding of all related research materials and provide a clear rationale for the study. However, make sure only to discuss information that is relevant to your research.
Going deep into the history of a topic, discussing its derivation from ancient times etc., is not necessary. Keep your introduction simple and on point.
It would be wise to define such terms as they may not be familiar to all your paper or thesis readers. These words will make your introduction look like you are trying to show off.
Most journal guidelines and thesis committee members do not allow this. The abstract comes in a separate page after the title page or the acknowledgement page but before the tables of content.
Get these tips right, and your introduction will set you on the right track to writing an engaging, readable piece, which will help you attain your goals.
The introduction of a thesis should present the problem statement, its importance, and relevance to the larger context of the study. A thesis introduction should also state clearly what is to be examined in your paper. Include the research questions and hypothesis and a brief literature review of existing knowledge on the subject. A thesis introduction should be concise, clear, and to the point with no unnecessary jargon or distractions.