A dissertation introduction is often the hardest part of a dissertation to write. It’s usually the first chapter or section students aim to write, so it can be difficult to know how to start. There are often daunting feelings associated with writing a dissertation introduction because it’s the beginning of a long process. However, once you’ve nailed this chapter, you’ll likely feel much better about the rest of your dissertation. So we’ve come up with a useful guide full of tips on how to write a dissertation introduction to help you to start off strong.

What is a dissertation introduction?

The introduction to a dissertation outlines the project. It’s a way to tell the reader what the project is addressing and the context around your research objectives. Your dissertation introduction should also focus on why your project is being carried out, which means thinking about the problem it addresses or the knowledge area it aims to contribute to.

What does a dissertation introduction include?

Generally, the introduction section of your dissertation should answer the following:

  • What is the problem your research addresses?
  • What is the key focus of your study?
  • Why your project is important?
  • What are your specific research aims and objectives?

 

The above questions should help your introduction section flow. Think of this chapter as a funnel, where you start off with overarching information about the topic and gradually narrow it down to your specific research question.

Dissertation introduction example

Here’s an example of a dissertation introduction in relation to the above questions:

What is the problem your research addresses?

Statistics show that many students use social media on a daily basis, which has been found to impact their mental health. Regular use has been positively correlated with poor sleep, anxiety and low self-esteem (references here).

What is the key focus of your study?

In particular, the frequency of use of or access to social media was found to have a significant impact on sleep, with some scholars calling for research into suggestions for cut-off times (references here). Some statistics show that X% of students were using social media late at night, which significantly hindered their ability to fall asleep and stay asleep. 

Why your project is important?

If we can understand the best time to stop using social media, then we may be able to improve the health of students by improving their sleep. However, there is currently a lack of insight into the specific use of social media, such as which platforms, the type of engagement, the length of sessions, etc. Therefore, there is a need to investigate these factors further, given the potential implications on students’ quality of sleep and mental health.

What are your specific research aims and objectives?

Research aim: To understand the impact of using social media after a specific time on students’ sleep quality.

Research objectives:

  1. To identify what time is the best time to stop using social media for better quality sleep
  2. To understand what factors around the use of social media are most impacting on sleep
  3. To make suggestions on whether social media use should be stopped after a certain time in order to improve sleep

 

The dissertation introduction examples written above are just written for the purposes of showing how information needs to be funnelled in order to clarify and focus your introduction section.

introduction dissertation writing
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How long is a dissertation introduction?

The length of your dissertation introduction usually depends on your total word count. An approximate number would be around 1,000-1,500 words if your dissertation is around 12,000 in total. Some sites suggest that your introduction should be around 5-7% of your total word count. However, your university or dissertation tutor should be able to provide you with course-specific requirements. It’s important to find out what is expected from you when writing a dissertation. So use the guidance provided by the people who are marking it!

Find more about how long a dissertation is in our post.

Tips on how to write an introduction to your dissertation

Be concise and clear

It’s generally a good idea to avoid waffling throughout. But it’s particularly important in the introduction as this is the first thing the reader (or marker) will read. So, it sets the tone and gives the first impression.

Don’t mistake it for a literature review

In some cases – particularly for smaller dissertations, you might combine research background with a small literature review. This is something that should be outlined in your module handbook.

However, you usually have separate sections for both. The literature review synthesises what existing studies say that are related to your aim/s. The research background is context and rationale – what is it you want to find out and why?

Don’t use ‘I’

Never use ‘I’. Instead of saying ‘I want to find out X’, say something like ‘it’s important to find out about X because…”. This goes for your whole dissertation.

Use contextual data

When thinking about how to write a dissertation introduction, thinking about data rather than studies can be useful. So statistics, trends, this kind of thing. You can still include research, especially from key authors and significant findings, but it’s about justifying your study in relation to things that are going on.

State your research aims, objectives, questions and/or hypotheses

If you’re doing statistical research, you may be required to write a hypothesis instead. Otherwise, you’ll need to include your aim, objectives and potential research question in this section.

Use subheadings

Using subheadings is important – particularly if your introduction is long. Subheadings add clarity and focus to the chapter, so make sure to add them in.

Be engaging

As mentioned, this is the first thing the marker will read so try to draw them in. Your study is important, so let them know it is.

 

We hope this has made getting started with your dissertation writing a bit easier. The hardest part is always starting, so once you’ve got going things will get better!

Get more guidance on writing your dissertation with the help of our how to choose a dissertation title article.