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It's enough to say that you will contribute to X body of literature and briefly discuss its core features and shortcomings.
You have to find a way of giving them the big picture before the deep context. You are writing your thesis on the reappearance of thestrals in the 1980s in Mirkwood Forest in the remote country of Archenland after a devastating forest fire caused by mineral extraction in the 1950s.* How are you going to structure an introduction in such a way that your reader doesn’t have to read 10 pages of bewildering and seemingly unconnected background?
When a thesis writer attempts to give the full context before elaborating the problem, two things will happen.
The simplest solution to this problem is to provide a quick trip through the whole project in the first few paragraphs, before beginning to contextualize in earnest.
I am picturing a thesis introduction that looks something like this: What do you think about this as a possible structure for a thesis introduction?
As we saw above, quite how much information you present in your thesis will depend on whether you have a standalone literature review or methods chapter.
What you want to avoid is any unnecessary repetition. You need to present just enough information to contextualise your study and to be able to situate your aims, research questions an argument, but not too much that you end up confusing and bombarding the reader.Once you have explained what we need to know about thestrals, you will need to discuss the topography of Mirkwood, the endangered species policy framework in Archenland, the mineral extraction practices commonly used in the 1950s, and the way forest fires affect animal populations.If you haven’t started with your problem—the thing that brings these disparate areas into a meaningful conversation with each other—your introduction will begin with a baffling array of potentially disconnected bits of information.First, the reader will labour to see the significance of all that they are being told.Second, the reader will, in all likelihood, struggle to find connections between the various aspects of the context.In other words, in my experience, thesis writers tend to feel better after reconstructing their introductions along these lines.For some, it may prove a useful way to present their introduction in their final draft; for other, it may just be a useful scaffold, something that they can improve upon once everything is on a surer footing. Typically, the thesis introductions that I see provide an introduction to the topic but not necessarily to the piece of writing.A few weeks ago, I had a post on writing introductions, in which I discussed the standard three moves of an introduction.This model works very naturally in a short space such as a research proposal or article but can be harder to realize on the bigger canvas of a thesis introduction.Writers—especially writers in the throes of trying to conceptualize a book length research project—often forget that the audience’s ability to engage with the topic is mediated by the text.There is a tendency to provide too much background information in the introduction.