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Background of The Study – Examples and Writing Guide

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Background of The Study

Background of The Study

Definition:

Background of the study refers to the context, circumstances, and history that led to the research problem or topic being studied. It provides the reader with a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter and the significance of the study.

The background of the study usually includes a discussion of the relevant literature, the gap in knowledge or understanding, and the research questions or hypotheses to be addressed. It also highlights the importance of the research topic and its potential contributions to the field. A well-written background of the study sets the stage for the research and helps the reader to appreciate the need for the study and its potential significance.

How to Write Background of The Study

Here are some steps to help you write the background of the study:

Identify the Research Problem

Start by identifying the research problem you are trying to address. This problem should be significant and relevant to your field of study.

Provide Context

Once you have identified the research problem, provide some context. This could include the historical, social, or political context of the problem.

Review Literature

Conduct a thorough review of the existing literature on the topic. This will help you understand what has been studied and what gaps exist in the current research.

Identify Research Gap

Based on your literature review, identify the gap in knowledge or understanding that your research aims to address. This gap will be the focus of your research question or hypothesis.

State Objectives

Clearly state the objectives of your research . These should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART).

Discuss Significance

Explain the significance of your research. This could include its potential impact on theory , practice, policy, or society.

Finally, summarize the key points of the background of the study. This will help the reader understand the research problem, its context, and its significance.

How to Write Background of The Study in Proposal

The background of the study is an essential part of any proposal as it sets the stage for the research project and provides the context and justification for why the research is needed. Here are the steps to write a compelling background of the study in your proposal:

  • Identify the problem: Clearly state the research problem or gap in the current knowledge that you intend to address through your research.
  • Provide context: Provide a brief overview of the research area and highlight its significance in the field.
  • Review literature: Summarize the relevant literature related to the research problem and provide a critical evaluation of the current state of knowledge.
  • Identify gaps : Identify the gaps or limitations in the existing literature and explain how your research will contribute to filling these gaps.
  • Justify the study : Explain why your research is important and what practical or theoretical contributions it can make to the field.
  • Highlight objectives: Clearly state the objectives of the study and how they relate to the research problem.
  • Discuss methodology: Provide an overview of the methodology you will use to collect and analyze data, and explain why it is appropriate for the research problem.
  • Conclude : Summarize the key points of the background of the study and explain how they support your research proposal.

How to Write Background of The Study In Thesis

The background of the study is a critical component of a thesis as it provides context for the research problem, rationale for conducting the study, and the significance of the research. Here are some steps to help you write a strong background of the study:

  • Identify the research problem : Start by identifying the research problem that your thesis is addressing. What is the issue that you are trying to solve or explore? Be specific and concise in your problem statement.
  • Review the literature: Conduct a thorough review of the relevant literature on the topic. This should include scholarly articles, books, and other sources that are directly related to your research question.
  • I dentify gaps in the literature: After reviewing the literature, identify any gaps in the existing research. What questions remain unanswered? What areas have not been explored? This will help you to establish the need for your research.
  • Establish the significance of the research: Clearly state the significance of your research. Why is it important to address this research problem? What are the potential implications of your research? How will it contribute to the field?
  • Provide an overview of the research design: Provide an overview of the research design and methodology that you will be using in your study. This should include a brief explanation of the research approach, data collection methods, and data analysis techniques.
  • State the research objectives and research questions: Clearly state the research objectives and research questions that your study aims to answer. These should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound.
  • Summarize the chapter: Summarize the chapter by highlighting the key points and linking them back to the research problem, significance of the study, and research questions.

How to Write Background of The Study in Research Paper

Here are the steps to write the background of the study in a research paper:

  • Identify the research problem: Start by identifying the research problem that your study aims to address. This can be a particular issue, a gap in the literature, or a need for further investigation.
  • Conduct a literature review: Conduct a thorough literature review to gather information on the topic, identify existing studies, and understand the current state of research. This will help you identify the gap in the literature that your study aims to fill.
  • Explain the significance of the study: Explain why your study is important and why it is necessary. This can include the potential impact on the field, the importance to society, or the need to address a particular issue.
  • Provide context: Provide context for the research problem by discussing the broader social, economic, or political context that the study is situated in. This can help the reader understand the relevance of the study and its potential implications.
  • State the research questions and objectives: State the research questions and objectives that your study aims to address. This will help the reader understand the scope of the study and its purpose.
  • Summarize the methodology : Briefly summarize the methodology you used to conduct the study, including the data collection and analysis methods. This can help the reader understand how the study was conducted and its reliability.

Examples of Background of The Study

Here are some examples of the background of the study:

Problem : The prevalence of obesity among children in the United States has reached alarming levels, with nearly one in five children classified as obese.

Significance : Obesity in childhood is associated with numerous negative health outcomes, including increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain cancers.

Gap in knowledge : Despite efforts to address the obesity epidemic, rates continue to rise. There is a need for effective interventions that target the unique needs of children and their families.

Problem : The use of antibiotics in agriculture has contributed to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which poses a significant threat to human health.

Significance : Antibiotic-resistant infections are responsible for thousands of deaths each year and are a major public health concern.

Gap in knowledge: While there is a growing body of research on the use of antibiotics in agriculture, there is still much to be learned about the mechanisms of resistance and the most effective strategies for reducing antibiotic use.

Edxample 3:

Problem : Many low-income communities lack access to healthy food options, leading to high rates of food insecurity and diet-related diseases.

Significance : Poor nutrition is a major contributor to chronic diseases such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.

Gap in knowledge : While there have been efforts to address food insecurity, there is a need for more research on the barriers to accessing healthy food in low-income communities and effective strategies for increasing access.

Examples of Background of The Study In Research

Here are some real-life examples of how the background of the study can be written in different fields of study:

Example 1 : “There has been a significant increase in the incidence of diabetes in recent years. This has led to an increased demand for effective diabetes management strategies. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of a new diabetes management program in improving patient outcomes.”

Example 2 : “The use of social media has become increasingly prevalent in modern society. Despite its popularity, little is known about the effects of social media use on mental health. This study aims to investigate the relationship between social media use and mental health in young adults.”

Example 3: “Despite significant advancements in cancer treatment, the survival rate for patients with pancreatic cancer remains low. The purpose of this study is to identify potential biomarkers that can be used to improve early detection and treatment of pancreatic cancer.”

Examples of Background of The Study in Proposal

Here are some real-time examples of the background of the study in a proposal:

Example 1 : The prevalence of mental health issues among university students has been increasing over the past decade. This study aims to investigate the causes and impacts of mental health issues on academic performance and wellbeing.

Example 2 : Climate change is a global issue that has significant implications for agriculture in developing countries. This study aims to examine the adaptive capacity of smallholder farmers to climate change and identify effective strategies to enhance their resilience.

Example 3 : The use of social media in political campaigns has become increasingly common in recent years. This study aims to analyze the effectiveness of social media campaigns in mobilizing young voters and influencing their voting behavior.

Example 4 : Employee turnover is a major challenge for organizations, especially in the service sector. This study aims to identify the key factors that influence employee turnover in the hospitality industry and explore effective strategies for reducing turnover rates.

Examples of Background of The Study in Thesis

Here are some real-time examples of the background of the study in the thesis:

Example 1 : “Women’s participation in the workforce has increased significantly over the past few decades. However, women continue to be underrepresented in leadership positions, particularly in male-dominated industries such as technology. This study aims to examine the factors that contribute to the underrepresentation of women in leadership roles in the technology industry, with a focus on organizational culture and gender bias.”

Example 2 : “Mental health is a critical component of overall health and well-being. Despite increased awareness of the importance of mental health, there are still significant gaps in access to mental health services, particularly in low-income and rural communities. This study aims to evaluate the effectiveness of a community-based mental health intervention in improving mental health outcomes in underserved populations.”

Example 3: “The use of technology in education has become increasingly widespread, with many schools adopting online learning platforms and digital resources. However, there is limited research on the impact of technology on student learning outcomes and engagement. This study aims to explore the relationship between technology use and academic achievement among middle school students, as well as the factors that mediate this relationship.”

Examples of Background of The Study in Research Paper

Here are some examples of how the background of the study can be written in various fields:

Example 1: The prevalence of obesity has been on the rise globally, with the World Health Organization reporting that approximately 650 million adults were obese in 2016. Obesity is a major risk factor for several chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. In recent years, several interventions have been proposed to address this issue, including lifestyle changes, pharmacotherapy, and bariatric surgery. However, there is a lack of consensus on the most effective intervention for obesity management. This study aims to investigate the efficacy of different interventions for obesity management and identify the most effective one.

Example 2: Antibiotic resistance has become a major public health threat worldwide. Infections caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria are associated with longer hospital stays, higher healthcare costs, and increased mortality. The inappropriate use of antibiotics is one of the main factors contributing to the development of antibiotic resistance. Despite numerous efforts to promote the rational use of antibiotics, studies have shown that many healthcare providers continue to prescribe antibiotics inappropriately. This study aims to explore the factors influencing healthcare providers’ prescribing behavior and identify strategies to improve antibiotic prescribing practices.

Example 3: Social media has become an integral part of modern communication, with millions of people worldwide using platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Social media has several advantages, including facilitating communication, connecting people, and disseminating information. However, social media use has also been associated with several negative outcomes, including cyberbullying, addiction, and mental health problems. This study aims to investigate the impact of social media use on mental health and identify the factors that mediate this relationship.

Purpose of Background of The Study

The primary purpose of the background of the study is to help the reader understand the rationale for the research by presenting the historical, theoretical, and empirical background of the problem.

More specifically, the background of the study aims to:

  • Provide a clear understanding of the research problem and its context.
  • Identify the gap in knowledge that the study intends to fill.
  • Establish the significance of the research problem and its potential contribution to the field.
  • Highlight the key concepts, theories, and research findings related to the problem.
  • Provide a rationale for the research questions or hypotheses and the research design.
  • Identify the limitations and scope of the study.

When to Write Background of The Study

The background of the study should be written early on in the research process, ideally before the research design is finalized and data collection begins. This allows the researcher to clearly articulate the rationale for the study and establish a strong foundation for the research.

The background of the study typically comes after the introduction but before the literature review section. It should provide an overview of the research problem and its context, and also introduce the key concepts, theories, and research findings related to the problem.

Writing the background of the study early on in the research process also helps to identify potential gaps in knowledge and areas for further investigation, which can guide the development of the research questions or hypotheses and the research design. By establishing the significance of the research problem and its potential contribution to the field, the background of the study can also help to justify the research and secure funding or support from stakeholders.

Advantage of Background of The Study

The background of the study has several advantages, including:

  • Provides context: The background of the study provides context for the research problem by highlighting the historical, theoretical, and empirical background of the problem. This allows the reader to understand the research problem in its broader context and appreciate its significance.
  • Identifies gaps in knowledge: By reviewing the existing literature related to the research problem, the background of the study can identify gaps in knowledge that the study intends to fill. This helps to establish the novelty and originality of the research and its potential contribution to the field.
  • Justifies the research : The background of the study helps to justify the research by demonstrating its significance and potential impact. This can be useful in securing funding or support for the research.
  • Guides the research design: The background of the study can guide the development of the research questions or hypotheses and the research design by identifying key concepts, theories, and research findings related to the problem. This ensures that the research is grounded in existing knowledge and is designed to address the research problem effectively.
  • Establishes credibility: By demonstrating the researcher’s knowledge of the field and the research problem, the background of the study can establish the researcher’s credibility and expertise, which can enhance the trustworthiness and validity of the research.

Disadvantages of Background of The Study

Some Disadvantages of Background of The Study are as follows:

  • Time-consuming : Writing a comprehensive background of the study can be time-consuming, especially if the research problem is complex and multifaceted. This can delay the research process and impact the timeline for completing the study.
  • Repetitive: The background of the study can sometimes be repetitive, as it often involves summarizing existing research and theories related to the research problem. This can be tedious for the reader and may make the section less engaging.
  • Limitations of existing research: The background of the study can reveal the limitations of existing research related to the problem. This can create challenges for the researcher in developing research questions or hypotheses that address the gaps in knowledge identified in the background of the study.
  • Bias : The researcher’s biases and perspectives can influence the content and tone of the background of the study. This can impact the reader’s perception of the research problem and may influence the validity of the research.
  • Accessibility: Accessing and reviewing the literature related to the research problem can be challenging, especially if the researcher does not have access to a comprehensive database or if the literature is not available in the researcher’s language. This can limit the depth and scope of the background of the study.

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What is the Background of a Study and How Should it be Written?

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Table of Contents

The background of a study is one of the most important components of a research paper. The quality of the background determines whether the reader will be interested in the rest of the study. Thus, to ensure that the audience is invested in reading the entire research paper, it is important to write an appealing and effective background. So, what constitutes the background of a study, and how must it be written?

What is the background of a study?

The background of a study is the first section of the paper and establishes the context underlying the research. It contains the rationale, the key problem statement, and a brief overview of research questions that are addressed in the rest of the paper. The background forms the crux of the study because it introduces an unaware audience to the research and its importance in a clear and logical manner. At times, the background may even explore whether the study builds on or refutes findings from previous studies. Any relevant information that the readers need to know before delving into the paper should be made available to them in the background.

How is a background different from the introduction?

The introduction of your research paper is presented before the background. Let’s find out what factors differentiate the background from the introduction.

  • The introduction only contains preliminary data about the research topic and does not state the purpose of the study. On the contrary, the background clarifies the importance of the study in detail.
  • The introduction provides an overview of the research topic from a broader perspective, while the background provides a detailed understanding of the topic.
  • The introduction should end with the mention of the research questions, aims, and objectives of the study. In contrast, the background follows no such format and only provides essential context to the study.

How should one write the background of a research paper?

The length and detail presented in the background varies for different research papers, depending on the complexity and novelty of the research topic. At times, a simple background suffices, even if the study is complex. Before writing and adding details in the background, take a note of these additional points:

  • Start with a strong beginning: Begin the background by defining the research topic and then identify the target audience.
  • Cover key components: Explain all theories, concepts, terms, and ideas that may feel unfamiliar to the target audience thoroughly.
  • Take note of important prerequisites: Go through the relevant literature in detail. Take notes while reading and cite the sources.
  • Maintain a balance: Make sure that the background is focused on important details, but also appeals to a broader audience.
  • Include historical data: Current issues largely originate from historical events or findings. If the research borrows information from a historical context, add relevant data in the background.
  • Explain novelty: If the research study or methodology is unique or novel, provide an explanation that helps to understand the research better.
  • Increase engagement: To make the background engaging, build a story around the central theme of the research

Avoid these mistakes while writing the background:

  • Ambiguity: Don’t be ambiguous. While writing, assume that the reader does not understand any intricate detail about your research.
  • Unrelated themes: Steer clear from topics that are not related to the key aspects of your research topic.
  • Poor organization: Do not place information without a structure. Make sure that the background reads in a chronological manner and organize the sub-sections so that it flows well.

