I am in the process of writing my Ph.D. thesis and struggling with the introduction chapter, what to cover, what not. This is a technical thesis. The broad area is molecular simulation in statistical mechanics.
There are lots of tips available on Internet, but those are very general often. I have found few theses also searching on Google. All those tips and theses vary in style and content and it is difficult to decide which one to follow. Please provide tips on how can I write a good introduction chapter of high academic standard.
EDIT: After reading your valuable inputs, I am adding here few more points. (Thanks everybody). Your comments on these points are highly appreciated.
I have seen theses where people include background theories. On this matter, I have read that the theory should not be something which others know. Now this is difficult to predict what to include as background theory, what not. I have seen people including theories which are widely available in textbooks.
The chapter 2 is dedicated to literature review. It is also important to briefly mention background and relevant research works. Here I have found people are giving a little elaborate technical details.
I am in a slightly different field to you (atmospheric physics), but have had my PhD thesis approved for submission. Your university should have a style guide available to you – take that advice first.
My introduction comprised the following sections (this was also used successfully for my MSc):
Rationale – this comprises an overview of the background knowledge in the field (and was expanded on in the Literature Review that was written after the Introduction). Make sure all variables are explained in detail here (dependent, independent and controlled).
Hypothesis – what exactly is the predicted result of the entire project.
Objectives – The main outcomes of the research (these related to the main papers that have been written and published along the way).
Thesis structure – how the thesis is organised.
In my opinion, all the other answers omit a very important purpose of the Introduction: You should introduce not only the thesis, but the results of other people in the Introduction.
A good introduction cites quite a handful of works of other people. Basically, a reader, after reading the Introduction, should have a good idea as what the thesis is going to be about, and in what wider concept of science it fits, and this cannot be done without citing other people. This shows that you are not doing some rubbish nobody is interested in.
answered Aug 26 ’13 at 10:00
My listing of related efforts can encompass that purpose, as relevant work influencing the thesis is discussed. However, the actual results may not necessarily go in an introductory chapter, but a preliminaries chapter that follows (as was the case in my thesis). aeismail ♦ Aug 26 ’13 at 10:45
@aeismail (speaking of math) It depends whether you really use them or you just recall them. But I agree, there’;s a thin boundary, and it’;s a matter of habit where you put these. Still, if you don’;t have it elsewhere, to the Introduction it goes;) yo’; Aug 26 ’13 at 11:56
An introduction is a funnel into your work, bei it a paper or a thesis.
The basic idea is to start by providing the wider scope within which your work resides.You then focus in on your part of the field or research question through a few steps.
The wider perspective of the beginning should also be the perspective in which you will later put your own results, to show how they feed back into some more general perspective. This part should allow the reader to focus in on relevant research and obtain a firm backgroudn of the current knowledge in the field. Once you have established the background you should identify for the reader the gap of knowledge which you have tackled. you then finish of by stating you plan for solving the problem so that your choices of methods etc. can be seen from the perspective of knowns and remaining problems to be solved. We can summarize the text as
Your approach for a solution
Writing a thesis and a paper can mean this approach can be accomplished in several ways. In a research paper all of this usually goes into a single heading “Introduction”. When you write a thesis the introduction may be many pages log and it is not uncommon to either have the list above as subheadings under introduction or to outline this part slightly differently.
When you have a lengthy introduction, you may start out by having a chapter called introduction which does what was outlined above but cuts out the backgroudn details and only summarizes what is known and identifies gaps, almost like a sumamry of the whole introduction. You then follow up with a detailed background in a separate chapter and likewise for identifying gaps and providing the outline of your research.
The point is that there are many ways to format or partition an introduction but the general idea is still there regardless of what form of publication you are writing: research paper or thesis.
answered Aug 26 ’13 at 10:22