How to write a fantastic thesis introduction (+15 examples)
The thesis introduction, usually chapter 1, is one of the most important chapters of a thesis. It sets the scene. It previews key arguments and findings. And it helps the reader to understand the structure of the thesis. In short, a lot is riding on this first chapter. With the following tips, you can write a powerful thesis introduction.
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Elements of a fantastic thesis introduction
Open with a (personal) story, begin with a problem, define a clear research gap, describe the scientific relevance of the thesis, describe the societal relevance of the thesis, write down the thesis’ core claim in 1-2 sentences, support your argument with sufficient evidence, consider possible objections, address the empirical research context, give a taste of the thesis’ empirical analysis, hint at the practical implications of the research, provide a reading guide, briefly summarise all chapters to come, design a figure illustrating the thesis structure.
An introductory chapter plays an integral part in every thesis. The first chapter has to include quite a lot of information to contextualise the research. At the same time, a good thesis introduction is not too long, but clear and to the point.
A powerful thesis introduction does the following:
- It captures the reader’s attention.
- It presents a clear research gap and emphasises the thesis’ relevance.
- It provides a compelling argument.
- It previews the research findings.
- It explains the structure of the thesis.
In addition, a powerful thesis introduction is well-written, logically structured, and free of grammar and spelling errors. Reputable thesis editors can elevate the quality of your introduction to the next level. If you are in search of a trustworthy thesis or dissertation editor who upholds high-quality standards and offers efficient turnaround times, I recommend the professional thesis and dissertation editing service provided by Editage .
This list can feel quite overwhelming. However, with some easy tips and tricks, you can accomplish all these goals in your thesis introduction. (And if you struggle with finding the right wording, have a look at academic key phrases for introductions .)
Ways to capture the reader’s attention
A powerful thesis introduction should spark the reader’s interest on the first pages. A reader should be enticed to continue reading! There are three common ways to capture the reader’s attention.
An established way to capture the reader’s attention in a thesis introduction is by starting with a story. Regardless of how abstract and ‘scientific’ the actual thesis content is, it can be useful to ease the reader into the topic with a short story.
This story can be, for instance, based on one of your study participants. It can also be a very personal account of one of your own experiences, which drew you to study the thesis topic in the first place.
Start by providing data or statistics
Data and statistics are another established way to immediately draw in your reader. Especially surprising or shocking numbers can highlight the importance of a thesis topic in the first few sentences!
So if your thesis topic lends itself to being kick-started with data or statistics, you are in for a quick and easy way to write a memorable thesis introduction.
The third established way to capture the reader’s attention is by starting with the problem that underlies your thesis. It is advisable to keep the problem simple. A few sentences at the start of the chapter should suffice.
Usually, at a later stage in the introductory chapter, it is common to go more in-depth, describing the research problem (and its scientific and societal relevance) in more detail.
You may also like: Minimalist writing for a better thesis
Emphasising the thesis’ relevance
A good thesis is a relevant thesis. No one wants to read about a concept that has already been explored hundreds of times, or that no one cares about.
Of course, a thesis heavily relies on the work of other scholars. However, each thesis is – and should be – unique. If you want to write a fantastic thesis introduction, your job is to point out this uniqueness!
In academic research, a research gap signifies a research area or research question that has not been explored yet, that has been insufficiently explored, or whose insights and findings are outdated.
Every thesis needs a crystal-clear research gap. Spell it out instead of letting your reader figure out why your thesis is relevant.
* This example has been taken from an actual academic paper on toxic behaviour in online games: Liu, J. and Agur, C. (2022). “After All, They Don’t Know Me” Exploring the Psychological Mechanisms of Toxic Behavior in Online Games. Games and Culture 1–24, DOI: 10.1177/15554120221115397
The scientific relevance of a thesis highlights the importance of your work in terms of advancing theoretical insights on a topic. You can think of this part as your contribution to the (international) academic literature.
Scientific relevance comes in different forms. For instance, you can critically assess a prominent theory explaining a specific phenomenon. Maybe something is missing? Or you can develop a novel framework that combines different frameworks used by other scholars. Or you can draw attention to the context-specific nature of a phenomenon that is discussed in the international literature.
The societal relevance of a thesis highlights the importance of your research in more practical terms. You can think of this part as your contribution beyond theoretical insights and academic publications.
Why are your insights useful? Who can benefit from your insights? How can your insights improve existing practices?
Formulating a compelling argument
Arguments are sets of reasons supporting an idea, which – in academia – often integrate theoretical and empirical insights. Think of an argument as an umbrella statement, or core claim. It should be no longer than one or two sentences.
Including an argument in the introduction of your thesis may seem counterintuitive. After all, the reader will be introduced to your core claim before reading all the chapters of your thesis that led you to this claim in the first place.
But rest assured: A clear argument at the start of your thesis introduction is a sign of a good thesis. It works like a movie teaser to generate interest. And it helps the reader to follow your subsequent line of argumentation.
The core claim of your thesis should be accompanied by sufficient evidence. This does not mean that you have to write 10 pages about your results at this point.
However, you do need to show the reader that your claim is credible and legitimate because of the work you have done.
A good argument already anticipates possible objections. Not everyone will agree with your core claim. Therefore, it is smart to think ahead. What criticism can you expect?
Think about reasons or opposing positions that people can come up with to disagree with your claim. Then, try to address them head-on.
Providing a captivating preview of findings
Similar to presenting a compelling argument, a fantastic thesis introduction also previews some of the findings. When reading an introduction, the reader wants to learn a bit more about the research context. Furthermore, a reader should get a taste of the type of analysis that will be conducted. And lastly, a hint at the practical implications of the findings encourages the reader to read until the end.
If you focus on a specific empirical context, make sure to provide some information about it. The empirical context could be, for instance, a country, an island, a school or city. Make sure the reader understands why you chose this context for your research, and why it fits to your research objective.
If you did all your research in a lab, this section is obviously irrelevant. However, in that case you should explain the setup of your experiment, etcetera.
The empirical part of your thesis centers around the collection and analysis of information. What information, and what evidence, did you generate? And what are some of the key findings?
For instance, you can provide a short summary of the different research methods that you used to collect data. Followed by a short overview of how you analysed this data, and some of the key findings. The reader needs to understand why your empirical analysis is worth reading.
You already highlighted the practical relevance of your thesis in the introductory chapter. However, you should also provide a preview of some of the practical implications that you will develop in your thesis based on your findings.
Presenting a crystal clear thesis structure
A fantastic thesis introduction helps the reader to understand the structure and logic of your whole thesis. This is probably the easiest part to write in a thesis introduction. However, this part can be best written at the very end, once everything else is ready.
A reading guide is an essential part in a thesis introduction! Usually, the reading guide can be found toward the end of the introductory chapter.
The reading guide basically tells the reader what to expect in the chapters to come.
In a longer thesis, such as a PhD thesis, it can be smart to provide a summary of each chapter to come. Think of a paragraph for each chapter, almost in the form of an abstract.
For shorter theses, which also have a shorter introduction, this step is not necessary.
Especially for longer theses, it tends to be a good idea to design a simple figure that illustrates the structure of your thesis. It helps the reader to better grasp the logic of your thesis.
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How to write a good thesis introduction
Many people struggle to write a thesis introduction. Much of your research prep should be done and you should be ready to start your introduction. But often, it’s not clear what needs to be included in a thesis introduction. If you feel stuck at this point not knowing how to start, this guide can help.
Tip: If you’re really struggling to write your thesis intro, consider putting in a placeholder until you write more of the body of your thesis. Then, come back to your intro once you have a stronger sense of the overall content of your thesis.
A good introduction draws readers in while providing the setup for the entire project. There is no single way to write an introduction that will always work for every topic , but the points below can act as a guide. These points can help you write a good thesis introduction.
- 1. Identify your readership
Before even starting with your first sentence, consider who your readers are. Most likely, your readers will be the professors who are advising you on your thesis.
You should also consider readers of your thesis who are not specialists in your field. Writing with them in your mind will help you to be as clear as possible; this will make your thesis more understandable and enjoyable overall.
Tip: Always strive to be clear, correct, concrete, and concise in your writing.
- 2. Hook the reader and grab their attention
The first sentence of the thesis is crucial. Looking back at your own research, think about how other writers may have hooked you.
It is common to start with a question or quotation, but these types of hooks are often overused. The best way to start your introduction is with a sentence that is broad and interesting and that seamlessly transitions into your argument.
Once again, consider your audience and how much background information they need to understand your approach. You can start by making a list of what is interesting about your topic:
- Are there any current events or controversies associated with your topic that might be interesting for your introduction?
- What kinds of background information might be useful for a reader to understand right away?
- Are there historical anecdotes or other situations that uniquely illustrate an important aspect of your argument?
- 3. Provide relevant background
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.
Tip: Strike a balance between background information that is too broad or too specific.
- 4. Give the reader a sense of what the paper is about
Let the reader know what the purpose of the study is. Make sure to include the following points:
- Briefly describe the motivation behind your research.
- Describe the topic and scope of your research.
- Explain the practical relevance of your research.
- Explain the scholarly consensus related to your topic: briefly explain the most important articles and how they are related to your research.
- 5. Preview key points and lead into your thesis statement
At the end of your introduction, you should lead into your thesis statement by briefly bringing up a few of your main supporting details and by previewing what will be covered in the main part of the thesis. You’ll want to highlight the overall structure of your thesis so that readers will have a sense of what they will encounter as they read.
- Frequently Asked Questions about writing a good thesis introduction
A good introduction draws readers in while providing the setup for the entire project. There is no single way to write an introduction that will always work for every topic, but these tips will help you write a great introduction:
- Identify your readership.
- Grab the reader's attention.
- Provide relevant background.
- Preview key points and lead into the thesis statement.
A good introduction needs to contain enough background information, and let the reader know what the purpose of the study is. Make sure to include the following points:
- Briefly describe the motivation for your research.
The length of the introduction will depend on the length of the whole thesis. Usually, an introduction makes up roughly 10 per cent of the total word count.
The best way to start your introduction is with a sentence that is broad and interesting and that seamlessly transitions into your argument. Consider the audience, then think of something that would grab their attention.
In Open Access: Theses and Dissertations you can find thousands of recent works. Take a look at any of the theses or dissertations for real-life examples of introductions that were already approved.
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Published on: Apr 11, 2019
Last updated on: Nov 11, 2023
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You're staring at a blinking cursor, trying to figure out where to start your introduction for your thesis writing.
It's hard to know where to start, and even harder to keep your introduction engaging and on-topic.
We've written this guide that will take you step-by-step through the process of writing an amazing introduction. You'll also find examples of introductions for different types of papers.
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What is a Thesis Introduction?
A thesis introduction is the opening section of a research paper or thesis writing that serves as a roadmap for the entire study.
It provides context and background information for the research topic. The introduction outlines the study's purpose, problem statement, and methodology.
It engages readers, captures their interest, and sets expectations for the rest of the paper.
Importance of Writing a Good Thesis Introduction
Let’s see why a good introduction is important in thesis writing:
- First Impressions: The introduction is your first opportunity to make a positive impression on readers. It's crucial in piquing their interest.
- Contextual Understanding: It offers the necessary background information, ensuring that readers comprehend the research's significance and relevance.
- Problem Statement: The introduction presents the research problem, outlining what the study aims to address, and emphasizing its importance.
- Clarity: A well-structured introduction enhances the clarity of your work, making it easier for readers to follow your thesis.
- Guidance: It serves as a guide for the reader, providing a clear path of what to expect throughout the research, including the methodology and expected outcomes.
How Long is a Thesis Introduction?
The introduction of your thesis paper makes up roughly 10% of your total word count. Therefore, a PhD thesis paper introduction would be 8000 - 10000 words. However, a Master's thesis would be 1500 - 2000 words long.
Although the thesis introduction length can be increased if the writer includes images, diagrams, and descriptions.
Components of Thesis Introduction
The thesis introduction format comprises several essential components that collectively set the stage for your research. These components include:
- Hook or Attention-Grabber
- Background Information
- Problem Statement
- Purpose of the Study
- Significance of the Research
- Overview of the Methodology
Thesis Introduction Outline
A thesis introduction chapter structure contains the following sections:
Thesis Introduction Outline Sample
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How to Start a Thesis Introduction?
Starting a thesis introduction can be overwhelming, but there are some steps you can follow to make it easier:
- Choose a Topic Select a topic that you are passionate about and that aligns with your research interests. Your topic should also be relevant to your field of study and have enough existing research to support your thesis. You can also choose unique ideas from our compiled list of thesis topics .
- Research the Content Conduct thorough research on your topic by reviewing the literature, collecting data, and analyzing existing research in your field. This will help you identify gaps in the literature that your thesis will address.
- Organize the Ideas Organize and compile the main arguments, ideas, and claims in the next step. These thoughts will be helpful to describe and present the thesis statement . Logically organizing your thoughts is crucial for developing an effective and coherent paper. You can create a clear story from the start of your paper to the end. Also, include a table of contents at the beginning of your thesis. It serves as a mind map to discuss the layout of your research proposal .
- Define the Subject and Relevant Themes Define the subject and the relevant themes before starting your thesis introduction. The subject of a thesis is the central topic or idea that it addresses. It should be specific enough to be covered by the scope of the thesis, yet broad enough to allow for meaningful discussion. Relevant themes are those ideas that are most applicable to the subject of the thesis. These themes often come from other fields and add depth to the argument being made in the thesis. This way it would be easier for the reader to skim and get a good idea by going through it.
- Define Your Thesis Statement Once you have conducted your research, define your thesis statement. Your thesis statement should clearly articulate the main argument or point you will be making in your thesis.
