Writing an introduction to your dissertation should only be done once you have finished your dissertation. Why? Because you cannot write about the study if you have not carried it out yet.
As dissertation topics, titles and the focus can change throughout the writing process, it is difficult to write an introduction before you have carried out any background research and discovered your findings.
What needs to be included in a dissertation introduction?
Firstly, you need to introduce the topic of the dissertation: what the topic is, why it is relevant and what the issue is that you will be researching.
Depending on the title and topic of your dissertation, you might be required to write a brief background to the topic. For example, if you are carrying out research on a particular company, it might be worthwhile including some background information about the company for context.
Your introduction should set out the aims and objectives of the overall dissertation as well indicating some key research questions that you will be seeking to answer.
These research questions are designed to help focus the work and split up the dissertation title so that individual areas can be answered.
If the dissertation question was ‘Detecting Plagiarism in Universities: Policy Implementation for Minimising Academic Plagiarism’, research questions could be as follows:
- Could criminalising academic plagiarism be a deterrent for university students?
- How effective can academic plagiarism software be in detecting plagiarism in UK universities?
As you can see from the brief examples above, the idea is to narrow the focus of the overall dissertation title in order to determine a specific niche.
In this case, it is focused on UK universities and the effects that criminalising academic plagiarism could have on the number of students committing plagiarism.
Once you have ascertained what your aims, objectives, and research questions are, you need to create a ‘chapter overview’.
As the introduction is one of the last sections that you will write, the chapters will already be completed, which means that you will already know what is in each section of the dissertation.
What you need to do is summarise what each chapter will be about and a brief description of what it will do. This does not need to be long; it simply needs to be a short statement of the main points.
Generally, the introduction should not exceed 10% of the overall word count of the final dissertation.
If it does exceed this amount, consider revising this and allocating more words to other sections which gain more marks, such as the discussion (or analysis) section.
Checklist for writing a dissertation introduction
- Have I given a good summary of existing knowledge on my topic?
- Have I shown where the gap in the existing research is and how I will approach addressing it?
- Have I clearly identified the question that my dissertation is going to answer?
- Have I stated my aims and objectives?
See our example dissertation introductions for some inspiration.
For help on writing other sections of a dissertation see our How to Write a Dissertation guide.
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