How to write a fantastic thesis introduction (+15 examples)

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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?

introduction phd thesis

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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If you find it tricky to write the introduction chapter of a PhD thesis, rest assured that you’re not alone. The introduction can be one of the hardest sections to write for any piece of research writing. However, the introduction is also one of the most important sections as it lays the groundwork for the following chapters and offers a first impression of the rest of the research that you are about to share. This article discusses some of the key things to consider as you write your introduction.

Write your introduction last

It is very common practice for most researchers to write the introduction chapter last. You might be wondering why that is, since it is the first chapter of the thesis. However, think of it in this way: you cannot introduce something until you know exactly what you are introducing .

You will have a complete overview and understanding of the entire project only when you have largely completed it and written all the other constituent parts. By writing the introduction at the end of your project, you’ll be able to look back over your initial research questions , the way you conducted the research, the results you generated and the conclusions you formed. You will then be in a better position to present and introduce the research as a whole, coherent piece of work. 

Provide an overview 

The introduction should offer the reader an overview of the research that you have conducted. You are setting the scene for your reader and giving them a broad idea of what they can expect throughout the rest of the thesis. As such, you don’t need to go into too much depth at this stage – the details can come later in the following chapters. In particular, you need to talk about what you are studying and why.

What are you studying?

The introduction is the best place to outline your working hypothesis and/or research questions . After all, this is what the rest of your thesis will entail.

Make it very clear for your reader exactly what you are setting out to investigate.

What are you trying to find out? What are you testing? What answers or results are you hoping to obtain by doing this study?

You might find it easier and clearer to outline your research questions as distinct bullet points . Then, you can follow this list with a more detailed discussion of each of the questions or hypotheses – for example, why you are asking each question, what you hope to find out from each question and what methods you will use to answer those questions. 

Why are you doing this research? 

Apart from giving your reader an idea of what your thesis is about, it is important to explain in the introduction why you are doing this research. Start by highlighting exactly what issue(s) you are addressing in this research, then outline why this research is important and why there is a need for this study to be conducted.

Although you shouldn’t give everything away and reveal all your findings and conclusions at the beginning of the thesis, you can begin to hint at the potential impact and implications that such a study could create, either for your specific field, or for society more generally. This will again emphasise the significance and relevance of this research. 

Offer some background

In order to effectively set the scene, you can also begin to introduce some of the most prominent work that has already been done on the subject. This chapter is a good place to contextualise your research within the broader, existing body of work. Again, you don’t need to go into great detail – that will be covered in the literature review – but it can be helpful to briefly mention some of the existing relevant work that has informed and motivated your unique study.

For example, perhaps your research responds directly to a recent scientific discovery. You can use the introduction to refer to this previous study and explain how you are addressing the limitations and problems of that study or exploring the effects of using an alternative method.

How are you conducting this research?

When you’ve introduced the reasons informing your study and explained what you will be investigating, you will then want to offer a brief explanation of how you have designed and conducted this research. Again, as you are only giving an overview at this stage, you don’t need to go into too much detail – further explanations will come later in your methods /methodology chapter.

Remember that you want to offer your reader a broad idea of what the overall research project entails. Naturally, this includes some discussion of the main approaches and directions you took in your research to adequately answer the questions that you set out to investigate.

Offer a clear chapter outline

It is a good idea to include a section within your introduction that clearly outlines what each of the proceeding chapters will include. As you write these chapter outlines, think of them as small summaries, or mini abstracts, of each chapter .

Your reader will then have a much firmer and focused idea of what is to come next, and how each chapter will connect with and links to each other. Think of the chapter outline as something like a recipe or a roadmap laying out the steps that the reader will follow. 

In conclusion

Although it can feel a bit overwhelming to have to summarise all your research into a single introductory chapter, it might help to place yourself in the position of your ideal reader or examiner .

What would you like them to know as they start reading your thesis? What important pieces of information would they need here in order to fully appreciate and understand the rest of your paper?

Think about what you would like to see and what details you appreciate when you read introductory chapters, and try to recreate that same clarity for your reader.

Read next (final) in series:  PhD Writing 4: How to write the conclusion chapter of your thesis

Read previous in series: PhD Writing 2: How to improve your writing skills in preparation for writing your thesis

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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)

Introduction exercise

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 5.3

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

Engineering & science

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Tips for writing a PhD dissertation: FAQs answered

From how to choose a topic to writing the abstract and managing work-life balance through the years it takes to complete a doctorate, here we collect expert advice to get you through the PhD writing process

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Embarking on a PhD is “probably the most challenging task that a young scholar attempts to do”, write Mark Stephan Felix and Ian Smith in their practical guide to dissertation and thesis writing. After years of reading and research to answer a specific question or proposition, the candidate will submit about 80,000 words that explain their methods and results and demonstrate their unique contribution to knowledge. Here are the answers to frequently asked questions about writing a doctoral thesis or dissertation.

What’s the difference between a dissertation and a thesis?

Whatever the genre of the doctorate, a PhD must offer an original contribution to knowledge. The terms “dissertation” and “thesis” both refer to the long-form piece of work produced at the end of a research project and are often used interchangeably. Which one is used might depend on the country, discipline or university. In the UK, “thesis” is generally used for the work done for a PhD, while a “dissertation” is written for a master’s degree. The US did the same until the 1960s, says Oxbridge Essays, when the convention switched, and references appeared to a “master’s thesis” and “doctoral dissertation”. To complicate matters further, undergraduate long essays are also sometimes referred to as a thesis or dissertation.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “thesis” as “a dissertation, especially by a candidate for a degree” and “dissertation” as “a detailed discourse on a subject, especially one submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of a degree or diploma”.

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The title “doctor of philosophy”, incidentally, comes from the degree’s origins, write Dr Felix, an associate professor at Mahidol University in Thailand, and Dr Smith, retired associate professor of education at the University of Sydney , whose co-authored guide focuses on the social sciences. The PhD was first awarded in the 19th century by the philosophy departments of German universities, which at that time taught science, social science and liberal arts.

How long should a PhD thesis be?

A PhD thesis (or dissertation) is typically 60,000 to 120,000 words ( 100 to 300 pages in length ) organised into chapters, divisions and subdivisions (with roughly 10,000 words per chapter) – from introduction (with clear aims and objectives) to conclusion.

The structure of a dissertation will vary depending on discipline (humanities, social sciences and STEM all have their own conventions), location and institution. Examples and guides to structure proliferate online. The University of Salford , for example, lists: title page, declaration, acknowledgements, abstract, table of contents, lists of figures, tables and abbreviations (where needed), chapters, appendices and references.

A scientific-style thesis will likely need: introduction, literature review, materials and methods, results, discussion, bibliography and references.

As well as checking the overall criteria and expectations of your institution for your research, consult your school handbook for the required length and format (font, layout conventions and so on) for your dissertation.

A PhD takes three to four years to complete; this might extend to six to eight years for a part-time doctorate.

What are the steps for completing a PhD?

Before you get started in earnest , you’ll likely have found a potential supervisor, who will guide your PhD journey, and done a research proposal (which outlines what you plan to research and how) as part of your application, as well as a literature review of existing scholarship in the field, which may form part of your final submission.

In the UK, PhD candidates undertake original research and write the results in a thesis or dissertation, says author and vlogger Simon Clark , who posted videos to YouTube throughout his own PhD journey . Then they submit the thesis in hard copy and attend the viva voce (which is Latin for “living voice” and is also called an oral defence or doctoral defence) to convince the examiners that their work is original, understood and all their own. Afterwards, if necessary, they make changes and resubmit. If the changes are approved, the degree is awarded.

The steps are similar in Australia , although candidates are mostly assessed on their thesis only; some universities may include taught courses, and some use a viva voce. A PhD in Australia usually takes three years full time.

In the US, the PhD process begins with taught classes (similar to a taught master’s) and a comprehensive exam (called a “field exam” or “dissertation qualifying exam”) before the candidate embarks on their original research. The whole journey takes four to six years.

A PhD candidate will need three skills and attitudes to get through their doctoral studies, says Tara Brabazon , professor of cultural studies at Flinders University in Australia who has written extensively about the PhD journey :

  • master the academic foundational skills (research, writing, ability to navigate different modalities)
  • time-management skills and the ability to focus on reading and writing
  • determined motivation to do a PhD.

Socrates' methods can still help university student in the battle with misinformation

How do I choose the topic for my PhD dissertation or thesis?

It’s important to find a topic that will sustain your interest for the years it will take to complete a PhD. “Finding a sustainable topic is the most important thing you [as a PhD student] would do,” says Dr Brabazon in a video for Times Higher Education . “Write down on a big piece of paper all the topics, all the ideas, all the questions that really interest you, and start to cross out all the ones that might just be a passing interest.” Also, she says, impose the “Who cares? Who gives a damn?” question to decide if the topic will be useful in a future academic career.

The availability of funding and scholarships is also often an important factor in this decision, says veteran PhD supervisor Richard Godwin, from Harper Adams University .

Define a gap in knowledge – and one that can be questioned, explored, researched and written about in the time available to you, says Gina Wisker, head of the Centre for Learning and Teaching at the University of Brighton. “Set some boundaries,” she advises. “Don’t try to ask everything related to your topic in every way.”

James Hartley, research professor in psychology at Keele University, says it can also be useful to think about topics that spark general interest. If you do pick something that taps into the zeitgeist, your findings are more likely to be noticed.

You also need to find someone else who is interested in it, too. For STEM candidates , this will probably be a case of joining a team of people working in a similar area where, ideally, scholarship funding is available. A centre for doctoral training (CDT) or doctoral training partnership (DTP) will advertise research projects. For those in the liberal arts and social sciences, it will be a matter of identifying a suitable supervisor .

Avoid topics that are too broad (hunger across a whole country, for example) or too narrow (hunger in a single street) to yield useful solutions of academic significance, write Mark Stephan Felix and Ian Smith. And ensure that you’re not repeating previous research or trying to solve a problem that has already been answered. A PhD thesis must be original.

What is a thesis proposal?

After you have read widely to refine your topic and ensure that it and your research methods are original, and discussed your project with a (potential) supervisor, you’re ready to write a thesis proposal , a document of 1,500 to 3,000 words that sets out the proposed direction of your research. In the UK, a research proposal is usually part of the application process for admission to a research degree. As with the final dissertation itself, format varies among disciplines, institutions and countries but will usually contain title page, aims, literature review, methodology, timetable and bibliography. Examples of research proposals are available online.

How to write an abstract for a dissertation or thesis

The abstract presents your thesis to the wider world – and as such may be its most important element , says the NUI Galway writing guide. It outlines the why, how, what and so what of the thesis . Unlike the introduction, which provides background but not research findings, the abstract summarises all sections of the dissertation in a concise, thorough, focused way and demonstrates how well the writer understands their material. Check word-length limits with your university – and stick to them. About 300 to 500 words is a rough guide ­– but it can be up to 1,000 words.