Writing the background for a research paper should not be a daunting task. But directions to go about it can always help. At Elsevier Author Services we provide essential insights on how to write a high quality, appealing, and logically structured paper for publication, beginning with a robust background. For further queries, contact our experts now!

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What Is Background in a Research Paper?

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So you have carefully written your research paper  and probably ran it through your colleagues ten to fifteen times. While there are many elements to a good research article, one of the most important elements for your readers is the background of your study.

What is Background of the Study in Research

The background of your study will provide context to the information discussed throughout the research paper . Background information may include both important and relevant studies. This is particularly important if a study either supports or refutes your thesis.

Why is Background of the Study Necessary in Research?

The background of the study discusses your problem statement, rationale, and research questions. It links  introduction to your research topic  and ensures a logical flow of ideas.  Thus, it helps readers understand your reasons for conducting the study.

Providing Background Information

The reader should be able to understand your topic and its importance. The length and detail of your background also depend on the degree to which you need to demonstrate your understanding of the topic. Paying close attention to the following questions will help you in writing background information:

  • Are there any theories, concepts, terms, and ideas that may be unfamiliar to the target audience and will require you to provide any additional explanation?
  • Any historical data that need to be shared in order to provide context on why the current issue emerged?
  • Are there any concepts that may have been borrowed from other disciplines that may be unfamiliar to the reader and need an explanation?
Related: Ready with the background and searching for more information on journal ranking? Check this infographic on the SCImago Journal Rank today!

Is the research study unique for which additional explanation is needed? For instance, you may have used a completely new method

How to Write a Background of the Study

The structure of a background study in a research paper generally follows a logical sequence to provide context, justification, and an understanding of the research problem. It includes an introduction, general background, literature review , rationale , objectives, scope and limitations , significance of the study and the research hypothesis . Following the structure can provide a comprehensive and well-organized background for your research.

Here are the steps to effectively write a background of the study.

1. Identify Your Audience:

Determine the level of expertise of your target audience. Tailor the depth and complexity of your background information accordingly.

2. Understand the Research Problem:

Define the research problem or question your study aims to address. Identify the significance of the problem within the broader context of the field.

3. Review Existing Literature:

Conduct a thorough literature review to understand what is already known in the area. Summarize key findings, theories, and concepts relevant to your research.

4. Include Historical Data:

Integrate historical data if relevant to the research, as current issues often trace back to historical events.

5. Identify Controversies and Gaps:

Note any controversies or debates within the existing literature. Identify gaps , limitations, or unanswered questions that your research can address.

6. Select Key Components:

Choose the most critical elements to include in the background based on their relevance to your research problem. Prioritize information that helps build a strong foundation for your study.

7. Craft a Logical Flow:

Organize the background information in a logical sequence. Start with general context, move to specific theories and concepts, and then focus on the specific problem.

8. Highlight the Novelty of Your Research:

Clearly explain the unique aspects or contributions of your study. Emphasize why your research is different from or builds upon existing work.

Here are some extra tips to increase the quality of your research background:

Example of a Research Background

Here is an example of a research background to help you understand better.

The above hypothetical example provides a research background, addresses the gap and highlights the potential outcome of the study; thereby aiding a better understanding of the proposed research.

What Makes the Introduction Different from the Background?

Your introduction is different from your background in a number of ways.

  • The introduction contains preliminary data about your topic that  the reader will most likely read , whereas the background clarifies the importance of the paper.
  • The background of your study discusses in depth about the topic, whereas the introduction only gives an overview.
  • The introduction should end with your research questions, aims, and objectives, whereas your background should not (except in some cases where your background is integrated into your introduction). For instance, the C.A.R.S. ( Creating a Research Space ) model, created by John Swales is based on his analysis of journal articles. This model attempts to explain and describe the organizational pattern of writing the introduction in social sciences.

Points to Note

Your background should begin with defining a topic and audience. It is important that you identify which topic you need to review and what your audience already knows about the topic. You should proceed by searching and researching the relevant literature. In this case, it is advisable to keep track of the search terms you used and the articles that you downloaded. It is helpful to use one of the research paper management systems such as Papers, Mendeley, Evernote, or Sente. Next, it is helpful to take notes while reading. Be careful when copying quotes verbatim and make sure to put them in quotation marks and cite the sources. In addition, you should keep your background focused but balanced enough so that it is relevant to a broader audience. Aside from these, your background should be critical, consistent, and logically structured.

Writing the background of your study should not be an overly daunting task. Many guides that can help you organize your thoughts as you write the background. The background of the study is the key to introduce your audience to your research topic and should be done with strong knowledge and thoughtful writing.

The background of a research paper typically ranges from one to two paragraphs, summarizing the relevant literature and context of the study. It should be concise, providing enough information to contextualize the research problem and justify the need for the study. Journal instructions about any word count limits should be kept in mind while deciding on the length of the final content.

The background of a research paper provides the context and relevant literature to understand the research problem, while the introduction also introduces the specific research topic, states the research objectives, and outlines the scope of the study. The background focuses on the broader context, whereas the introduction focuses on the specific research project and its objectives.

When writing the background for a study, start by providing a brief overview of the research topic and its significance in the field. Then, highlight the gaps in existing knowledge or unresolved issues that the study aims to address. Finally, summarize the key findings from relevant literature to establish the context and rationale for conducting the research, emphasizing the need and importance of the study within the broader academic landscape.

The background in a research paper is crucial as it sets the stage for the study by providing essential context and rationale. It helps readers understand the significance of the research problem and its relevance in the broader field. By presenting relevant literature and highlighting gaps, the background justifies the need for the study, building a strong foundation for the research and enhancing its credibility.

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What is the Background of the Study and How to Write It

what is a thesis background

What is the Background of the Study in Research? 

The background of the study is the first section of a research paper and gives context surrounding the research topic. The background explains to the reader where your research journey started, why you got interested in the topic, and how you developed the research question that you will later specify. That means that you first establish the context of the research you did with a general overview of the field or topic and then present the key issues that drove your decision to study the specific problem you chose.

Once the reader understands where you are coming from and why there was indeed a need for the research you are going to present in the following—because there was a gap in the current research, or because there is an obvious problem with a currently used process or technology—you can proceed with the formulation of your research question and summarize how you are going to address it in the rest of your manuscript.

Why is the Background of the Study Important?

No matter how surprising and important the findings of your study are, if you do not provide the reader with the necessary background information and context, they will not be able to understand your reasons for studying the specific problem you chose and why you think your study is relevant. And more importantly, an editor who does not share your enthusiasm for your work (because you did not fill them in on all the important details) will very probably not even consider your manuscript worthy of their and the reviewers’ time and will immediately send it back to you.

To avoid such desk rejections , you need to make sure you pique the reader’s interest and help them understand the contribution of your work to the specific field you study, the more general research community, or the public. Introducing the study background is crucial to setting the scene for your readers.

Table of Contents:

  • What is “Background Information” in a Research Paper?
  • What Should the Background of a Research Paper Include?
  • Where Does the Background Section Go in Your Paper?

background of the study, brick wall

Background of the Study Structure

Before writing your study background, it is essential to understand what to include. The following elements should all be included in the background and are presented in greater detail in the next section:

  • A general overview of the topic and why it is important (overlaps with establishing the “importance of the topic” in the Introduction)
  • The current state of the research on the topic or on related topics in the field
  • Controversies about current knowledge or specific past studies that undergird your research methodology
  • Any claims or assumptions that have been made by researchers, institutions, or politicians that might need to be clarified
  • Methods and techniques used in the study or from which your study deviated in some way

Presenting the Study Background

As you begin introducing your background, you first need to provide a general overview and include the main issues concerning the topic. Depending on whether you do “basic” (with the aim of providing further knowledge) or “applied” research (to establish new techniques, processes, or products), this is either a literature review that summarizes all relevant earlier studies in the field or a description of the process (e.g., vote counting) or practice (e.g., diagnosis of a specific disease) that you think is problematic or lacking and needs a solution.

Example s of a general overview

If you study the function of a Drosophila gene, for example, you can explain to the reader why and for whom the study of fly genetics is relevant, what is already known and established, and where you see gaps in the existing literature. If you investigated how the way universities have transitioned into online teaching since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic has affected students’ learning progress, then you need to present a summary of what changes have happened around the world, what the effects of those changes have been so far, and where you see problems that need to be addressed. Note that you need to provide sources for every statement and every claim you make here, to establish a solid foundation of knowledge for your own study. 

Describing the current state of knowledge

When the reader understands the main issue(s), you need to fill them in more specifically on the current state of the field (in basic research) or the process/practice/product use you describe (in practical/applied research). Cite all relevant studies that have already reported on the Drosophila gene you are interested in, have failed to reveal certain functions of it, or have suggested that it might be involved in more processes than we know so far. Or list the reports from the education ministries of the countries you are interested in and highlight the data that shows the need for research into the effects of the Corona-19 pandemic on teaching and learning.

Discussing controversies, claims, and assumptions

Are there controversies regarding your topic of interest that need to be mentioned and/or addressed? For example, if your research topic involves an issue that is politically hot, you can acknowledge this here. Have any earlier claims or assumptions been made, by other researchers, institutions, or politicians, that you think need to be clarified?

Mentioning methodologies and approaches

While putting together these details, you also need to mention methodologies : What methods/techniques have been used so far to study what you studied and why are you going to either use the same or a different approach? Are any of the methods included in the literature review flawed in such a way that your study takes specific measures to correct or update? While you shouldn’t spend too much time here justifying your methods (this can be summarized briefly in the rationale of the study at the end of the Introduction and later in the Discussion section), you can engage with the crucial methods applied in previous studies here first.

When you have established the background of the study of your research paper in such a logical way, then the reader should have had no problem following you from the more general information you introduced first to the specific details you added later. You can now easily lead over to the relevance of your research, explain how your work fits into the bigger picture, and specify the aims and objectives of your study. This latter part is usually considered the “ statement of the problem ” of your study. Without a solid research paper background, this statement will come out of nowhere for the reader and very probably raise more questions than you were planning to answer.   

Where does the study background section go in a paper?

Unless you write a research proposal or some kind of report that has a specific “Background” chapter, the background of your study is the first part of your introduction section . This is where you put your work in context and provide all the relevant information the reader needs to follow your rationale. Make sure your background has a logical structure and naturally leads into the statement of the problem at the very end of the introduction so that you bring everything together for the reader to judge the relevance of your work and the validity of your approach before they dig deeper into the details of your study in the methods section .

Consider Receiving Professional Editing Services

Now that you know how to write a background section for a research paper, you might be interested in our AI text editor at Wordvice AI. And be sure to receive professional editing services , including academic editing and proofreading , before submitting your manuscript to journals. On the Wordvice academic resources website, you can also find many more articles and other resources that can help you with writing the other parts of your research paper , with making a research paper outline before you put everything together, or with writing an effective cover letter once you are ready to submit.

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How To Write A Dissertation Introduction Chapter:

The 7 essential ingredients of an a-grade introduction.

By: Derek Jansen (MBA). Reviewed By Dr Eunice Rautenbach (D. Tech) | March 2020

If you’re reading this, you’re probably at the daunting early phases of writing up the introduction chapter of your dissertation or thesis. It can be intimidating, I know. 

In this post, we’ll look at the 7 essential ingredients of a strong dissertation or thesis introduction chapter, as well as the essential things you need to keep in mind as you craft each section. We’ll also share some useful tips to help you optimize your approach.

Overview: How To Write An Introduction Chapter

  • Understand the purpose and function of the intro chapter
  • Craft an enticing and engaging opening section
  • Provide a background and context to the study
  • Clearly define the research problem
  • State your research aims, objectives and questions
  • Explain the significance of your study
  • Identify the limitations of your research
  • Outline the structure of your dissertation or thesis

The perfect dissertation or thesis introduction chapter

A quick sidenote:

You’ll notice that I’ve used the words dissertation and thesis interchangeably. While these terms reflect different levels of research – for example, Masters vs PhD-level research – the introduction chapter generally contains the same 7 essential ingredients regardless of level. So, in this post, dissertation introduction equals thesis introduction.

Start with why.

To craft a high-quality dissertation or thesis introduction chapter, you need to understand exactly what this chapter needs to achieve. In other words, what’s its purpose ? As the name suggests, the introduction chapter needs to introduce the reader to your research so that they understand what you’re trying to figure out, or what problem you’re trying to solve. More specifically, you need to answer four important questions in your introduction chapter.

These questions are:

  • What will you be researching? (in other words, your research topic)
  • Why is that worthwhile? (in other words, your justification)
  • What will the scope of your research be? (in other words, what will you cover and what won’t you cover)
  • What will the limitations of your research be? (in other words, what will the potential shortcomings of your research be?)

Simply put, your dissertation’s introduction chapter needs to provide an overview of your planned research , as well as a clear rationale for it. In other words, this chapter has to explain the “what” and the “why” of your research – what’s it all about and why’s that important.

Simple enough, right?

Well, the trick is finding the appropriate depth of information. As the researcher, you’ll be extremely close to your topic and this makes it easy to get caught up in the minor details. While these intricate details might be interesting, you need to write your introduction chapter on more of a “need-to-know” type basis, or it will end up way too lengthy and dense. You need to balance painting a clear picture with keeping things concise. Don’t worry though – you’ll be able to explore all the intricate details in later chapters.

The core ingredients of a dissertation introduction chapter

Now that you understand what you need to achieve from your introduction chapter, we can get into the details. While the exact requirements for this chapter can vary from university to university, there are seven core components that most universities will require. We call these the seven essential ingredients . 

The 7 Essential Ingredients

  • The opening section – where you’ll introduce the reader to your research in high-level terms
  • The background to the study – where you’ll explain the context of your project
  • The research problem – where you’ll explain the “gap” that exists in the current research
  • The research aims , objectives and questions – where you’ll clearly state what your research will aim to achieve
  • The significance (or justification) – where you’ll explain why your research is worth doing and the value it will provide to the world
  • The limitations – where you’ll acknowledge the potential limitations of your project and approach
  • The structure – where you’ll briefly outline the structure of your dissertation or thesis to help orient the reader

By incorporating these seven essential ingredients into your introduction chapter, you’ll comprehensively cover both the “ what ” and the “ why ” I mentioned earlier – in other words, you’ll achieve the purpose of the chapter.

