In a previous article entitled “structuring your introduction”, we suggested that a good way of approaching your introductory chapter was to treat it like any other essay and begin with an introduction before moving on to the main body of the chapter and ending with a conclusion. While that approach is appropriate, it is not the only way of structuring your PhD. In this article, we will consider an alternative structure.
Because a PhD is a formal exposition of a research project the purpose of the introductory chapter is to provide the reader with enough information to understand your research question, why it is important, how you will answer it and how your answer will make an original contribution. Each of these elements may be addressed as follows.
First, begin by explaining the problem that will be addressed by you research. This will help the reader understand your research question, which you should set out and explain in the subsequent section. Following these two sections it would be reasonable to then explain how your research will make an original contribution to the literature. This should be followed by an overview of the background context for your research. The purpose of this section is to further explain why your research is important and the research question worth asking. It should be written with that goal in mind. Next you need to explain your approach to the research by explicating your methods and methodology. This section may be brief if you plan to include a methodology chapter. The final structural element that should be included is an explanation of how your thesis is structured. This should set out what will be covered in each chapter and give the reader an insight into your argument and how it advances throughout the thesis.
In this article, we have set out an alternative approach to structuring your introductory chapter. Whether you chose to use this structure or a more traditional essay structure is a matter of personal preference, guided by the expectations of your supervisory and the formal requirements of your university. If you need help in producing your introductory chapter, the PhD Consultancy has a wide range of experts who can assist.