The abstract is also important for selection and indexing of your thesis, according to the University of Melbourne guide , so be sure to include searchable keywords.

It is the first thing to be read but the last element you should write. However, Pat Thomson , professor of education at the University of Nottingham , advises that it is not something to be tackled at the last minute.

How to write a stellar conclusion

As well as chapter conclusions, a thesis often has an overall conclusion to draw together the key points covered and to reflect on the unique contribution to knowledge. It can comment on future implications of the research and open up new ideas emanating from the work. It is shorter and more general than the discussion chapter , says online editing site Scribbr, and reiterates how the work answers the main question posed at the beginning of the thesis. The conclusion chapter also often discusses the limitations of the research (time, scope, word limit, access) in a constructive manner.

It can be useful to keep a collection of ideas as you go – in the online forum DoctoralWriting SIG , academic developer Claire Aitchison, of the University of South Australia , suggests using a “conclusions bank” for themes and inspirations, and using free-writing to keep this final section fresh. (Just when you feel you’ve run out of steam.) Avoid aggrandising or exaggerating the impact of your work. It should remind the reader what has been done, and why it matters.

How to format a bibliography (or where to find a reliable model)

Most universities use a preferred style of references , writes THE associate editor Ingrid Curl. Make sure you know what this is and follow it. “One of the most common errors in academic writing is to cite papers in the text that do not then appear in the bibliography. All references in your thesis need to be cross-checked with the bibliography before submission. Using a database during your research can save a great deal of time in the writing-up process.”

A bibliography contains not only works cited explicitly but also those that have informed or contributed to the research – and as such illustrates its scope; works are not limited to written publications but include sources such as film or visual art.

Examiners can start marking from the back of the script, writes Dr Brabazon. “Just as cooks are judged by their ingredients and implements, we judge doctoral students by the calibre of their sources,” she advises. She also says that candidates should be prepared to speak in an oral examination of the PhD about any texts included in their bibliography, especially if there is a disconnect between the thesis and the texts listed.

Can I use informal language in my PhD?

Don’t write like a stereotypical academic , say Kevin Haggerty, professor of sociology at the University of Alberta , and Aaron Doyle, associate professor in sociology at Carleton University , in their tongue-in-cheek guide to the PhD journey. “If you cannot write clearly and persuasively, everything about PhD study becomes harder.” Avoid jargon, exotic words, passive voice and long, convoluted sentences – and work on it consistently. “Writing is like playing guitar; it can improve only through consistent, concerted effort.”

Be deliberate and take care with your writing . “Write your first draft, leave it and then come back to it with a critical eye. Look objectively at the writing and read it closely for style and sense,” advises THE ’s Ms Curl. “Look out for common errors such as dangling modifiers, subject-verb disagreement and inconsistency. If you are too involved with the text to be able to take a step back and do this, then ask a friend or colleague to read it with a critical eye. Remember Hemingway’s advice: ‘Prose is architecture, not interior decoration.’ Clarity is key.”

How often should a PhD candidate meet with their supervisor?

Since the PhD supervisor provides a range of support and advice – including on research techniques, planning and submission – regular formal supervisions are essential, as is establishing a line of contact such as email if the candidate needs help or advice outside arranged times. The frequency varies according to university, discipline and individual scholars.

Once a week is ideal, says Dr Brabazon. She also advocates a two-hour initial meeting to establish the foundations of the candidate-supervisor relationship .

The University of Edinburgh guide to writing a thesis suggests that creating a timetable of supervisor meetings right at the beginning of the research process will allow candidates to ensure that their work stays on track throughout. The meetings are also the place to get regular feedback on draft chapters.

“A clear structure and a solid framework are vital for research,” writes Dr Godwin on THE Campus . Use your supervisor to establish this and provide a realistic view of what can be achieved. “It is vital to help students identify the true scientific merit, the practical significance of their work and its value to society.”

How to proofread your dissertation (what to look for)

Proofreading is the final step before printing and submission. Give yourself time to ensure that your work is the best it can be . Don’t leave proofreading to the last minute; ideally, break it up into a few close-reading sessions. Find a quiet place without distractions. A checklist can help ensure that all aspects are covered.

Proofing is often helped by a change of format – so it can be easier to read a printout rather than working off the screen – or by reading sections out of order. Fresh eyes are better at spotting typographical errors and inconsistencies, so leave time between writing and proofreading. Check with your university’s policies before asking another person to proofread your thesis for you.

As well as close details such as spelling and grammar, check that all sections are complete, all required elements are included , and nothing is repeated or redundant. Don’t forget to check headings and subheadings. Does the text flow from one section to another? Is the structure clear? Is the work a coherent whole with a clear line throughout?

Ensure consistency in, for example, UK v US spellings, capitalisation, format, numbers (digits or words, commas, units of measurement), contractions, italics and hyphenation. Spellchecks and online plagiarism checkers are also your friend.

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How do you manage your time to complete a PhD dissertation?

Treat your PhD like a full-time job, that is, with an eight-hour working day. Within that, you’ll need to plan your time in a way that gives a sense of progress . Setbacks and periods where it feels as if you are treading water are all but inevitable, so keeping track of small wins is important, writes A Happy PhD blogger Luis P. Prieto.

Be specific with your goals – use the SMART acronym (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely).

And it’s never too soon to start writing – even if early drafts are overwritten and discarded.

“ Write little and write often . Many of us make the mistake of taking to writing as one would take to a sprint, in other words, with relatively short bursts of intense activity. Whilst this can prove productive, generally speaking it is not sustainable…In addition to sustaining your activity, writing little bits on a frequent basis ensures that you progress with your thinking. The comfort of remaining in abstract thought is common; writing forces us to concretise our thinking,” says Christian Gilliam, AHSS researcher developer at the University of Cambridge ’s Centre for Teaching and Learning.

Make time to write. “If you are more alert early in the day, find times that suit you in the morning; if you are a ‘night person’, block out some writing sessions in the evenings,” advises NUI Galway’s Dermot Burns, a lecturer in English and creative arts. Set targets, keep daily notes of experiment details that you will need in your thesis, don’t confuse writing with editing or revising – and always back up your work.

What work-life balance tips should I follow to complete my dissertation?

During your PhD programme, you may have opportunities to take part in professional development activities, such as teaching, attending academic conferences and publishing your work. Your research may include residencies, field trips or archive visits. This will require time-management skills as well as prioritising where you devote your energy and factoring in rest and relaxation. Organise your routine to suit your needs , and plan for steady and regular progress.

How to deal with setbacks while writing a thesis or dissertation

Have a contingency plan for delays or roadblocks such as unexpected results.

Accept that writing is messy, first drafts are imperfect, and writer’s block is inevitable, says Dr Burns. His tips for breaking it include relaxation to free your mind from clutter, writing a plan and drawing a mind map of key points for clarity. He also advises feedback, reflection and revision: “Progressing from a rough version of your thoughts to a superior and workable text takes time, effort, different perspectives and some expertise.”

“Academia can be a relentlessly brutal merry-go-round of rejection, rebuttal and failure,” writes Lorraine Hope , professor of applied cognitive psychology at the University of Portsmouth, on THE Campus. Resilience is important. Ensure that you and your supervisor have a relationship that supports open, frank, judgement-free communication.

If you found this interesting and want advice and insight from academics and university staff delivered direct to your inbox each week, sign up for the THE Campus newsletter .

Authoring a PhD Thesis: How to Plan, Draft, Write and Finish a Doctoral Dissertation (2003), by Patrick Dunleavy

Writing Your Dissertation in Fifteen Minutes a Day: A Guide to Starting, Revising, and Finishing Your Doctoral Thesis (1998), by Joan Balker

Challenges in Writing Your Dissertation: Coping with the Emotional, Interpersonal, and Spiritual Struggles (2015), by Noelle Sterne

Emotions and learning: what role do emotions play in how and why students learn?

Four ways to help academics achieve better work-life balance, decolonising the curriculum – how do i get started, five reasons why primary sources should be used for teaching, increase accessibility to leadership for women, guidance for universities on being more trans inclusive.

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introduction phd thesis

How to Write Thesis Introduction Chapter: An Ultimate Guide

If you’ve landed here, you might be in the early challenging phase of penning down the dissertation introduction chapter. Well, we all know that it’s not an easy feat.

In this post, we will learn and review all the essential ingredients necessary for writing a strong dissertation and the details on which you should focus in this section.

Let’s get started by finding out what a thesis introduction is!

What Is Thesis Introduction?

The introduction is the first chapter of your dissertation that is placed right after the table of content. Your introduction should be intriguing and informative enough to draw your readers’ attention and set up the ground for your research with clarity, direction, and purpose on a relevant topic.

Your dissertation introduction should include;

  • Topic Introduction And Subject Background: This initial part serves as an introduction, providing a broad overview of your research and the necessary context for your project, explaining the factors surrounding it.
  • Research problem: This section highlights the gap or deficiency in current research that your study aims to address.
  • Focus And scope: Clearly articulate the specific achievements and inquiries your research intends to accomplish.
  • Relevance And importance: Justify the worth and value of your research, explaining why it is important to undertake and the contributions it will make.
  • Questions And objectives: Outline the specific research questions or objectives that this dissertation will address and achieve.
  • Limitations: Acknowledge and address the potential limitations inherent in your project and approach.
  • Structure Overview: Briefly outline the organisation and framework of your dissertation or thesis, helping the reader navigate its contents.

How To Start Writing The Dissertation Introduction

While the dissertation introduction traditionally serves as the opening section, it is not mandatory to write it first. In fact, it is often one of the final components to be written, usually preceding the abstract.

But we suggest you write a rough draft of your dissertation introduction before starting the research to guide you throughout the writing process. However, revise the introduction from time to time to ensure that it matches the content of all sections.

1.    Topic Introduction And Subject Background

Start by introducing your dissertation subject and providing essential contextual details. Define the significance of your research to educate your readers and grab their interest. It’s better to demonstrate the timeliness or importance of your topic, potentially by referring to a pertinent news article, ongoing academic discussion, or practical issue.

2.    Focus And scope

After providing a concise introduction to the broader field of study, it is essential to narrow your research focus and clearly delineate your investigation’s specific boundaries and objectives.

There are several ways through which you can narrow down your research focus, including:

  • Time period
  • Demographics
  • Geographical area
  • Topics, themes, and aspects

3.    Research Problem

Once you have provided your readers with an overview of your research area, it becomes essential to delve into the specifics of the research problem that your dissertation or thesis will address. While the background section may have hinted at potential research problems, this section aims to narrow down the focus and emphasise the specific research problem you will concentrate on.

Now, you might wonder, what exactly constitutes a research problem?

A research problem arises when there is a need to address a question or set of questions, but there exists a gap in the current literature, or the existing research presents conflicting or inconsistent findings.