Side note – you can also use these 7 ingredients in this order as the structure for your chapter to ensure a smooth, logical flow. This isn’t essential, but, generally speaking, it helps create an engaging narrative that’s easy for your reader to understand. If you’d like, you can also download our free introduction chapter template here.

Alright – let’s look at each of the ingredients now.

what is a thesis background

#1 – The Opening Section

The very first essential ingredient for your dissertation introduction is, well, an introduction or opening section. Just like every other chapter, your introduction chapter needs to start by providing a brief overview of what you’ll be covering in the chapter.

This section needs to engage the reader with clear, concise language that can be easily understood and digested. If the reader (your marker!) has to struggle through it, they’ll lose interest, which will make it harder for you to earn marks. Just because you’re writing an academic paper doesn’t mean you can ignore the basic principles of engaging writing used by marketers, bloggers, and journalists. At the end of the day, you’re all trying to sell an idea – yours is just a research idea.

So, what goes into this opening section?

Well, while there’s no set formula, it’s a good idea to include the following four foundational sentences in your opening section:

1 – A sentence or two introducing the overall field of your research.

For example:

“Organisational skills development involves identifying current or potential skills gaps within a business and developing programs to resolve these gaps. Management research, including X, Y and Z, has clearly established that organisational skills development is an essential contributor to business growth.”

2 – A sentence introducing your specific research problem.

“However, there are conflicting views and an overall lack of research regarding how best to manage skills development initiatives in highly dynamic environments where subject knowledge is rapidly and continuously evolving – for example, in the website development industry.”

3 – A sentence stating your research aims and objectives.

“This research aims to identify and evaluate skills development approaches and strategies for highly dynamic industries in which subject knowledge is continuously evolving.”.

4 – A sentence outlining the layout of the chapter.

“This chapter will provide an introduction to the study by first discussing the background and context, followed by the research problem, the research aims, objectives and questions, the significance and finally, the limitations.”

As I mentioned, this opening section of your introduction chapter shouldn’t be lengthy . Typically, these four sentences should fit neatly into one or two paragraphs, max. What you’re aiming for here is a clear, concise introduction to your research – not a detailed account.

PS – If some of this terminology sounds unfamiliar, don’t stress – I’ll explain each of the concepts later in this post.

Dissertation writing

#2 – Background to the study

Now that you’ve provided a high-level overview of your dissertation or thesis, it’s time to go a little deeper and lay a foundation for your research topic. This foundation is what the second ingredient is all about – the background to your study.

So, what is the background section all about?

Well, this section of your introduction chapter should provide a broad overview of the topic area that you’ll be researching, as well as the current contextual factors . This could include, for example, a brief history of the topic, recent developments in the area, key pieces of research in the area and so on. In other words, in this section, you need to provide the relevant background information to give the reader a decent foundational understanding of your research area.

Let’s look at an example to make this a little more concrete.

If we stick with the skills development topic I mentioned earlier, the background to the study section would start by providing an overview of the skills development area and outline the key existing research. Then, it would go on to discuss how the modern-day context has created a new challenge for traditional skills development strategies and approaches. Specifically, that in many industries, technical knowledge is constantly and rapidly evolving, and traditional education providers struggle to keep up with the pace of new technologies.

Importantly, you need to write this section with the assumption that the reader is not an expert in your topic area. So, if there are industry-specific jargon and complex terminology, you should briefly explain that here , so that the reader can understand the rest of your document.

Don’t make assumptions about the reader’s knowledge – in most cases, your markers will not be able to ask you questions if they don’t understand something. So, always err on the safe side and explain anything that’s not common knowledge.

Dissertation Coaching

#3 – The research problem

Now that you’ve given your reader an overview of your research area, it’s time to get specific about the research problem that you’ll address in your dissertation or thesis. While the background section would have eluded to a potential research problem (or even multiple research problems), the purpose of this section is to narrow the focus and highlight the specific research problem you’ll focus on.

But, what exactly is a research problem, you ask?

Well, a research problem can be any issue or question for which there isn’t already a well-established and agreed-upon answer in the existing research. In other words, a research problem exists when there’s a need to answer a question (or set of questions), but there’s a gap in the existing literature , or the existing research is conflicting and/or inconsistent.

So, to present your research problem, you need to make it clear what exactly is missing in the current literature and why this is a problem . It’s usually a good idea to structure this discussion into three sections – specifically:

  • What’s already well-established in the literature (in other words, the current state of research)
  • What’s missing in the literature (in other words, the literature gap)
  • Why this is a problem (in other words, why it’s important to fill this gap)

Let’s look at an example of this structure using the skills development topic.

Organisational skills development is critically important for employee satisfaction and company performance (reference). Numerous studies have investigated strategies and approaches to manage skills development programs within organisations (reference).

(this paragraph explains what’s already well-established in the literature)

However, these studies have traditionally focused on relatively slow-paced industries where key skills and knowledge do not change particularly often. This body of theory presents a problem for industries that face a rapidly changing skills landscape – for example, the website development industry – where new platforms, languages and best practices emerge on an extremely frequent basis.

(this paragraph explains what’s missing from the literature)

As a result, the existing research is inadequate for industries in which essential knowledge and skills are constantly and rapidly evolving, as it assumes a slow pace of knowledge development. Industries in such environments, therefore, find themselves ill-equipped in terms of skills development strategies and approaches.

(this paragraph explains why the research gap is problematic)

As you can see in this example, in a few lines, we’ve explained (1) the current state of research, (2) the literature gap and (3) why that gap is problematic. By doing this, the research problem is made crystal clear, which lays the foundation for the next ingredient.

#4 – The research aims, objectives and questions

Now that you’ve clearly identified your research problem, it’s time to identify your research aims and objectives , as well as your research questions . In other words, it’s time to explain what you’re going to do about the research problem.

So, what do you need to do here?

Well, the starting point is to clearly state your research aim (or aims) . The research aim is the main goal or the overarching purpose of your dissertation or thesis. In other words, it’s a high-level statement of what you’re aiming to achieve.

Let’s look at an example, sticking with the skills development topic:

“Given the lack of research regarding organisational skills development in fast-moving industries, this study will aim to identify and evaluate the skills development approaches utilised by web development companies in the UK”.

As you can see in this example, the research aim is clearly outlined, as well as the specific context in which the research will be undertaken (in other words, web development companies in the UK).

Next up is the research objective (or objectives) . While the research aims cover the high-level “what”, the research objectives are a bit more practically oriented, looking at specific things you’ll be doing to achieve those research aims.

Let’s take a look at an example of some research objectives (ROs) to fit the research aim.

  • RO1 – To identify common skills development strategies and approaches utilised by web development companies in the UK.
  • RO2 – To evaluate the effectiveness of these strategies and approaches.
  • RO3 – To compare and contrast these strategies and approaches in terms of their strengths and weaknesses.

As you can see from this example, these objectives describe the actions you’ll take and the specific things you’ll investigate in order to achieve your research aims. They break down the research aims into more specific, actionable objectives.

The final step is to state your research questions . Your research questions bring the aims and objectives another level “down to earth”. These are the specific questions that your dissertation or theses will seek to answer. They’re not fluffy, ambiguous or conceptual – they’re very specific and you’ll need to directly answer them in your conclusions chapter .

The research questions typically relate directly to the research objectives and sometimes can look a bit obvious, but they are still extremely important. Let’s take a look at an example of the research questions (RQs) that would flow from the research objectives I mentioned earlier.

  • RQ1 – What skills development strategies and approaches are currently being used by web development companies in the UK?
  • RQ2 – How effective are each of these strategies and approaches?
  • RQ3 – What are the strengths and weaknesses of each of these strategies and approaches?

As you can see, the research questions mimic the research objectives , but they are presented in question format. These questions will act as the driving force throughout your dissertation or thesis – from the literature review to the methodology and onward – so they’re really important.

A final note about this section – it’s really important to be clear about the scope of your study (more technically, the delimitations ). In other words, what you WILL cover and what you WON’T cover. If your research aims, objectives and questions are too broad, you’ll risk losing focus or investigating a problem that is too big to solve within a single dissertation.

Simply put, you need to establish clear boundaries in your research. You can do this, for example, by limiting it to a specific industry, country or time period. That way, you’ll ringfence your research, which will allow you to investigate your topic deeply and thoroughly – which is what earns marks!

Need a helping hand?

what is a thesis background

#5 – Significance

Now that you’ve made it clear what you’ll be researching, it’s time to make a strong argument regarding your study’s importance and significance . In other words, now that you’ve covered the what, it’s time to cover the why – enter essential ingredient number 5 – significance.

Of course, by this stage, you’ve already briefly alluded to the importance of your study in your background and research problem sections, but you haven’t explicitly stated how your research findings will benefit the world . So, now’s your chance to clearly state how your study will benefit either industry , academia , or – ideally – both . In other words, you need to explain how your research will make a difference and what implications it will have.

Let’s take a look at an example.

“This study will contribute to the body of knowledge on skills development by incorporating skills development strategies and approaches for industries in which knowledge and skills are rapidly and constantly changing. This will help address the current shortage of research in this area and provide real-world value to organisations operating in such dynamic environments.”

As you can see in this example, the paragraph clearly explains how the research will help fill a gap in the literature and also provide practical real-world value to organisations.

This section doesn’t need to be particularly lengthy, but it does need to be convincing . You need to “sell” the value of your research here so that the reader understands why it’s worth committing an entire dissertation or thesis to it. This section needs to be the salesman of your research. So, spend some time thinking about the ways in which your research will make a unique contribution to the world and how the knowledge you create could benefit both academia and industry – and then “sell it” in this section.

studying and prep for henley exams

#6 – The limitations

Now that you’ve “sold” your research to the reader and hopefully got them excited about what’s coming up in the rest of your dissertation, it’s time to briefly discuss the potential limitations of your research.

But you’re probably thinking, hold up – what limitations? My research is well thought out and carefully designed – why would there be limitations?

Well, no piece of research is perfect . This is especially true for a dissertation or thesis – which typically has a very low or zero budget, tight time constraints and limited researcher experience. Generally, your dissertation will be the first or second formal research project you’ve ever undertaken, so it’s unlikely to win any research awards…

Simply put, your research will invariably have limitations. Don’t stress yourself out though – this is completely acceptable (and expected). Even “professional” research has limitations – as I said, no piece of research is perfect. The key is to recognise the limitations upfront and be completely transparent about them, so that future researchers are aware of them and can improve the study’s design to minimise the limitations and strengthen the findings.

Generally, you’ll want to consider at least the following four common limitations. These are:

  • Your scope – for example, perhaps your focus is very narrow and doesn’t consider how certain variables interact with each other.
  • Your research methodology – for example, a qualitative methodology could be criticised for being overly subjective, or a quantitative methodology could be criticised for oversimplifying the situation (learn more about methodologies here ).
  • Your resources – for example, a lack of time, money, equipment and your own research experience.
  • The generalisability of your findings – for example, the findings from the study of a specific industry or country can’t necessarily be generalised to other industries or countries.

Don’t be shy here. There’s no use trying to hide the limitations or weaknesses of your research. In fact, the more critical you can be of your study, the better. The markers want to see that you are aware of the limitations as this demonstrates your understanding of research design – so be brutal.

#7 – The structural outline

Now that you’ve clearly communicated what your research is going to be about, why it’s important and what the limitations of your research will be, the final ingredient is the structural outline.The purpose of this section is simply to provide your reader with a roadmap of what to expect in terms of the structure of your dissertation or thesis.

In this section, you’ll need to provide a brief summary of each chapter’s purpose and contents (including the introduction chapter). A sentence or two explaining what you’ll do in each chapter is generally enough to orient the reader. You don’t want to get too detailed here – it’s purely an outline, not a summary of your research.

Let’s look at an example:

In Chapter One, the context of the study has been introduced. The research objectives and questions have been identified, and the value of such research argued. The limitations of the study have also been discussed.

In Chapter Two, the existing literature will be reviewed and a foundation of theory will be laid out to identify key skills development approaches and strategies within the context of fast-moving industries, especially technology-intensive industries.

In Chapter Three, the methodological choices will be explored. Specifically, the adoption of a qualitative, inductive research approach will be justified, and the broader research design will be discussed, including the limitations thereof.

So, as you can see from the example, this section is simply an outline of the chapter structure, allocating a short paragraph to each chapter. Done correctly, the outline will help your reader understand what to expect and reassure them that you’ll address the multiple facets of the study.

By the way – if you’re unsure of how to structure your dissertation or thesis, be sure to check out our video post which explains dissertation structure .

Keep calm and carry on.

Hopefully you feel a bit more prepared for this challenge of crafting your dissertation or thesis introduction chapter now. Take a deep breath and remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day – conquer one ingredient at a time and you’ll be firmly on the path to success.

Let’s quickly recap – the 7 ingredients are:

  • The opening section – where you give a brief, high-level overview of what your research will be about.
  • The study background – where you introduce the reader to key theory, concepts and terminology, as well as the context of your study.
  • The research problem – where you explain what the problem with the current research is. In other words, the research gap.
  • The research aims , objectives and questions – where you clearly state what your dissertation will investigate.
  • The significance – where you explain what value your research will provide to the world.
  • The limitations – where you explain what the potential shortcomings and limitations of your research may be.
  • The structural outline – where you provide a high-level overview of the structure of your document

If you bake these ingredients into your dissertation introduction chapter, you’ll be well on your way to building an engaging introduction chapter that lays a rock-solid foundation for the rest of your document.

Remember, while we’ve covered the essential ingredients here, there may be some additional components that your university requires, so be sure to double-check your project brief!

what is a thesis background

Psst… there’s more (for free)

This post is part of our dissertation mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project. 

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40 Comments

Derique

Thanks very much for such an insight. I feel confident enough in undertaking my thesis on the survey;The future of facial recognition and learning non verbal interaction

Derek Jansen

Glad to hear that. Good luck with your thesis!

Thanks very much for such an insight. I feel confident now undertaking my thesis; The future of facial recognition and learning non verbal interaction.

