Ways to improve your dissertation introduction
The introductory chapter of your dissertation or thesis holds great significance as it serves as the initial point of reference for your readers to comprehend the essence, importance, and methodology of your study. It is crucial to ensure that your introduction chapter is well-crafted and effectively conveys the essence of your research, as a poorly executed introduction can lead to a loss of interest in your readers. Our extensive experience of reviewing numerous introduction chapters has enabled us to identify seven common yet significant mistakes that students tend to make.
In this blog, we will discuss these mistakes in detail to help you steer clear of them and develop a comprehensive and effective introduction chapter.
Providing Insufficient contextual information for the study:
- One common issue that we observe in research papers is the lack of sufficient contextual background provided by students.
- This means that they fail to clearly articulate the existing literature and the real-world situation within which their research topic is situated.
- A well-crafted introduction should establish the contextual factors upfront.
- It is recommended that you describe the ‘what,’ ‘where,’ ‘who,’ and ‘when’ aspects to assist your reader in getting oriented.
- This contextual base will provide your reader with a clear understanding of the research field and will lay the groundwork for your research justification.
- It is important to remember that your reader is likely not familiar with your perspective, and therefore, you must provide a comprehensive background.
- Your writing should cater to an intelligent layman who is intellectually curious but not an expert in your field.
- Avoid making assumptions about what your reader already knows and start by building a solid contextual foundation from the beginning.
Insufficient justification for the study’s topic:
- Many students often fail to sufficiently justify their research topic and objectives in the introduction chapter, which is a common mistake.
- Frequently, students rely on the overly simplistic justification that their research is original and has not been done before.
- Although novelty is an important aspect of research justification, it is not sufficient on its own to support your research.
- A well-written introduction should not only highlight the uniqueness of your project but also demonstrate the practical and theoretical significance of answering your research questions.
When constructing your introduction, it is crucial to address the “what,” the “why,” and the “who.” Specifically, you should explain:
- What is the subject of your research, and how does it contribute to the field in an original way?
- Why is your research important, and how will it add value to the field?
- Who will benefit from your research, or who will suffer without it?
It is essential to answer these questions in a thorough and comprehensive manner, with reference to previous research. Do not simply skim over this section of the introduction. Even if the remainder of your dissertation or thesis is excellent, a poorly justified research topic will significantly undermine your work.
Having a research topic that is excessively broad in scope:
A typical mistake made by students when writing their dissertations is choosing a topic that is too broad or unfocused. While this issue often originates much earlier in the research process, it typically becomes apparent in the introduction chapter, indicating potential problems.
As a researcher, it’s natural to want to tackle significant problems with your research. However, it’s crucial to realize that as an individual, you will rarely solve a research issue alone. Instead, you can contribute to a larger research field by building on the work of others and producing research that others can develop further. If your topic is too broad, you will only scratch the surface and not generate any meaningful insight. In contrast, a narrow, well-defined research aim will enable you to delve deeper.
Inadequately defining research aims, objectives, and questions:
Insufficiently defined research aims, objectives, and questions can often accompany the mistake of selecting a topic that is too broad. Such lack of clarity in these crucial elements can result in a vague and directionless study. Therefore, it is imperative to ensure that your research aims, objectives, and questions are precisely defined and conveyed within your introduction. These three elements create a coherent “golden thread” that runs through your entire dissertation or thesis, setting expectations for the rest of your project.
For instance, let us consider the example of telecommunications and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). If the topic is too broad, it is important to narrow it down to a specific aspect of the topic, such as exploring how Zoom is used by SMEs for business meetings. This narrowed focus then becomes the research aim, such as “This project aims to investigate the impact of Zoom breakout rooms in collaborations of SMEs.” By doing so, the reader gains a clearer understanding of what the study is trying to accomplish, and the researcher has a more precise focus for the literature review and fieldwork.
It is important to note that research aims should directly lead to research questions, and research objectives should outline specific steps to answer those questions and address research aims. When crafting these three elements, specificity and clarity are essential. Communicate your research aims, objectives, and questions precisely within the introduction chapter to ensure a focused and coherent study.
Improperly aligned research goals, objectives, and research questions:
One common mistake in research is the misalignment of research aims, objectives, and questions, which can cause the study to pull in different directions. This misalignment is a significant problem as it hinders the study from achieving its research aims or even having the wrong aims altogether. Hence, it is crucial to ensure that research aims, objectives, and research questions are all closely aligned, forming the “golden thread.”
The research aim should answer the question, “What is the main goal and purpose of your research?” Typically, the research aim is formulated in a standard way, such as “This project aims to investigate the impact of Zoom breakout rooms in SMEs.” The research aims describe what the researcher aims to achieve in high-level terms.
The research objectives outline the “how” of the research and transform the aims into actionable points, similar to a to-do list. To illustrate, the research objectives for the Zoom example could include identifying the proportion of SMEs that utilize Zoom breakout rooms, determining the purpose/function of such use, and evaluating the value generated by such use. It is essential to ensure that research objectives stay on topic and aligned with the research aims and not deviate from the study’s main focus.
Lastly, the research questions are specific inquiries that the study seeks to answer. The easiest way to create research questions that are aligned with the aims and objectives is to transform them into questions.
Having a poorly defined and/or justified scope:
Another common mistake in writing the introduction chapter of a dissertation or thesis is having a poorly defined and/or justified scope. While it may be tempting to aim for ground breaking research, the ultimate goal of the study is to contribute to existing research. It is often difficult, if not impossible, to make research generalizable and applicable to different contexts. Therefore, researchers need to narrow the scope and define the boundaries of their research.
To accomplish this, researchers should specify the where, the when, and the who of their research project. For instance, in a study on Zoom and SMEs, researchers need to define which types of SMEs they are focusing on and how they define SMEs. They also need to identify the industry and location of these SMEs, and whether they are startups or established businesses. Narrowing the scope helps researchers stay focused and allows others to replicate the study.
Researchers must also provide a clear justification for their scope. They need to explain why they chose to focus on specific SMEs and how their research is relevant to these organizations. Additionally, researchers need to mention how much research has already been conducted in their area of interest. If there is little existing literature, researchers should explain why and provide contextual factors that support their justification. For example, the policies, culture, or mindset of SMEs in the UK, or the heavily regulated banking sector may affect the accessibility of information. Including these contextual factors helps support the justification for the scope of the research.
Failing to present a well-defined structural framework:
One common error when writing a dissertation or thesis is failing to provide a clear outline of the document’s structure. An effective outline can provide the reader with a clear overview of the content and guide them to locate specific information they may be seeking. Typically, the outline should be included at the end of the introduction chapter to prepare the reader for the rest of the document. Without an outline, the introduction chapter may seem incomplete and disconnected.
The outline need not be lengthy and may be written formulaically by briefly summarizing each chapter’s contents. In a large document such as a thesis or dissertation, maintaining a cohesive narrative can be challenging. However, a well-crafted structural outline can help tie the work together by telling the story of the research project and providing a roadmap for the reader to anticipate what lies ahead.
The introductory chapter of your dissertation or thesis holds great significance as it serves as the initial point of reference for your readers to comprehend the essence, importance, and methodology of your study. It is crucial to ensure that your introduction chapter is well-crafted and effectively conveys the essence of your research, as a poorly…