To present your research problem effectively, it is crucial to clarify what is missing in the current literature and why it poses a problem. It is generally advisable to structure this discussion into three sections, namely:

  • The Current State Of Research: This entails highlighting what is already well-established in the existing literature.
  • The Literature Gap: Here, you identify the aspects or areas that are missing or inadequately addressed in the literature.
  • The Significance Of The Problem: This section elucidates why filling this gap in the literature is important and emphasises the implications and potential contributions of addressing the research problem.

By structuring your discussion in this manner, you can effectively convey the specific research problem and its importance within the existing academic landscape.

4.    Relevance And importance

To establish a strong foundation for your research, it is crucial to articulate your motivation behind undertaking this study and highlight its connection to existing scholarship. It is also important to outline the anticipated contributions and novel insights your research aims to offer.

Begin by providing a concise overview of the current state of research, including relevant literature citations. While it is important to acknowledge key sources, keep in mind that a more comprehensive survey of relevant literature will be conducted in the literature review section, thus avoiding excessive detail in the introduction.

Ultimately, your dissertation introduction should

  • Contributes to resolving the theoretical or practical problem.
  • Fills a gap in the existing literature.
  • Expands and builds upon previous research.
  • Introduces a new understanding of the topic.

5.    Questions And Objectives

Formulating research questions and objectives is critical to any introduction, as it establishes the framework for the subsequent thesis or dissertation. How you craft these questions and objectives will vary based on your field of study, subject matter, and specific focus.

Moreover, if your objective in conducting research is to evaluate hypotheses, you can express them in this section. Additionally, your introduction provides an opportune space to present a conceptual framework that proposes associations among variables.

6.    The limitations

After successfully defining your dissertation’s subject area and objectives, it is important to address the potential limitations of your research in a brief discussion.

Scope: It is crucial to acknowledge any narrow focus in your research that may overlook the interaction between certain variables.

Research Methodology: Critiques may arise regarding the subjectivity of qualitative methodologies or the oversimplification associated with quantitative methodologies.

Resources: It is important to consider limitations such as time constraints, financial constraints, equipment availability, and personal research experience.

Generalisability Of Findings: Keep in mind that findings obtained from studying a specific industry or country may not be readily applicable or generalised to other industries or countries.

7.    Structure Overview

The structural outline is the last component after effectively conveying the research topic, significance, and limitations. Its purpose is to give the reader a clear idea of the dissertation or thesis structure.

In this section, a concise summary of each chapter, including the introduction chapter, is necessary. A sentence or two that outlines the purpose and contents of each chapter will suffice to guide the reader. It’s important to avoid excessive detail as this section serves as an outline, not a comprehensive research summary.

Introduction Checklist

☐  I have captivated the reader with an interesting introduction to my research subject.

☐  I have presented essential background information to aid the reader’s comprehension of the topic.

☐  I have precisely indicated the main focus of my research.

☐  I have demonstrated the significance and relevance of the dissertation topic.

☐  I have clearly defined the problem or question my research aims to tackle.

☐  I have outlined the specific goals and objectives of the research.

☐  I have given a brief overview of the structure of the dissertation.

Wrapping Up!

By incorporating these elements into your dissertation introduction chapter, you will create a compelling opening that establishes a strong framework for the rest of your dissertation. It’s important to note that your university might have specific requirements or additional components for the introduction, so make sure to review your project guidelines thoroughly.

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06 Essential Steps for Introduction Section of Dissertation or Thesis

PhD Introduction Section

Introduction

Stating the research problem or research question, brief overview of the structure of your dissertation, 1. starting with a compelling opening, 2. providing background information, 3. clearly stating the research problem, 4. stating the research objectives, 5. highlighting the research significance, 6. outlining the dissertation structure, avoiding unnecessary jargon or technical details, seeking feedback and revising the introduction multiple times, common academic phrases that can be used in the introduction section.

Are you on the journey of completing your PhD or Post Graduate dissertation? The introduction section plays a vital role in setting the stage for your research and capturing the reader’s attention from the very beginning. A well-crafted introduction is a gateway to showcasing the significance and value of your work.

In this blog post, we will guide you through the essential elements and expert tips to create an engaging and impactful introduction for your dissertation or thesis.

This comprehensive guide will equip you with the tools to write an introduction that stands out. From capturing the reader’s interest with a compelling opening to defining the research problem, stating objectives, and highlighting the research significance, we’ve got you covered.

Not only will you discover practical strategies for crafting an effective introduction, but you’ll also learn how to keep it concise, avoid jargon, and seek valuable feedback. Additionally, we’ll provide domain-specific examples to illustrate each point and help you better understand the application of these techniques.

By mastering the art of writing an engaging introduction, you’ll be able to captivate your readers, establish the context of your research, and demonstrate the value of your study. So, let’s dive in and unlock the secrets to crafting an introduction that sets the foundation for a remarkable PhD dissertation.

If you are in paucity of time, not confident of your writing skills and in a hurry to complete the writing task then you can think of hiring a research consultant that solves all your problems. Please visit my article on Hiring a Research consultant for your PhD tasks for further details.

Purpose of the Introduction

The introduction should introduce the specific topic of your research and provide the necessary background information. For example: “In recent years, artificial intelligence (AI) has emerged as a transformative technology with applications in various domains. This study focuses on improving the accuracy of image recognition algorithms in computer vision, a crucial area within AI research.”

Clearly articulating the research problem or research question is essential. Here’s an example: “The objective of this study is to develop a more efficient algorithm for large-scale graph analysis, addressing the challenge of processing massive networks in real-time.”

It is important to state the specific objectives or goals of your research. Here’s an example: “The primary objectives of this research are to design and implement a secure communication protocol for Internet of Things (IoT) devices, evaluate its performance under different network conditions, and assess its resistance to potential cyber-attacks.”

It is helpful to provide a brief overview of the structure of your dissertation, indicating the main sections or chapters. Here’s an example: “This dissertation consists of six chapters. Chapter 1 presents the introduction, research problem, objectives, and methodology. Chapter 2 provides a comprehensive literature review of the existing algorithms for sentiment analysis. Chapter 3 details the proposed algorithm for sentiment classification. Chapter 4 presents the experimental setup and results. Chapter 5 discusses the findings and implications. Finally, Chapter 6 concludes the dissertation with recommendations for future research.”

Remember to adapt the examples to your specific research topic and ensure they accurately reflect the purpose of your introduction. By introducing the topic, stating the research problem, outlining the objectives, and providing an overview of the dissertation structure, you will establish the necessary foundation for your research.

Crafting an Effective Introduction in 06 Steps

By starting with a compelling opening, providing background information, clearly stating the research problem and objectives, highlighting the research significance, and outlining the dissertation structure, you will craft an effective introduction.

Starting with a compelling opening can capture the reader’s attention. Here are some examples:

  • Anecdote: “Imagine a scenario where autonomous vehicles navigate through busy city streets, making split-second decisions to ensure passenger safety and optimize traffic flow.”
  • Question: “Have you ever wondered how social media platforms use recommendation algorithms to personalize your news feed based on your interests and preferences?”
  • Fact: “In 2020, the global cybersecurity market reached a value of $167.13 billion, highlighting the increasing need for robust and reliable security solutions in the digital age.”

Providing background information involves discussing existing literature, theories, and concepts. Here’s an example: “Previous studies in the field of natural language processing have focused on sentiment analysis, aiming to classify text into positive, negative, or neutral sentiments. However, current approaches face challenges in accurately capturing the contextual nuances and sarcasm often found in social media data.”

Clearly defining the research problem is crucial. Here’s an example: “The research problem addressed in this study is the efficient scheduling and resource allocation for cloud-based data-intensive applications, considering the dynamic nature of workloads and the varying availability of cloud resources.”

Presenting specific objectives is important in computer science. Here’s an example: “The primary objectives of this research are to develop an energy-efficient routing protocol for wireless sensor networks, investigate the impact of different routing metrics on network performance, and propose adaptive algorithms for dynamic topology changes.”

Explaining the importance and relevance of your research is essential. Here’s an example: “This research on blockchain technology has significant implications for enhancing data security, ensuring transparent and immutable transactions, and revolutionizing various sectors, including finance, supply chain management, and healthcare.”

Providing a brief overview of the main sections or chapters of your dissertation helps the reader understand the organization. Here’s an example: “This dissertation consists of five chapters. Chapter 1 introduces the research problem, objectives, and methodology. Chapter 2 provides a comprehensive literature review. Chapter 3 presents the proposed algorithm and its implementation. Chapter 4 discusses the experimental results and analysis. Finally, Chapter 5 concludes the dissertation, summarizing the findings and suggesting future research directions.”

Remember to tailor these examples to your specific research topic and ensure they align with your own introduction.

Tips for Writing a Strong Introduction

It’s essential to keep the introduction concise and focused on the main points. Avoid going into excessive detail or including unnecessary information. Here’s an example: “To achieve efficient data processing in distributed systems, this study focuses on developing a parallel algorithm for sorting large-scale datasets, aiming to reduce the computational time and improve overall system performance.”

While writing the introduction, it’s crucial to communicate your ideas clearly without overwhelming the reader with technical terms. Here’s an example: “This study investigates the usability of natural language interfaces for human-robot interaction, exploring the potential for seamless and intuitive communication between users and autonomous robotic systems.”

It’s important to seek feedback from your advisor or peers and revise your introduction based on their suggestions. .

Remember to adapt these examples to your specific research topic and ensure they align with your writing style. By keeping the introduction concise and focused, avoiding unnecessary jargon, and seeking feedback while revising multiple times, you will be able to write a strong introduction in any domain of research.

Here are some common academic phrases that can be used in the introduction section . I have included a table with examples to illustrate how these phrases might be used:

Crafting a well-crafted introduction is paramount when it comes to writing a PhD or Post Graduate dissertation. The introduction serves as the gateway to your research, setting the stage for what follows and capturing the reader’s attention. By following the outlined guidelines and tips, you can create an introduction that engages the reader, establishes the context, and highlights the significance of your research.

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  • Manuscript Preparation

Know How to Structure Your PhD Thesis

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Table of Contents

In your academic career, few projects are more important than your PhD thesis. Unfortunately, many university professors and advisors assume that their students know how to structure a PhD. Books have literally been written on the subject, but there’s no need to read a book in order to know about PhD thesis paper format and structure. With that said, however, it’s important to understand that your PhD thesis format requirement may not be the same as another student’s. The bottom line is that how to structure a PhD thesis often depends on your university and department guidelines.

But, let’s take a look at a general PhD thesis format. We’ll look at the main sections, and how to connect them to each other. We’ll also examine different hints and tips for each of the sections. As you read through this toolkit, compare it to published PhD theses in your area of study to see how a real-life example looks.

Main Sections of a PhD Thesis

In almost every PhD thesis or dissertation, there are standard sections. Of course, some of these may differ, depending on your university or department requirements, as well as your topic of study, but this will give you a good idea of the basic components of a PhD thesis format.