Emmanuel Chukwuebuka Okoli

Thanks so much for this article. I found myself struggling and wasting a lot of time in my thesis writing but after reading this article and watching some of your youtube videos, I now have a clear understanding of what is required for a thesis.

Saima Kashif

Thank you Derek, i find your each post so useful. Keep it up.

Aletta

Thank you so much Derek ,for shedding the light and making it easier for me to handle the daunting task of academic writing .

Alice kasaka

Thanks do much Dereck for the comprehensive guide. It will assist me queit a lot in my thesis.

dawood

thanks a lot for helping

SALly henderson

i LOVE the gifs, such a fun way to engage readers. thanks for the advice, much appreciated

NAG

Thanks a lot Derek! It will be really useful to the beginner in research!

Derek Jansen

You’re welcome

ravi

This is a well written, easily comprehensible, simple introduction to the basics of a Research Dissertation../the need to keep the reader in mind while writing the dissertation is an important point that is covered../ I appreciate the efforts of the author../

Laxmi kanta Sharma

The instruction given are perfect and clear. I was supposed to take the course , unfortunately in Nepal the service is not avaialble.However, I am much more hopeful that you will provide require documents whatever you have produced so far.

Halima Ringim

Thank you very much

Shamim Nabankema

Thanks so much ❤️😘 I feel am ready to start writing my research methodology

Sapphire Kellichan

This is genuinely the most effective advice I have ever been given regarding academia. Thank you so much!

Abdul

This is one of the best write up I have seen in my road to PhD thesis. regards, this write up update my knowledge of research

Amelia

I was looking for some good blogs related to Education hopefully your article will help. Thanks for sharing.

Dennis

This is an awesome masterpiece. It is one of the most comprehensive guides to writing a Dissertation/Thesis I have seen and read.

You just saved me from going astray in writing a Dissertation for my undergraduate studies. I could not be more grateful for such a relevant guide like this. Thank you so much.

Maria

Thank you so much Derek, this has been extremely helpful!!

I do have one question though, in the limitations part do you refer to the scope as the focus of the research on a specific industry/country/chronological period? I assume that in order to talk about whether or not the research could be generalized, the above would need to be already presented and described in the introduction.

Thank you again!

Jackson Lubari Wani

Phew! You have genuinely rescued me. I was stuck how to go about my thesis. Now l have started. Thank you.

Valmont Dain

This is the very best guide in anything that has to do with thesis or dissertation writing. The numerous blends of examples and detailed insights make it worth a read and in fact, a treasure that is worthy to be bookmarked.

Thanks a lot for this masterpiece!

Steve

Powerful insight. I can now take a step

Bayaruna

Thank you very much for these valuable introductions to thesis chapters. I saw all your videos about writing the introduction, discussion, and conclusion chapter. Then, I am wondering if we need to explain our research limitations in all three chapters, introduction, discussion, and conclusion? Isn’t it a bit redundant? If not, could you please explain how can we write in different ways? Thank you.

Md. Abdullah-Al-mahbub

Excellent!!! Thank you…

shahrin

Thanks for this informative content. I have a question. The research gap is mentioned in both the introduction and literature section. I would like to know how can I demonstrate the research gap in both sections without repeating the contents?

Sarah

I’m incredibly grateful for this invaluable content. I’ve been dreading compiling my postgrad thesis but breaking each chapter down into sections has made it so much easier for me to engage with the material without feeling overwhelmed. After relying on your guidance, I’m really happy with how I’ve laid out my introduction.

mahdi

Thank you for the informative content you provided

Steven

Hi Derrick and Team, thank you so much for the comprehensive guide on how to write a dissertation or a thesis introduction section. For some of us first-timers, it is a daunting task. However, the instruction with relevant examples makes it clear and easy to follow through. Much appreciated.

Raza Bukhari

It was so helpful. God Bless you. Thanks very much

beza

I thank you Grad coach for your priceless help. I have two questions I have learned from your video the limitations of the research presented in chapter one. but in another video also presented in chapter five. which chapter limitation should be included? If possible, I need your answer since I am doing my thesis. how can I explain If I am asked what is my motivation for this research?

Simon Musa Wuranjiya

Thank you guys for the great work you are doing. Honestly, you have made the research to be interesting and simplified. Even a novice will easily grasp the ideas you put forward, Thank you once again.

Natalie

Excellent piece!

Simon

I feel like just settling for a good topic is usually the hardest part.

Kate

Thank you so much. My confidence has been completely destroyed during my first year of PhD and you have helped me pull myself together again

Happy to help 🙂

Linda Adhoch

I am so glad I ran into your resources and did not waste time doing the wrong this. Research is now making so much sense now.

Danyal Ahmad

Gratitude to Derrick and the team I was looking for a solid article that would aid me in drafting the thesis’ introduction. I felt quite happy when I came across the piece you wrote because it was so well-written and insightful. I wish you success in the future.

ria M

thank you so much. God Bless you

Arnold C

Thank you so much Grad Coach for these helpful insights. Now I can get started, with a great deal of confidence.

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How to write the background of the study in a thesis research?

The preliminary requirement of completing thesis research is the formulation of the background of the study. The background of the study is typically a part of the Introduction chapter of the thesis. In fact, every research paper begins with the background of the study. It offers key information about the research. It consists of three main elements:

  • Latest information about an issue.
  • A review of existing research and areas explored.
  • Relevant history of the area.

The background makes the study results more reliable and effective. The well-written background of the study prompts the readers to read the rest of the thesis research and provide the study with a context. It is thus essential to make it impactful. However, among authors and researchers, the most common problem has been to distinguish between the background and literature review. In order to understand the difference, understand the role each section plays in thesis research.

What is the purpose of giving a background of the study?

The main purpose of giving a background to the study is to make the reader aware of the context of the thesis (Sachdev, 2018). It compiles the research problem, information on the topic, and the proposed argument for the research problem. It helps justify the need for the thesis. The figure below summarises the purpose of the thesis background of the study section.

Purpose of giving a background to the study in a thesis reseach

It is helpful to decide the length and structure of the background of the study before writing it.

How to structure the background of the study in thesis research?

The Introduction chapter accounts for roughly 10% of the total word count (Australian National University, 2021).

In a PhD thesis of around 80000-100000 words, the Introduction chapter should consist of 8000 – 10000 words. Of this, at least 70% of the word count must be devoted to the background of the study section.

An ideal structure of the background of the study in a thesis research

  • Overview of the study: The section should start with an overview of the study, i.e., what is the main area of focus? For example, if the thesis research deals with the problem of customer satisfaction with a brand, then start with the importance of customer satisfaction today, followed by the relevance of the brand in question. Cite the sources and avoid plagiarising text.
  • Key data or statistics: Introduce some key statistics pertaining to the main problem. For instance, for a thesis on the attrition problem in the information technology industry, talk about the % of people who quit the top 5 IT services companies last year and the overall attrition rate in the country. This part needs the most references, so cite every figure or statistic.
  • Gaps that need to be addressed: Explain what is lacking in the existing research. Bring focus on the main problem head-on. Identify at least 2 gaps to make the study stronger and to justify your hypothesis . This section is brief, only about 400-500 words. This section does not need references.
  • Significance of addressing the gap: Establish the importance of the thesis research. For this, remember who, what, when, where, why, and how. This section too is brief, i.e. 400-500 words. This section does not need references.
  • Methodological approach to addressing the gap: Lastly, explain how the goal of the study will be achieved. What methodology is employed? Keep this section brief because there is a separate chapter for explaining this in detail.

The main goal should be to keep the reader engaged, illustrate relevant details, and demonstrate knowledge and passion for the study. Hence, before finalizing the background, answer the following questions:

  • Are there any concepts, ideas, terms, or theories which the targeted audience may be unfamiliar with, and additional explanation about them is required?
  • Is there any historical data which provides context to the emergence of the current issue that needs to be shared?
  • Are there any other concepts that are from other disciplines and thus need an explanation?

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Background information identifies and describes the history and nature of a well-defined research problem with reference to contextualizing existing literature. The background information should indicate the root of the problem being studied, appropriate context of the problem in relation to theory, research, and/or practice , its scope, and the extent to which previous studies have successfully investigated the problem, noting, in particular, where gaps exist that your study attempts to address. Background information does not replace the literature review section of a research paper; it is intended to place the research problem within a specific context and an established plan for its solution.

Fitterling, Lori. Researching and Writing an Effective Background Section of a Research Paper. Kansas City University of Medicine & Biosciences; Creating a Research Paper: How to Write the Background to a Study. DurousseauElectricalInstitute.com; Background Information: Definition of Background Information. Literary Devices Definition and Examples of Literary Terms.

Importance of Having Enough Background Information

Background information expands upon the key points stated in the beginning of your introduction but is not intended to be the main focus of the paper. It generally supports the question, what is the most important information the reader needs to understand before continuing to read the paper? Sufficient background information helps the reader determine if you have a basic understanding of the research problem being investigated and promotes confidence in the overall quality of your analysis and findings. This information provides the reader with the essential context needed to conceptualize the research problem and its significance before moving on to a more thorough analysis of prior research.

Forms of contextualization included in background information can include describing one or more of the following:

  • Cultural -- placed within the learned behavior of a specific group or groups of people.
  • Economic -- of or relating to systems of production and management of material wealth and/or business activities.
  • Gender -- located within the behavioral, cultural, or psychological traits typically associated with being self-identified as male, female, or other form of  gender expression.
  • Historical -- the time in which something takes place or was created and how the condition of time influences how you interpret it.
  • Interdisciplinary -- explanation of theories, concepts, ideas, or methodologies borrowed from other disciplines applied to the research problem rooted in a discipline other than the discipline where your paper resides.
  • Philosophical -- clarification of the essential nature of being or of phenomena as it relates to the research problem.
  • Physical/Spatial -- reflects the meaning of space around something and how that influences how it is understood.
  • Political -- concerns the environment in which something is produced indicating it's public purpose or agenda.
  • Social -- the environment of people that surrounds something's creation or intended audience, reflecting how the people associated with something use and interpret it.
  • Temporal -- reflects issues or events of, relating to, or limited by time. Concerns past, present, or future contextualization and not just a historical past.

Background information can also include summaries of important research studies . This can be a particularly important element of providing background information if an innovative or groundbreaking study about the research problem laid a foundation for further research or there was a key study that is essential to understanding your arguments. The priority is to summarize for the reader what is known about the research problem before you conduct the analysis of prior research. This is accomplished with a general summary of the foundational research literature [with citations] that document findings that inform your study's overall aims and objectives.

NOTE : Research studies cited as part of the background information of your introduction should not include very specific, lengthy explanations. This should be discussed in greater detail in your literature review section. If you find a study requiring lengthy explanation, consider moving it to the literature review section.

ANOTHER NOTE : In some cases, your paper's introduction only needs to introduce the research problem, explain its significance, and then describe a road map for how you are going to address the problem; the background information basically forms the introduction part of your literature review. That said, while providing background information is not required, including it in the introduction is a way to highlight important contextual information that could otherwise be hidden or overlooked by the reader if placed in the literature review section.

Background of the Problem Section: What do you Need to Consider? Anonymous. Harvard University; Hopkins, Will G. How to Write a Research Paper. SPORTSCIENCE, Perspectives/Research Resources. Department of Physiology and School of Physical Education, University of Otago, 1999; Green, L. H. How to Write the Background/Introduction Section. Physics 499 Powerpoint slides. University of Illinois; Woodall, W. Gill. Writing the Background and Significance Section. Senior Research Scientist and Professor of Communication. Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Addictions. University of New Mexico.  

Structure and Writing Style

Providing background information in the introduction of a research paper serves as a bridge that links the reader to the research problem . Precisely how long and in-depth this bridge should be is largely dependent upon how much information you think the reader will need to know in order to fully understand the problem being discussed and to appreciate why the issues you are investigating are important.

From another perspective, the length and detail of background information also depends on the degree to which you need to demonstrate to your professor how much you understand the research problem. Keep this in mind because providing pertinent background information can be an effective way to demonstrate that you have a clear grasp of key issues, debates, and concepts related to your overall study.

The structure and writing style of your background information can vary depending upon the complexity of your research and/or the nature of the assignment. However, in most cases it should be limited to only one to two paragraphs in your introduction.

Given this, here are some questions to consider while writing this part of your introduction :

  • Are there concepts, terms, theories, or ideas that may be unfamiliar to the reader and, thus, require additional explanation?
  • Are there historical elements that need to be explored in order to provide needed context, to highlight specific people, issues, or events, or to lay a foundation for understanding the emergence of a current issue or event?
  • Are there theories, concepts, or ideas borrowed from other disciplines or academic traditions that may be unfamiliar to the reader and therefore require further explanation?
  • Is there a key study or small set of studies that set the stage for understanding the topic and frames why it is important to conduct further research on the topic?
  • Y our study uses a method of analysis never applied before;
  • Your study investigates a very esoteric or complex research problem;
  • Your study introduces new or unique variables that need to be taken into account ; or,
  • Your study relies upon analyzing unique texts or documents, such as, archival materials or primary documents like diaries or personal letters that do not represent the established body of source literature on the topic?

Almost all introductions to a research problem require some contextualizing, but the scope and breadth of background information varies depending on your assumption about the reader's level of prior knowledge . However, despite this assessment, background information should be brief and succinct and sets the stage for the elaboration of critical points or in-depth discussion of key issues in the literature review section of your paper.

Background of the Problem Section: What do you Need to Consider? Anonymous. Harvard University; Hopkins, Will G. How to Write a Research Paper. SPORTSCIENCE, Perspectives/Research Resources. Department of Physiology and School of Physical Education, University of Otago, 1999; Green, L. H. How to Write the Background/Introduction Section. Physics 499 Powerpoint slides. University of Illinois; Woodall, W. Gill. Writing the Background and Significance Section. Senior Research Scientist and Professor of Communication. Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Addictions. University of New Mexico.

Writing Tip

Background Information vs. the Literature Review

Incorporating background information into the introduction is intended to provide the reader with critical information about the topic being studied, such as, highlighting and expanding upon foundational studies conducted in the past, describing important historical events that inform why and in what ways the research problem exists, defining key components of your study [concepts, people, places, phenomena] and/or placing the research problem within a particular context. Although introductory background information can often blend into the literature review portion of the paper, essential background information should not be considered a substitute for a comprehensive review and synthesis of relevant research literature.

Hart, Cris. Doing a Literature Review: Releasing the Social Science Research Imagination . Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1998.

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What is the Background in a Research Paper?