Check out this video to learn more about writing a good introduction for your thesis!
How to Write a Thesis Introduction?
Once you are done with the prewriting steps discussed above, you are now ready to dive into actual writing. Here is a step-by-step guide for you to follow while writing a thesis introduction.
A detailed description of the steps to write an introduction is given below.
Step 1: Hook the Reader’s Interest
A writer should begin writing the introduction with a hook statement to draw the reader’s interest. It can be a question, quotation, or interesting transitions into your arguments. Also, make a list of interesting, current events or controversies related to your topic. It will help in creating a strong introduction and thesis statement.
Step 2: Mention the Research Gap
Review and evaluate the existing literature critically. It will help the researcher in finding and addressing the research gap.
Step 3: State the Background Information
A good introduction to the thesis always states the historical background of the chosen topic. It is usually cited in the first paragraph and shows the current position of the subject.
Step 4: Back Your Topic with Relevant Literature
The introduction is a mix of previous research and a literature review. Thus, the topic should be backed with relevant resources. It is also used to explain the context and significance of previous studies. Moreover, it further acknowledges credible sources of information to solidify your claim.
When choosing relevant literature, there are a few things to consider.
- Firstly, the literature should be from reputable sources such as scholarly journals or books.
- Secondly, it should be related to your topic and provide evidence for your claims.
- Lastly, it should be up-to-date and accurate.
By taking these factors into account, you can ensure that your work is well-informed and credible.
Step 5: Mention the Hypothesis
Formulate a hypothesis for your research work. It will discuss what you aim to achieve along with the possibilities.
A valid hypothesis must be testable, measurable, and based on evidence from existing literature or theoretical frameworks.
The hypothesis should also provide a logical explanation for the relationship between the variables in question.
Step 6: Provide Significance of Your Research
The gap will help to evaluate the situation and explain the significance of the current research. Thus, add the purpose of your paper explaining why the research is done. It will also demonstrate the possible contributions of the research work in the future.
Step 7: Outline the Research Questions
The next step is to outline your research questions. These should be relevant to the purpose of your study. Moreover, it will also help you discuss the problems that you seek to address.
Step 8: State Research Objectives
State the research aims and objectives to define the primary purpose of the work. It should give a direction to the research by providing an overview of what it aims to achieve.
Step 9: Discuss the Research Methodology
The next step is to define the terms and methodology you are going to apply in your research. It is a good technique to make your study authentic, credible, and useful.
Step 10: Finalize your Introduction
Ask yourself the following questions after finishing writing the introduction.
- Does your introduction discuss the problem your thesis is addressing?
- Does this section address the contribution the research work is making?
- Does it provide a detailed overview of your thesis?
- Does it end by briefly discussing the content of each chapter?
- Does it make a case for the research?
- Does it outline research questions, problems, and hypotheses clearly?
Thesis Introduction Examples
Below are sample thesis introductions to help you compose perfect introductions.
Ph.D. thesis introduction
Master thesis introduction example
Bachelor thesis introduction example
Thesis introduction sample for criminology
Thesis Introduction Writing Tips
The following are some writing tips to help you draft perfect thesis introductions.
- Highlight the importance of your research early on to engage the reader's interest.
- Introduce the key aspects of the topic to provide context and understanding.
- Craft a dissertation introduction that clearly sets the stage for your research.
- Offer a concise overview of the structure to help the reader navigate your thesis effectively.
- It must follow a coherent thesis format by providing concise information.
- Do not use technical language as it will leave the reader confused.
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Introduction Writing Checklist
Use the below checklist to assess your introduction and identify what information is missing. This should help you ensure that your intro has all of the necessary components for a successful outcome.
In conclusion, crafting a strong thesis introduction is a crucial element of any academic paper. It sets the tone for your entire essay and provides a roadmap for your reader to follow. By following the steps outlined in this blog post, you can create a well-structured introduction for your thesis.
However, if you are still struggling to write a compelling thesis introduction, don't worry. MyPerfectWords.com is here to help. With qualified writing experts, we provide the best thesis writing service at student-friendly costs.
So, contact us today to discuss your thesis paper, and let us help you achieve your academic goals. Using our online paper writing service , you can be confident that your thesis introduction will be crafted perfectly to help you succeed.
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Caleb S. has been providing writing services for over five years and has a Masters degree from Oxford University. He is an expert in his craft and takes great pride in helping students achieve their academic goals. Caleb is a dedicated professional who always puts his clients first.
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How To Write A Dissertation Introduction Chapter:
The 7 essential ingredients of an a-grade introduction.
By: Derek Jansen (MBA). Reviewed By Dr Eunice Rautenbach (D. Tech) | March 2020
If you’re reading this, you’re probably at the daunting early phases of writing up the introduction chapter of your dissertation or thesis. It can be intimidating, I know.
In this post, we’ll look at the 7 essential ingredients of a strong dissertation or thesis introduction chapter, as well as the essential things you need to keep in mind as you craft each section. We’ll also share some useful tips to help you optimize your approach.
Overview: How To Write An Introduction Chapter
- Understand the purpose and function of the intro chapter
- Craft an enticing and engaging opening section
- Provide a background and context to the study
- Clearly define the research problem
- State your research aims, objectives and questions
- Explain the significance of your study
- Identify the limitations of your research
- Outline the structure of your dissertation or thesis
A quick sidenote:
You’ll notice that I’ve used the words dissertation and thesis interchangeably. While these terms reflect different levels of research – for example, Masters vs PhD-level research – the introduction chapter generally contains the same 7 essential ingredients regardless of level. So, in this post, dissertation introduction equals thesis introduction.
Start with why.
To craft a high-quality dissertation or thesis introduction chapter, you need to understand exactly what this chapter needs to achieve. In other words, what’s its purpose ? As the name suggests, the introduction chapter needs to introduce the reader to your research so that they understand what you’re trying to figure out, or what problem you’re trying to solve. More specifically, you need to answer four important questions in your introduction chapter.
These questions are:
- What will you be researching? (in other words, your research topic)
- Why is that worthwhile? (in other words, your justification)
- What will the scope of your research be? (in other words, what will you cover and what won’t you cover)
- What will the limitations of your research be? (in other words, what will the potential shortcomings of your research be?)
Simply put, your dissertation’s introduction chapter needs to provide an overview of your planned research , as well as a clear rationale for it. In other words, this chapter has to explain the “what” and the “why” of your research – what’s it all about and why’s that important.
Simple enough, right?
Well, the trick is finding the appropriate depth of information. As the researcher, you’ll be extremely close to your topic and this makes it easy to get caught up in the minor details. While these intricate details might be interesting, you need to write your introduction chapter on more of a “need-to-know” type basis, or it will end up way too lengthy and dense. You need to balance painting a clear picture with keeping things concise. Don’t worry though – you’ll be able to explore all the intricate details in later chapters.
Now that you understand what you need to achieve from your introduction chapter, we can get into the details. While the exact requirements for this chapter can vary from university to university, there are seven core components that most universities will require. We call these the seven essential ingredients .
The 7 Essential Ingredients
- The opening section – where you’ll introduce the reader to your research in high-level terms
- The background to the study – where you’ll explain the context of your project
- The research problem – where you’ll explain the “gap” that exists in the current research
- The research aims , objectives and questions – where you’ll clearly state what your research will aim to achieve
- The significance (or justification) – where you’ll explain why your research is worth doing and the value it will provide to the world
- The limitations – where you’ll acknowledge the potential limitations of your project and approach
- The structure – where you’ll briefly outline the structure of your dissertation or thesis to help orient the reader
By incorporating these seven essential ingredients into your introduction chapter, you’ll comprehensively cover both the “ what ” and the “ why ” I mentioned earlier – in other words, you’ll achieve the purpose of the chapter.
Side note – you can also use these 7 ingredients in this order as the structure for your chapter to ensure a smooth, logical flow. This isn’t essential, but, generally speaking, it helps create an engaging narrative that’s easy for your reader to understand. If you’d like, you can also download our free introduction chapter template here.
Alright – let’s look at each of the ingredients now.
#1 – The Opening Section
The very first essential ingredient for your dissertation introduction is, well, an introduction or opening section. Just like every other chapter, your introduction chapter needs to start by providing a brief overview of what you’ll be covering in the chapter.
This section needs to engage the reader with clear, concise language that can be easily understood and digested. If the reader (your marker!) has to struggle through it, they’ll lose interest, which will make it harder for you to earn marks. Just because you’re writing an academic paper doesn’t mean you can ignore the basic principles of engaging writing used by marketers, bloggers, and journalists. At the end of the day, you’re all trying to sell an idea – yours is just a research idea.
So, what goes into this opening section?
Well, while there’s no set formula, it’s a good idea to include the following four foundational sentences in your opening section:
1 – A sentence or two introducing the overall field of your research.
“Organisational skills development involves identifying current or potential skills gaps within a business and developing programs to resolve these gaps. Management research, including X, Y and Z, has clearly established that organisational skills development is an essential contributor to business growth.”
2 – A sentence introducing your specific research problem.
“However, there are conflicting views and an overall lack of research regarding how best to manage skills development initiatives in highly dynamic environments where subject knowledge is rapidly and continuously evolving – for example, in the website development industry.”
3 – A sentence stating your research aims and objectives.
“This research aims to identify and evaluate skills development approaches and strategies for highly dynamic industries in which subject knowledge is continuously evolving.”.
4 – A sentence outlining the layout of the chapter.
“This chapter will provide an introduction to the study by first discussing the background and context, followed by the research problem, the research aims, objectives and questions, the significance and finally, the limitations.”
As I mentioned, this opening section of your introduction chapter shouldn’t be lengthy . Typically, these four sentences should fit neatly into one or two paragraphs, max. What you’re aiming for here is a clear, concise introduction to your research – not a detailed account.
PS – If some of this terminology sounds unfamiliar, don’t stress – I’ll explain each of the concepts later in this post.
#2 – Background to the study
Now that you’ve provided a high-level overview of your dissertation or thesis, it’s time to go a little deeper and lay a foundation for your research topic. This foundation is what the second ingredient is all about – the background to your study.
So, what is the background section all about?
Well, this section of your introduction chapter should provide a broad overview of the topic area that you’ll be researching, as well as the current contextual factors . This could include, for example, a brief history of the topic, recent developments in the area, key pieces of research in the area and so on. In other words, in this section, you need to provide the relevant background information to give the reader a decent foundational understanding of your research area.
Let’s look at an example to make this a little more concrete.
If we stick with the skills development topic I mentioned earlier, the background to the study section would start by providing an overview of the skills development area and outline the key existing research. Then, it would go on to discuss how the modern-day context has created a new challenge for traditional skills development strategies and approaches. Specifically, that in many industries, technical knowledge is constantly and rapidly evolving, and traditional education providers struggle to keep up with the pace of new technologies.
Importantly, you need to write this section with the assumption that the reader is not an expert in your topic area. So, if there are industry-specific jargon and complex terminology, you should briefly explain that here , so that the reader can understand the rest of your document.
Don’t make assumptions about the reader’s knowledge – in most cases, your markers will not be able to ask you questions if they don’t understand something. So, always err on the safe side and explain anything that’s not common knowledge.
#3 – The research problem
Now that you’ve given your reader an overview of your research area, it’s time to get specific about the research problem that you’ll address in your dissertation or thesis. While the background section would have eluded to a potential research problem (or even multiple research problems), the purpose of this section is to narrow the focus and highlight the specific research problem you’ll focus on.
But, what exactly is a research problem, you ask?
Well, a research problem can be any issue or question for which there isn’t already a well-established and agreed-upon answer in the existing research. In other words, a research problem exists when there’s a need to answer a question (or set of questions), but there’s a gap in the existing literature , or the existing research is conflicting and/or inconsistent.
So, to present your research problem, you need to make it clear what exactly is missing in the current literature and why this is a problem . It’s usually a good idea to structure this discussion into three sections – specifically:
- What’s already well-established in the literature (in other words, the current state of research)
- What’s missing in the literature (in other words, the literature gap)
- Why this is a problem (in other words, why it’s important to fill this gap)
Let’s look at an example of this structure using the skills development topic.
Organisational skills development is critically important for employee satisfaction and company performance (reference). Numerous studies have investigated strategies and approaches to manage skills development programs within organisations (reference).
(this paragraph explains what’s already well-established in the literature)
However, these studies have traditionally focused on relatively slow-paced industries where key skills and knowledge do not change particularly often. This body of theory presents a problem for industries that face a rapidly changing skills landscape – for example, the website development industry – where new platforms, languages and best practices emerge on an extremely frequent basis.
(this paragraph explains what’s missing from the literature)
As a result, the existing research is inadequate for industries in which essential knowledge and skills are constantly and rapidly evolving, as it assumes a slow pace of knowledge development. Industries in such environments, therefore, find themselves ill-equipped in terms of skills development strategies and approaches.
(this paragraph explains why the research gap is problematic)
As you can see in this example, in a few lines, we’ve explained (1) the current state of research, (2) the literature gap and (3) why that gap is problematic. By doing this, the research problem is made crystal clear, which lays the foundation for the next ingredient.
#4 – The research aims, objectives and questions
Now that you’ve clearly identified your research problem, it’s time to identify your research aims and objectives , as well as your research questions . In other words, it’s time to explain what you’re going to do about the research problem.
So, what do you need to do here?
Well, the starting point is to clearly state your research aim (or aims) . The research aim is the main goal or the overarching purpose of your dissertation or thesis. In other words, it’s a high-level statement of what you’re aiming to achieve.
Let’s look at an example, sticking with the skills development topic:
“Given the lack of research regarding organisational skills development in fast-moving industries, this study will aim to identify and evaluate the skills development approaches utilised by web development companies in the UK”.