  • Abstract : The abstract is a brief summary that quickly outlines your research, touches on each of the main sections of your thesis, and clearly outlines your contribution to the field by way of your PhD thesis. Even though the abstract is very short, similar to what you’ve seen in published research articles, its impact shouldn’t be underestimated. The abstract is there to answer the most important question to the reviewer. “Why is this important?”
  • Introduction : In this section, you help the reviewer understand your entire dissertation, including what your paper is about, why it’s important to the field, a brief description of your methodology, and how your research and the thesis are laid out. Think of your introduction as an expansion of your abstract.
  • Literature Review : Within the literature review, you are making a case for your new research by telling the story of the work that’s already been done. You’ll cover a bit about the history of the topic at hand, and how your study fits into the present and future.
  • Theory Framework : Here, you explain assumptions related to your study. Here you’re explaining to the review what theoretical concepts you might have used in your research, how it relates to existing knowledge and ideas.
  • Methods : This section of a PhD thesis is typically the most detailed and descriptive, depending of course on your research design. Here you’ll discuss the specific techniques you used to get the information you were looking for, in addition to how those methods are relevant and appropriate, as well as how you specifically used each method described.
  • Results : Here you present your empirical findings. This section is sometimes also called the “empiracles” chapter. This section is usually pretty straightforward and technical, and full of details. Don’t shortcut this chapter.
  • Discussion : This can be a tricky chapter, because it’s where you want to show the reviewer that you know what you’re talking about. You need to speak as a PhD versus a student. The discussion chapter is similar to the empirical/results chapter, but you’re building on those results to push the new information that you learned, prior to making your conclusion.
  • Conclusion : Here, you take a step back and reflect on what your original goals and intentions for the research were. You’ll outline them in context of your new findings and expertise.

Tips for your PhD Thesis Format

As you put together your PhD thesis, it’s easy to get a little overwhelmed. Here are some tips that might keep you on track.

  • Don’t try to write your PhD as a first-draft. Every great masterwork has typically been edited, and edited, and…edited.
  • Work with your thesis supervisor to plan the structure and format of your PhD thesis. Be prepared to rewrite each section, as you work out rough drafts. Don’t get discouraged by this process. It’s typical.
  • Make your writing interesting. Academic writing has a reputation of being very dry.
  • You don’t have to necessarily work on the chapters and sections outlined above in chronological order. Work on each section as things come up, and while your work on that section is relevant to what you’re doing.
  • Don’t rush things. Write a first draft, and leave it for a few days, so you can come back to it with a more critical take. Look at it objectively and carefully grammatical errors, clarity, logic and flow.
  • Know what style your references need to be in, and utilize tools out there to organize them in the required format.
  • It’s easier to accidentally plagiarize than you think. Make sure you’re referencing appropriately, and check your document for inadvertent plagiarism throughout your writing process.

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Want some support during your PhD writing process? Our PhD Thesis Editing Plus service includes extensive and detailed editing of your thesis to improve the flow and quality of your writing. Unlimited editing support for guaranteed results. Learn more here , and get started today!

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  • Dissertation

How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation Introduction

Published on 9 September 2022 by Tegan George and Shona McCombes.

The introduction is the first section of your thesis or dissertation , appearing right after the table of contents . Your introduction draws your reader in, setting the stage for your research with a clear focus, purpose, and direction.

Your introduction should include:

  • Your topic, in context: what does your reader need to know to understand your thesis dissertation?
  • Your focus and scope: what specific aspect of the topic will you address?
  • The relevance of your research: how does your work fit into existing studies on your topic?
  • Your questions and objectives: what does your research aim to find out, and how?
  • An overview of your structure: what does each section contribute to the overall aim?

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Table of contents

How to start your introduction, topic and context, focus and scope, relevance and importance, questions and objectives, overview of the structure, thesis introduction example, introduction checklist, frequently asked questions about introductions.

Although your introduction kicks off your dissertation, it doesn’t have to be the first thing you write – in fact, it’s often one of the very last parts to be completed (just before your abstract ).

It’s a good idea to write a rough draft of your introduction as you begin your research, to help guide you. If you wrote a research proposal , consider using this as a template, as it contains many of the same elements. However, be sure to revise your introduction throughout the writing process, making sure it matches the content of your ensuing sections.

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Begin by introducing your research topic and giving any necessary background information. It’s important to contextualise your research and generate interest. Aim to show why your topic is timely or important. You may want to mention a relevant news item, academic debate, or practical problem.

After a brief introduction to your general area of interest, narrow your focus and define the scope of your research.

You can narrow this down in many ways, such as by:

  • Geographical area
  • Time period
  • Demographics or communities
  • Themes or aspects of the topic

It’s essential to share your motivation for doing this research, as well as how it relates to existing work on your topic. Further, you should also mention what new insights you expect it will contribute.

Start by giving a brief overview of the current state of research. You should definitely cite the most relevant literature, but remember that you will conduct a more in-depth survey of relevant sources in the literature review section, so there’s no need to go too in-depth in the introduction.

Depending on your field, the importance of your research might focus on its practical application (e.g., in policy or management) or on advancing scholarly understanding of the topic (e.g., by developing theories or adding new empirical data). In many cases, it will do both.

Ultimately, your introduction should explain how your thesis or dissertation:

  • Helps solve a practical or theoretical problem
  • Addresses a gap in the literature
  • Builds on existing research
  • Proposes a new understanding of your topic

Perhaps the most important part of your introduction is your questions and objectives, as it sets up the expectations for the rest of your thesis or dissertation. How you formulate your research questions and research objectives will depend on your discipline, topic, and focus, but you should always clearly state the central aim of your research.

If your research aims to test hypotheses , you can formulate them here. Your introduction is also a good place for a conceptual framework that suggests relationships between variables .

  • Conduct surveys to collect data on students’ levels of knowledge, understanding, and positive/negative perceptions of government policy.
  • Determine whether attitudes to climate policy are associated with variables such as age, gender, region, and social class.
  • Conduct interviews to gain qualitative insights into students’ perspectives and actions in relation to climate policy.

To help guide your reader, end your introduction with an outline  of the structure of the thesis or dissertation to follow. Share a brief summary of each chapter, clearly showing how each contributes to your central aims. However, be careful to keep this overview concise: 1-2 sentences should be enough.

I. Introduction

Human language consists of a set of vowels and consonants which are combined to form words. During the speech production process, thoughts are converted into spoken utterances to convey a message. The appropriate words and their meanings are selected in the mental lexicon (Dell & Burger, 1997). This pre-verbal message is then grammatically coded, during which a syntactic representation of the utterance is built.

Speech, language, and voice disorders affect the vocal cords, nerves, muscles, and brain structures, which result in a distorted language reception or speech production (Sataloff & Hawkshaw, 2014). The symptoms vary from adding superfluous words and taking pauses to hoarseness of the voice, depending on the type of disorder (Dodd, 2005). However, distortions of the speech may also occur as a result of a disease that seems unrelated to speech, such as multiple sclerosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

This study aims to determine which acoustic parameters are suitable for the automatic detection of exacerbations in patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by investigating which aspects of speech differ between COPD patients and healthy speakers and which aspects differ between COPD patients in exacerbation and stable COPD patients.

Checklist: Introduction

I have introduced my research topic in an engaging way.

I have provided necessary context to help the reader understand my topic.

I have clearly specified the focus of my research.

I have shown the relevance and importance of the dissertation topic .

I have clearly stated the problem or question that my research addresses.

I have outlined the specific objectives of the research .

I have provided an overview of the dissertation’s structure .

You've written a strong introduction for your thesis or dissertation. Use the other checklists to continue improving your dissertation.

The introduction of a research paper includes several key elements:

  • A hook to catch the reader’s interest
  • Relevant background on the topic
  • Details of your research problem
  • A thesis statement or research question
  • Sometimes an outline of the paper

Don’t feel that you have to write the introduction first. The introduction is often one of the last parts of the research paper you’ll write, along with the conclusion.

This is because it can be easier to introduce your paper once you’ve already written the body ; you may not have the clearest idea of your arguments until you’ve written them, and things can change during the writing process .

Research objectives describe what you intend your research project to accomplish.

They summarise the approach and purpose of the project and help to focus your research.

Your objectives should appear in the introduction of your research paper , at the end of your problem statement .

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introduction phd thesis

  • What Is a PhD Thesis?
  • Doing a PhD

This page will explain what a PhD thesis is and offer advice on how to write a good thesis, from outlining the typical structure to guiding you through the referencing. A summary of this page is as follows:

  • A PhD thesis is a concentrated piece of original research which must be carried out by all PhD students in order to successfully earn their doctoral degree.
  • The fundamental purpose of a thesis is to explain the conclusion that has been reached as a result of undertaking the research project.
  • The typical PhD thesis structure will contain four chapters of original work sandwiched between a literature review chapter and a concluding chapter.
  • There is no universal rule for the length of a thesis, but general guidelines set the word count between 70,000 to 100,000 words .

What Is a Thesis?

A thesis is the main output of a PhD as it explains your workflow in reaching the conclusions you have come to in undertaking the research project. As a result, much of the content of your thesis will be based around your chapters of original work.

For your thesis to be successful, it needs to adequately defend your argument and provide a unique or increased insight into your field that was not previously available. As such, you can’t rely on other ideas or results to produce your thesis; it needs to be an original piece of text that belongs to you and you alone.

What Should a Thesis Include?

Although each thesis will be unique, they will all follow the same general format. To demonstrate this, we’ve put together an example structure of a PhD thesis and explained what you should include in each section below.

Acknowledgements

This is a personal section which you may or may not choose to include. The vast majority of students include it, giving both gratitude and recognition to their supervisor, university, sponsor/funder and anyone else who has supported them along the way.

1. Introduction

Provide a brief overview of your reason for carrying out your research project and what you hope to achieve by undertaking it. Following this, explain the structure of your thesis to give the reader context for what he or she is about to read.

2. Literature Review

Set the context of your research by explaining the foundation of what is currently known within your field of research, what recent developments have occurred, and where the gaps in knowledge are. You should conclude the literature review by outlining the overarching aims and objectives of the research project.

3. Main Body

This section focuses on explaining all aspects of your original research and so will form the bulk of your thesis. Typically, this section will contain four chapters covering the below:

  • your research/data collection methodologies,
  • your results,
  • a comprehensive analysis of your results,
  • a detailed discussion of your findings.

Depending on your project, each of your chapters may independently contain the structure listed above or in some projects, each chapter could be focussed entirely on one aspect (e.g. a standalone results chapter). Ideally, each of these chapters should be formatted such that they could be translated into papers for submission to peer-reviewed journals. Therefore, following your PhD, you should be able to submit papers for peer-review by reusing content you have already produced.

4. Conclusion

The conclusion will be a summary of your key findings with emphasis placed on the new contributions you have made to your field.