An effective Background section in your manuscript establishes the context for your study. And while original research requires novel findings, providing the necessary background information for these findings may be just as important. It lets your readers know that your findings are novel, important, and worthy of their time and attention.

Updated on October 3, 2022

What is the Background in a Research Paper?

A good Background section explains the history and nature of your research question in relation to existing literature – a “state of the art.” This section, along with the rationale, helps readers understand why you chose to study this problem and why your study is worthwhile. This article will show you how to do this.

Read on to better understand the:

  • Real purpose of the Background section
  • Typical length of a Background section and its placement
  • Elements of an effective Background

What is the Background section of a research paper?

The Background section is an essential element of every study, answering:

  • What do we already know about the topic?
  • How does your study relate to what's been done so far in your field?
  • What is its scope?
  • Why does the topic warrant your interest and their interest?
  • How did you develop the research question that you'll later introduce?

In grant writing, a Background section is often referred to as the “state of the art,” and this is a useful term to have in mind when writing this part of your paper.

What comes next?

After you make the above points,

  • Formulate your research question/hypothesis . Research aims and objectives should be closely related to how you'll fill the gap you've identified in the literature. Your research gap is the central theme of your article and why people should read it.
  • Summarize how you'll address it in the paper . Your methodology needs to be appropriate for addressing the “problem” you've identified.
  • Describe the significance of your study . Show how your research fits into the bigger picture.

Note that the Background section isn't the same as the research rationale. Rather, it provides the relevant information the reader needs so they can follow your rationale. For example, it

  • Explains scientific terms
  • Provides available data and statistics on the topic
  • Describes the methods used so far on your topic. Especially if these are different from what you're going to do. Take special care here, because this is often where peer reviewers focus intently.

This is a logical approach to what comes after the study's background. Use it and the reader can easily follow along from the broader information to the specific details that come later. Crucially, they'll have confidence that your analysis and findings are valid.

Where should the background be placed in a research paper?

Usually, the background comes after the statement of the problem, in the Introduction section. Logically, you need to provide the study context before discussing the research questions, methodology, and results.

The background can be found in:

The abstract

The background typically forms the first few sentences of the abstract. Why did you do the study? Most journals state this clearly. In an unstructured (no subheadings) abstract, it's the first sentence or two. In a structured abstract, it might be called the Introduction, Background, or State-of-the-Art.

PLOS Medicine , for example, asks for research article abstracts to be split into three sections: Background, Methods and Findings, and Conclusions. Journals in the humanities or social sciences might not clearly ask for it because articles sometimes have a looser structure than STEM articles.

The first part of the Introduction section

In the journal Nature , for example, the Introduction should be around 200 words and include

  • Two to three sentences giving a basic introduction to the field.
  • The background and rationale of the study are stated briefly.
  • A simple phrase “Here we show ...”, or “In this study, we show ....” (to round out the Introduction).

The Journal of Organic Chemistry has similar author guidelines.

The Background as a distinct section

This is often the case for research proposals or some types of reports, as discussed above. Rather than reviewing the literature, this is a concise summary of what's currently known in the field relevant to the question being addressed in this proposed study.

How long should the Background section be?

As mentioned, there's no set length for the Background section. It generally depends on the journal and the content of your manuscript. Check the journal's author guidelines, the research center, granting agency, etc. If it's still not clear or if the instructions are contradictory, email or phone them directly.

The length of your background will depend on:

The manuscript length and content

A book-length study needs a more extensive Background than a four-page research article. Exploring a relatively unknown method or question might also need a longer Background.

For example, see this Frontiers article on the applications of artificial intelligence for developing COVID-19 vaccines. It has a seven-paragraph long Background (1,200 words) in a separate section. The authors need to discuss earlier successful uses of machine learning for therapy discovery to make a convincing case.

An academic paper published in an international journal is usually around 5,000 words. Your paper needs to be balanced, with appropriate text lengths used for the different sections: It would make no sense to have a 300-word introduction and then 4,000 words for the methods, for example. In a 5,000-word manuscript, you'll be able to use about 1,500 for the introduction, which includes the background.

How much you need to show your understanding of the topic

A lengthy grant application might need a longer Background (sub-)section. That's because if they're going to grant you money, they need a very good reason to. You'll need to show that the work is both interesting and doable. The Background is where you can do this.

What should the Background of a research manuscript include?

The Background of a research paper needs to show two things:

The study's territory ( scope )

First, provide a general overview of the field. Scientists in most disciplines should find it relatively easy to understand. Be broad, keep it interesting. Don't go into the specifics of your particular study.

Let's look at two examples:

  • one from basic research (seeking to generate new knowledge)
  • one from applied research (trying to solve or improve existing processes or products)

Applied research

This Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence article explores how AI can help discover treatments for COVID-19.

The background of the study can be found (i) in the abstract and (ii) in a separate section discussed at the end of this article. The abstract starts with this general overview: “SARS-COV-2 has roused the scientific community with a call to action to combat the growing pandemic.” ( Arshadi et al., 2020 ). This is broad, and it's interesting. This is a topic that many researchers (even from outside this specific area) may want to learn more about.

Think of any theories, models, concepts, or terms (maybe borrowed from different disciplines) that may be unfamiliar to your reader. Be sure to clarify them in plainer language, if necessary.

For example, this systematic review looks at the connections of physician burnout with career engagement and quality of patient care. The Background is in the Introduction section. It starts by defining what burnout is:

  • “Burnout is defined as a syndrome related to work that involves three key dimensions.” ( Hodkinson et al., 2022 )

The authors go on to explain its three aspects: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a sense of reduced personal accomplishment.

Basic research

Imagine you're investigating how universities' moves to online teaching during the COVID-19 pandemic impacted students' learning outcomes in the United Kingdom. The overview could be:

  • The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing lockdown generated tremendous challenges across the higher education sector. University campuses were forced to close. Face-to-face teaching and assessment transitioned into a virtual format.

2. The niche in the field (motivation)

To establish the niche in your field, describe what drove you to explore this specific topic.

  • Explain how (un)successfully previous studies have investigated the problem.
  • Note the knowledge gap or present a problem with a currently used process/practice/product.

After setting the stage, the abstract of the Frontiers in Artificial Intelligence article identifies a problem:

  • “At the time of this writing, there are as yet no novel antiviral agents or approved vaccines available for deployment as a frontline defense.” ( Arshadi et al., 2020 )

The authors need to support their claim that computational methods can help discover new COVID-19 treatments. They do so by referring to previous research findings:

  • “In the last decade, machine learning-based models, trained on specific biomolecules, have offered inexpensive and rapid implementation methods for the discovery of effective viral therapies.” ( Arshadi et al., 2020 )

Going back to the study on students' learning outcomes after universities introduced e-learning. The background section will next identify and describe the current knowledge gap and your proposed method of fixing it. It may be something like:

  • Existing literature and studies by the UK Department for Education reveal x + y changes and effects on teaching and learning. Yet they provide little to no information on students' learning outcomes. Understanding the impact of online teaching and assessments on student outcomes is key to adopting future teaching practices and ensuring students from disadvantaged backgrounds are not left behind.

How is the background different from the literature review?

Both the background and literature review sections compile previous studies that are relevant and important to the topic.

Despite their similarities, they're different in scope and aims.

the differences between a background and a literature review

Overall, the research background could be seen as a small part of the detailed critical discussion in the literature review. Almost always, primary research articles do not include a detailed literature review.

How is the Background different from the Introduction section?

Although often part of the Introduction, the Background differs from the Introduction in scope and aim.

the differences between a background and an introduction

Breakdown of the Background in published articles

Consider this systematic review looking at the connections of physician burnout with career engagement and quality of patient care.

The Background is placed in the Introduction section. It's critical, consistent, and logically structured, moving from general to specific information.

main aspects of the background of a study

You can also check out the summary paragraph breakdown provided by Nature. (Nature's “summary paragraph” is essentially an abstract.)

And if you're looking for some help, or have an article that's finished but needs a pre-submission review click here to connect with one of our expert AJE editors.

Gareth Dyke, PhD, Paleontology, University of Bristol

Gareth Dyke, PhD

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What is a thesis | A Complete Guide with Examples

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Table of Contents

A thesis is a comprehensive academic paper based on your original research that presents new findings, arguments, and ideas of your study. It’s typically submitted at the end of your master’s degree or as a capstone of your bachelor’s degree.

However, writing a thesis can be laborious, especially for beginners. From the initial challenge of pinpointing a compelling research topic to organizing and presenting findings, the process is filled with potential pitfalls.

Therefore, to help you, this guide talks about what is a thesis. Additionally, it offers revelations and methodologies to transform it from an overwhelming task to a manageable and rewarding academic milestone.

What is a thesis?

A thesis is an in-depth research study that identifies a particular topic of inquiry and presents a clear argument or perspective about that topic using evidence and logic.

Writing a thesis showcases your ability of critical thinking, gathering evidence, and making a compelling argument. Integral to these competencies is thorough research, which not only fortifies your propositions but also confers credibility to your entire study.

Furthermore, there's another phenomenon you might often confuse with the thesis: the ' working thesis .' However, they aren't similar and shouldn't be used interchangeably.

A working thesis, often referred to as a preliminary or tentative thesis, is an initial version of your thesis statement. It serves as a draft or a starting point that guides your research in its early stages.

As you research more and gather more evidence, your initial thesis (aka working thesis) might change. It's like a starting point that can be adjusted as you learn more. It's normal for your main topic to change a few times before you finalize it.

While a thesis identifies and provides an overarching argument, the key to clearly communicating the central point of that argument lies in writing a strong thesis statement.

What is a thesis statement?

A strong thesis statement (aka thesis sentence) is a concise summary of the main argument or claim of the paper. It serves as a critical anchor in any academic work, succinctly encapsulating the primary argument or main idea of the entire paper.

Typically found within the introductory section, a strong thesis statement acts as a roadmap of your thesis, directing readers through your arguments and findings. By delineating the core focus of your investigation, it offers readers an immediate understanding of the context and the gravity of your study.

Furthermore, an effectively crafted thesis statement can set forth the boundaries of your research, helping readers anticipate the specific areas of inquiry you are addressing.

Different types of thesis statements

A good thesis statement is clear, specific, and arguable. Therefore, it is necessary for you to choose the right type of thesis statement for your academic papers.

Thesis statements can be classified based on their purpose and structure. Here are the primary types of thesis statements:

Argumentative (or Persuasive) thesis statement

Purpose : To convince the reader of a particular stance or point of view by presenting evidence and formulating a compelling argument.

Example : Reducing plastic use in daily life is essential for environmental health.

Analytical thesis statement

Purpose : To break down an idea or issue into its components and evaluate it.

Example : By examining the long-term effects, social implications, and economic impact of climate change, it becomes evident that immediate global action is necessary.

Expository (or Descriptive) thesis statement

Purpose : To explain a topic or subject to the reader.

Example : The Great Depression, spanning the 1930s, was a severe worldwide economic downturn triggered by a stock market crash, bank failures, and reduced consumer spending.

Cause and effect thesis statement

Purpose : To demonstrate a cause and its resulting effect.

Example : Overuse of smartphones can lead to impaired sleep patterns, reduced face-to-face social interactions, and increased levels of anxiety.

Compare and contrast thesis statement

Purpose : To highlight similarities and differences between two subjects.

Example : "While both novels '1984' and 'Brave New World' delve into dystopian futures, they differ in their portrayal of individual freedom, societal control, and the role of technology."

When you write a thesis statement , it's important to ensure clarity and precision, so the reader immediately understands the central focus of your work.

What is the difference between a thesis and a thesis statement?

While both terms are frequently used interchangeably, they have distinct meanings.

A thesis refers to the entire research document, encompassing all its chapters and sections. In contrast, a thesis statement is a brief assertion that encapsulates the central argument of the research.

Here’s an in-depth differentiation table of a thesis and a thesis statement.

Now, to craft a compelling thesis, it's crucial to adhere to a specific structure. Let’s break down these essential components that make up a thesis structure

15 components of a thesis structure

Navigating a thesis can be daunting. However, understanding its structure can make the process more manageable.

Here are the key components or different sections of a thesis structure:

Your thesis begins with the title page. It's not just a formality but the gateway to your research.

title-page-of-a-thesis

Here, you'll prominently display the necessary information about you (the author) and your institutional details.

  • Title of your thesis
  • Your full name
  • Your department
  • Your institution and degree program
  • Your submission date
  • Your Supervisor's name (in some cases)
  • Your Department or faculty (in some cases)
  • Your University's logo (in some cases)
  • Your Student ID (in some cases)

In a concise manner, you'll have to summarize the critical aspects of your research in typically no more than 200-300 words.

Abstract-section-of-a-thesis

This includes the problem statement, methodology, key findings, and conclusions. For many, the abstract will determine if they delve deeper into your work, so ensure it's clear and compelling.

Acknowledgments

Research is rarely a solitary endeavor. In the acknowledgments section, you have the chance to express gratitude to those who've supported your journey.

Acknowledgement-section-of-a-thesis

This might include advisors, peers, institutions, or even personal sources of inspiration and support. It's a personal touch, reflecting the humanity behind the academic rigor.

Table of contents

A roadmap for your readers, the table of contents lists the chapters, sections, and subsections of your thesis.

Table-of-contents-of-a-thesis

By providing page numbers, you allow readers to navigate your work easily, jumping to sections that pique their interest.

List of figures and tables

Research often involves data, and presenting this data visually can enhance understanding. This section provides an organized listing of all figures and tables in your thesis.

List-of-tables-and-figures-in-a-thesis

It's a visual index, ensuring that readers can quickly locate and reference your graphical data.

Introduction

Here's where you introduce your research topic, articulate the research question or objective, and outline the significance of your study.

Introduction-section-of-a-thesis

  • Present the research topic : Clearly articulate the central theme or subject of your research.
  • Background information : Ground your research topic, providing any necessary context or background information your readers might need to understand the significance of your study.
  • Define the scope : Clearly delineate the boundaries of your research, indicating what will and won't be covered.
  • Literature review : Introduce any relevant existing research on your topic, situating your work within the broader academic conversation and highlighting where your research fits in.
  • State the research Question(s) or objective(s) : Clearly articulate the primary questions or objectives your research aims to address.
  • Outline the study's structure : Give a brief overview of how the subsequent sections of your work will unfold, guiding your readers through the journey ahead.

The introduction should captivate your readers, making them eager to delve deeper into your research journey.

