Writing a strong Introduction section of a PhD paper

There is no set way to write an introduction section to your PhD, and the requirements vary from field to field. For example, the introduction to a PhD in the field of metaphysics will be very different to that in the field of environmental health. But the fundaments are the same, because every piece of academic work does need to demonstrate similar skills and adherence to comparable conventions. So, how to go about writing a strong introduction section?

  • Your Thesis
  • The first paragraphs of your PhD introduction should outline, very clearly, the subject and scope of your study: ‘This paper is an exploration of X from the perspective of Y’. This sets the rest of the introduction up, because the remainder will just describe how you came to research this, and how you have argued it.
  • Existing Research
  • After introducing your thesis statement, you then need to discuss the field of research before you began looking into it. Be thorough: ‘previous research has identified various aspects of X, including…’ The greater the depth and breadth of the context here, the more faith the reader will have in the next, vital section.
  • The Gap that You Have Identified
  • This is essential, because, in the context of the above framework of exiting scholarship, you can now say, with confidence, that your thesis has not yet been looked at, because it results from a gap in the literature which you have identified. This is where you explain the uniqueness, and therefore the point, of your research.
  • The Way You Will Argue
  • In this section, after identifying the gap, you need to explain, or give a chapter by chapter outline, of how your thesis addresses and explores this gap. So, think of each paragraph, in this section, as an introduction to each chapter of the thesis.
  • The Conclusions
  • To conclude, talk briefly and concisely about the conclusions that your research has reached, prepare the reader for what they are looking for, and if you put this in the reader’s mind, then they are much more likely to see it in your document, because you have primed them!

The introduction section of your thesis is vitally important to the way your reader will perceive your work. Use it to prime the reader, to give them a roadmap, and by phrasing in clear language, in a well-structured section, you will gain the trust of your reader.

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