When producing your conclusion, it’s imperative that you relate it back to your original research aims, objectives and hypotheses. Make sure you have answered your original question.

Finding a PhD has never been this easy – search for a PhD by keyword, location or academic area of interest.

How Many Words Is a PhD Thesis?

A common question we receive from students is – “how long should my thesis be?“.

Every university has different guidelines on this matter, therefore, consult with your university to get an understanding of their full requirements. Generally speaking, most supervisors will suggest somewhere between 70,000 and 100,000 words . This usually corresponds to somewhere between 250 – 350 pages .

We must stress that this is flexible, and it is important not to focus solely on the length of your thesis, but rather the quality.

How Do I Format My Thesis?

Although the exact formatting requirements will vary depending on the university, the typical formatting policies adopted by most universities are:

What Happens When I Finish My Thesis?

After you have submitted your thesis, you will attend a viva . A viva is an interview-style examination during which you are required to defend your thesis and answer questions on it. The aim of the viva is to convince your examiners that your work is of the level required for a doctoral degree. It is one of the last steps in the PhD process and arguably one of the most daunting!

For more information on the viva process and for tips on how to confidently pass it, please refer to our in-depth PhD Viva Guide .

How Do I Publish My Thesis?

Unfortunately, you can’t publish your thesis in its entirety in a journal. However, universities can make it available for others to read through their library system.

If you want to submit your work in a journal, you will need to develop it into one or more peer-reviewed papers. This will largely involve reformatting, condensing and tailoring it to meet the standards of the journal you are targeting.

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Thesis and Dissertation: Getting Started

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The resources in this section are designed to provide guidance for the first steps of the thesis or dissertation writing process. They offer tools to support the planning and managing of your project, including writing out your weekly schedule, outlining your goals, and organzing the various working elements of your project.

Weekly Goals Sheet (a.k.a. Life Map) [Word Doc]

This editable handout provides a place for you to fill in available time blocks on a weekly chart that will help you visualize the amount of time you have available to write. By using this chart, you will be able to work your writing goals into your schedule and put these goals into perspective with your day-to-day plans and responsibilities each week. This handout also contains a formula to help you determine the minimum number of pages you would need to write per day in order to complete your writing on time.

Setting a Production Schedule (Word Doc)

This editable handout can help you make sense of the various steps involved in the production of your thesis or dissertation and determine how long each step might take. A large part of this process involves (1) seeking out the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding specific document formatting requirements, (2) understanding research protocol limitations, (3) making note of deadlines, and (4) understanding your personal writing habits.

Creating a Roadmap (PDF)

Part of organizing your writing involves having a clear sense of how the different working parts relate to one another. Creating a roadmap for your dissertation early on can help you determine what the final document will include and how all the pieces are connected. This resource offers guidance on several approaches to creating a roadmap, including creating lists, maps, nut-shells, visuals, and different methods for outlining. It is important to remember that you can create more than one roadmap (or more than one type of roadmap) depending on how the different approaches discussed here meet your needs.

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  • Dissertation & Thesis Outline | Example & Free Templates

Dissertation & Thesis Outline | Example & Free Templates

Published on June 7, 2022 by Tegan George . Revised on November 21, 2023.

A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical early steps in your writing process . It helps you to lay out and organize your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding the specifics of your dissertation topic and showcasing its relevance to your field.

Generally, an outline contains information on the different sections included in your thesis or dissertation , such as:

  • Your anticipated title
  • Your abstract
  • Your chapters (sometimes subdivided into further topics like literature review, research methods, avenues for future research, etc.)

In the final product, you can also provide a chapter outline for your readers. This is a short paragraph at the end of your introduction to inform readers about the organizational structure of your thesis or dissertation. This chapter outline is also known as a reading guide or summary outline.

Table of contents

How to outline your thesis or dissertation, dissertation and thesis outline templates, chapter outline example, sample sentences for your chapter outline, sample verbs for variation in your chapter outline, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about thesis and dissertation outlines.

While there are some inter-institutional differences, many outlines proceed in a fairly similar fashion.

  • Working Title
  • “Elevator pitch” of your work (often written last).
  • Introduce your area of study, sharing details about your research question, problem statement , and hypotheses . Situate your research within an existing paradigm or conceptual or theoretical framework .
  • Subdivide as you see fit into main topics and sub-topics.
  • Describe your research methods (e.g., your scope , population , and data collection ).
  • Present your research findings and share about your data analysis methods.
  • Answer the research question in a concise way.
  • Interpret your findings, discuss potential limitations of your own research and speculate about future implications or related opportunities.

For a more detailed overview of chapters and other elements, be sure to check out our article on the structure of a dissertation or download our template .

To help you get started, we’ve created a full thesis or dissertation template in Word or Google Docs format. It’s easy adapt it to your own requirements.

 Download Word template    Download Google Docs template

Chapter outline example American English

It can be easy to fall into a pattern of overusing the same words or sentence constructions, which can make your work monotonous and repetitive for your readers. Consider utilizing some of the alternative constructions presented below.

Example 1: Passive construction

The passive voice is a common choice for outlines and overviews because the context makes it clear who is carrying out the action (e.g., you are conducting the research ). However, overuse of the passive voice can make your text vague and imprecise.

Example 2: IS-AV construction

You can also present your information using the “IS-AV” (inanimate subject with an active verb ) construction.

A chapter is an inanimate object, so it is not capable of taking an action itself (e.g., presenting or discussing). However, the meaning of the sentence is still easily understandable, so the IS-AV construction can be a good way to add variety to your text.

Example 3: The “I” construction

Another option is to use the “I” construction, which is often recommended by style manuals (e.g., APA Style and Chicago style ). However, depending on your field of study, this construction is not always considered professional or academic. Ask your supervisor if you’re not sure.

Example 4: Mix-and-match

To truly make the most of these options, consider mixing and matching the passive voice , IS-AV construction , and “I” construction .This can help the flow of your argument and improve the readability of your text.

As you draft the chapter outline, you may also find yourself frequently repeating the same words, such as “discuss,” “present,” “prove,” or “show.” Consider branching out to add richness and nuance to your writing. Here are some examples of synonyms you can use.

If you want to know more about AI for academic writing, AI tools, or research bias, make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

Research bias

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  • Halo effect
  • The Baader–Meinhof phenomenon
  • The placebo effect
  • Nonresponse bias
  • Deep learning
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  • Supervised vs. unsupervised learning

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When you mention different chapters within your text, it’s considered best to use Roman numerals for most citation styles. However, the most important thing here is to remain consistent whenever using numbers in your dissertation .

The title page of your thesis or dissertation goes first, before all other content or lists that you may choose to include.

A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical first steps in your writing process. It helps you to lay out and organize your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding what kind of research you’d like to undertake.

  • Your chapters (sometimes subdivided into further topics like literature review , research methods , avenues for future research, etc.)

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George, T. (2023, November 21). Dissertation & Thesis Outline | Example & Free Templates. Scribbr. Retrieved February 26, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/dissertation/dissertation-thesis-outline/

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PhDLife Blog

Sharing PhD experiences across the University of Warwick and beyond

Your Thesis Introduction

introduction phd thesis

November might be over, but we know your thesis is still there. Writing the introduction and conclusion sounds like a breeze after wrestling with all the other chapters, but these two might be tricky… Emma shares some fantastic advice on writing the Introduction Chapter. 

To clarify this blog is about the introduction of the thesis, not about the introduction for each thesis chapter (which is blogged about already).

I could not find a blog on introductions, perhaps because they are usually written last, near the end, when no one wants to write anything additional by that point.

Image credits: Youske Muroya / CC

But I have been struggling with the introduction. Introducing someone to your work in an interesting way yet ticking all those thesis boxes is tough. I rapidly realised that my introduction was becoming a literature review. I was confused where to situate the study because my method was exploratory, involving storytelling. The study was conducted with a school, but was also connected to several other areas such as theatre and drama studies, arts in education, psychology, and youth studies, to name a few.

I had written 15 pages of rubbish and needed help. I showed my work to someone that knows about writing. They advised me to start again.

From my experience no one can tell you exactly how to write the introduction because they are all different. But here are some tips to get started which will enable your supervisor to polish it further to fit with the rest of your thesis.

  • Imagine that you are telling someone you have just met about the motivation or inspiration for your study. Aim for 250 words or a page. Don’t look at your thesis questions or anything previously written. Write on a sheet of paper if that helps.
  • Take the time to select one area to connect your work to, even if it connects to several areas. Summarise this in a paragraph from your head (yes, again that means without looking at all those carefully taken notes and previous scribbles).
  • Are you using an epistemological stance/theoretical point of view? Tell the reader about it in a paragraph.
  • Rethink and add your research questions (you can look at previous drafts here, depending on the field your research questions may have changed quite a bit).
  • Write an outline of what is being discussed in the thesis chapter by chapter. Have a look at some thesis documents from your field in the Modern records centre part of the library/online to see how others do this.

This won’t write your introduction for you, but it does provide a place to work from. Now show this to someone who knows nothing about your work. See what questions they have and address them in the text.

Don’t worry if you get comments like this:

  • needs transition
  • structure of ideas is not right/I don’t understand what you mean here

Put it in a draw, have a break, now go back to it. Now check the order, summarize what each paragraph is about or how it fits into your analysis as a whole.

Are there transitions for the reader? You can find examples of transition words here .

Then work on connecting ideas, and paragraphs, using transition words. There is  help  on how to use the transition words if you get stuck.

So you’ve done a first draft, checked the order, and used transition words to help the readers follow your ideas.

The next step is to look at how you have started the chapter, referring to the usual route in your field this could be with a vignette, or the methods.

If you are not sure about the order ask:

Does this make the thesis sound interesting? Is the most important point first or at the forefront of the argument?

Now show your draft to your supervisor.

These are some ideas to get you started; of course your supervisor will have some better suggestions once you have a basic outline.

Emma Parfitt is a PhD researcher in Sociology at the University of Warwick, otherwise known as the storytelling researcher. Her research interests include storytelling, creative writing, emotions and behaviour. She has a degree in Environmental Science and an MA in literature from St Andrews University. Emma had also published an Ebook called Temptation and Mozzarella . Read more about her research in Emma’s  publications  and blog .

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8 thoughts on “ your thesis introduction ”.

This is the one of best blog. I was confused for writing a thesis, that time I got this blog; after I read this blog I got an idea about thesis writing. This is the one of best blog. Thesis writing is not tough one. While reading this blog you may get an idea and surly can write the best thesis.

The Italian philosopher sets out a number of considerations to take into account when choosing the topic, search the material the work plan, involving timing and wording .

Thanks for sharing us nice post to gain interesting knowledge to complete my Thesis.

  • Pingback: How to Write a Good PhD Introduction: Collected Resources | Turbulent London

You know, this is really great. I note ‘…not about the introduction for each thesis chapter (which is blogged about already)…’- where is that then? It’s a much smaller form of introduction but perhaps even harder in its concision. Thanks very much! Ed

Thanks for your comment, Ed. I don’t think Emma was referring to a particular post on PhD Life (we would have have linked it), but generally noted that she found resources to help her with that, but fewer that deal with the Introduction Chapter itself.