As you can see in this example, the research aim is clearly outlined, as well as the specific context in which the research will be undertaken (in other words, web development companies in the UK).
Next up is the research objective (or objectives) . While the research aims cover the high-level “what”, the research objectives are a bit more practically oriented, looking at specific things you’ll be doing to achieve those research aims.
Let’s take a look at an example of some research objectives (ROs) to fit the research aim.
- RO1 – To identify common skills development strategies and approaches utilised by web development companies in the UK.
- RO2 – To evaluate the effectiveness of these strategies and approaches.
- RO3 – To compare and contrast these strategies and approaches in terms of their strengths and weaknesses.
As you can see from this example, these objectives describe the actions you’ll take and the specific things you’ll investigate in order to achieve your research aims. They break down the research aims into more specific, actionable objectives.
The final step is to state your research questions . Your research questions bring the aims and objectives another level “down to earth”. These are the specific questions that your dissertation or theses will seek to answer. They’re not fluffy, ambiguous or conceptual – they’re very specific and you’ll need to directly answer them in your conclusions chapter .
The research questions typically relate directly to the research objectives and sometimes can look a bit obvious, but they are still extremely important. Let’s take a look at an example of the research questions (RQs) that would flow from the research objectives I mentioned earlier.
- RQ1 – What skills development strategies and approaches are currently being used by web development companies in the UK?
- RQ2 – How effective are each of these strategies and approaches?
- RQ3 – What are the strengths and weaknesses of each of these strategies and approaches?
As you can see, the research questions mimic the research objectives , but they are presented in question format. These questions will act as the driving force throughout your dissertation or thesis – from the literature review to the methodology and onward – so they’re really important.
A final note about this section – it’s really important to be clear about the scope of your study (more technically, the delimitations ). In other words, what you WILL cover and what you WON’T cover. If your research aims, objectives and questions are too broad, you’ll risk losing focus or investigating a problem that is too big to solve within a single dissertation.
Simply put, you need to establish clear boundaries in your research. You can do this, for example, by limiting it to a specific industry, country or time period. That way, you’ll ringfence your research, which will allow you to investigate your topic deeply and thoroughly – which is what earns marks!
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#5 – Significance
Now that you’ve made it clear what you’ll be researching, it’s time to make a strong argument regarding your study’s importance and significance . In other words, now that you’ve covered the what, it’s time to cover the why – enter essential ingredient number 5 – significance.
Of course, by this stage, you’ve already briefly alluded to the importance of your study in your background and research problem sections, but you haven’t explicitly stated how your research findings will benefit the world . So, now’s your chance to clearly state how your study will benefit either industry , academia , or – ideally – both . In other words, you need to explain how your research will make a difference and what implications it will have.
Let’s take a look at an example.
“This study will contribute to the body of knowledge on skills development by incorporating skills development strategies and approaches for industries in which knowledge and skills are rapidly and constantly changing. This will help address the current shortage of research in this area and provide real-world value to organisations operating in such dynamic environments.”
As you can see in this example, the paragraph clearly explains how the research will help fill a gap in the literature and also provide practical real-world value to organisations.
This section doesn’t need to be particularly lengthy, but it does need to be convincing . You need to “sell” the value of your research here so that the reader understands why it’s worth committing an entire dissertation or thesis to it. This section needs to be the salesman of your research. So, spend some time thinking about the ways in which your research will make a unique contribution to the world and how the knowledge you create could benefit both academia and industry – and then “sell it” in this section.
#6 – The limitations
Now that you’ve “sold” your research to the reader and hopefully got them excited about what’s coming up in the rest of your dissertation, it’s time to briefly discuss the potential limitations of your research.
But you’re probably thinking, hold up – what limitations? My research is well thought out and carefully designed – why would there be limitations?
Well, no piece of research is perfect . This is especially true for a dissertation or thesis – which typically has a very low or zero budget, tight time constraints and limited researcher experience. Generally, your dissertation will be the first or second formal research project you’ve ever undertaken, so it’s unlikely to win any research awards…
Simply put, your research will invariably have limitations. Don’t stress yourself out though – this is completely acceptable (and expected). Even “professional” research has limitations – as I said, no piece of research is perfect. The key is to recognise the limitations upfront and be completely transparent about them, so that future researchers are aware of them and can improve the study’s design to minimise the limitations and strengthen the findings.
Generally, you’ll want to consider at least the following four common limitations. These are:
- Your scope – for example, perhaps your focus is very narrow and doesn’t consider how certain variables interact with each other.
- Your research methodology – for example, a qualitative methodology could be criticised for being overly subjective, or a quantitative methodology could be criticised for oversimplifying the situation (learn more about methodologies here ).
- Your resources – for example, a lack of time, money, equipment and your own research experience.
- The generalisability of your findings – for example, the findings from the study of a specific industry or country can’t necessarily be generalised to other industries or countries.
Don’t be shy here. There’s no use trying to hide the limitations or weaknesses of your research. In fact, the more critical you can be of your study, the better. The markers want to see that you are aware of the limitations as this demonstrates your understanding of research design – so be brutal.
#7 – The structural outline
Now that you’ve clearly communicated what your research is going to be about, why it’s important and what the limitations of your research will be, the final ingredient is the structural outline.The purpose of this section is simply to provide your reader with a roadmap of what to expect in terms of the structure of your dissertation or thesis.
In this section, you’ll need to provide a brief summary of each chapter’s purpose and contents (including the introduction chapter). A sentence or two explaining what you’ll do in each chapter is generally enough to orient the reader. You don’t want to get too detailed here – it’s purely an outline, not a summary of your research.
Let’s look at an example:
In Chapter One, the context of the study has been introduced. The research objectives and questions have been identified, and the value of such research argued. The limitations of the study have also been discussed.
In Chapter Two, the existing literature will be reviewed and a foundation of theory will be laid out to identify key skills development approaches and strategies within the context of fast-moving industries, especially technology-intensive industries.
In Chapter Three, the methodological choices will be explored. Specifically, the adoption of a qualitative, inductive research approach will be justified, and the broader research design will be discussed, including the limitations thereof.
So, as you can see from the example, this section is simply an outline of the chapter structure, allocating a short paragraph to each chapter. Done correctly, the outline will help your reader understand what to expect and reassure them that you’ll address the multiple facets of the study.
By the way – if you’re unsure of how to structure your dissertation or thesis, be sure to check out our video post which explains dissertation structure .
Keep calm and carry on.
Hopefully you feel a bit more prepared for this challenge of crafting your dissertation or thesis introduction chapter now. Take a deep breath and remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day – conquer one ingredient at a time and you’ll be firmly on the path to success.
Let’s quickly recap – the 7 ingredients are:
- The opening section – where you give a brief, high-level overview of what your research will be about.
- The study background – where you introduce the reader to key theory, concepts and terminology, as well as the context of your study.
- The research problem – where you explain what the problem with the current research is. In other words, the research gap.
- The research aims , objectives and questions – where you clearly state what your dissertation will investigate.
- The significance – where you explain what value your research will provide to the world.
- The limitations – where you explain what the potential shortcomings and limitations of your research may be.
- The structural outline – where you provide a high-level overview of the structure of your document
If you bake these ingredients into your dissertation introduction chapter, you’ll be well on your way to building an engaging introduction chapter that lays a rock-solid foundation for the rest of your document.
Remember, while we’ve covered the essential ingredients here, there may be some additional components that your university requires, so be sure to double-check your project brief!
Psst… there’s more (for free)
This post is part of our dissertation mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project.
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Thanks very much for such an insight. I feel confident enough in undertaking my thesis on the survey;The future of facial recognition and learning non verbal interaction
Glad to hear that. Good luck with your thesis!
Thanks very much for such an insight. I feel confident now undertaking my thesis; The future of facial recognition and learning non verbal interaction.
Thanks so much for this article. I found myself struggling and wasting a lot of time in my thesis writing but after reading this article and watching some of your youtube videos, I now have a clear understanding of what is required for a thesis.
Thank you Derek, i find your each post so useful. Keep it up.
Thank you so much Derek ,for shedding the light and making it easier for me to handle the daunting task of academic writing .
Thanks do much Dereck for the comprehensive guide. It will assist me queit a lot in my thesis.
thanks a lot for helping
i LOVE the gifs, such a fun way to engage readers. thanks for the advice, much appreciated
Thanks a lot Derek! It will be really useful to the beginner in research!
This is a well written, easily comprehensible, simple introduction to the basics of a Research Dissertation../the need to keep the reader in mind while writing the dissertation is an important point that is covered../ I appreciate the efforts of the author../
The instruction given are perfect and clear. I was supposed to take the course , unfortunately in Nepal the service is not avaialble.However, I am much more hopeful that you will provide require documents whatever you have produced so far.
Thank you very much
Thanks so much ❤️😘 I feel am ready to start writing my research methodology
This is genuinely the most effective advice I have ever been given regarding academia. Thank you so much!
This is one of the best write up I have seen in my road to PhD thesis. regards, this write up update my knowledge of research
I was looking for some good blogs related to Education hopefully your article will help. Thanks for sharing.
This is an awesome masterpiece. It is one of the most comprehensive guides to writing a Dissertation/Thesis I have seen and read.
You just saved me from going astray in writing a Dissertation for my undergraduate studies. I could not be more grateful for such a relevant guide like this. Thank you so much.
Thank you so much Derek, this has been extremely helpful!!
I do have one question though, in the limitations part do you refer to the scope as the focus of the research on a specific industry/country/chronological period? I assume that in order to talk about whether or not the research could be generalized, the above would need to be already presented and described in the introduction.
Thank you again!
Phew! You have genuinely rescued me. I was stuck how to go about my thesis. Now l have started. Thank you.
This is the very best guide in anything that has to do with thesis or dissertation writing. The numerous blends of examples and detailed insights make it worth a read and in fact, a treasure that is worthy to be bookmarked.
Thanks a lot for this masterpiece!
Powerful insight. I can now take a step
Thank you very much for these valuable introductions to thesis chapters. I saw all your videos about writing the introduction, discussion, and conclusion chapter. Then, I am wondering if we need to explain our research limitations in all three chapters, introduction, discussion, and conclusion? Isn’t it a bit redundant? If not, could you please explain how can we write in different ways? Thank you.
Excellent!!! Thank you…
Thanks for this informative content. I have a question. The research gap is mentioned in both the introduction and literature section. I would like to know how can I demonstrate the research gap in both sections without repeating the contents?
I’m incredibly grateful for this invaluable content. I’ve been dreading compiling my postgrad thesis but breaking each chapter down into sections has made it so much easier for me to engage with the material without feeling overwhelmed. After relying on your guidance, I’m really happy with how I’ve laid out my introduction.
Thank you for the informative content you provided
Hi Derrick and Team, thank you so much for the comprehensive guide on how to write a dissertation or a thesis introduction section. For some of us first-timers, it is a daunting task. However, the instruction with relevant examples makes it clear and easy to follow through. Much appreciated.
It was so helpful. God Bless you. Thanks very much
I thank you Grad coach for your priceless help. I have two questions I have learned from your video the limitations of the research presented in chapter one. but in another video also presented in chapter five. which chapter limitation should be included? If possible, I need your answer since I am doing my thesis. how can I explain If I am asked what is my motivation for this research?
Thank you guys for the great work you are doing. Honestly, you have made the research to be interesting and simplified. Even a novice will easily grasp the ideas you put forward, Thank you once again.
I feel like just settling for a good topic is usually the hardest part.
Thank you so much. My confidence has been completely destroyed during my first year of PhD and you have helped me pull myself together again
Happy to help 🙂
I am so glad I ran into your resources and did not waste time doing the wrong this. Research is now making so much sense now.
Gratitude to Derrick and the team I was looking for a solid article that would aid me in drafting the thesis’ introduction. I felt quite happy when I came across the piece you wrote because it was so well-written and insightful. I wish you success in the future.
thank you so much. God Bless you
Thank you so much Grad Coach for these helpful insights. Now I can get started, with a great deal of confidence.
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How to Write a Thesis Introduction
What types of information should you include in your introduction .
In the introduction of your thesis, you’ll be trying to do three main things, which are called Moves :
- Move 1 establish your territory (say what the topic is about)
- Move 2 establish a niche (show why there needs to be further research on your topic)
- Move 3 introduce the current research (make hypotheses; state the research questions)
Each Move has a number of stages. Depending on what you need to say in your introduction, you might use one or more stages. Table 1 provides you with a list of the most commonly occurring stages of introductions in Honours theses (colour-coded to show the Moves ). You will also find examples of Introductions, divided into stages with sample sentence extracts. Once you’ve looked at Examples 1 and 2, try the exercise that follows.
Most thesis introductions include SOME (but not all) of the stages listed below. There are variations between different Schools and between different theses, depending on the purpose of the thesis.
Stages in a thesis introduction
- state the general topic and give some background
- provide a review of the literature related to the topic
- define the terms and scope of the topic
- outline the current situation
- evaluate the current situation (advantages/ disadvantages) and identify the gap
- identify the importance of the proposed research
- state the research problem/ questions
- state the research aims and/or research objectives
- state the hypotheses
- outline the order of information in the thesis
- outline the methodology
Example 1: Evaluation of Boron Solid Source Diffusion for High-Efficiency Silicon Solar Cells (School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering)
Example 2: Methods for Measuring Hepatitis C Viral Complexity (School of Biotechnology and Biological Sciences)
Note: this introduction includes the literature review.
Now that you have read example 1 and 2, what are the differences?