Literature review section

Your study correlates with existing research. Therefore, in the literature review section, you'll engage in a dialogue with existing knowledge, highlighting relevant studies, theories, and findings.

Literature-review-section-thesis

It's here that you identify gaps in the current knowledge, positioning your research as a bridge to new insights.

To streamline this process, consider leveraging AI tools. For example, the SciSpace literature review tool enables you to efficiently explore and delve into research papers, simplifying your literature review journey.

Methodology

In the research methodology section, you’ll detail the tools, techniques, and processes you employed to gather and analyze data. This section will inform the readers about how you approached your research questions and ensures the reproducibility of your study.

Methodology-section-thesis

Here's a breakdown of what it should encompass:

  • Research Design : Describe the overall structure and approach of your research. Are you conducting a qualitative study with in-depth interviews? Or is it a quantitative study using statistical analysis? Perhaps it's a mixed-methods approach?
  • Data Collection : Detail the methods you used to gather data. This could include surveys, experiments, observations, interviews, archival research, etc. Mention where you sourced your data, the duration of data collection, and any tools or instruments used.
  • Sampling : If applicable, explain how you selected participants or data sources for your study. Discuss the size of your sample and the rationale behind choosing it.
  • Data Analysis : Describe the techniques and tools you used to process and analyze the data. This could range from statistical tests in quantitative research to thematic analysis in qualitative research.
  • Validity and Reliability : Address the steps you took to ensure the validity and reliability of your findings to ensure that your results are both accurate and consistent.
  • Ethical Considerations : Highlight any ethical issues related to your research and the measures you took to address them, including — informed consent, confidentiality, and data storage and protection measures.

Moreover, different research questions necessitate different types of methodologies. For instance:

  • Experimental methodology : Often used in sciences, this involves a controlled experiment to discern causality.
  • Qualitative methodology : Employed when exploring patterns or phenomena without numerical data. Methods can include interviews, focus groups, or content analysis.
  • Quantitative methodology : Concerned with measurable data and often involves statistical analysis. Surveys and structured observations are common tools here.
  • Mixed methods : As the name implies, this combines both qualitative and quantitative methodologies.

The Methodology section isn’t just about detailing the methods but also justifying why they were chosen. The appropriateness of the methods in addressing your research question can significantly impact the credibility of your findings.

Results (or Findings)

This section presents the outcomes of your research. It's crucial to note that the nature of your results may vary; they could be quantitative, qualitative, or a mix of both.

Results-section-thesis

Quantitative results often present statistical data, showcasing measurable outcomes, and they benefit from tables, graphs, and figures to depict these data points.

Qualitative results , on the other hand, might delve into patterns, themes, or narratives derived from non-numerical data, such as interviews or observations.

Regardless of the nature of your results, clarity is essential. This section is purely about presenting the data without offering interpretations — that comes later in the discussion.

In the discussion section, the raw data transforms into valuable insights.

Start by revisiting your research question and contrast it with the findings. How do your results expand, constrict, or challenge current academic conversations?

Dive into the intricacies of the data, guiding the reader through its implications. Detail potential limitations transparently, signaling your awareness of the research's boundaries. This is where your academic voice should be resonant and confident.

Practical implications (Recommendation) section

Based on the insights derived from your research, this section provides actionable suggestions or proposed solutions.

Whether aimed at industry professionals or the general public, recommendations translate your academic findings into potential real-world actions. They help readers understand the practical implications of your work and how it can be applied to effect change or improvement in a given field.

When crafting recommendations, it's essential to ensure they're feasible and rooted in the evidence provided by your research. They shouldn't merely be aspirational but should offer a clear path forward, grounded in your findings.

The conclusion provides closure to your research narrative.

It's not merely a recap but a synthesis of your main findings and their broader implications. Reconnect with the research questions or hypotheses posited at the beginning, offering clear answers based on your findings.

Conclusion-section-thesis

Reflect on the broader contributions of your study, considering its impact on the academic community and potential real-world applications.

Lastly, the conclusion should leave your readers with a clear understanding of the value and impact of your study.

References (or Bibliography)

Every theory you've expounded upon, every data point you've cited, and every methodological precedent you've followed finds its acknowledgment here.

References-section-thesis

In references, it's crucial to ensure meticulous consistency in formatting, mirroring the specific guidelines of the chosen citation style .

Proper referencing helps to avoid plagiarism , gives credit to original ideas, and allows readers to explore topics of interest. Moreover, it situates your work within the continuum of academic knowledge.

To properly cite the sources used in the study, you can rely on online citation generator tools  to generate accurate citations!

Here’s more on how you can cite your sources.

Often, the depth of research produces a wealth of material that, while crucial, can make the core content of the thesis cumbersome. The appendix is where you mention extra information that supports your research but isn't central to the main text.

Appendices-section-thesis

Whether it's raw datasets, detailed procedural methodologies, extended case studies, or any other ancillary material, the appendices ensure that these elements are archived for reference without breaking the main narrative's flow.

For thorough researchers and readers keen on meticulous details, the appendices provide a treasure trove of insights.

Glossary (optional)

In academics, specialized terminologies, and jargon are inevitable. However, not every reader is versed in every term.

The glossary, while optional, is a critical tool for accessibility. It's a bridge ensuring that even readers from outside the discipline can access, understand, and appreciate your work.

Glossary-section-of-a-thesis

By defining complex terms and providing context, you're inviting a wider audience to engage with your research, enhancing its reach and impact.

Remember, while these components provide a structured framework, the essence of your thesis lies in the originality of your ideas, the rigor of your research, and the clarity of your presentation.

As you craft each section, keep your readers in mind, ensuring that your passion and dedication shine through every page.

Thesis examples

To further elucidate the concept of a thesis, here are illustrative examples from various fields:

Example 1 (History): Abolition, Africans, and Abstraction: the Influence of the ‘Noble Savage’ on British and French Antislavery Thought, 1787-1807 by Suchait Kahlon.
Example 2 (Climate Dynamics): Influence of external forcings on abrupt millennial-scale climate changes: a statistical modelling study by Takahito Mitsui · Michel Crucifix

Checklist for your thesis evaluation

Evaluating your thesis ensures that your research meets the standards of academia. Here's an elaborate checklist to guide you through this critical process.

Content and structure

  • Is the thesis statement clear, concise, and debatable?
  • Does the introduction provide sufficient background and context?
  • Is the literature review comprehensive, relevant, and well-organized?
  • Does the methodology section clearly describe and justify the research methods?
  • Are the results/findings presented clearly and logically?
  • Does the discussion interpret the results in light of the research question and existing literature?
  • Is the conclusion summarizing the research and suggesting future directions or implications?

Clarity and coherence

  • Is the writing clear and free of jargon?
  • Are ideas and sections logically connected and flowing?
  • Is there a clear narrative or argument throughout the thesis?

Research quality

  • Is the research question significant and relevant?
  • Are the research methods appropriate for the question?
  • Is the sample size (if applicable) adequate?
  • Are the data analysis techniques appropriate and correctly applied?
  • Are potential biases or limitations addressed?

Originality and significance

  • Does the thesis contribute new knowledge or insights to the field?
  • Is the research grounded in existing literature while offering fresh perspectives?

Formatting and presentation

  • Is the thesis formatted according to institutional guidelines?
  • Are figures, tables, and charts clear, labeled, and referenced in the text?
  • Is the bibliography or reference list complete and consistently formatted?
  • Are appendices relevant and appropriately referenced in the main text?

Grammar and language

  • Is the thesis free of grammatical and spelling errors?
  • Is the language professional, consistent, and appropriate for an academic audience?
  • Are quotations and paraphrased material correctly cited?

Feedback and revision

  • Have you sought feedback from peers, advisors, or experts in the field?
  • Have you addressed the feedback and made the necessary revisions?

Overall assessment

  • Does the thesis as a whole feel cohesive and comprehensive?
  • Would the thesis be understandable and valuable to someone in your field?

Ensure to use this checklist to leave no ground for doubt or missed information in your thesis.

After writing your thesis, the next step is to discuss and defend your findings verbally in front of a knowledgeable panel. You’ve to be well prepared as your professors may grade your presentation abilities.

Preparing your thesis defense

A thesis defense, also known as "defending the thesis," is the culmination of a scholar's research journey. It's the final frontier, where you’ll present their findings and face scrutiny from a panel of experts.

Typically, the defense involves a public presentation where you’ll have to outline your study, followed by a question-and-answer session with a committee of experts. This committee assesses the validity, originality, and significance of the research.

The defense serves as a rite of passage for scholars. It's an opportunity to showcase expertise, address criticisms, and refine arguments. A successful defense not only validates the research but also establishes your authority as a researcher in your field.

Here’s how you can effectively prepare for your thesis defense .

Now, having touched upon the process of defending a thesis, it's worth noting that scholarly work can take various forms, depending on academic and regional practices.

One such form, often paralleled with the thesis, is the 'dissertation.' But what differentiates the two?

Dissertation vs. Thesis

Often used interchangeably in casual discourse, they refer to distinct research projects undertaken at different levels of higher education.

To the uninitiated, understanding their meaning might be elusive. So, let's demystify these terms and delve into their core differences.

Here's a table differentiating between the two.

Wrapping up

From understanding the foundational concept of a thesis to navigating its various components, differentiating it from a dissertation, and recognizing the importance of proper citation — this guide covers it all.

As scholars and readers, understanding these nuances not only aids in academic pursuits but also fosters a deeper appreciation for the relentless quest for knowledge that drives academia.

It’s important to remember that every thesis is a testament to curiosity, dedication, and the indomitable spirit of discovery.

Good luck with your thesis writing!

Frequently Asked Questions

A thesis typically ranges between 40-80 pages, but its length can vary based on the research topic, institution guidelines, and level of study.

A PhD thesis usually spans 200-300 pages, though this can vary based on the discipline, complexity of the research, and institutional requirements.

To identify a thesis topic, consider current trends in your field, gaps in existing literature, personal interests, and discussions with advisors or mentors. Additionally, reviewing related journals and conference proceedings can provide insights into potential areas of exploration.

The conceptual framework is often situated in the literature review or theoretical framework section of a thesis. It helps set the stage by providing the context, defining key concepts, and explaining the relationships between variables.

A thesis statement should be concise, clear, and specific. It should state the main argument or point of your research. Start by pinpointing the central question or issue your research addresses, then condense that into a single statement, ensuring it reflects the essence of your paper.

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Writing background of the study in thesis

Writing background of the study in thesis researcher is defining the scope

This section describes the main elements of a written thesis at the bachelor’s and master’s levels. Although the specific structure described here is most relevant for empirical theses, much of the advice is also relevant for theoretical work. Please note that the formal requirements vary between different disciplines, and make sure to confer the guidelines that apply in your field.

For the contents in the various sections you may also confer Organising your writing.

Abstract and foreword

Most readers will turn first to the abstract. Use it as an opportunity to spur the reader’s interest. The abstract should summarise the main contents of your thesis, especially the thesis statement, but does not need to cover every aspect of the main text. The main objective is to give the reader a good idea of what the thesis is about.

In general the abstract should be the last thing that you write, when you know what you have actually written. It is nevertheless a good idea to work on a draft continuously. Writing a good abstract is difficult, since it should only include the most important points of your work. But this is also why working on your abstract can be useful – it forces you to identify exactly what it is you are writing about.

There are usually no formal requirements for forewords, but it is common practice to thank your supervisors, informants, and others who have helped and supported you. If you have received any grants or research residencies, you should also acknowledge these.

Note: Shorter assignments do not require abstracts and forewords.

1. Introduction

Writing background of the study in thesis several options available

It’s not a bad idea to go through the introduction one last time when the writing is done, to ensure that it connects well with your conclusion.

Tip: For a nice, stylistic twist you can reuse a theme from the introduction in your conclusion. For example, you might present a particular scenario in one way in your introduction, and then return to it in your conclusion from a different – richer or contrasting – perspective.

Your introduction should include:

  • The background for your choice of theme
  • A discussion of your research question or thesis statement
  • A schematic outline of the remainder of your thesis

The sections below discuss each of these elements in turn.

1.1 Background

The background sets the general tone for your thesis. It should make a good impression and convince the reader why the theme is important and your approach relevant. Even so, it should be no longer than necessary.

What is considered a relevant background depends on your field and its traditions. Background information might be historical in nature, or it might refer to previous research or practical considerations. You can also focus on a specific text, thinker or problem.

Academic writing often means having a discussion with yourself (or some imagined opponent). To open your discussion, there are several options available. You may, for example:

  • refer to a contemporary event
  • outline a specific problem; a case study or an example
  • review the relevant research/literature to demonstrate the need for this particular type of research

Writing background of the study in thesis reader that they were

In the remainder of your thesis, this kind of information should be avoided, particularly if it has not been collected systematically.

Tip: Do not spend too much time on your background and opening remarks before you have gotten started with the main text.

Write three different opening paragraphs for your thesis using different literary devices

For example: a) “set the scene” with a (short) narrative b) adopt a historical approach to the phenomenon you intend to discuss c) take an example from the media to give your topic current relevance.

Observe to what extent these different openings inspire you, and choose the approach most appropriate to your topic. For example, do you want to spur emotions, or remain as neutral as possible? How important is the historical background? The exercise can be done in small groups or pairs. Discuss what makes an opening paragraph successful (or not). How does your opening paragraph shed light on what is to follow? What will the reader’s expectations be?

1.2 Defining the scope of your thesis

One of the first tasks of a researcher is defining the scope of a study, i.e. its area (theme, field) and the amount of information to be included. Narrowing the scope of your thesis can be time-consuming. Paradoxically, the more you limit the scope, the more interesting it becomes. This is because a narrower scope lets you clarify the problem and study it at greater depth, whereas very broad research questions only allow a superficial treatment.

The research question can be formulated as one main question with (a few) more specific sub-questions or in the form of a hypothesis that will be tested.

Your research question will be your guide as your writing proceeds. If you are working independently, you are also free to modify it as you go along.

How do you know that you have drafted a research question? Most importantly, a research question is something that can be answered . If not, you have probably come up with a theme or field, not a question.

  • Use interrogative words: how, why, which (factors/situations) etc.
  • Some questions are closed and only invoke concrete/limited answers. Others will open up for discussions and different interpretations. Asking “What &…?” is a more closed question than asking “How?” or “In what way?” Asking “Why” means you are investigating what causes of a phenomenon. Studying causality is methodologically demanding.
  • Feel free to pose partially open questions that allow discussions of the overall theme, e.g. “In what way &…?”; “How can we understand [a particular phenomenon]?”
  • Try to condense your research question into one general question – and perhaps a few more specific sub-questions (two or three will usually suffice).