This post might be a good start: https://patthomson.net/2014/01/16/connecting-chapterschapter-introductions/

All the best, Ana (PhD Life)

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  • v.32(2); Mar-Apr 2016

How to write a Doctoral Thesis

Prof. HR Ahmad, Department of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, The Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan. E-mail: [email protected]

Note: * Ahmad HR. In: Medical Writing. Eds. SA Jawaid, MH Jafary & SJ Zuberi. PMJA, 1997 Ed II: 133-142.

PATIENT care and teaching are rather well established components of our medical career. However, with the passage of time a third component has started to influence our medical culture, namely research. 1 - 4 How to accept this challenge is a question. 5 Indeed, teaching and research form a dialectic unit, meaning that teaching without a research component is like a soup without salt. It is a well-established fact that the research activity of an institution is directly proportional to the number of qualified and committed PhD candidates. An inspiring infrastructure, laboratory facilities and libraries are pre-requisites for a research culture to grow. 6 - 8 This forms the basis of a generation cycle for an institution, so that research activity and its culture continues to grow from one generation to the next. The main objective of doctoral work in biomedical sciences is to develop a galaxy of scientist physicians and surgeons possessing high degree of humility, selflessness and ethical superiority. Such a programme will add a scholastic dimension to the clinical faculty.

Education in how to write a doctoral thesis or dissertation should be a part of the postgraduate curriculum, parallel to the laboratory work and Journal Club activities during the PhD studies and/or residency levels. 9 , 10 The overall structure of a doctoral thesis is internationally standardized. However, it varies in style and quality, depending upon how original the work is, and how much the author has understood the work. Therefore a thorough discussion with supervisor, colleagues and assistance from other authors through correspondence can be useful sources for consultation.

The choice of a topic for a doctoral thesis is a crucial step. It should be determined by scanning the literature whether the topic is original or similar work has already been done even a hundred years ago. It is the responsibility of both the supervisor and the PhD candidate to sort out this problem by continuous use of internet and a library. 11 The work leading to the PhD degree can originate from research in following spheres: 12

  • b) Methodology
  • c) Diagnostic
  • d) Therapeutic and Management
  • e) Epidemiology

The availability of internationally standardized methods, as well as research committed supervisors can enable physicians and surgeons to do PhD work in both basic and clinical health sciences. The importance of research in basic health sciences cannot be overemphasized. It is rather the base of the applied sciences. There are many instances where the elucidation of a mechanism involved in a process awaits the development of an adequate methodology. 13 In such a scenario; a new method is like a new eye. Research activity in the field of (a) and (b) illuminates the research directions for (c) (d) and (e). It is worth noting that sometimes important basic questions can come from (e) and stimulate research activity in the domain of basic health sciences. 14 , 15

Types of Doctoral Thesis

TYPE-I: Book Form: a classical style. The blueprint of this form is shown in Table-I .

Type-I: The Classical Book Form

TYPE-II: Cumulative Doctoral thesis: A modem but quite useful practice.

INTRODUCTION

A book containing the pearls of a PhD work has standardized divisions and formats, where the number of pages should be weighted in terms of content rather than container. The book includes summary, introduction, materials and methods, results, discussion, conclusions, references and acknowledgements.

Two exercises are mandatory before starting a PhD programme:

  • Literature survey using a regular library hours and internet surfing
  • Familiarization with the hands-on-experience of methodology involved in the work
  • The importance of a continuous literature survey using library, internet and direct correspondence with authors across the globe in the same field cannot be over-emphasized. The main goal of this exercise is to pinpoint the unresolved problem in the literature. An attempt to solve this problem now becomes the topic of the PhD thesis. All the relevant references should be collected, and carefully preserved in the form of a card system arranged alphabetically according to themes and authors. The introduction of the thesis should be styled like a review article with a critical analysis of the work of authors in the literature. The aims of the present PhD work can then also be addressed in the form of questions. The objectives would then deal with how to achieve the aims of the proposed study.

MATERIALS / SUBJECTS AND METHODS

Now comes the most crucial and functional part of the doctoral work, the materials/subjects and methods section. This part can be considered as the motor of the PhD work. The reliability, sensitivity and specificity of the motor must be checked before embarking on a long journey. Controlling the controls is the best guide for a precise and authentic work. Usually materials and methods contain components such as a description of the species involved, their number, age, weight and anthropometric parameters, types of surgical procedures and anesthesia if applied, and a detailed description of methodology. Continuous or point measurements should be thoroughly described. However, a dynamic method should always be preferred to static one.

The experimental protocol should be designed after a small pilot study, which is especially advisable in research on human subjects. A detailed and well-thought experimental protocol forms the basis of conditions under which the results would be obtained. Any deviation from the experimental protocol will affect the outcome, and the interpretation of results. It may be noted that great discoveries are usually accidental and without a protocol, based merely on careful observation! However, for the sake of a publication, a protocol has to be designed after the discovery. After having described the different phases of the experimental protocol with the help of a schematic diagram e.g., showing variables, time period and interventions, the selection of a statistical method should be discussed. Negative results should not be disregarded because they represent the boundary conditions of positive results. Sometimes the negative results are the real results.

It is usual practice that most PhD candidates start writing the methodological components first. This is followed by writing the results. The pre-requisites for writing results are that all figures, tables, schematic diagrams of methods and a working model should be ready. They should be designed in such a way that the information content of each figure should, when projected as a frame be visually clear to audience viewing it from a distance of about fifty feet. It is often observed that the presenters themselves have difficulty in deciphering a frame of the Power-Point being projected in a conference.

The results of a doctoral thesis should be treated like a bride. The flow of writing results becomes easier if all figures and tables are well prepared. This promotes the train of thoughts required to analyze the data in a quantitative fashion. The golden rule of writing results of a thesis is to describe what the figure shows. No explanation is required. One should avoid writing anything which is not there in a figure. Before writing one should observe each diagram for some time and make a list of observations in the form of key words. The more one has understood the information content of a figure; the better will be the fluency of writing. The interruption of the flow in writing most often indicates that an author has not understood the results. Discussion with colleagues or reference to the literature is the only remedy, and it functions sometimes like a caesarean procedure.

Statistical methods are good devices to test the degree of authenticity and precision of results if appropriately applied. The application of statistical technique in human studies poses difficulties because of large standard deviations. Outliers must be discussed, if they are excluded for the sake of statistical significance. Large standard deviations can be minimized by increasing the number of observations. If a regression analysis is not weighted, it gives faulty information. The correlation coefficient value can change from 0.7 to 0.4 if the regression analysis is weighted using Fisher’s test. The dissection of effect from artifact should be analysed in such a way that the signal to noise ratio of a parameter should be considered. A competent statistician should always be consulted in order to avoid the danger of distortion of results.

The legend of a figure should be well written. It contains a title, a brief description of variables and interventions, the main effect and a concluding remark conveying the original message. The writing of PhD work is further eased by a well maintained collection of data in the form of log book, original recordings, analyzed references with summaries and compiling the virgin data of the study on master plan sheet to understand the original signals before submitting to the procedures of statistics. The original data belong to the laboratory of an institution where it came into being and should be preserved for 5-7 years in the archive for the sake of brevity.

This is the liveliest part of a thesis. Its main goal is to defend the work by staging a constructive debate with the literature. The golden rule of this written debate should be that a rigid explanation looks backward and a design looks forward. The object is to derive a model out of a jig-saw puzzle of information. It should be designed in such a way that the results of the present study and those of authors from the literature can be better discussed and interpreted. Agreement and disagreement can be better resolved if one considers under what experimental conditions the results were obtained by the various authors. It means that the boundary conditions for each result should be carefully analyzed and compared.

The discussion can be divided into the following parts:

  • criticism of material/subjects and methods
  • a list of important observations of the present study
  • interpretation and comparison of results of other authors using a literature table
  • design of a model
  • claim of an original research work
  • The criticism of the methodological procedure enables a candidate to demonstrate how precisely the research work has been carried out. The interpretation of results depends critically on the strict experimental protocol and methods. For example, an epidemiological work is a study of a population. However, if the population sampling is done regularly at a specific location; the question arises as to how a result derived from a localized place can be applied to the whole population.
  • After having discussed at length the strong and weak points of material/subjects and methods, one should list in a telegraphic design the most important observations of the present study. This may form a good agenda to initiate interpretation, argument, reasoning and comparison with results of other authors. The outcome of this constructive debate should permit the design of a working model in the form of a block diagram. All statements should be very carefully referenced. The ratio of agreement and disagreement should indicate the ability of the author to reconcile conflicting data in an objective and quantitative way. Attempts should be made to design a solution out of the given quantum of information. It is also well known that most of the processes of human physiology can only be understood if their time course is known. The dynamic aspect of interpretation of results is therefore more powerful and superior to the static one. 16 Therefore a continuous record of variables should be preferred and sought to reveal the secrets hidden in the kinetics.
  • Finally, the discussion should conclude how far the study was successful in answering the questions being posed at the end of the introduction part. Usually a doctoral thesis raises more questions than it answers. In this way research does not come to a standstill and does become a life time engagement for a committed scientist. Also it is important to note that all scientific theses should be quantifiable and falsifiable, otherwise they lose the spirit and fragrance of a scientific research.
  • The author’s claim of original work is finally decided by the critical review of his research work by the literature and the number of times being cited. It can be easily read by a high rate of a citation index of a publication and invitation. When a methodological research clicks, one becomes a star overnight.

Type-II: CUMULATIVE DOCTORAL THESES

Another way of writing a doctoral work is a cumulative type of thesis. 11 It consists of a few original publications in refereed journals of repute. It is supplemented by a concise summary about the research work. This type of thesis is usually practiced in Sweden, Germany and other countries. It has the advantage of being doubly refereed by the journals and the faculty of health sciences. Additionally, papers are published during a doctoral work. A declaration has to be given to the faculty of science about the sharing of research work in publications, provided there are co-authors. The weightage should be in favour of the PhD candidate, so that the thesis can ethically be better defended before the team of august research faculty.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

A critical review of this manuscript by Dr. Roger Sutton, Dr. Khalid Khan, Dr. Bukhtiar Shah and Dr. Satwat Hashmi is gratefully acknowledged.

Dedicated to the memory of Mr. Azim Kidwai for his exemplary academic commitment and devotion to the science journalism in Pakistan.

Grad Coach (R)

What’s Included: Introduction Template

This template covers all the core components required in the introduction chapter/section of a typical dissertation or thesis, including:

  • The opening section
  • Background of the research topic
  • Statement of the problem
  • Rationale (including the research aims, objectives, and questions)
  • Scope of the study
  • Significance of the study
  • Structure of the document

The purpose of each section is clearly explained, followed by an overview of the key elements that you need to cover. We’ve also included practical examples to help you understand exactly what’s required, along with links to additional free resources (articles, videos, etc.) to help you along your research journey.