Example 3: The IMO Severe-Weather Criterion Applied to High-Speed Monohulls (School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering)
Example 4: The Steiner Tree Problem (School of Computer Science and Engineering)
Example 5.1 (extract 1): The effects of Fluoride on the reproduction of three native Australian plant Species (School of Geography)
Example 5.2 (extract 2): The effects of Fluoride on the reproduction of three native Australian plant Species (School of Geography)
Example 5.4 (extract 4): The effects of Fluoride on the reproduction of three native Australian plant Species (School of Geography)
Example 5.5 (extract 5): The effects of Fluoride on the reproduction of three native Australian plant Species (School of Geography)
Example 5.6 (extract 6): The effects of Fluoride on the reproduction of three native Australian plant Species (School of Geography)
Well, firstly, there are many choices that you can make. You will notice that there are variations not only between the different Schools in your faculty, but also between individual theses, depending on the type of information that is being communicated. However, there are a few elements that a good Introduction should include, at the very minimum:
- Either Statement of general topic Or Background information about the topic;
- Either Identification of disadvantages of current situation Or Identification of the gap in current research;
- Identification of importance of proposed research
- Either Statement of aims Or Statement of objectives
- An Outline of the order of information in the thesis
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UNSW's Education Festival 2023 Published: 6 Nov 2023
How to Write a Compelling Thesis Introduction
The introduction to your thesis is like a first impression: you want it to be great. It is the first chapter and appears before the literature review and after the table of contents. You want the introduction to set the stage for your reader: tell them what you’re writing about, why, and what comes next. So how can you write a compelling thesis introduction?
Structure and elements of a thesis introduction
Before you write a compelling thesis introduction, you need to know what elements belong in this section and how it should be structured. A typical thesis introduction includes:
- A clear thesis statement
- An explanation of the context (brief background) for the study
- The focus and scope of the paper
- An explanation of the relevance and importance of your research
- A description of the objectives of your research and how your methodology achieves them
- A guide to the structure of the rest of the thesis (roadmap)
A thesis introduction is typically about 10% of the total length of your paper. If your introduction includes diagrams or figures, the length may be longer. It is critical to include all of the points above when writing a clear and compelling introduction. You may include additional elements if you feel they are essential in introducing your topic to the audience.
Thesis introduction: Getting started
If you do decide to write your introduction first, you can draw on the information in your thesis/dissertation proposal to help construct your draft.
How should you draft your thesis introduction, and when should you do it?
Despite the fact that your introduction comes first in the structure of your thesis, there is absolutely no need to write it first. Starting your thesis is often difficult and overwhelming, and many writers suffer from blank page syndrome —the paralysis of not knowing where to start. For this reason, some people advocate writing a kind of placeholder introduction when you begin, just to get something written down. You are free to write the introduction section at the beginning, middle, or end of the thesis drafting process . I personally find it preferable to write the introduction to a paper after I have already drafted a significant portion of the remainder of the paper. This is because I can draw on what I have written already to make sure that I cover all of the important points above.
However, if you do decide to write your introduction first, you can draw on the information in your thesis/dissertation proposal to help construct your draft. Just keep in mind that you will need to revisit your introduction after you have written the rest of your thesis to make sure it still provides an accurate roadmap and summary of the paper for your readers.
Topic and background information
When you introduce your topic, you want to draw your reader in.
Your thesis introduction should begin by informing the reader what your topic is and providing them with some relevant background information. The amount of background information you provide in this step will actually depend on what type of thesis/dissertation you are writing.
If you are writing a paper in the natural sciences or some social sciences, then it will have a separate background section after the introduction. Not a lot of background information is needed here. You can just state the larger context of the research. However, if your paper is structured such that there is no separate background chapter, then this portion of your thesis will be a bit longer and that is okay.
When you introduce your topic, you want to draw your reader in. Provide them with the reasons your research is interesting and important so that they will want to keep reading. Don’t be afraid to offer up some surprising facts or an interesting anecdote. You don’t need to be sensationalist, but your writing does not have to be dry and boring also! It is encouraged that you try to connect to your reader by offering them a relevant fact or story about your topic.
Example (topic) Weaknesses in financial regulatory systems in the United States
Example (context): Highlight some news stories about banks allowing money laundering on a massive scale, which financed gangs and led to more street drugs in major American cities. You could include a story about someone personally impacted by drugs in their neighborhood and then connect the presence of drugs to the gangs who were allowed to launder their money through big banks.
Focus and scope of your thesis
Once you have introduced your reader to the broader topic and provided some background information, you might want to explain the specific focus and scope of your thesis.
Once you have introduced your reader to the broader topic and provided some background information, you might want to explain the specific focus and scope of your thesis. What aspect of your topic will you research in particular? Why? What will your research not cover, and why? While this second part is optional, it is often helpful to be very specific about the aims of your research.
Example : Regulatory capture in the Federal Reserve and how it contributes to lax enforcement of anti-money laundering regulations.
You might write about this by explaining that your study focuses on regulatory capture in the Federal Reserve because they are one of the primary regulatory bodies monitoring the financial institutions, which were caught allowing money laundering. You could further specify that you will be focusing specifically on the role the Federal Reserve plays in monitoring banks for compliance with anti-money laundering laws; however, you will not be talking about the role they play in monitoring for compliance in other areas such as loans or mergers. This prepares your reader for what they are going to read and sets their expectations for what will come next.
Explaining the relevance and importance of your research
You must explain to the reader why your research matters, and by implication, why your reader should continue reading!
This is one of the most critical parts of your introduction. You must explain to the reader why your research matters, and by implication, why your reader should continue reading! Your research does not have to be completely revolutionary or groundbreaking to have value. You don’t need to inflate the importance of the thesis/dissertation you are writing when explaining why the research you have done is worthwhile.
Example: Corruption is an increasingly important issue in the maintenance and promotion of democratic norms and good governance. Without the ability to enforce effective penalties against institutions that turn a blind eye to money laundering, democratic governments like the United States will be threatened by the increasing power of bad actors flouting regulations. With the dollar being the global reserve currency, the US must enforce anti-money laundering legislation at home to have any hopes of shutting down global networks of corrupt operators that rely on its financial institutions. Identifying the presence of regulatory capture in the Federal Reserve sounds the alarm bell for lawmakers and regulators and suggests important interventions for policymakers are needed.
The above example clearly explains the wider impact of the issue without making overly broad statements such as “this research will revolutionize financial regulation in the United States as we know it” or “this research provides a roadmap for ending corrupt financial flows.” Just focus on what made the issue important and interesting to you and clearly state it within the broader context you provided earlier on.
Giving your reader a roadmap
At the end of your thesis introduction, you will want to provide your reader with a roadmap to the rest of the thesis.
At the end of your thesis introduction, you will want to provide your reader with a roadmap to the rest of the thesis. This differs from your table of contents in that it provides more context and details for how and why you have structured your thesis the way you have. The format of “first, next, finally” is a clear and easy way to structure this section of your introduction.
Example: First , this study reviews the existing literature on regulatory capture and how it impacts enforcement actions, with a specific focus on financial institutions and the history of the Federal Reserve. Next , it discusses the materials used for this research and how analysis was performed. Finally , it explains the results of the data analysis and investigates what the results mean and implications for future policymaking.
Now your reader knows exactly what to expect and how this fits into your overall aims and objectives. They are primed with the knowledge of your topic, its background, its relevance, and your specific focus in this study.
One common problem people have when writing an introduction to a thesis is actually writing too much . Many students and young researchers fear they won’t have enough to say and then will find themselves with a super long introduction that they somehow need to cut in half. You don’t have to give too much detail in the introduction of your thesis! Remember, the substance of your paper is located in the chapters that follow. If you are struggling with how to cut down (or add to) your introduction, you might benefit from the help of a professional editor who can see your paper with fresh eyes and quickly help you revise it. The introduction is the first part of your thesis/dissertation that people will read, so use these tips to make sure you write a great one! Check out our site for more tips on how to write a good thesis/dissertation, where to find the best thesis editing services , and more about thesis editing and proofreading services .
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Checklist: Tips for writing a compelling thesis introduction
Remember the below points when you are writing a thesis introduction:
Know your audience
Refer to your thesis/dissertation proposal or notes
Make sure you clearly state your topic, aims, and objectives
Explain why your research matters
Try to offer interesting facts or statistics that may surprise your reader and draw their interest
Draw a roadmap of what your paper will discuss
Don’t try to write too much detail about your topic
Remember to revise your introduction as you revise other sections of your thesis
What are the typical elements in an introduction section? +
The typical elements in an introduction section are as follows:
- Thesis statement
- Brief background of the study
- The focus and scope of the article
- The relevance and importance of your research
Do I have to write my introduction first? +
You can write your introduction section whenever you feel ready. Many writers save the introduction section for last to make sure they provide a clear summary and roadmap of the content of the rest of the paper.
How long should my introduction be? +
Most introductions are about 10% of the total paper, but can be longer if they include figures or diagrams.
What this handout is about.
This handout will explain the functions of introductions, offer strategies for creating effective introductions, and provide some examples of less effective introductions to avoid.
The role of introductions
Introductions and conclusions can be the most difficult parts of papers to write. Usually when you sit down to respond to an assignment, you have at least some sense of what you want to say in the body of your paper. You might have chosen a few examples you want to use or have an idea that will help you answer the main question of your assignment; these sections, therefore, may not be as hard to write. And it’s fine to write them first! But in your final draft, these middle parts of the paper can’t just come out of thin air; they need to be introduced and concluded in a way that makes sense to your reader.
Your introduction and conclusion act as bridges that transport your readers from their own lives into the “place” of your analysis. If your readers pick up your paper about education in the autobiography of Frederick Douglass, for example, they need a transition to help them leave behind the world of Chapel Hill, television, e-mail, and The Daily Tar Heel and to help them temporarily enter the world of nineteenth-century American slavery. By providing an introduction that helps your readers make a transition between their own world and the issues you will be writing about, you give your readers the tools they need to get into your topic and care about what you are saying. Similarly, once you’ve hooked your readers with the introduction and offered evidence to prove your thesis, your conclusion can provide a bridge to help your readers make the transition back to their daily lives. (See our handout on conclusions .)
Note that what constitutes a good introduction may vary widely based on the kind of paper you are writing and the academic discipline in which you are writing it. If you are uncertain what kind of introduction is expected, ask your instructor.
Why bother writing a good introduction?
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. The opening paragraph of your paper will provide your readers with their initial impressions of your argument, your writing style, and the overall quality of your work. A vague, disorganized, error-filled, off-the-wall, or boring introduction will probably create a negative impression. On the other hand, a concise, engaging, and well-written introduction will start your readers off thinking highly of you, your analytical skills, your writing, and your paper.
Your introduction is an important road map for the rest of your paper. Your introduction conveys a lot of information to your readers. You can let them know what your topic is, why it is important, and how you plan to proceed with your discussion. In many academic disciplines, your introduction should contain a thesis that will assert your main argument. Your introduction should also give the reader a sense of the kinds of information you will use to make that argument and the general organization of the paragraphs and pages that will follow. After reading your introduction, your readers should not have any major surprises in store when they read the main body of your paper.
Ideally, your introduction will make your readers want to read your paper. The introduction should capture your readers’ interest, making them want to read the rest of your paper. Opening with a compelling story, an interesting question, or a vivid example can get your readers to see why your topic matters and serve as an invitation for them to join you for an engaging intellectual conversation (remember, though, that these strategies may not be suitable for all papers and disciplines).
Strategies for writing an effective introduction
Start by thinking about the question (or questions) you are trying to answer. Your entire essay will be a response to this question, and your introduction is the first step toward that end. Your direct answer to the assigned question will be your thesis, and your thesis will likely be included in your introduction, so it is a good idea to use the question as a jumping off point. Imagine that you are assigned the following question:
Drawing on the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass , discuss the relationship between education and slavery in 19th-century America. Consider the following: How did white control of education reinforce slavery? How did Douglass and other enslaved African Americans view education while they endured slavery? And what role did education play in the acquisition of freedom? Most importantly, consider the degree to which education was or was not a major force for social change with regard to slavery.
You will probably refer back to your assignment extensively as you prepare your complete essay, and the prompt itself can also give you some clues about how to approach the introduction. Notice that it starts with a broad statement and then narrows to focus on specific questions from the book. One strategy might be to use a similar model in your own introduction—start off with a big picture sentence or two and then focus in on the details of your argument about Douglass. Of course, a different approach could also be very successful, but looking at the way the professor set up the question can sometimes give you some ideas for how you might answer it. (See our handout on understanding assignments for additional information on the hidden clues in assignments.)
Decide how general or broad your opening should be. Keep in mind that even a “big picture” opening needs to be clearly related to your topic; an opening sentence that said “Human beings, more than any other creatures on earth, are capable of learning” would be too broad for our sample assignment about slavery and education. If you have ever used Google Maps or similar programs, that experience can provide a helpful way of thinking about how broad your opening should be. Imagine that you’re researching Chapel Hill. If what you want to find out is whether Chapel Hill is at roughly the same latitude as Rome, it might make sense to hit that little “minus” sign on the online map until it has zoomed all the way out and you can see the whole globe. If you’re trying to figure out how to get from Chapel Hill to Wrightsville Beach, it might make more sense to zoom in to the level where you can see most of North Carolina (but not the rest of the world, or even the rest of the United States). And if you are looking for the intersection of Ridge Road and Manning Drive so that you can find the Writing Center’s main office, you may need to zoom all the way in. The question you are asking determines how “broad” your view should be. In the sample assignment above, the questions are probably at the “state” or “city” level of generality. When writing, you need to place your ideas in context—but that context doesn’t generally have to be as big as the whole galaxy!
