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How to Write a Dissertation Introduction

Basic Principles on How to Write a Dissertation Introduction

A dissertation is the most important task of your academic career. It is usually the longest and most difficult piece of work that you will ever complete as a student. But it can also be the most rewarding because you get to pick a topic that you have interest in. It is equally important to know how to write a dissertation introduction.

Every detail of the dissertation should be given thorough attention but the introduction is critical in determining the quality and worthiness of your dissertation. The introduction offers the best chance to form a first impression to the examiner, and it helps them to assess if you know how to write a dissertation introduction in the proper way.

A good introduction should act as a snippet to entice the reader to read the rest of the dissertation. It also helps the reader to navigate through your dissertation with ease. With the introduction being the door to your thesis, the knowledge of how to write a dissertation introduction is critical.

There is no specific requirement with regard to length or format that suits all introductions. Therefore there is no need to squeeze everything together on just one page. But there are basic principles necessary in getting it right. The dissertation introduction generally consists of the following basic elements:

Scene setting: Start with a statement about the general area of research. Highlight its importance, interest and relevance. Give a summary of the unresolved issues, conflicting findings, social or educational concerns, national or international issues of interest.

Research background: this is an overview of main studies that are directly relevant to the issue being researched on. Define the general need for the study and the specific problem that you will be addressing.

Void filling: This explains to the reader the specific areas where further research is needed. This element also justifies the necessity of the study.

Purpose of study: this element outlines the purpose of study. It may also refer to the value of the study. Identify the research design, such as qualitative, quantitative and ethnographic or any other design. Identify the population that you will use and whether it will be randomly selected or purposefully chosen. Summarize the location of the study.

Outline: Most dissertation introductions contain an outline of the chapters or sections of the dissertation. Briefly describe how your dissertation is constructed. Summarize each chapter briefly in one paragraph. Make sure your outline is not repetitively phrased.


Simple Rules on How to Write a Dissertation Introduction

  • Write an interesting opening sentence that will instantly capture the attention of the reader.
  • Express clearly your work and argument without revealing all details in the introduction.
  • Keep the language straight forward. Avoid using jargon in the introduction and do not clutter it up with citations.
  • Do not promise anything in the introduction that won’t be delivered in the thesis.
  • Proof read to eliminate any errors.

What a Dissertation Introduction should tell the reader is:

  1. What research question you are answering.
  2. What problem you are trying to solve.
  • Why you think it will be of help.
  1. How different it is from the researches that have been done before which are similar.
  2. Of what benefit will the study be and who will benefit.
  3. What research methods you used in order to investigate the issue and solve the problem.
  • What difficulties you experienced while trying to navigate through the issue.
  • Of what professional significance is the particular research.


In trying to answer the above questions you can use the following steps:

  • Introduce your field of interest in the first two paragraphs. Do not keep the reader waiting to find out the exact subject of your dissertation. Establish the area of research where your work belongs, to provide a context for the research problem. Your research must explore some area that has not been explored before or that has not been explored in detail. You will need to give a rationale for your work in the introduction.
  • Tell what motivated you into choosing the study by explaining why the topic is relevant. Reveal who will benefit from your study and tell why the situation needs to be improved.
  • Give a brief summary of previous researches on the same area of study. Show what is known about the problem and point out what was lacking in the previous summaries that your dissertation will fill. This will provide a background and will help divine the research problem.
  • Outline the purpose and the specific objectives of the project. List the objectives in a numbered form.
  • Explain the benefits of your research and tell how it can be applied.
  • Point out any factors that prevented you from achieving your objectives. Limitations of a study are those things that you had no control over. They are potential weaknesses of any study. Even the inability of an instrument to record data accurately is a limitation.
  • Explain whether your study was confined to a particular geographical area, or it focused on certain aspects of the situation.
  • Provide a clear road map for the rest of the report. This will help the reader to know what to expect and also describe the contents of each of the dissertation chapters.

Learning how to write a dissertation introduction is very crucial in the overall bearing of your thesis. The introduction is supposed to capture the attention of the reader and create a desire to know the details. A good introduction should set up a sense of anticipation. To achieve this you should:

  • Give the examiner the broader picture of what will be covered in each chapter. If you refer to specific concepts, indicate that they will be elaborated further in a particular chapter.
  • Express how your research matters to the wider world, before you get down to specifics.
  • Ensure that your research provides an argumentative approach towards the problem stated in it.
  • Write from a unique perspective. Even an area that is too common can sound exciting if looked at from a perspective that is unexpected.
  • Relate your work to the best in the field. This will give your introduction quality by association. It will also show that you appreciate quality. Introduce your work as intending to fill the gaps that were left by the very best by providing a new approach to the existing problem.
  • When concluding your dissertation introduction state a problem or a question that needs an answer and give a hint on how the first chapter will help to answer the question.

When writing the introduction to a dissertation, you should show that you have a good grasp of the relevant concepts and that you are able to apply them to your own work. There are common problems that you can avoid when you understand how to write a dissertation introduction well. These include:-

  1. Repeating words and phrases. There will obviously be key words that are crucial to your study. But this does not mean that the reader will enjoy reading them over and over. Repeating words severally makes the work seem carelessly done. To ensure this does not happen, highlight repeated words or phrases. This will help you to notice if you have over used them. In this case you can use synonyms to replace them.
  2. Giving too much detail. Even though the dissertation introduction covers many important points, detailed descriptions can be reserved for other sections. An introduction should just be the overview.
  3. Poor organization. Your introduction must have a logical sequence that your reader can follow without difficulties. As with any other writing, be prepared to make changes to the order in which you have presented your ideas and information.
  4. Lacking a clear definition of your research problem. Do not leave the reader of your introduction confused on what you were actually studying. You should be in a position to write your research problem in one sentence. You can add the details in the subsequent sentences.
  5. Poor punctuation, spelling and grammar. Ensure that your sentences are properly punctuated and that there are no spelling mistakes. Include appropriate linking phrases or words to guide the reader appropriately. Proofread your introduction when you are fresh to ensure that you haven’t made any errors. Having such mistakes in your introduction will make the reader realize that you have no basic knowledge on how to write a dissertation introduction.
  6. Failure to acknowledge the books and secondary resources that you will have used.

The introduction of your dissertation is normally the last part that you complete but it’s the first part that you think about. A draft of your introduction before beginning your research will assist you to ensure that your research stays on course. Edit your introduction as you write because the further you get into your research, the easier it will be to write a good introduction.

Keep returning to your introductory paragraphs to edit as you write the body of your dissertation. By the time you get to the conclusion be certain that the content of your introduction agrees with the body of your dissertation and reflects the flow of your arguments.

Please read more about how to write aims and objectives of a dissertation.


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