The cleanly formatted Google Doc can be downloaded as a fully editable MS Word Document (DOCX format), so you can use it as-is or convert it to LaTeX.

PS – if you’d like a high-level template for the entire thesis, you can we’ve got that too .

Thesis Introduction FAQS

What types of dissertations/theses can this template be used for.

The template follows the standard format for academic research projects, which means it will be suitable for the vast majority of dissertations and theses (especially those within the sciences), whether they are qualitative or quantitative in terms of design.

Keep in mind that the exact requirements for the introduction chapter/section will vary between universities and degree programs. These are typically minor, but it’s always a good idea to double-check your university’s requirements before you finalize your structure.

Is this template for an undergrad, Master or PhD-level thesis?

This template can be used for a dissertation, thesis or research project at any level of study. Doctoral-level projects typically require the introduction chapter to be more extensive/comprehensive, but the structure will typically remain the same.

Can I share this template with my friends/colleagues?

Yes, you’re welcome to share this template in its original format (no editing allowed). If you want to post about it on your blog or social media, we kindly request that you reference this page as your source.

What format is the template (DOC, PDF, PPT, etc.)?

The dissertation introduction chapter template is provided as a Google Doc. You can download it in MS Word format or make a copy to your Google Drive. You’re also welcome to convert it to whatever format works best for you, such as LaTeX or PDF.

What is the core purpose of this chapter?

The introduction chapter of a dissertation or thesis serves to introduce the research topic, clearly state the research problem, and outline the main research questions. It justifies the significance of the study, delineates its scope, and provides a roadmap of the dissertation’s structure.

In a nutshell, the introduction chapter sets the academic tone and context, laying the foundation for the subsequent analysis and discussion.

How long should the introduction chapter be?

This depends on the level of study (undergrad, Master or Doctoral), as well as your university’s specific requirements, so it’s best to check with them. As a general ballpark, introduction chapters for Masters-level projects are usually 1,500 – 2,000 words in length, while Doctoral-level projects can reach multiples of this.

How specific should the research objectives be in the introduction chapter?

In this chapter, your research objectives should be specific enough to clearly define the scope and direction of your study, but broad enough to encompass its overall aims.

Make sure that each objective can be realistically accomplished within the scope of your study and that each objective is directly related to and supports your research question(s).

As a rule of thumb, you should leave in-depth explanations for later chapters; the introduction should just provide a concise overview.

Can I mention the research results in the introduction?

How do i link the introduction to the literature review.

To transition smoothly from the introduction chapter to the literature review chapter in a thesis, it’s a good idea to:

  • Conclude the introduction by summarising the main points, such as the research problem, objectives, and significance of your study.
  • Explicitly state that the following chapter (literature review) will explore existing research and theoretical frameworks related to your topic.
  • Emphasise how the literature review will address gaps or issues identified in the introduction, setting the stage for your research question or hypothesis.
  • Use a sentence that acts as a bridge between the two chapters. For example, “To further understand this issue, the next chapter will critically examine the existing literature on [your topic].”

This approach will help form a logical flow and prepare the reader for the depth and context provided in the literature review.

Do you have templates for the other chapters?

Yes, we do. We are constantly developing our collection of free resources to help students complete their dissertations and theses. You can view all of our template resources here .

Can Grad Coach help me with my dissertation/thesis?

Yes, you’re welcome to get in touch with us to discuss our private coaching services .

Free Webinar: Literature Review 101

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How To Structure A PhD Thesis

Nov 21, 2019

How To Structure A PhD Thesis

Introduction

Universities and supervisors often assume that PhD students know how to structure their PhD theses. But often this assumption is false, which can cause considerable headache and uncertainty.  It can also waste a lot of time and money as you engage in a process of trial and error working out what goes where.

If you go to your university’s library, you’ll find whole shelves of   books on how to structure or write your PhD . Many of these are great, and I highly recommend you check them out, but here I want to present to you a thesis structure 101 lesson.

I’ve read those books,   proofread hundreds of PhDs   and   coached   dozens of students and want to take what I know and run you through a basic introduction to structuring your PhD   thesis .

In what follows, I’ll talk you through the basic outline of a typical thesis. This mirrors and expands upon the   PhD Writing Template   I’ve created. If you haven’t already downloaded it, you can find it   here .  

Now, I want to make an important observation: what I present below is an outline of the   typical   thesis. Yours may differ, whether considerably or just a little. That’s fine. The purpose is to give you an overarching summary so that when you do approach the books and guides that exist, you’ve already got a basic understanding of what goes where and why.

So, in what follows, I’ll walk you through each of the main sections and talk about what the purpose of each is, offer some tips for planning and writing them, and show you how they relate to one another.

At the end, I’ll tell you about an   email based course   I’ve put together that will teach you how to plan, structure and write your thesis. It goes into a lot more detail than I’ve presented here, so check it out if you’d like to learn more. 

How to Structure an Abstract

Your abstract should be a short summary at the beginning of the thesis that sums up the research, summarises the separate sections of the thesis and outlines the contribution.

Above all, your PhD abstract should answer the question: ‘So what?’ In other words, what is the contribution of your thesis to the field?

  • What is the reason for writing the thesis?
  • What are the current approaches and gaps in the literature?
  • What are your research question(s) and aims?
  • Which methodology have you used?
  • What are the main findings?
  • What are the main conclusions and implications?

One thing that should be obvious is that you can’t write your abstract until the study itself has been written. It’ll typically be the last thing you write (alongside the acknowledgements).

The tricky thing about writing a great PhD abstract is that you haven’t got much space to answer the six questions above. There are a few things to consider though that will help to elevate your writing and make your abstract as efficient as possible:

  • Give a good first impression by writing in short clear sentences.
  • Don’t repeat the title in the abstract.
  • Don’t cite references.
  • Use keywords from the document.
  • Respect the word limit.
  • Don’t be vague – the abstract should be a self-contained summary of the research, so don’t introduce ambiguous words or complex terms.
  • Focus on just four or five essential points, concepts, or findings. Don’t, for example, try to explain your entire theoretical framework.
  • Edit it carefully. Make sure every word is relevant (you haven’t got room for wasted words) and that each sentence has maximum impact.
  • Avoid lengthy background information.
  • Don’t mention anything that isn’t discussed in the thesis.
  • Avoid overstatements.
  • Don’t spin your findings, contribution or significance to make your research sound grander or more influential that it actually is.

How to Structure an Introduction

The introduction serves three purposes:

  • Establish your territory.
  • Establish and justify your niche.
  • Explain the significance of your research.

The reader should be able to understand the whole thesis just by reading the introduction. It should tell them all they need to know about:

  • What your thesis is about
  • Why it is important
  • How it was conducted
  • How it is laid out

How to Structure a Literature Review

Imagine you’re making a new model of mobile phone. You’d need to look at old models to see how other people are designing them (and so you know how yours will differ) and to see how they are made. You’ll need to look for their flaws, and get an idea of where they can be improved.

That’s because you can’t make something new if you don’t know what the old one looks like.

The literature review is the same. You use it to make the case for your research by surveying the work that’s already been done in your discipline (and sometimes beyond). It’s a bit like a family tree. You use it to trace the lineage of your study. Putting it in its place.

A literature review has three objectives:

  • Summarise what has already been discussed in your field, both to demonstrate that you understand your field and to show how your study relates to it.
  • Highlight gaps, problems or shortcomings in existing research to show the original contribution that your thesis makes.
  • Identify important studies, theories, methods or theoretical frameworks that can be applied in your research.
  • Pick a broad topic
  • Find the way in
  • Who’s saying what and when
  • Narrow down the field
  • Narrow does the sources
  • Think about questions that haven’t been asked
  • Write early, write quickly and write relevantly

introduction phd thesis

Your PhD Thesis. On one page.

Use our free PhD Structure Template to quickly visualise every element of your thesis.

How to Structure a Theory Framework Chapter

The theory framework is the scaffolding upon which your thesis is built. When you’re done writing your theory framework chapter or section, your reader should be able to answer these questions:

  • What theoretical concepts are used in the research? What hypotheses, if any, are you using?
  • Why have you chosen this theory?
  • What are the implications of using this theory?
  • How does the theory relate to the existing literature, your problem statement and your epistemological and ontological positions? How has this theory has been applied by others in similar contexts? What can you learn from them and how do you differ?
  • How do you apply the theory and measure the concepts (with reference to the literature review/problem statement)?
  • What is the relationship between the various elements and concepts within the model? Can you depict this visually?

That means that a theory framework can take different forms: 

It can state the theoretical assumptions underpinning the study.

  • It can connect the empirical data to existing knowledge.
  • It can allow you to come up with propositions, concepts or hypotheses that you can use to answer ‘how’ and ‘why’ questions.

Broadly speaking, a theory framework can be used to either derive certain testable assumptions or as a way of making sense of your data. In both cases, it structures your data collection by focusing your attention on a small subset of concepts.

You can, therefore, think of it as a toolbox. In your literature review, you outlined the problem that needs ‘fixing’. The theory framework is a toolbox stuffed full of concepts, variables, or hypotheses (your tools) that you’ll then use to address the problem and do the fixing.

You can find an   extended guide on creating your theory framework . Check it out if you’re still struggling.

When you discuss theory, you are seeking to provide a background examination of what other researchers think about a phenomenon and how they have conceptualised it. You should discuss the relevance of particular theoretical approaches for your study, and you should take care to consider the dominant theoretical schools in your field. This shows the examiner you have understood the state of the art.

But, you should do so critically, and question the suitability of any theories that exist or that you are creating to your particular study. That means that you should discuss previous applications of theory in order to discuss what implications they have for your own research.

The reason you do this is that your discipline likely has accepted and ’tried and tested’ ways of doing things. In many cases, this is an advantage, because it can serve as inspiration for your choice of concepts, hypotheses or variables, and can influence your choice of methods.

In other cases, it may be that the existing theory is ill-equipped to account for your particular phenomenon. In either case, you need to demonstrate a good understanding of what that theory is discussing, both to demonstrate your skills as a researcher and scholar, but also to justify your own theoretical and methodological position. 

How to Structure a Methods Chapter

The job of a methods chapter is:

  • To summarise, explain and recount how you answered your research questions and to explain how this relates to the methods used by other scholars in similar contexts and similar studies
  • To discuss – in detail – the techniques you used to collect the data used to answer your research questions 
  • To discuss why the techniques are relevant to the study’s aims and objectives
  • To explain how you used them

Your reader should be able to answer the following questions when they’re done reading it:

  • What did you did do to achieve the research aims?
  • Why did you choose this particular approach over others?
  • How does it relate to your epistemological and ontological positions?
  • What tools did you use to collect data and why? What are the implications?
  • When did you collect data, and from whom?
  • What tools have you used to analyze the data and why? What are the implications? Are there ethical considerations to take into account?