Try writing your introduction last. You may think that you have to write your introduction first, but that isn’t necessarily true, and it isn’t always the most effective way to craft a good introduction. You may find that you don’t know precisely what you are going to argue at the beginning of the writing process. It is perfectly fine to start out thinking that you want to argue a particular point but wind up arguing something slightly or even dramatically different by the time you’ve written most of the paper. The writing process can be an important way to organize your ideas, think through complicated issues, refine your thoughts, and develop a sophisticated argument. However, an introduction written at the beginning of that discovery process will not necessarily reflect what you wind up with at the end. You will need to revise your paper to make sure that the introduction, all of the evidence, and the conclusion reflect the argument you intend. Sometimes it’s easiest to just write up all of your evidence first and then write the introduction last—that way you can be sure that the introduction will match the body of the paper.
Don’t be afraid to write a tentative introduction first and then change it later. Some people find that they need to write some kind of introduction in order to get the writing process started. That’s fine, but if you are one of those people, be sure to return to your initial introduction later and rewrite if necessary.
Open with something that will draw readers in. Consider these options (remembering that they may not be suitable for all kinds of papers):
- an intriguing example —for example, Douglass writes about a mistress who initially teaches him but then ceases her instruction as she learns more about slavery.
- a provocative quotation that is closely related to your argument —for example, Douglass writes that “education and slavery were incompatible with each other.” (Quotes from famous people, inspirational quotes, etc. may not work well for an academic paper; in this example, the quote is from the author himself.)
- a puzzling scenario —for example, Frederick Douglass says of slaves that “[N]othing has been left undone to cripple their intellects, darken their minds, debase their moral nature, obliterate all traces of their relationship to mankind; and yet how wonderfully they have sustained the mighty load of a most frightful bondage, under which they have been groaning for centuries!” Douglass clearly asserts that slave owners went to great lengths to destroy the mental capacities of slaves, yet his own life story proves that these efforts could be unsuccessful.
- a vivid and perhaps unexpected anecdote —for example, “Learning about slavery in the American history course at Frederick Douglass High School, students studied the work slaves did, the impact of slavery on their families, and the rules that governed their lives. We didn’t discuss education, however, until one student, Mary, raised her hand and asked, ‘But when did they go to school?’ That modern high school students could not conceive of an American childhood devoid of formal education speaks volumes about the centrality of education to American youth today and also suggests the significance of the deprivation of education in past generations.”
- a thought-provoking question —for example, given all of the freedoms that were denied enslaved individuals in the American South, why does Frederick Douglass focus his attentions so squarely on education and literacy?
Pay special attention to your first sentence. Start off on the right foot with your readers by making sure that the first sentence actually says something useful and that it does so in an interesting and polished way.
How to evaluate your introduction draft
Ask a friend to read your introduction and then tell you what he or she expects the paper will discuss, what kinds of evidence the paper will use, and what the tone of the paper will be. If your friend is able to predict the rest of your paper accurately, you probably have a good introduction.
Five kinds of less effective introductions
1. The placeholder introduction. When you don’t have much to say on a given topic, it is easy to create this kind of introduction. Essentially, this kind of weaker introduction contains several sentences that are vague and don’t really say much. They exist just to take up the “introduction space” in your paper. If you had something more effective to say, you would probably say it, but in the meantime this paragraph is just a place holder.
Example: Slavery was one of the greatest tragedies in American history. There were many different aspects of slavery. Each created different kinds of problems for enslaved people.
2. The restated question introduction. Restating the question can sometimes be an effective strategy, but it can be easy to stop at JUST restating the question instead of offering a more specific, interesting introduction to your paper. The professor or teaching assistant wrote your question and will be reading many essays in response to it—he or she does not need to read a whole paragraph that simply restates the question.
Example: The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass discusses the relationship between education and slavery in 19th century America, showing how white control of education reinforced slavery and how Douglass and other enslaved African Americans viewed education while they endured. Moreover, the book discusses the role that education played in the acquisition of freedom. Education was a major force for social change with regard to slavery.
3. The Webster’s Dictionary introduction. This introduction begins by giving the dictionary definition of one or more of the words in the assigned question. Anyone can look a word up in the dictionary and copy down what Webster says. If you want to open with a discussion of an important term, it may be far more interesting for you (and your reader) if you develop your own definition of the term in the specific context of your class and assignment. You may also be able to use a definition from one of the sources you’ve been reading for class. Also recognize that the dictionary is also not a particularly authoritative work—it doesn’t take into account the context of your course and doesn’t offer particularly detailed information. If you feel that you must seek out an authority, try to find one that is very relevant and specific. Perhaps a quotation from a source reading might prove better? Dictionary introductions are also ineffective simply because they are so overused. Instructors may see a great many papers that begin in this way, greatly decreasing the dramatic impact that any one of those papers will have.
Example: Webster’s dictionary defines slavery as “the state of being a slave,” as “the practice of owning slaves,” and as “a condition of hard work and subjection.”
4. The “dawn of man” introduction. This kind of introduction generally makes broad, sweeping statements about the relevance of this topic since the beginning of time, throughout the world, etc. It is usually very general (similar to the placeholder introduction) and fails to connect to the thesis. It may employ cliches—the phrases “the dawn of man” and “throughout human history” are examples, and it’s hard to imagine a time when starting with one of these would work. Instructors often find them extremely annoying.
Example: Since the dawn of man, slavery has been a problem in human history.
5. The book report introduction. This introduction is what you had to do for your elementary school book reports. It gives the name and author of the book you are writing about, tells what the book is about, and offers other basic facts about the book. You might resort to this sort of introduction when you are trying to fill space because it’s a familiar, comfortable format. It is ineffective because it offers details that your reader probably already knows and that are irrelevant to the thesis.
Example: Frederick Douglass wrote his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave , in the 1840s. It was published in 1986 by Penguin Books. In it, he tells the story of his life.
And now for the conclusion…
Writing an effective introduction can be tough. Try playing around with several different options and choose the one that ends up sounding best to you!
Just as your introduction helps readers make the transition to your topic, your conclusion needs to help them return to their daily lives–but with a lasting sense of how what they have just read is useful or meaningful. Check out our handout on conclusions for tips on ending your paper as effectively as you began it!
We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.
Douglass, Frederick. 1995. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself . New York: Dover.
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Easily understand how to write a PhD thesis introduction
Feb 26, 2019
Have you checked out the rest of The PhD Knowledge Base ? It’s home to hundreds more free resources and guides, written especially for PhD students.
Get the introduction right and the rest of your dissertation will follow.
What is the purpose of a PhD thesis introduction?
1. establish your research territory (by situating your research in a broader context), 2. establish and justify your niche (by describing why your research is needed) , 3. explain the significance of your research (by describing how you conducted the research).
- What your thesis is about
- Why it is important
- How it was conducted
- How it is laid out
The introduction as a whole should outline the significance and relevance of the thesis. The main criteria for a PhD is its role as an original contribution to knowledge, so the introduction is the space in which you very clearly outline that contribution.
How to structure an PhD thesis introduction
A typical PhD thesis introduction follows the following format:
- Introduction to the introduction: a short version (of only a few paragraphs) of the thesis’ aims, research questions, contribution, objectives and findings.
- State the overarching topic and aims of the thesis in more detail Provide a brief review of the literature related to the topic (this will be very brief if you have a separate literature review chapter)
- Define the terms and scope of the topic
- Critically evaluate the current state of the literature on that topic and identify your gap
- Outline why the research is important and the contribution that it makes
- Outline your epistemological and ontological position
- Clearly outline the research questions and problem(s) you seek to address
- State the hypotheses (if you are using any)
- Detail the most important concepts and variables
- Briefly describe your methodology
- Discuss the main findings
- Discuss the layout of the thesis
Much like the abstract, the reader shouldn’t have to wait long before they understand the contribution, what you are doing and how you are doing it. So, you’ll start by presenting your research in a clear, concise way in the opening few paragraphs. These opening paragraphs should briefly summarise the aims, objectives, research questions, main argument and contribution.
The reader shouldn’t have to wait long before they understand the contribution, what you are doing and how you are doing it.
A useful exercise here is to try and write the core elements of an introduction on a Post-it note. Keep trying until they fit. When they do, use that as the basis for these first few paragraphs. This is the same technique you use when filling out the PhD Writing Template .
As you go through the chapter, you will dial down into more and more detail. That means that the next stage, after the first few paragraphs, is to provide some context (steps 2-10 above).
Here you provide all the detail necessary to situate the study and make sense of the opening few paragraphs.
But, there are two things to bear in mind.
You will need to ease into the detail gently. Don’t launch straight from your opening paragraphs into huge amounts of detail. Follow the order of the 13 steps above and you will gradually ease into your discussion.
The danger of presenting too much information too soon is that you will confuse the reader. They will struggle to understand how the information you present is relevant and will struggle to understand how it relates to your thesis aims and objectives.
Simply follow the steps above.
You need to bear in mind that the level of detail you will go into (and therefore the length of the introduction) depends on the structure of your thesis.
If you have a standalone literature review, you will go into less detail about the current state of the literature and the gaps within it.
Similarly, if you have a dedicated theory chapter, you will not need to spend too much time on developing your theory framework.
The same is true for your methods.
The goal in any case is to present enough context to situate and make sense of your research questions but not overburden the reader with information that is superfluous to the goal of situating the research and which you will repeat at a later juncture anyhow.
Your PhD thesis. All on one page.
Use our free PhD structure template to quickly visualise every element of your thesis.
Common problems when writing your introduction
When we proofread PhDs , we see the same mistakes again and again.
Providing too much detail
There is a tendency to provide too much background information in the introduction. As we saw above, quite how much information you present in your thesis will depend on whether you have a standalone literature review or methods chapter. What you want to avoid is any unnecessary repetition.
Sometimes there is necessary repetition though. You need to present just enough information to contextualise your study and to be able to situate your aims, research questions an argument, but not too much that you end up confusing and bombarding the reader. Keep things simple here; it’s fine to overlook some of the more technical detail at this stage. Think of a newspaper article: the first couple of paragraphs provide a brief overview of the story. The detail comes later.
Not providing enough detail
On the flip side, some students don’t provide enough detail. The danger here is that the reader is left asking questions at the end of the introduction. Remember: they should be able to understand what your thesis is about, how it was conducted and why it is important just from reading the introduction. If you present too little detail then they won’t be able to. Read through your own introduction; is it clear what your contribution is and why it is important? If not, you haven’t got enough detail.
Launching into too much detail
Make sure you introduce gently. Don’t suddenly rush into lots of detail. Instead, you should make the aims, questions and contribution clear in the opening lines and then gradually layer on more detail. That way, the reader can keep up. Present too much detail too soon and the reader will become confused. The last place you want confusion is in the introduction; if the reader can’t follow your introduction, they won’t understand the thesis.
Not following a coherent structure so that the reader is left confused
Some students don’t follow a coherent logic when they write their introductions, which means that the reader is left confused.
For example, if you present too much background information and literature review before you outline the aim and purpose of the research, the reader will struggle to follow, because they won’t know why the background information is important.
The same is true if you discuss the methods before your research questions.
What we see often is important information being spread throughout the introduction in such a way that the reader has to hunt for it. Follow our layout guide above so that each piece of vital information is contained in its own mini section. Make your reader’s job as easy as possible.
Using too much technical language not properly defined
It’s more than likely that your research relies upon lots of technical terms, concepts and techniques. If you must talk about any of these in the introduction, be sure to offer clear and concise definitions. A failure to do so means that the reader is left confused.
Conducting a literature review
Unless you are explicitly avoiding a standalone literature review chapter, the introduction is not the place to review the literature. Sure, you will need to situate your study in a body of literature, but the introduction isn’t the place to critically discuss it or justify its inclusion in that literature. It’s enough to say that you will contribute to X body of literature and briefly discuss its core features and shortcomings. The literature review is the place to justify that decision and elaborate upon its features. Read our guide to writing literature reviews and our guide to being critical when you do so.
Finalising your thesis introduction
Once you have finished your thesis, ask yourself the following questions:
- Does the first line of the introduction discuss the problem that your thesis is addressing and the contribution that it is making?
- Does the introduction provide an overview of the thesis and end with a brief discussion on the content of each chapter?
- Does the introduction make a case for the research?
- Have the research questions/problems/hypotheses been clearly outlined (preferably early on)?
Now you know how to present your research as clearly and concisely as possible. Your reader (and examiner) will thank you, because they’ll be able to understand exactly what your study is about just from reading the introductory pages. Keep this guide to hand, whatever stage of the writing process you are at.
Have you downloaded our free one page PhD Writing Template ? It’s a really effective way to visualise your entire thesis on one page.
If you’re still struggling to structure your introduction, or you need any other support as you write your thesis, check out our one-on-one PhD coaching . It’s like having a personal trainer, but for your PhD.
I was struggling with writing the introduction chapter. Really had no idea on how to organise my ideas. Completely lost and desolate. I have no one to encourage or support me. I prayed to God to give me knowledge and wisdom and guide me. After a while I found this site. Praise the Lord. I can’t thank u enough for addressing exactly what’s in my mind. Thank you. Glory be to God for directing me to this site.
All we aim to do here is to make life a little bit easier for PhD students. I know how hard I found it when I was completing mine, so I want to give something back to the community. I’m so pleased you found it useful. Good luck with writing up. If you need any support or if you have any questions at all, email me: [email protected]
Thank you very very much for your information it is resourceful. I was having a problem how to start my introduction.
It’s great to hear you found it useful. Thanks!
Hey, this is so useful thankyou! I’m wondering does this apply broadly to all PhD’s including humanities?
