Essay Writing Tips

What Should Be in a Dissertation Introduction?

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"What should I write in my dissertation introduction?" is a question we commonly get.

Students who are completing their dissertations have a pretty clear idea of what the other chapters in their dissertations should include. The chapter titles actually drive exactly what should be included - literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion. But the dissertation introduction is more nebulous. It doesn't have a specific, detailed description of what should be included. And it really is dependent upon the "meat" of the dissertation and the actual research project that has been undertaken.

Still, there are some commonalities in a dissertation introduction that all students should include.

Use your Dissertation Proposal for Ideas

If you are unsure about what to write in a dissertation introduction, look back at your research proposal. That proposal "introduced" your advisor or committee to your project and contained many of the same sections that will be in your introduction - a clear statement of the research question, a justification of the importance of that question, how you intend to go about answering that question through the methodology you have designed, and how you intend to analyze the results of your research.

The one thing your proposal includes that your introduction will not is a more detailed summary of the literature you had reviewed up to that point. The introduction should summarize that research much more briefly and should not include the numbers of citations, etc. that your proposal had.

How to Start a Dissertation Introduction

Think of all that you have learned about writing an introduction to an essay or paper as you went through your undergrad and graduate work. You learned what an introduction should include - an engaging and compelling opening statement that immediately piques the interest of the reader, and, in that same paragraph, your thesis statement.

So, as you think about how to start a dissertation introduction, what can you say that will truly intrigue your reader? Is there some shocking statistic that you can reveal? Is there some anecdote from your research that you can speak to without revealing the outcomes of your research?

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