1.3 Outline

The outline gives an overview of the main points of your thesis. It clarifies the structure of your thesis and helps you find the correct focus for your work. The outline can also be used in supervision sessions, especially in the beginning. You might find that you need to restructure your thesis. Working on your outline can then be a good way of making sense of the necessary changes. A good outline shows how the different parts relate to each other, and is a useful guide for the reader .

It often makes sense to put the outline at the end of the introduction, but this rule is not set in stone. Use discretion: What is most helpful for the reader? The information should come at the right point – not too early and not too late.

2. Theory section

The theory used in an empirical study is meant to shed light on the data in a scholarly or scientific manner. It should give insights not achievable by ordinary, everyday reflections. The main purpose of using theory is to analyse and interpret your data. Therefore, you should not present theoretical perspectives that are not being put to use. Doing so will create false expectations, and suggests that your work is incomplete.

Not all theses have a separate theory section. In the IMRaD format the theory section is included in the introduction, and the second chapter covers the methods used.

What kind of theory should you choose? Since the theory is the foundation for your data analysis it can be useful to select a theory that lets you distinguish between, and categorise different phenomena. Other theories let you develop the various nuances of a phenomenon. In other words, you have a choice of either reducing the complexity of your data or expanding upon something that initially looks simple.

How much time and space should you devote to the theory chapter? This is a difficult question. Some theses dwell too long on theory and never get to the main point: the analysis and discussion. But it is also important to have read enough theory to know what to look for when collecting data. The nature of your research should decide: Some studies do not require much theory, but put more emphasis on the method, while other studies need a rich theory section to enable an interesting discussion.

3. Method section

In a scholarly research article, the section dealing with method is very important. The same applies to an empirical thesis. For students, this can be a difficult section to write, especially since its purpose may not always be clear.

The method chapter should not iterate the contents of methodology handbooks. For example, if you have carried out interviews, you do not need to list all the different types of research interview. You also do not need to describe the differences between quantitative and qualitative methods, or list all different kinds of validity and reliability.

What you must do is to show how your choice of design and research method is suited to answering your research question(s). Demonstrate that you have given due consideration to the validity and reliability of your chosen method. By &”showing&” instead of &”telling&”, you demonstrate that you have understood the practical meaning of these concepts. This way, the method section is not only able to tie the different parts of your thesis together, it also becomes interesting to read!

  • Show the reader what you have done in your study, and explain why. How did you collect the data? Which options became available through your chosen approach?
  • What were your working conditions? What considerations did you have to balance?
  • Tell the reader what you did to increase the validity of your research. E.g. what can you say about the reliability in data collection? How do you know that you have actually investigated what you intended to investigate? What conclusions can be drawn on this basis? Which conclusions are certain and which are more tentative? Can your results be applied in other areas? Can you generalise? If so, why? If not, why not?
  • You should aim to describe weaknesses as well as strengths. An excellent thesis distinguishes itself by defending – and at the same time criticising – the choices made.

4. Analysis

Your analysis, along with your discussion, will form the high light of your thesis. In the IMRaD format, this section is titled “Results”. This is where you report your findings and present them in a systematic manner. The expectations of the reader have been built up through the other chapters, make sure you fulfill these expectations.

To analyse means to distinguish between different types of phenomena – similar from different. Importantly, by distinguishing between different phenomena, your theory is put to work. Precisely how your analysis should appear, however, is a methodological question. Finding out how best to organise and present your findings may take some time. A good place to look for examples and inspiration is repositories for master’s theses.

If you are analysing human actions, you may want to engage the reader’s emotions. In this case it will be important to choose analytical categories that correlate to your chosen theory. Engaging emotions is not the main point, but a way to elucidate the phenomenon so that the reader understands it in a new and better way.

Note. Not all theses include a separate chapter for analysis.

5. Discussion

In many thesis the discussion is the most important section. Make sure that you allocate enough time and space for a good discussion. This is your opportunity to show that you have understood the significance of your findings and that you are capable of applying theory in an independent manner.

The discussion will consist of argumentation. In other words, you investigate a phenomenon from several different perspectives. To discuss means to question your findings, and to consider different interpretations. Here are a few examples of formulations that signal argumentation:

  • On the one hand &… and on the other
  • But is it really true that&…
  • &… on can it also be supposed&…?
  • &… another possible explanation may be &…

6. Conclusion or summing up?

The final section of your thesis may take one of several different forms. Some theses need a conclusion, while for others a summing up will be appropriate. The decisive factor will be the nature of your thesis statement and research question.

Open research questions cannot always be answered, but if a definite answer is possible, you must provide a conclusion. The conclusion should answer your research question(s). Remember that a negative conclusion is also valid.

A summing up should repeat the most important issues raised in your thesis (particularly in the discussion), although preferably stated in a (slightly) different way. For example, you could frame the issues within a wider context.

Placing your thesis in perspective

In the final section you should place your work in a wider, academic perspective and determine any unresolved questions. During the work, you may have encountered new research questions and interesting literature which could have been followed up. At this point, you may point out these possible developments, while making it clear for the reader that they were beyond the framework of your current project.

  • Briefly discuss your results through a different perspective. This will allow you to see aspects that were not apparent to you at the project preparation stage
  • Highlight alternative research questions that you have found in the source materials used in the project
  • Show how others have placed the subject area in a wider context
  • If others have drawn different conclusions from yours, this will provide you with ideas of new ways to view the research question
  • Describe any unanswered aspects of your project
  • Specify potential follow up and new projects

A thesis should “bite itself in the tail”

There should be a strong connection between your conclusion and your introduction. All the themes and issues that you raised in your introduction must be referred to again in one way or another. If you find out at this stage that your thesis has not tackled an issue that you raised in the introduction, you should go back to the introduction and delete the reference to that issue. An elegant way to structure the text is to use the same textual figure or case in the beginning as well as in the end. When the figure returns in the final section, it will have taken on a new and richer meaning through the insights you have encountered, created in the process of writing.

J. Schimel, 2012 Writing Science. How to write papers that get cited and proposals that get funded. New York: Oxford University Press

Your introduction has two main purposes: 1) to give an overview of the main points of your thesis; and 2) awaken the reader’s interest. It’s not a bad idea to go through the introduction one last time when the writing is done, to ensure that it connects well with your conclusion.

If it is common in your discipline to reflect upon your experiences as a practitioner, this is the place to present them. In the remainder of your thesis, this kind of information should be avoided, particularly if it has not been collected systematically.

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What Is a Thesis? | Ultimate Guide & Examples

Published on 15 September 2022 by Tegan George . Revised on 5 December 2023.

Structure of a Thesis

A thesis is a type of research paper based on your original research. It is usually submitted as the final step of a PhD program in the UK.

Writing a thesis can be a daunting experience. Indeed, alongside a dissertation , it is the longest piece of writing students typically complete. It relies on your ability to conduct research from start to finish: designing your research , collecting data , developing a robust analysis, drawing strong conclusions , and writing concisely .

Thesis template

You can also download our full thesis template in the format of your choice below. Our template includes a ready-made table of contents , as well as guidance for what each chapter should include. It’s easy to make it your own, and can help you get started.

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Table of contents

Thesis vs. thesis statement, how to structure a thesis, acknowledgements or preface, list of figures and tables, list of abbreviations, introduction, literature review, methodology, reference list, proofreading and editing, defending your thesis, frequently asked questions about theses.

You may have heard the word thesis as a standalone term or as a component of academic writing called a thesis statement . Keep in mind that these are two very different things.

  • A thesis statement is a very common component of an essay, particularly in the humanities. It usually comprises 1 or 2 sentences in the introduction of your essay , and should clearly and concisely summarise the central points of your academic essay .
  • A thesis is a long-form piece of academic writing, often taking more than a full semester to complete. It is generally a degree requirement to complete a PhD program.
  • In many countries, particularly the UK, a dissertation is generally written at the bachelor’s or master’s level.
  • In the US, a dissertation is generally written as a final step toward obtaining a PhD.

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The final structure of your thesis depends on a variety of components, such as:

  • Your discipline
  • Your theoretical approach

Humanities theses are often structured more like a longer-form essay . Just like in an essay, you build an argument to support a central thesis.

In both hard and social sciences, theses typically include an introduction , literature review , methodology section ,  results section , discussion section , and conclusion section . These are each presented in their own dedicated section or chapter. In some cases, you might want to add an appendix .

Thesis examples

We’ve compiled a short list of thesis examples to help you get started.

  • Example thesis #1:   ‘Abolition, Africans, and Abstraction: the Influence of the “Noble Savage” on British and French Antislavery Thought, 1787-1807’ by Suchait Kahlon.
  • Example thesis #2: ‘”A Starving Man Helping Another Starving Man”: UNRRA, India, and the Genesis of Global Relief, 1943-1947’ by Julian Saint Reiman.

The very first page of your thesis contains all necessary identifying information, including:

  • Your full title
  • Your full name
  • Your department
  • Your institution and degree program
  • Your submission date.

Sometimes the title page also includes your student ID, the name of your supervisor, or the university’s logo. Check out your university’s guidelines if you’re not sure.

Read more about title pages

The acknowledgements section is usually optional. Its main point is to allow you to thank everyone who helped you in your thesis journey, such as supervisors, friends, or family. You can also choose to write a preface , but it’s typically one or the other, not both.

Read more about acknowledgements Read more about prefaces

An abstract is a short summary of your thesis. Usually a maximum of 300 words long, it’s should include brief descriptions of your research objectives , methods, results, and conclusions. Though it may seem short, it introduces your work to your audience, serving as a first impression of your thesis.

Read more about abstracts

A table of contents lists all of your sections, plus their corresponding page numbers and subheadings if you have them. This helps your reader seamlessly navigate your document.

Your table of contents should include all the major parts of your thesis. In particular, don’t forget the the appendices. If you used heading styles, it’s easy to generate an automatic table Microsoft Word.

Read more about tables of contents

While not mandatory, if you used a lot of tables and/or figures, it’s nice to include a list of them to help guide your reader. It’s also easy to generate one of these in Word: just use the ‘Insert Caption’ feature.

Read more about lists of figures and tables

If you have used a lot of industry- or field-specific abbreviations in your thesis, you should include them in an alphabetised list of abbreviations . This way, your readers can easily look up any meanings they aren’t familiar with.

Read more about lists of abbreviations

Relatedly, if you find yourself using a lot of very specialised or field-specific terms that may not be familiar to your reader, consider including a glossary . Alphabetise the terms you want to include with a brief definition.

Read more about glossaries

An introduction sets up the topic, purpose, and relevance of your thesis, as well as expectations for your reader. This should:

  • Ground your research topic , sharing any background information your reader may need
  • Define the scope of your work
  • Introduce any existing research on your topic, situating your work within a broader problem or debate
  • State your research question(s)
  • Outline (briefly) how the remainder of your work will proceed

In other words, your introduction should clearly and concisely show your reader the “what, why, and how” of your research.

Read more about introductions

A literature review helps you gain a robust understanding of any extant academic work on your topic, encompassing:

  • Selecting relevant sources
  • Determining the credibility of your sources
  • Critically evaluating each of your sources
  • Drawing connections between sources, including any themes, patterns, conflicts, or gaps

A literature review is not merely a summary of existing work. Rather, your literature review should ultimately lead to a clear justification for your own research, perhaps via:

  • Addressing a gap in the literature
  • Building on existing knowledge to draw new conclusions
  • Exploring a new theoretical or methodological approach
  • Introducing a new solution to an unresolved problem
  • Definitively advocating for one side of a theoretical debate

Read more about literature reviews

Theoretical framework

Your literature review can often form the basis for your theoretical framework, but these are not the same thing. A theoretical framework defines and analyses the concepts and theories that your research hinges on.

Read more about theoretical frameworks

Your methodology chapter shows your reader how you conducted your research. It should be written clearly and methodically, easily allowing your reader to critically assess the credibility of your argument. Furthermore, your methods section should convince your reader that your method was the best way to answer your research question.

A methodology section should generally include:

  • Your overall approach ( quantitative vs. qualitative )
  • Your research methods (e.g., a longitudinal study )
  • Your data collection methods (e.g., interviews or a controlled experiment
  • Any tools or materials you used (e.g., computer software)
  • The data analysis methods you chose (e.g., statistical analysis , discourse analysis )
  • A strong, but not defensive justification of your methods

Read more about methodology sections

Your results section should highlight what your methodology discovered. These two sections work in tandem, but shouldn’t repeat each other. While your results section can include hypotheses or themes, don’t include any speculation or new arguments here.

Your results section should:

  • State each (relevant) result with any (relevant) descriptive statistics (e.g., mean , standard deviation ) and inferential statistics (e.g., test statistics , p values )
  • Explain how each result relates to the research question
  • Determine whether the hypothesis was supported

Additional data (like raw numbers or interview transcripts ) can be included as an appendix . You can include tables and figures, but only if they help the reader better understand your results.

Read more about results sections

Your discussion section is where you can interpret your results in detail. Did they meet your expectations? How well do they fit within the framework that you built? You can refer back to any relevant source material to situate your results within your field, but leave most of that analysis in your literature review.

For any unexpected results, offer explanations or alternative interpretations of your data.

Read more about discussion sections

Your thesis conclusion should concisely answer your main research question. It should leave your reader with an ultra-clear understanding of your central argument, and emphasise what your research specifically has contributed to your field.

Why does your research matter? What recommendations for future research do you have? Lastly, wrap up your work with any concluding remarks.

Read more about conclusions

In order to avoid plagiarism , don’t forget to include a full reference list at the end of your thesis, citing the sources that you used. Choose one citation style and follow it consistently throughout your thesis, taking note of the formatting requirements of each style.

Which style you choose is often set by your department or your field, but common styles include MLA , Chicago , and APA.

Create APA citations Create MLA citations

In order to stay clear and concise, your thesis should include the most essential information needed to answer your research question. However, chances are you have many contributing documents, like interview transcripts or survey questions . These can be added as appendices , to save space in the main body.

Read more about appendices

Once you’re done writing, the next part of your editing process begins. Leave plenty of time for proofreading and editing prior to submission. Nothing looks worse than grammar mistakes or sloppy spelling errors!

Consider using a professional thesis editing service to make sure your final project is perfect.

Once you’ve submitted your final product, it’s common practice to have a thesis defense, an oral component of your finished work. This is scheduled by your advisor or committee, and usually entails a presentation and Q&A session.