Yep – it sure does.
I found this piece of information helpful. I am preparing for my proposal defense in two weeks and needed to refine my introduction. Thank you very much. God bless you richly. I wish we can have a skype conversation.
Thank you again.
thank you, learned from this
Your advice and guidance has become my constant companion in what has been a very stressful time. You write with empathy and understanding. What a wonderful job you are doing for those of us who are too proud to seek advice and support from supervisors or colleagues. Sincerest thanks for taking the loneliness out of writing.
Such nice words. Thank you so much.
this is really useful!!!
Thanks Nora! I’m glad you found it useful.
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Effective introductions and thesis statements, make them want to continue reading.
Writing an effective introduction is an art form. The introduction is the first thing that your reader sees. It is what invests the reader in your paper, and it should make them want to continue reading. You want to be creative and unique early on in your introduction; here are some strategies to help catch your reader’s attention:
- Tell a brief anecdote or story
- As a series of short rhetorical questions
- Use a powerful quotation
- Refute a common belief
- Cite a dramatic fact or statistic
Your introduction also needs to adequately explain the topic and organization of your paper.
Your thesis statement identifies the purpose of your paper. It also helps focus the reader on your central point. An effective thesis establishes a tone and a point of view for a given purpose and audience. Here are some important things to consider when constructing your thesis statement.
- Don’t just make a factual statement – your thesis is your educated opinion on a topic.
- Don’t write a highly opinionated statement that might offend your audience.
- Don’t simply make an announcement (ex. “Tuition should be lowered” is a much better thesis than “My essay will discuss if tuition should be lowered”).
- Don’t write a thesis that is too broad – be specific.
The thesis is often located in the middle or at the end of the introduction, but considerations about audience, purpose, and tone should always guide your decision about its placement.
Sometimes it’s helpful to wait to write the introduction until after you’ve written the essay’s body because, again, you want this to be one of the strongest parts of the paper.
Example of an introduction:
Innocent people murdered because of the hysteria of young girls! Many people believe that the young girls who accused citizens of Salem, Massachusetts of taking part in witchcraft were simply acting to punish their enemies. But recent evidence shows that the young girls may have been poisoned by a fungus called Ergot, which affects rye and wheat. The general public needs to learn about this possible cause for the hysteria that occurred in Salem so that society can better understand what happened in the past, how this event may change present opinion, and how the future might be changed by learning this new information.
By Rachel McCoppin, Ph.D. Last edited October 2016 by Allison Haas, M.A.
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The introduction to an academic essay will generally present an analytical question or problem and then offer an answer to that question (the thesis).
Your introduction is also your opportunity to explain to your readers what your essay is about and why they should be interested in reading it. You don’t have to “hook” your readers with a dramatic promise (every other discussion of the topic you’re writing about is completely wrong!) or an exciting fact (the moon can reach 127 degrees Celsius!). Instead, you should use your introduction to explain to your readers why your essay is going to be interesting to read. To do this, you’ll need to frame the question or problem that you’re writing about and explain why this question or problem is important. If you make a convincing case for why your question or problem is worth solving, your readers will be interested in reading on.
While some of the conventions for writing an introduction vary by discipline, a strong introduction for any paper will contain some common elements. You can see these common elements in the sample introductions on this page . In general, your introductions should contain the following elements:
- Orienting Information When you’re writing an essay, it’s helpful to think about what your reader needs to know in order to follow your argument. Your introduction should include enough information so that readers can understand the context for your thesis. For example, if you are analyzing someone else’s argument, you will need to identify that argument and possibly summarize its key points. If you are joining a scholarly conversation about education reform, you will need to provide context for this conversation before explaining what your essay adds to the discussion. But you don’t necessarily have to summarize your sources in detail in your introduction; that information may fit in better later in your essay. When you’re deciding how much context or background information to provide, it can be helpful to think about that information in relation to your thesis. You don’t have to tell readers everything they will need to know to understand your entire essay right away. You just need to give them enough information to be able to understand and appreciate your thesis. For some assignments, you’ll be able to assume that your audience has also read the sources you are analyzing. But even in those cases, you should still offer enough information for readers to know which parts of a source you are talking about. When you’re writing a paper based on your own research, you will need to provide more context about the sources you’re going to discuss. If you’re not sure how much you can assume your audience knows, you should consult your instructor.
An explanation of what’s at stake in your essay, or why anyone would need to read an essay that argues this thesis You will know why your essay is worth writing if you are trying to answer a question that doesn’t have an obvious answer; to propose a solution to a problem without one obvious solution; or to point out something that others may not have noticed that changes the way we consider a phenomenon, source, or idea. In all of these cases, you will be trying to understand something that you think is valuable to understand. But it’s not enough that you know why your essay is worth reading; you also need to explain to your readers why they should care about reading an essay that argues your thesis.
- Your thesis This is what you’re arguing in your essay.
Tips for writing introductions
- If you are writing in a new discipline, you should always make sure to ask about conventions and expectations for introductions, just as you would for any other aspect of the essay. For example, while it may be acceptable to write a two-paragraph (or longer) introduction for your papers in some courses, instructors in other disciplines, such as those in some Government courses, may expect a shorter introduction that includes a preview of the argument that will follow .
- In some disciplines (Government, Economics, and others), it’s common to offer an overview in the introduction of what points you will make in your essay. In other disciplines, you will not be expected to provide this overview in your introduction.
- Avoid writing a very general opening sentence. While it may be true that “Since the dawn of time, people have been telling love stories,” it won’t help you explain what’s interesting about your topic.
- Avoid writing a “funnel” introduction in which you begin with a very broad statement about a topic and move to a narrow statement about that topic. Broad generalizations about a topic will not add to your readers’ understanding of your specific essay topic.
- Avoid beginning with a dictionary definition of a term or concept you will be writing about. If the concept is complicated or unfamiliar to your readers, you will need to define it in detail later in your essay. If it’s not complicated, you can assume your readers already know the definition.
- Avoid offering too much detail in your introduction that a reader could better understand later in the paper.
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Introductions, thesis statements, and roadmaps - graduate writing center.
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Introductions, Thesis Statements, and Roadmaps
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The first paragraph or two of any paper should be constructed with care, creating a path for both the writer and reader to follow. However, it is very common to adjust the introduction more than once over the course of drafting and revising your document. In fact, it is normal (and often very useful, or even essential!) to heavily revise your introduction after you've finished composing the paper, since that is most likely when you have the best grasp on what you've been aiming to say.
The introduction is your opportunity to efficiently establish for your reader the topic and significance of your discussion, the focused argument or claim you’ll make contained in your thesis statement, and a sense of how your presentation of information will proceed.
There are a few things to avoid in crafting good introductions. Steer clear of unnecessary length: you should be able to effectively introduce the critical elements of any project a page or less. Another pitfall to watch out for is providing excessive history or context before clearly stating your own purpose. Finally, don’t lose time stalling because you can't think of a good first line. A funny or dramatic opener for your paper (also known as “a hook”) can be a nice touch, but it is by no means a required element in a good academic paper.
Introductions, Thesis Statements, and Roadmaps Links
- Short video (5:47): " Writing an Introduction to a Paper ," GWC
- Handout (printable): " Introductions ," University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Writing Center
- Handout (printable): " Thesis Statements ," University of North Carolina Chapel Hill Writing Center
- NPS-specific one-page (printable) S ample Thesis Chapter Introduction with Roadmap , from "Venezuela: A Revolution on Standby," Luis Calvo
- Short video (3:39): " Writing Ninjas: How to Write a Strong Thesis Statement "
- Video (5:06): " Thesis Statements ," Purdue OWL
Writing Topics A–Z
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How To Write A Thesis Introduction Chapter
Crafting the introductory chapter of a thesis can be confusing. If you are feeling the same, you are the at right place.
This post will explore how you can write a thesis introduction chapter, by outlining the essential components of a thesis introduction. We will look at the process, one section at a time, and explain them to help you get a hang of how to craft your thesis introduction.
How To Write A Good Thesis Introduction?
The opening section of a thesis introduction sets the stage for what’s to come, acting as a crucial hook to capture the reader’s attention.
Unlike the broader strokes found in the table of contents, this initial foray into your research is where you must distill the essence of your thesis into a potent, digestible form.
A skillful introduction begins with a concise preview of the chapter’s terrain, delineating the structure of the thesis with a clarity that avoids overwhelming the reader.
This is not the stage for exhaustive details; rather, it’s where you prime the reader with a snapshot of the intellectual journey ahead.
In crafting this segment, insiders advise adhering to a quartet of foundational sentences that offer an academic handshake to the reader.
First Section: I ntroduces the broad field of research, such as the significance of organisational skills development in business growth.
Second Section: Narrows the focus, pinpointing a specific research problem or gap — perhaps the debate on managing skill development in fast-paced industries like web development.
Third Section: Clearly state the research aims and objectives, guiding the reader to the ‘why’ behind your study. Finally, a sentence should outline the roadmap of the introduction chapter itself, forecasting the background context, research questions, significance, and limitations that will follow.
Such a calibrated approach ensures that every element from the research objective to the hypothesis is presented with precision.
This method, a well-guarded secret amongst seasoned researchers, transforms a mundane introduction into a compelling entrée into your dissertation or thesis.
Background To The Study
This section sets the tone for the research journey ahead. The goal here is to capture the reader’s attention by threading relevant background information into a coherent narrative that aligns with the research objectives of the thesis.
To write a good thesis introduction, one must carefully describe the background to highlight the context in which the research is grounded.
This involves not just a literature review but a strategic presentation of the current state of research, pinpointing where your work will wedge itself into the existing body of knowledge.
For instance, if the research project focuses on qualitative changes in urban planning, the introduction should spotlight key developmental milestones and policy shifts that foreground the study’s aims and objectives.
When writing this section, articulate the focus and scope of the research, ensuring the reader grasps the importance of the research questions and hypothesis.
This section must not only be informative but also engaging. By the end of the introductory chapter, the reader should be compelled to continue reading, having grasped a clear and easy-to-understand summary of each chapter that will follow.
It’s a good idea to address frequently asked questions and to clearly state any industry-specific terminology, assuming no prior expertise on the reader’s part.
This approach establishes a solid foundation for the rest of the thesis or dissertation, ensuring the reader is well-prepared to dive into the nuances of your research project.
Crafting the nucleus of your thesis or dissertation hinges on pinpointing a compelling research problem. This step is crucial; it is the keystone of a good thesis introduction chapter, drawing the reader’s attention and setting the stage for the rest of your thesis.
A well-defined research problem addresses a gap in the existing literature, underscored by a qualitative or quantitative body of research that lacks consensus or is outdated, especially in rapidly evolving fields.
Consider the dynamic sphere of organizational skills development. Established research might agree on strategies for industries where skills change at a snail’s pace.
However, if the landscape shifts more quickly—take web development for example, where new languages and platforms emerge incessantly—the literature gap becomes evident.
Herein lies the research problem: existing strategies may not suffice in industries characterized by a swift knowledge turnover.
When writing your introduction, your goal is to clearly state this gap. A great thesis introduction delineates what is known, what remains unknown, and why bridging this chasm is significant.
It should illuminate the research objectives and questions, laying out a roadmap for the reader in a language that’s clear and easy to understand, regardless of their familiarity with the topic.
You’ll be able to capture and maintain the reader’s interest by effectively communicating why your research matters—setting the scene for your hypothesis and subsequent investigation.
Remember, a good thesis introduction should not only provide background information but also articulate the focus and scope of the study, offering a preview of the structure of your thesis.
Research Aims, Objectives And Questions
This pivotal section lays out the foundation by providing relevant background information, but it is the articulation of research aims, objectives, and questions that clarifies the focus and scope of your study.
The research aim is the lighthouse of your thesis, illuminating the overarching purpose of your investigation.
For instance, a thesis exploring skills development in fast-paced industries might present an aim to evaluate the effectiveness of various strategies within UK web development companies. This broad goal sets the direction for more detailed planning.
Research objectives drill down into specifics, acting as stepping stones toward achieving your aim. They are the tangible checkpoints of your research project, often action-oriented, outlining what you will do.
Examples might include identifying common skills development strategies or evaluating their effectiveness. These objectives segment the monumental task into manageable portions, offering a clear and easy way to write a structured pathway for the research.
Equally critical are the research questions, which translate your objectives into inquiries that your thesis will answer. They narrow the focus even further, dictating the structure of the thesis.
- “What are the prevalent skills development strategies employed by UK web development firms?”
- “How effective are these strategies?”
Such questions demand concrete responses and guide the reader through the rest of the thesis.
Significance Of The Study
The “Significance of the Study” section within the introduction chapter of your thesis or dissertation holds considerable weight in laying out the importance of your research.
This segment answers the pivotal question: “Why does this research matter?” It is strategically placed after the background information and literature review to underscore the contribution your study makes to the existing body of research.
In writing this section, you’ll be able to capture the reader’s attention by clearly stating the impact and added value your research project offers.
Whether it’s a qualitative or quantitative study, the significance must be articulated in terms of:
- Academic, and
- Societal contributions.
For instance, it may fill gaps identified in the literature review, propose innovative solutions to pressing problems, or advance our understanding in a certain field.
A good thesis introduction will succinctly convey three main things: the research objective, the hypothesis or research questions, and the importance of your research.
It’s a good idea to provide your reader with a roadmap, foreshadowing the structure of the thesis and offering a summary of each chapter, thus enticing the reader to continue reading.
When you write the introduction section, it should also serve as a concise synopsis of the focus and scope of your research.
It’s often beneficial to include examples of introductions that clearly state the research objectives and questions, offering a snapshot of the whole thesis, and setting the stage for the rest of your thesis.
