Although in most cases, the format of the thesis remains same irrespective of the research domain, in real-time the structure and organisation of thesis differ across various fields of study, with only the core components remaining the same. Typically, a thesis includes an introduction, background, body sections comprising of discussions of theories, methodology, data analysis, findings & discussion, reference and a conclusion section.
Generally, the purpose and content to be included in the body and conclusion section of a thesis remains crystal clear to the writer. However, sections such as background and introduction is often considered as a mirror image of each other, which isn’t true.
To achieve a great thesis, it is important to craft an excellent background & introduction chapters. However, before starting with the process, it is a must to know how they differ from each other.
The introduction contains preliminary data & gives an overview of the study. On the other hand, the background of your study discusses in depth about the topic.
Introduction section must strictly end with the research questions, objectives and aims, whereas background shouldn’t end with research questions.
Objectives of introduction section
The primary goal of an introduction chapter of a research document is to demonstrate its purpose, interest and originality. It includes a statement of research question that the project seeks to investigate. The statement provides the reader a broad sense of the present research, explains what you are trying to achieve by performing the particular research and how the specific project adds to the existing knowledge of the individuals.
Aims of background of a study
The background section synthesises the present knowledge on the research question in greater detail than the introductory section. The objective of this section is to articulate patterns within the literature and describe unresolved questions or issues and show how the present study fits into the larger body of work in the field of study field.
Structuring the sections
The background of the study establishes the framework of the research. It justifies the need for performing the study and summarises what the research aims to achieve. If the study is interdisciplinary, it must describe how the various disciplines are interlinked and what all elements of each discipline will be investigated.
In addition, it should highlight the major developments of the research topic and figure out the crucial gaps that need to be addressed.
It should include answers to the questions such as:
What is already known about the chosen topic?
What are the research gaps that need to be addressed?
Why is it significant to address those gaps?
What are the hypothesis and rationale of the study?
The background is written as a summary of the interpretation of earlier research and what the research proposes to accomplish. It is a must for the background section to provide brief general information about the research topic and emphasise the main objectives of the study. However, do not explain them in detail as done in the literature review section. To enable the research to highlight the progress in the field of study field or to address the missing concepts, this section should discuss the results in chronological order.
On the other hand, the introduction chapter should set the context for the study, describe the research problem, and specify the main purpose behind the study. In addition, it should also highlight how the study contributes to existing knowledge base in the particular field of study and builds on previous similar research.
An introduction chapter should:
Summarise the researched concepts via existing literature and citing sources that are relevant
Provide brief details about the issue that the study aims to resolve
Explain reasons behind choosing the particular research topic
Describe how the research would contribute to the research domain
State the research question
The introduction section must set out the basic principles before embarking on the research. This section should also highlight assumptions and limitations (if any) made about conditions during the research.
For instance, an ideal research must have perfectly randomised samples. However, not all the time you can achieve perfect samples due to number of good reasons. Hence it is advisable to talk about the limitations of the study so that the reader can be aware of the shortcomings and determine the validity of the research for themselves.
Not all disciplines demand separate introduction & background section. Thesis in the social sciences have introduction followed by background section. Whereas domains such as humanities includes background of the study within the introduction section.
First impression is the last impression. The opening sections of a thesis are very important as they decide the fate of the other sections, so pen them down well. Read them over, and ensure both the sections convey the intended concept.