After your defense, your committee will meet to determine if you deserve any departmental honors or accolades. However, keep in mind that defenses are usually just a formality. If there are any serious issues with your work, these should be resolved with your advisor way before a defense.

The conclusion of your thesis or dissertation shouldn’t take up more than 5-7% of your overall word count.

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 .

If you only used a few abbreviations in your thesis or dissertation, you don’t necessarily need to include a list of abbreviations .

If your abbreviations are numerous, or if you think they won’t be known to your audience, it’s never a bad idea to add one. They can also improve readability, minimising confusion about abbreviations unfamiliar to your reader.

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

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.)

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A Step-by-Step on How to Do a Background Study for a Thesis

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One of the preliminary steps to completing a thesis is the background study for it. The background study for a thesis includes a review of the area being researched, current information surrounding the issue, previous studies on the issue, and relevant history on the issue. Ideally, the study should effectively set forth the history and background information on your thesis problem. The purpose of a background study is to help you to prove the relevance of your thesis question and to further develop your thesis.

Conduct preliminary research in the beginning stages of formulating a thesis, when many issues are unclear and thoughts need to be solidified. Conducting preliminary research on your area of study and specific topic will help you to formulate a research question or thesis statement that will lead to more specific and relevant research. Visit your library, the internet and electronic databases to find preliminary sources, such as books and scholarly journals, for your background study.

Read the information and develop a research question or thesis statement that will guide your thesis. You will need to take notes and keep accurate track of the sources that you used up to this point. Many people use note cards, but with current technology there many electronic note taking programs available. Use a method of recording source information that you are comfortable with. Be sure to cite the source of the information on each note so you don't forget where each piece of information came from, should you decide to use it in your thesis.

Write a thesis statement or research question. Think about what you've read and look for issues, problems or solutions that others have found and determine your own opinion or stance on the issue. Write out your opinion as a authoritative statement on the issue, problem or solution. At this point, you can do more detailed research and find sources that are more relevant to your thesis or research question.

Complete your research using your thesis statement and research question as your guide. You will find relevant sources that will provide insight into your specific thesis issue or problem. Make sure that your sources provide details on the history and past research related to your research question.

Create relevant sections as you write the background study. As you evaluate your research and begin to write the background study, create five separate sections that cover the key issues, major findings, and controversies surrounding your thesis, as well as sections that provide an evaluation and conclusion.

Conclude by identifying any further study that needs to be done in that area, or provide possible solutions to the issue that haven't been considered before.

Revise and edit your background study. Complete several drafts of your work, revising and filling in information as you go. Each time that you read over your work, try to leave it better than it was before. It's also a great idea to have someone else look it over as well.

  • The University of Sydney: Writing the Background Chapters of Your Thesis
  • University of Calfiornia Santa Cruz: Write A Literature Review
  • If you hate paper, try note taking or outlining software like OneNote or OmniOutliner to track your notes and sources.
  • Use paper trays to separate your initial research documents from the research that you decide to use, as well as the research you are still undecided about
  • Be sure to organize and track your sources and notes. Writing a thesis is a long and detailed process that can become unwieldy if you fail to stay organized at any point along the way. Numbering your notes and separating your research using a method that works for you is vital.

Stacy Alleyne is a certified English teacher with a BA in English and graduate work in English, education, journalism and law. She has written numerous articles and her own dining column for the "Gazette."

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  • How to write an essay introduction | 4 steps & examples

How to Write an Essay Introduction | 4 Steps & Examples

Published on February 4, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 23, 2023.

A good introduction paragraph is an essential part of any academic essay . It sets up your argument and tells the reader what to expect.

The main goals of an introduction are to:

  • Catch your reader’s attention.
  • Give background on your topic.
  • Present your thesis statement —the central point of your essay.

This introduction example is taken from our interactive essay example on the history of Braille.

The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability. The writing system of raised dots used by visually impaired people was developed by Louis Braille in nineteenth-century France. In a society that did not value disabled people in general, blindness was particularly stigmatized, and lack of access to reading and writing was a significant barrier to social participation. The idea of tactile reading was not entirely new, but existing methods based on sighted systems were difficult to learn and use. As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness. This essay begins by discussing the situation of blind people in nineteenth-century Europe. It then describes the invention of Braille and the gradual process of its acceptance within blind education. Subsequently, it explores the wide-ranging effects of this invention on blind people’s social and cultural lives.

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Table of contents

Step 1: hook your reader, step 2: give background information, step 3: present your thesis statement, step 4: map your essay’s structure, step 5: check and revise, more examples of essay introductions, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about the essay introduction.

Your first sentence sets the tone for the whole essay, so spend some time on writing an effective hook.

Avoid long, dense sentences—start with something clear, concise and catchy that will spark your reader’s curiosity.

The hook should lead the reader into your essay, giving a sense of the topic you’re writing about and why it’s interesting. Avoid overly broad claims or plain statements of fact.

Examples: Writing a good hook

Take a look at these examples of weak hooks and learn how to improve them.

  • Braille was an extremely important invention.
  • The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability.

The first sentence is a dry fact; the second sentence is more interesting, making a bold claim about exactly  why the topic is important.

  • The internet is defined as “a global computer network providing a variety of information and communication facilities.”
  • The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education.

Avoid using a dictionary definition as your hook, especially if it’s an obvious term that everyone knows. The improved example here is still broad, but it gives us a much clearer sense of what the essay will be about.

  • Mary Shelley’s  Frankenstein is a famous book from the nineteenth century.
  • Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement.

Instead of just stating a fact that the reader already knows, the improved hook here tells us about the mainstream interpretation of the book, implying that this essay will offer a different interpretation.

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Next, give your reader the context they need to understand your topic and argument. Depending on the subject of your essay, this might include:

  • Historical, geographical, or social context
  • An outline of the debate you’re addressing
  • A summary of relevant theories or research about the topic
  • Definitions of key terms

The information here should be broad but clearly focused and relevant to your argument. Don’t give too much detail—you can mention points that you will return to later, but save your evidence and interpretation for the main body of the essay.

How much space you need for background depends on your topic and the scope of your essay. In our Braille example, we take a few sentences to introduce the topic and sketch the social context that the essay will address:

Now it’s time to narrow your focus and show exactly what you want to say about the topic. This is your thesis statement —a sentence or two that sums up your overall argument.

This is the most important part of your introduction. A  good thesis isn’t just a statement of fact, but a claim that requires evidence and explanation.

The goal is to clearly convey your own position in a debate or your central point about a topic.

Particularly in longer essays, it’s helpful to end the introduction by signposting what will be covered in each part. Keep it concise and give your reader a clear sense of the direction your argument will take.

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As you research and write, your argument might change focus or direction as you learn more.

For this reason, it’s often a good idea to wait until later in the writing process before you write the introduction paragraph—it can even be the very last thing you write.

When you’ve finished writing the essay body and conclusion , you should return to the introduction and check that it matches the content of the essay.

It’s especially important to make sure your thesis statement accurately represents what you do in the essay. If your argument has gone in a different direction than planned, tweak your thesis statement to match what you actually say.

To polish your writing, you can use something like a paraphrasing tool .

You can use the checklist below to make sure your introduction does everything it’s supposed to.

Checklist: Essay introduction

My first sentence is engaging and relevant.

I have introduced the topic with necessary background information.

I have defined any important terms.

My thesis statement clearly presents my main point or argument.

Everything in the introduction is relevant to the main body of the essay.

You have a strong introduction - now make sure the rest of your essay is just as good.

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This introduction to an argumentative essay sets up the debate about the internet and education, and then clearly states the position the essay will argue for.

The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts is on the rise, and its role in learning is hotly debated. For many teachers who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its critical benefits for students and educators—as a uniquely comprehensive and accessible information source; a means of exposure to and engagement with different perspectives; and a highly flexible learning environment.

This introduction to a short expository essay leads into the topic (the invention of the printing press) and states the main point the essay will explain (the effect of this invention on European society).

In many ways, the invention of the printing press marked the end of the Middle Ages. The medieval period in Europe is often remembered as a time of intellectual and political stagnation. Prior to the Renaissance, the average person had very limited access to books and was unlikely to be literate. The invention of the printing press in the 15th century allowed for much less restricted circulation of information in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation.

This introduction to a literary analysis essay , about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein , starts by describing a simplistic popular view of the story, and then states how the author will give a more complex analysis of the text’s literary devices.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale. Arguably the first science fiction novel, its plot can be read as a warning about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, and in popular culture representations of the character as a “mad scientist”, Victor Frankenstein represents the callous, arrogant ambition of modern science. However, far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to gradually transform our impression of Frankenstein, portraying him in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:

  • An opening hook to catch the reader’s attention.
  • Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
  • A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.

The length of each part depends on the length and complexity of your essay .

The “hook” is the first sentence of your essay introduction . It should lead the reader into your essay, giving a sense of why it’s interesting.

To write a good hook, avoid overly broad statements or long, dense sentences. Try to start with something clear, concise and catchy that will spark your reader’s curiosity.

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

  • It gives your writing direction and focus.
  • It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.

The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.

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McCombes, S. (2023, July 23). How to Write an Essay Introduction | 4 Steps & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved February 25, 2024, from https://www.scribbr.com/academic-essay/introduction/

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COMMENTS

  1. Background of The Study

    Definition: Background of the study refers to the context, circumstances, and history that led to the research problem or topic being studied. It provides the reader with a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter and the significance of the study.

  2. What is the Background of a Study and How Should it be Written?

    The background of a study is the first section of the paper and establishes the context underlying the research. It contains the rationale, the key problem statement, and a brief overview of research questions that are addressed in the rest of the paper.

  3. What is the Background of a Study and How to Write It

    The background of a study in a research paper helps to establish the research problem or gap in knowledge that the study aims to address, sets the stage for the research question and objectives, and highlights the significance of the research.

  4. What is Background of the study and Guide on How to Write it

    The background of the study discusses your problem statement, rationale, and research questions. It links introduction to your research topic and ensures a logical flow of ideas. Thus, it helps readers understand your reasons for conducting the study.

  5. What is the Background of the Study and How to Write It

    The background of the study is the first section of a research paper and gives context surrounding the research topic. The background explains to the reader where your research journey started, why you got interested in the topic, and how you developed the research question that you will later specify.

  6. What Is a Thesis?

    A thesis is a type of research paper based on your original research. It is usually submitted as the final step of a master's program or a capstone to a bachelor's degree. Writing a thesis can be a daunting experience. Other than a dissertation, it is one of the longest pieces of writing students typically complete.

  7. How to write the background of your study

    Usually, the background forms the first section of a research article/thesis and justifies the need for conducting the study and summarizes what the study aims to achieve. How to structure the background In this section, the author usually outlines the historical developments in the literature that led to the current topic of research concisely.

  8. How to Write a Thesis Statement

    Step 1: Start with a question Step 2: Write your initial answer Step 3: Develop your answer Step 4: Refine your thesis statement Types of thesis statements Other interesting articles Frequently asked questions about thesis statements What is a thesis statement? A thesis statement summarizes the central points of your essay.

  9. How To Write A Dissertation Introduction Chapter

    Craft an enticing and engaging opening section. Provide a background and context to the study. Clearly define the research problem. State your research aims, objectives and questions. Explain the significance of your study. Identify the limitations of your research. Outline the structure of your dissertation or thesis.

  10. 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:

  11. How to write the background of the study in a thesis research?

    The background of the study is typically a part of the Introduction chapter of the thesis. In fact, every research paper begins with the background of the study. It offers key information about the research. It consists of three main elements: Latest information about an issue. A review of existing research and areas explored.

  12. Background Information

    Definition Background information identifies and describes the history and nature of a well-defined research problem with reference to contextualizing existing literature.

  13. What is the Background in a Research Paper?

    A good Background section explains the history and nature of your research question in relation to existing literature - a "state of the art.". This section, along with the rationale, helps readers understand why you chose to study this problem and why your study is worthwhile. This article will show you how to do this.

  14. Thesis

    Thesis. Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is arguable, which means a thoughtful reader could disagree with it and therefore ...

  15. What is a thesis

    A thesis is an in-depth research study that identifies a particular topic of inquiry and presents a clear argument or perspective about that topic using evidence and logic. Writing a thesis showcases your ability of critical thinking, gathering evidence, and making a compelling argument.

  16. How to write the Introduction and the background for a ...

    The background forms the first part of the Introduction section. It provides context for your study and helps the readers understand why your research topic is important. It gives a brief overview of the research done on the topic so far and mentions the gaps that have remained unaddressed as well as the need to address them.

  17. Writing background of the study in thesis

    1.1 Background. The background sets the general tone for your thesis. It should make a good impression and convince the reader why the theme is important and your approach relevant. Even so, it should be no longer than necessary. What is considered a relevant background depends on your field and its traditions.

  18. How do I effectively write the background of the study for my ...

    The background is written as the first part of the Introduction section. It helps to write it as a story or narrative (to make it more effective or engaging), which you can build on through the paper. (However, if this doesn't come naturally, or doesn't work for a technically inclined paper such as yours, don't force it.)

  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. PDF Strategies for Essay Writing

    Your thesis is the central claim in your essay—your main insight or idea about your source or topic. Your thesis should appear early in an academic essay, followed by a logically constructed argument that supports this central claim. A strong thesis is arguable, which means a thoughtful reader could disagree with it and therefore needs

  21. What Is a Thesis?

    A thesis is a type of research paper based on your original research. It is usually submitted as the final step of a PhD program in the UK. Writing a thesis can be a daunting experience. Indeed, alongside a dissertation, it is the longest piece of writing students typically complete. It relies on your ability to conduct research from start to ...

  22. What is involved in a research proposal background and ...

    The background has to provide the context of the study. It has to talk about the broader research area, what the current literature says about the research area, what are some of the gaps in existing studies, and how this led to the gap or need you intend to examine in your study. The background for a proposal has to provide a solid start and ...

  23. A Step-by-Step on How to Do a Background Study for a Thesis

    The background study for a thesis includes a review of the area being researched, current information surrounding the issue, previous studies on the issue, and relevant history on the issue....

  24. How to Write an Essay Introduction

    Table of contents. Step 1: Hook your reader. Step 2: Give background information. Step 3: Present your thesis statement. Step 4: Map your essay's structure. Step 5: Check and revise. More examples of essay introductions. Other interesting articles. Frequently asked questions about the essay introduction.