Limitations Of The Study
A thorough thesis introduction lays out specific research objectives and questions, yet it also sheds light on the study’s inherent boundaries. This is the purpose of the Limitation of The Study section.
The limitations section is not a confession of failure; instead, it’s a good idea to see it as demonstrating academic maturity.
Here, you clearly state the parameters within which the research was conducted.
For instance, a qualitative study might face scrutiny for subjectivity, or a quantitative one for potentially oversimplifying complexities. Other common constraints include the scope—perhaps focusing on a narrow aspect without considering variable interplay—resources, and generalizability.
For example, a study concentrated on a specific industry in Florida may not hold water in a different context, for example in Tokyo, Japan.
It’s essential to write this section with transparency. A good thesis introduction doesn’t shy away from limitations. Instead, it captures the reader’s attention by laying them out systematically, often in a dedicated paragraph for each chapter.
This honesty allows the reader to understand the research’s focus and scope while providing a clear and easy-to-follow structure of the thesis.
This approach also serves to manage the reader’s expectations. By preempting frequently asked questions about the scope of your research, the introductory chapter establishes a trust that encourages the reader to continue reading, aware of the contours shaping the body of research.
Thus, a well-articulated limitations section is not just part of the thesis; it is an integral piece of a responsibly woven research narrative.
Structural Outline Of Thesis, Thesis Statement
Within the thesis or dissertation, the structural outline section is akin to a compass, orienting the reader’s journey through the academic landscape laid out within the pages.
Crafting this section is a strategic exercise, one that requires an understanding of the work’s skeleton.
In essence, it’s the blueprint for the construction of a scholarly argument, and writing a good thesis necessitates a clear and easy-to-follow outline.
When you write a thesis outline, it’s not only about catching the reader’s attention; it’s also about holding it throughout the rest of the thesis.
This is where the structural outline comes into play, often beginning with an introduction chapter that presents the thesis statement, research objectives, and the importance of your research.
Following the introduction, a typical outline might proceed with Chapter 2, offering a literature review to acquaint the reader with existing literature and how this piece of research fits within it.
Subsequent chapters, each with a paragraph in the outline, detail the methodological approach—whether it’s qualitative or quantitative—and the research’s focus and scope.
A well-thought-out outline should also preview the structure of the thesis, succinctly:
- Summarizing the main aim and objectives of each chapter, and
- Indicating the type of data and analysis that will be presented.
This roadmap reassures the reader that the dissertation or thesis will cover the necessary ground in a logical progression, continuing from where the introduction first captivated their interest.
The structural outline is not only part of the thesis—it’s a strategic framework that informs the reader what to expect in each subsequent chapter.
Done correctly, this section allows the reader to understand the whole thesis in a nutshell and can often serve as a checklist for both the reader and the writer.
This ensures that the key stages of the research project are clearly stated and that the reader is provided with a roadmap to guide them through the detailed landscape of your scholarly work.
Write An Introduction Chapter With Ease
Mastering the thesis introduction chapter is a critical step towards a successful dissertation. It’s about striking a balance between engagement and information, presenting a snapshot of your research with clarity and intrigue.
Remember to start with a hook, establish the context, clarify your aims, and highlight the significance, all while being mindful of the study’s scope and limitations.
By adhering to these principles, your introduction will not only guide but also inspire your readers, laying a strong foundation for the in-depth exploration that follows in your thesis or dissertation.
Dr Andrew Stapleton has a Masters and PhD in Chemistry from the UK and Australia. He has many years of research experience and has worked as a Postdoctoral Fellow and Associate at a number of Universities. Although having secured funding for his own research, he left academia to help others with his YouTube channel all about the inner workings of academia and how to make it work for you.
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How To Write A Thesis Introduction Without Effort
The first thing you will probably want to do when you start your thesis is write the introduction. Indeed, the thesis introduction is extremely important. It introduces the thesis statement, provides a bit of background information about the topic, explains a bit about your methods and results, and then makes a seamless transition to the first chapter. How long should a master’s thesis introduction be? Where is the thesis statement? Where can I get samples? Let’s talk about how you can write the best thesis introduction in the shortest time possible. Read on!
The Importance of the Thesis Introduction
So, what is a thesis introduction? Why is it so important? Should I write a thesis abstract ? To learn how to write a dissertation introduction correctly, you need to first understand its role and its importance. Here is why you need to make sure the introduction is written as best as possible:
The intro is there to provide some background information about the topic and present your thesis statement. It is also a great place to talk succinctly about other research and about the gap in knowledge that your research aims to plug. Learn how to write thesis introduction the right way if you want to get a top score on your thesis. The reality is that the evaluation committee considers the intro one of the most important parts of your academic paper. It should be perfect. The introduction is where you can hook your readers. Don’t be afraid to make a joke, share an anecdote, or be blunt about something. You want to make an impression on your readers and keep them reading.
So, Where Is the Thesis Statement Located in the Introduction?
Earlier, we mentioned the fact that you should include the thesis statement in the introduction. You probably know what a thesis statement is. If you don’t, we almost certainly have an article on our website that discusses it. To learn how to write a thesis introduction the right way, you need to know where to place the statement.
According to our seasoned academic writers, the best place to insert the statement is the end of the introductory paragraph.
The sentences that precede the thesis statement are there to introduce it. The reader needs to understand the problem before you can present your solution. Even though you may be tempted to start the introduction with a well-crafted, punchy statement, you should refrain from doing so. Place it at the end of the paragraph instead to make a transition to the Literature Review paragraph.
How Do You Write an Introduction for a Chapter in a Thesis?
Writing a thesis introduction is not very difficult. In fact, you should be able to do it all by yourself once you learn the simple process behind it. If you still need some help, keep in mind that we have some of the best thesis writers on the Internet. Our degree-holding experts can help you craft an awesome introduction for your thesis in mere hours. If you want to try it yourself, here is the process of writing a great thesis intro:
- Discuss the general topic and provide a bit of background information about it.
- Provide a literature review on the topic.
- Define the scope of the topic.
- Write a summary of the current research.
- Evaluate the summary and identify the gap in knowledge.
- Talk about how important your research can be.
- Establish the research problem.
- Establish what your research aims to achieve.
- Clearly state your hypotheses.
- Provide a short outline of the chapters of your thesis.
- Briefly discuss the methodology.
Where Can I Find an Example of Introduction in Thesis?
OK, but how do you write a good thesis introduction? It’s simple: you just follow the simple steps above. One paragraph per item should do the trick. However, we realize that some theses can be quite complicated. As such, their introductions can be somewhat difficult to write. If you are not very good at writing a dissertation introduction, you may need to get some help.
While you can find several decent examples of introductions on the Internet, we suggest you to avoid using them. You need a custom-written introduction that is 100% original. The best course of action is to get in touch with an academic writing company and get some professional help . A seasoned thesis writer will quickly help you write the best possible introduction for your paper.
Dissertation Introduction FAQ
Now that you know how to start your thesis introduction and have access to the simple steps to write an introduction thesis writers use all the time, it’s time to answer some of your questions.
How many pages should a thesis introduction be? A: An answer to this question is not easy to give. In general, the introduction should be around 10% of the word count of the thesis. If you are working on a PhD thesis, the intro will be anywhere from 8,000 to 10,000 words. In the case of a Masters thesis, you are probably looking at just 1,500 to 2,000 words.
How many pages is a Masters thesis introduction in psychology? A: On average, the Masters thesis introduction will be 3 or 4 pages long (1.5 spacing).
What’s the best way to start an introduction to a dissertation? A: There are many ways to start an introduction. However, in our writers’ experience, it seems that starting the introduction with an anecdote works great. Another thing that works is starting the thesis with something that captures your reader’s attention instantly (such as a statistic or a question).
How do you write a dissertation introduction and make it longer? A: You can make the introduction longer by incorporating the literature review into it. This means that you will present the literature in extensively in the introduction and eliminate the Literature Review chapter. It is perfectly fine to write the thesis introduction this way, don’t worry.
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Introduction and conclusion thesis chapters
Both the introduction and conclusion chapters frame your thesis. The introduction gives a preview of the thesis and often indicates the standard of the thesis. The conclusion gives a convincing summary of the thesis’s findings.
- The introduction chapter
- The conclusion chapter
The introduction allows you to orient the reader to your research project and preview the organisation of your thesis. In the introduction, state what the topic is about, explain why it needs to be further researched and introduce your research question(s) or hypothesis.
Whilst patterns of organisation in introductions vary, there are some common features that will help you to achieve an informative and engaging introduction. Let’s identify these features:
- Introduce the topic
- Define key terms and concepts
- Give background and context for the topic (this may include a brief literature review)
- Review and evaluate the current state of knowledge in the topic (this may include a brief literature review)
- Identify any gaps, shortcomings and problems in the research to date
- Introduce your research question(s) or hypothesis
- Briefly describe your methodology and/or theoretical approach
- Explain the aim of your research and what contribution it will make to the topic
- Give an overview of the chapter outline of the thesis.
It’s important to note that, depending on your field of study and the faculty requirements of your thesis, not all of these features will be relevant. Also, these features may occur in varied orders.
Most people write many drafts of their introduction. It can be useful to write one early in the research process to clarify your thinking. You will need to write a version for your confirmation proposal and other milestones. As your research progresses and your ideas develop, you will need to revise it. When the final draft of chapters is complete, check the introduction once more to make sure that it accurately reflects what you have actually done.
Check your understanding View
Read the following sentences from a doctoral thesis introduction. The research topic is Motivations for multiple tattoo acquisition (Applied Psychology).
Determine what introduction feature is demonstrated in the extract and scroll down to check your response before moving on to the next part of the activity.
Source: Stephanie Kalanj-Mizzi (2021). Motivations for multiple tattoo acquisition. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.
Depending on the type of research presented in the thesis, conclusion chapters or sections tend to include at least some of the following:
- A clear answer to your research question or hypothesis
- Summary of the main findings or argument
- Connections between your findings or argument to other research
- Explanation and significance of the findings
- Implications of the findings
- Limitations of the research and methodology
- Recommendations for future research
Your conclusion chapter is the place to emphasise the new knowledge that you’ve contributed to the field of study and explain its significance. This chapter is your opportunity to leave a strong impression on the reader (assessors) about the strength and relevance of your research, and your skills as a researcher.
Importantly, the conclusion chapter must link with your introduction chapter to complete the framing of the thesis and demonstrate that you have achieved what you set out to do.
Read the following sentences from a doctoral thesis conclusion. The research topic is Investigating the Role of Myeloid Cell Autophagy in Autoimmune Disease (STEM).
Source: Md Abul Hasnat (2021). Investigating the Role of Myeloid Cell Autophagy in Autoimmune Disease. (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). Monash University, Melbourne, Australia.
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- How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples
How to Write a Thesis Statement | 4 Steps & Examples
Published on January 11, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on August 15, 2023 by Eoghan Ryan.
A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . It usually comes near the end of your introduction .
Your thesis will look a bit different depending on the type of essay you’re writing. But the thesis statement should always clearly state the main idea you want to get across. Everything else in your essay should relate back to this idea.
You can write your thesis statement by following four simple steps:
- Start with a question
- Write your initial answer
- Develop your answer
- Refine your thesis statement
Table of contents
What is a thesis statement, placement of the thesis statement, step 1: start with a question, step 2: write your initial answer, step 3: develop your answer, step 4: refine your thesis statement, types of thesis statements, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about thesis statements.
A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay. It is a signpost telling the reader what the essay will argue and why.
The best thesis statements are:
- Concise: A good thesis statement is short and sweet—don’t use more words than necessary. State your point clearly and directly in one or two sentences.
- Contentious: Your thesis shouldn’t be a simple statement of fact that everyone already knows. A good thesis statement is a claim that requires further evidence or analysis to back it up.
- Coherent: Everything mentioned in your thesis statement must be supported and explained in the rest of your paper.
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The thesis statement generally appears at the end of your essay introduction or research paper introduction .
The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts and among young people more generally is hotly debated. For many who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education: the internet facilitates easier access to information, exposure to different perspectives, and a flexible learning environment for both students and teachers.
You should come up with an initial thesis, sometimes called a working thesis , early in the writing process . As soon as you’ve decided on your essay topic , you need to work out what you want to say about it—a clear thesis will give your essay direction and structure.
You might already have a question in your assignment, but if not, try to come up with your own. What would you like to find out or decide about your topic?
For example, you might ask:
After some initial research, you can formulate a tentative answer to this question. At this stage it can be simple, and it should guide the research process and writing process .
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Now you need to consider why this is your answer and how you will convince your reader to agree with you. As you read more about your topic and begin writing, your answer should get more detailed.
In your essay about the internet and education, the thesis states your position and sketches out the key arguments you’ll use to support it.
The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its many benefits for education because it facilitates easier access to information.
In your essay about braille, the thesis statement summarizes the key historical development that you’ll explain.
The invention of braille in the 19th century transformed the lives of blind people, allowing them to participate more actively in public life.
A strong thesis statement should tell the reader:
- Why you hold this position
- What they’ll learn from your essay
- The key points of your argument or narrative
The final thesis statement doesn’t just state your position, but summarizes your overall argument or the entire topic you’re going to explain. To strengthen a weak thesis statement, it can help to consider the broader context of your topic.
These examples are more specific and show that you’ll explore your topic in depth.
Your thesis statement should match the goals of your essay, which vary depending on the type of essay you’re writing:
- In an argumentative essay , your thesis statement should take a strong position. Your aim in the essay is to convince your reader of this thesis based on evidence and logical reasoning.