How to Structure an Empirical Chapter

  • What are the results of your investigations?  
  • How do the findings relate to previous studies?  
  • Was there anything surprising or that didn’t work out as planned?  
  • Are there any themes or categories that emerge from the data?   
  • Have you explained to the reader why you have reached particular conclusions?
  • Have you explained the results?

Having your PhD proofread will save you time and money

Our top-rated PhD proofreaders check your writing, formatting, references and readability. The goal? To make sure your research is written and presented in the most compelling manner possible. 

That way, you’ll have complete peace of mind prior to submission and save yourself months of costly revisions. 

How to Structure a Discussion Chapter 

The discussion chapter is the place in which you discuss your empirics. Many people find it the hardest chapter, primarily because it’s the stage at which you start to flex your academic muscles and speak like a doctor. It is here that you start to push the boundaries of knowledge.

That’s a hard thing to do, largely because you’ve probably never had to do it before. All through your masters and undergraduate work you’ve learnt what other people have found. Now you’re finding out things that no-one else knows.

The difference between a discussion and an empirical chapter is subtle, but I’ve written   a detailed guide   that will clear up any confusion you’ve got.

How to Structure a Conclusion

The job of the conclusion is to:

  • Fully and clearly articulate the answer to your research questions
  • Discuss how the research is related to your aims and objectives
  • Explain the significance of the work
  • Outline its shortcomings
  • Suggest avenues for future research

It is not the place to introduce new ideas and concepts, or to present new findings.

Your job is to reflect back on your original aims and intentions and discuss them in terms of your findings and new expertise.

Three things to do in a conclusion:

  • Own your research by speaking with authority! You’ve earned the right to do that by the time you reach your conclusion 
  • See the thesis and not the detail. Drive home the contribution that the thesis has made. Whatever it is, you need to shout about it. Loudly. Like an expert.
  • Each chapter is a piece of the puzzle and only when they are all slotted together do you have an entire thesis. That means that a great conclusion is one that shows that the thesis is bigger than the sum of its individual chapters. 
  • By the time the reader has finished reading the conclusion, they should be able to answer the following questions:
  • Have you briefly recapped the research questions and objectives?
  • Have you provided a brief recount of the answer to those questions?
  • Have you clearly discussed the significance and implications of those findings?
  • Have you discussed the contribution that the study has made?
  • Do the claims you are making align with the content of the results and discussion chapters?

Wrapping Up 

There’s clearly a lot more that can be said about how to structure each of these sections. Go to your university library and you’ll find dozens of books on how to write a PhD. Google it and you’ll find thousands of posts. It’s hard to know where to start.

That’s why  I’ve put together an  email based course on How To Write Your Thesis . Over twelve emails you’ll get detailed chapter guides that expand on the above, a ton of templates, checklist and worksheets, and lots of curated videos and external resources to really cement your learning. By the end, you’ll understand what goes where and why and would have saved yourself a bunch of time and energy sifting through all those books and posts.

That way, you can write more, worry less and graduate sooner.

To sign up,   click here . 

Hello, Doctor…

Sounds good, doesn’t it?  Be able to call yourself Doctor sooner with our five-star rated How to Write A PhD email-course. Learn everything your supervisor should have taught you about planning and completing a PhD.

Now half price. Join hundreds of other students and become a better thesis writer, or your money back. 

Share this:

26 comments.

Abdullahi

This is seriously and absolutely helpful but some terminologies used may not be understood by most beginners in research methodology. Beginners would better understand the use of chapter1, etc. Thank you.

Dr. Max Lempriere

Thanks for the useful feedback. Enjoy the rest of your day.

Lallé M. ZOUBA

Wonderful…. It is really practical to have such tips… Many thanks….

You’re welcome!

Ahmed aldhafeeri

Well done Max, very informative post.

Great. Thanks for the kind words.

Dean -

Cheers Max! Sent it on to many friends starting the journey

Great. Thanks Dean!

Maureen

Hi Dr Lumpriere,

Thanks for creating this website, it is really helpful to situate oneself – I am really new to this. In your experience, how many hours does one (roughly. – of course depending on the scope of the project) have to dedicate to a PhD weekly on average?

Thanks again, Maureen

Hi Maureen – it really depends on so many factors, including how much familiarity you already have with research and how quickly you want to finish. It’s hard to say! I devoted around 3/4 of full time to mine per week – so roughly 30 hours. But then I had never conducted research before, didn’t have any caregiving responsibilities, and wanted to complete quickly.

Felix

Thanks a lot for dedicating your time and effort to helping those who are still struggling with writing up their PhD!

Best, Felix

You’re welcome Felix.

Adebayo Adeleye

Good job. Thanks for the information here.

You’re welcome! Glad you found it useful.

Eric

This is great, I am impressed by the guideline. I shall consult these steps as I work on my Thesis for my PhD.

Iram

Thanks for this information keep it up.

Carlo Butera

Very interesting and useful job!

Stephen Ubah

Well done Dr Max. Quite helpful, thanks

Adebanjo Babawale

I am really grateful for this tip. God bless the writer in Jesus’ name

Iyua Mbah

Thank you for this guide.

Salin Gurung

Thank you very much for the information. It’s very useful.

Marta

This article is insanely helpful. Especially the questions that should be answered in each part. Even though I was aware of most of it, seeing it all put together so neatly helps a lot. Thank you!

Wow. Such great praise. Thanks!

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  1. How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation Introduction

    The introduction is the first section of your thesis or dissertation, appearing right after the table of contents. Your introduction draws your reader in, setting the stage for your research with a clear focus, purpose, and direction on a relevant topic. Your introduction should include:

  2. 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.

  3. How To Write A Dissertation Introduction Chapter

    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.

  4. Easily understand how to write a PhD thesis introduction

    What is the purpose of a PhD thesis introduction? An effective PhD thesis introduction does three things: 1. Establish your research territory (by situating your research in a broader context)

  5. PDF PhD Thesis Writing Process: A Systematic Approach—How to Write ...

    PhD Thesis Writing Process: A Systematic Approach—How to Write Your Introduc-tion. Creative Education, 9, 2534-2545. https://doi.org/10.4236/ce.2018.915192 Received: October 23, 2018 Accepted: November 17, 2018 Published: November 20, 2018 Copyright © 2018 by author and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

  6. How to write the introduction chapter of a thesis

    11 November, 2021 PhD Writing 3: How to write the introduction chapter of a thesis If you find it tricky to write the introduction chapter of a PhD thesis, rest assured that you're not alone. The introduction can be one of the hardest sections to write for any piece of research writing.

  7. How to Write a Thesis 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)

  8. A Guide to Writing a PhD Thesis

    A PhD thesis is a work of original research all students are requiured to submit in order to succesfully complete their PhD. The thesis details the research that you carried out during the course of your doctoral degree and highlights the outcomes and conclusions reached. The PhD thesis is the most important part of a doctoral research degree ...

  9. What Is a Dissertation?

    A dissertation is a long-form piece of academic writing based on original research conducted by you. It is usually submitted as the final step in order to finish a PhD program. Your dissertation is probably the longest piece of writing you've ever completed. It requires solid research, writing, and analysis skills, and it can be intimidating ...

  10. Tips for writing a PhD dissertation: FAQs answered

    How long should a PhD thesis be? A PhD thesis (or dissertation) is typically 60,000 to 120,000 words ( 100 to 300 pages in length) organised into chapters, divisions and subdivisions (with roughly 10,000 words per chapter) - from introduction (with clear aims and objectives) to conclusion.

  11. (PDF) PhD Thesis Writing Process: A Systematic Approach ...

    Writing a doctoral research problem statement has been the subject of numerous studies (Blum & Preiss, 2005, Creswell, 2005, Ellis & Levy, 2009, Faryadi, 2018, Jacobs, 2013, Kerlinger & Lee, 2000 ...

  12. How to Write Thesis Introduction Chapter: An Ultimate Guide

    The introduction is the first chapter of your dissertation that is placed right after the table of content. Your introduction should be intriguing and informative enough to draw your readers' attention and set up the ground for your research with clarity, direction, and purpose on a relevant topic.

  13. 06 Essential Steps for Introduction Section of Dissertation

    Academic phrases that can be used in the introduction section of a Dissertation or Thesis Conclusion. Crafting a well-crafted introduction is paramount when it comes to writing a PhD or Post Graduate dissertation. The introduction serves as the gateway to your research, setting the stage for what follows and capturing the reader's attention.

  14. Know How to Structure Your PhD Thesis

    Introduction: In this section, you help the reviewer understand your entire dissertation, including what your paper is about, why it's important to the field, a brief description of your methodology, and how your research and the thesis are laid out. Think of your introduction as an expansion of your abstract.

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    31 I am in the process of writing my Ph.D. thesis and struggling with the introduction chapter, what to cover, and what not. This is a technical thesis. The broad area is molecular simulation in statistical mechanics. There are lots of tips available on the Internet, but those are very general often.

  16. How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation Introduction

    Overview of the structure. To help guide your reader, end your introduction with an outline of the structure of the thesis or dissertation to follow. Share a brief summary of each chapter, clearly showing how each contributes to your central aims. However, be careful to keep this overview concise: 1-2 sentences should be enough.

  17. What Is a PhD Thesis?

    A PhD thesis is a concentrated piece of original research which must be carried out by all PhD students in order to successfully earn their doctoral degree. The fundamental purpose of a thesis is to explain the conclusion that has been reached as a result of undertaking the research project. The typical PhD thesis structure will contain four ...

  18. Thesis and Dissertation: Getting Started

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  19. Dissertation & Thesis Outline

    A thesis or dissertation outline is one of the most critical early steps in your writing process. It helps you to lay out and organize your ideas and can provide you with a roadmap for deciding the specifics of your dissertation topic and showcasing its relevance to your field.

  20. Your Thesis Introduction

    Aim for 250 words or a page. Don't look at your thesis questions or anything previously written. Write on a sheet of paper if that helps. Take the time to select one area to connect your work to, even if it connects to several areas.

  21. How to write a Doctoral Thesis

    The introduction of the thesis should be styled like a review article with a critical analysis of the work of authors in the literature. The aims of the present PhD work can then also be addressed in the form of questions. The objectives would then deal with how to achieve the aims of the proposed study.

  22. Free Download: Thesis Introduction Template (Word Doc

    This template covers all the core components required in the introduction chapter/section of a typical dissertation or thesis, including: The opening section Background of the research topic Statement of the problem Rationale (including the research aims, objectives, and questions) Scope of the study Significance of the study

  23. How To Structure A PhD Thesis

    Introduction Universities and supervisors often assume that PhD students know how to structure their PhD theses. But often this assumption is false, which can cause considerable headache and uncertainty. It can also waste a lot of time and money as you engage in a process of trial and error working out what goes where.