- In an expository essay , you’ll aim to explain the facts of a topic or process. Your thesis statement doesn’t have to include a strong opinion in this case, but it should clearly state the central point you want to make, and mention the key elements you’ll explain.
If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!
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A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.
The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:
- It gives your writing direction and focus.
- It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.
Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.
Follow these four steps to come up with a thesis statement :
- Ask a question about your topic .
- Write your initial answer.
- Develop your answer by including reasons.
- Refine your answer, adding more detail and nuance.
The thesis statement should be placed at the end of your essay introduction .
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Tips and Examples for Writing Thesis Statements
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This resource provides tips for creating a thesis statement and examples of different types of thesis statements.
Tips for Writing Your Thesis Statement
1. Determine what kind of paper you are writing:
- An analytical paper breaks down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluates the issue or idea, and presents this breakdown and evaluation to the audience.
- An expository (explanatory) paper explains something to the audience.
- An argumentative paper makes a claim about a topic and justifies this claim with specific evidence. The claim could be an opinion, a policy proposal, an evaluation, a cause-and-effect statement, or an interpretation. The goal of the argumentative paper is to convince the audience that the claim is true based on the evidence provided.
If you are writing a text that does not fall under these three categories (e.g., a narrative), a thesis statement somewhere in the first paragraph could still be helpful to your reader.
2. Your thesis statement should be specific—it should cover only what you will discuss in your paper and should be supported with specific evidence.
3. The thesis statement usually appears at the end of the first paragraph of a paper.
4. Your topic may change as you write, so you may need to revise your thesis statement to reflect exactly what you have discussed in the paper.
Thesis Statement Examples
Example of an analytical thesis statement:
The paper that follows should:
- Explain the analysis of the college admission process
- Explain the challenge facing admissions counselors
Example of an expository (explanatory) thesis statement:
- Explain how students spend their time studying, attending class, and socializing with peers
Example of an argumentative thesis statement:
- Present an argument and give evidence to support the claim that students should pursue community projects before entering college
How to Write an Introduction
An introduction for an essay or research paper is the first paragraph, which explains the topic and prepares the reader for the rest of the work. Because it’s responsible for both the reader’s first impression and setting the stage for the rest of the work, the introduction paragraph is arguably the most important paragraph in the work.
Knowing how to write an introduction paragraph is a great skill, not just for writers, but for students and researchers as well. Here, we explain everything you need to know to write the best introduction, such as what to include and a step-by-step process, with some introduction paragraph examples.
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What is an introduction?
Your introduction is a way of preparing your reader for your paper. As the first paragraph of your writing , it makes the first impression and sets the reader’s expectations for tone, voice, and writing style. More importantly, your introduction provides the necessary background for your reader to understand your paper’s purpose and key points.
The introduction is also a way to engage and captivate your reader. An interesting, thought-provoking, or generally entertaining introduction makes your reader excited to keep reading—and an eager reader is an attentive reader.
What to include in an introduction
Introductions generally follow the writing style of the author and the format for the type of paper—for example, opening with a joke is appropriate for some essays, but not research papers . However, no matter what your writing style is or what kind of paper you’re writing, a good introduction includes at least three parts:
- A hook to capture the reader’s attention
- Background for context
- A clearly defined thesis statement or main point of your paper
How to write a hook
The hook refers to anything that grabs (or “hooks”) your reader’s attention and makes them interested. This could be a mystery, such as posing a question and only answering it at the end of your paper. Or it could be a shocking statistic, something that makes your reader rethink what they thought they knew and become curious for more information.
Hooks can be even more creative. Some papers start with an analogy or parable to present complicated topics in a way that someone with little experience can understand. Likewise, many writers opt to use personal anecdotes to show a more human side and spark an emotional connection with the reader.
When all else fails, you can use a poignant quote. If you’re having trouble putting your thoughts into words, maybe one of the great minds from history has already said it well.
You can read all about how to write a hook here, including more detailed instructions and examples.
How to add background information
Not every paper requires background knowledge, but sometimes your reader needs to catch up or understand the context before you make your original points.
If you’re writing about something factual, such as a scientific or historical paper, you may need to provide a small lesson on the basics. For example, if you’re writing about the conflict between ancient Egypt and Nubia, you might want to establish the time period and where each party was located geographically.
Just don’t give too much away in the introduction. In general, introductions should be short. If your topic requires extensive background to understand, it’s best to dedicate a few paragraphs to this after the introduction.
How to write a thesis statement
Every good introduction needs a thesis statement , a sentence that plainly and concisely explains the main topic. Thesis statements are often just a brief summary of your entire paper, including your argument or point of view for personal essays. For example, if your paper is about whether viewing violent cartoons impacts real-life violence, your thesis statement could be:
Despite the rhetoric and finger-pointing, no evidence has connected live-action role-play violence with real-world violence, but there is plenty of evidence for exoneration, as I explain here.
Learning to write a good thesis statement is an essential writing skill, both in college and the world of work, so it’s worth taking the time to learn. The rule of thumb for thesis statements is not to give everything away all at once. Thesis statements, and more broadly introductions, should be short and to the point, so save the details for the rest of the paper.
How to write an introduction paragraph in 6 steps
1 decide on the overall tone and formality of your paper.
Often what you’re writing determines the style: The guidelines for how to write an introduction for a report are different from those for how to write an English essay introduction. Even the different types of essays have their own limitations; for example, slang might be acceptable for a personal essay, but not a serious argumentative essay.
Don’t force yourself to write in a style that’s uncomfortable to you. If you’re not good at making jokes, you don’t need to. As long as your writing is interesting and your points are clear, your readers won’t mind.
2 Write your thesis statement
At the beginning of writing a paper, even before writing the research paper outline , you should know what your thesis is. If you haven’t already, now is the time to put that thesis into words by writing your thesis statement.
Thesis statements are just one sentence, but they are usually the most important sentence in your entire work. When your thesis is clearly defined, your readers will often use it as an anchor to understand the rest of the writing.
The key to writing a good thesis statement is knowing what to ignore. Your thesis statement should be an overview, not an outline. Save the details, evidence, and personal opinions for the body of the paper.
If you’re still having trouble, ask yourself how you’d explain this topic to a child. When you’re forced to use small words and simplify complex ideas, your writing comes across more clearly and is easier to understand. This technique also helps you know which details are necessary up front and which can wait until later .
3 Consider what background information your reader needs
Don’t take your own experience for granted. By this point in the writing process , you’ve probably already finished your research, which means you’re somewhat of an expert on the topic. Think back to what it was like before you learned: What did you wish you had known then?
Even if your topic is abstract, such as an ethical debate, consider including some context on the debate itself. How long has the ethical debate been happening? Was there a specific event that started it? Information like this can help set the scene so your reader doesn’t feel like they’re missing something.
4 Think of a good hook
Writing a hook can be the most difficult part of writing an introduction because it calls for some creativity. While the rest of your paper might be presenting fact after fact, the hook in your introduction often requires creating something from nothing.
Luckily, there are already plenty of tried-and-true strategies for how to start an essay . If you’re not feeling very creative, you can use a method that’s already been proven effective.
Just remember that the best hooks create an emotional connection—which emotion is up to you and your topic.
5 Write a rough draft of your introduction without pressure
It’s normal to clam up when writing a rough draft of your introduction. After all, the introduction always comes first, so it’s the first thing you write when you finally begin.
As explained in our guide to writing a rough draft , the best advice is not to pressure yourself. It’s OK to write something that’s messy—that’s what makes this draft rough . The idea here is to get words on paper that make your point. They don’t have to be the perfect words; that’s what revisions are for.
At the beginning, just worry about saying what needs to be said. Get down your hook and thesis statement, and background information if necessary, without worrying about how it sounds. You’ll be able to fix the problems later.
6 Revise your introduction after you’ve written your whole paper.
We recommend finishing the first draft of your entire paper before revising the introduction. You may make some changes in your paper’s structure when writing the first draft, and those changes should be reflected in the introduction.
After the first draft, it’s easier to focus on minutiae like word choice and sentence structure, not to mention finding spelling and grammar mistakes.
Introduction for an essay example
While other kids’ memories of circuses are happy and fun, what I recall most from my first time at a circus was feeling sorry for the animals—I can still remember the sadness in their eyes. [HOOK] Although animal rights in the circus have come a long way, their treatment of animals even under the new laws is still cruelty plain and simple. [BACKGROUND] The way circuses abuse animals needs to be abolished immediately, and we need to entirely rethink the way we use animals for entertainment. [THESIS STATEMENT]
Introduction for a research paper example
What would happen to humanity if everyone just stopped having babies? [HOOK] Although more endemic in some places than others, the global decline in birth rates has become a major issue since the end of the pandemic. [BACKGROUND] My research here shows not only that birth rates are declining all over the world, but also that unless the threats are addressed, these drastic declines will only get worse. [THESIS STATEMENT]
An introduction is the first paragraph in an essay or research paper. It prepares the reader for what follows.
What’s the purpose of an introduction?
The goal of the introduction is to both provide the necessary context for the topic so the reader can follow along and also create an emotional connection so the reader wants to keep reading.
What should an introduction include?
An introduction should include three things: a hook to interest the reader, some background on the topic so the reader can understand it, and a thesis statement that clearly and quickly summarizes your main point.
What is a thesis statement.
Your thesis statement is one of the most important parts of your paper. It expresses your main argument succinctly and explains why your argument is historically significant. Think of your thesis as a promise you make to your reader about what your paper will argue. Then, spend the rest of your paper–each body paragraph–fulfilling that promise.
Your thesis should be between one and three sentences long and is placed at the end of your introduction. Just because the thesis comes towards the beginning of your paper does not mean you can write it first and then forget about it. View your thesis as a work in progress while you write your paper. Once you are satisfied with the overall argument your paper makes, go back to your thesis and see if it captures what you have argued. If it does not, then revise it. Crafting a good thesis is one of the most challenging parts of the writing process, so do not expect to perfect it on the first few tries. Successful writers revise their thesis statements again and again.
A successful thesis statement:
- makes an historical argument
- takes a position that requires defending
- is historically specific
- is focused and precise
- answers the question, “so what?”
How to write a thesis statement:
Suppose you are taking an early American history class and your professor has distributed the following essay prompt:
“Historians have debated the American Revolution’s effect on women. Some argue that the Revolution had a positive effect because it increased women’s authority in the family. Others argue that it had a negative effect because it excluded women from politics. Still others argue that the Revolution changed very little for women, as they remained ensconced in the home. Write a paper in which you pose your own answer to the question of whether the American Revolution had a positive, negative, or limited effect on women.”
Using this prompt, we will look at both weak and strong thesis statements to see how successful thesis statements work.
While this thesis does take a position, it is problematic because it simply restates the prompt. It needs to be more specific about how the Revolution had a limited effect on women and why it mattered that women remained in the home.
Revised Thesis: The Revolution wrought little political change in the lives of women because they did not gain the right to vote or run for office. Instead, women remained firmly in the home, just as they had before the war, making their day-to-day lives look much the same.
This revision is an improvement over the first attempt because it states what standards the writer is using to measure change (the right to vote and run for office) and it shows why women remaining in the home serves as evidence of limited change (because their day-to-day lives looked the same before and after the war). However, it still relies too heavily on the information given in the prompt, simply saying that women remained in the home. It needs to make an argument about some element of the war’s limited effect on women. This thesis requires further revision.
Strong Thesis: While the Revolution presented women unprecedented opportunities to participate in protest movements and manage their family’s farms and businesses, it ultimately did not offer lasting political change, excluding women from the right to vote and serve in office.
Few would argue with the idea that war brings upheaval. Your thesis needs to be debatable: it needs to make a claim against which someone could argue. Your job throughout the paper is to provide evidence in support of your own case. Here is a revised version:
Strong Thesis: The Revolution caused particular upheaval in the lives of women. With men away at war, women took on full responsibility for running households, farms, and businesses. As a result of their increased involvement during the war, many women were reluctant to give up their new-found responsibilities after the fighting ended.
Sexism is a vague word that can mean different things in different times and places. In order to answer the question and make a compelling argument, this thesis needs to explain exactly what attitudes toward women were in early America, and how those attitudes negatively affected women in the Revolutionary period.
Strong Thesis: The Revolution had a negative impact on women because of the belief that women lacked the rational faculties of men. In a nation that was to be guided by reasonable republican citizens, women were imagined to have no place in politics and were thus firmly relegated to the home.
This thesis addresses too large of a topic for an undergraduate paper. The terms “social,” “political,” and “economic” are too broad and vague for the writer to analyze them thoroughly in a limited number of pages. The thesis might focus on one of those concepts, or it might narrow the emphasis to some specific features of social, political, and economic change.
Strong Thesis: The Revolution paved the way for important political changes for women. As “Republican Mothers,” women contributed to the polity by raising future citizens and nurturing virtuous husbands. Consequently, women played a far more important role in the new nation’s politics than they had under British rule.
This thesis is off to a strong start, but it needs to go one step further by telling the reader why changes in these three areas mattered. How did the lives of women improve because of developments in education, law, and economics? What were women able to do with these advantages? Obviously the rest of the paper will answer these questions, but the thesis statement needs to give some indication of why these particular changes mattered.
Strong Thesis: The Revolution had a positive impact on women because it ushered in improvements in female education, legal standing, and economic opportunity. Progress in these three areas gave women the tools they needed to carve out lives beyond the home, laying the foundation for the cohesive feminist movement that would emerge in the mid-nineteenth century.
When revising your thesis, check it against the following guidelines:
- Does my thesis make an historical argument?
- Does my thesis take a position that requires defending?
- Is my thesis historically specific?
- Is my thesis focused and precise?
- Does my thesis answer the question, “so what?”
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