What types of information should you include in your introduction?
In the introduction of your thesis, you’ll be trying to do three main things, which are called Moves:
- Move 1 establish your territory (say what the topic is about)
- Move 2 establish a niche (show why there needs to be further research on your topic)
- Move 3 introduce the current research (make hypotheses; state the research questions)
Each Move has a number of stages. Depending on what you need to say in your introduction, you might use one or more stages. Table 1 provides you with a list of the most commonly occurring stages of introductions in Honours theses (colour-coded to show the Moves). You will also find examples of Introductions, divided into stages with sample sentence extracts. Once you’ve looked at Examples 1 and 2, try the exercise that follows.
Most thesis introductions include SOME (but not all) of the stages listed below. There are variations between different Schools and between different theses, depending on the purpose of the thesis.
Stages in a thesis introduction
- state the general topic and give some background
- provide a review of the literature related to the topic
- define the terms and scope of the topic
- outline the current situation
- evaluate the current situation (advantages/ disadvantages) and identify the gap
- identify the importance of the proposed research
- state the research problem/ questions
- state the research aims and/or research objectives
- state the hypotheses
- outline the order of information in the thesis
- outline the methodology
Now read the following two examples from past theses, noting which stages are included in each example. How does example 1 differ from example 2?
Example 1: Evaluation of Boron Solid Source Diffusion for High-Efficiency Silicon Solar Cells (School of Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering)
|Stage||Sample sentence extracts (complete introduction is 4 pages)|
|1. Give background about the topic||P-type layers are commonly used in solar cells as they offer a wide range of applications such as a back surface field…|
|4. Outline current methods||...Currently in the PV industry aluminium-silicon alloying using screen-printed aluminium and belt furnace firing is the prevalent method of forming p-type layers because it is relatively easy and also forms the rear electrical contact…|
|5. Evaluate current methods||...The use of aluminium as p-type dopant has two major disadvantages, however…|
| 6. Identify importance of proposed research||…Given the limitations associated with using Al to form p-type diffusion, boron as a dopant for diffused layers is therefore more suitable for high-efficiency silicon solar cells…|
|8. State research aims||...The goal of this thesis is to evaluate boron nitride (BN) as a potential replacement for liquid-source diffusion presently being used for p-type diffusions in the high-efficiency buried contact solar cells under development at UNSW…|
|10. Outline order of information in the thesis||…This thesis is divided into five chapters: Chapter 2 discusses in more detail about diffusions in general and the case of boron diffusion…Chapter 3 outlines the experimental work carried out in the project…|
Example 2: Methods for Measuring Hepatitis C Viral Complexity (School of Biotechnology and Biological Sciences)
Note: this introduction includes the literature review.
|Stage||Sample sentence extracts (complete introduction is 11 pages)|
|1. State the general topic||...The hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a significant human pathogen given that 3% of the world’s population are infected with the virus…|
|1. (2) Give some background about the topic||…The HCV genome is a positive sense, single stranded RNA molecule with an approximate length of 9.5kb…|
|3. (2) Define the terms and scope of the topic||…Quasispecies are defined as a population of closely related minor genetic variants and are a noted phenomenon of plant and RNA viruses…It has been widely recognised that treatment outcome is highly dependent on the complexity…|
|5. (2) Evaluate current situation||…Cloning and sequencing is considered a time-consuming and laborious method and as such there exists a need for the development of simple alternative methods…|
|5. (2) Identify the gap in current research||…At present there is no suitable method that has produced results comparable to that of cloning and sequencing which also has the additional properties of simplicity and rapidity…|
|6. Identify importance of proposed research||…There is mounting evidence, however, that immediate treatment will result in successful eradication of HCV. Therefore studies of acute phase quasispecies will enhance the understanding of the early virological events of newly acquired HCV infection and ultimately the disease process itself.|
|9. State the hypothesis||The hypotheses for this study are that there exist suitable parameters to assess quasispecies complexity. Furthermore, a rapid and simpler alternative method to cloning and sequencing can be developed to accurately describe the complexity of a given quasispecies population…|
|8. State research aims||1.Define a set of parameters to analyse quasispecies complexity. 2.Develop a simpler and rapid alternative to cloning and sequencing that would accurately assess complexity of quasispecies populations….|
Now that you have read example 1 and 2, what are the differences?
Read the following sample sentence extracts from Honours theses Introductions. When you have decided what stage of the Introduction they belong to, refer to the stages in a thesis introduction and give each sentence extract a number. Then check the suggested answer to see if your answer agrees with ours.
Example 3: The IMO Severe-Weather Criterion Applied to High-Speed Monohulls (School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering)
Example 4: The Steiner Tree Problem (School of Computer Science and Engineering)
Note: this introduction includes the literature review.
Example 5.1 (extract 1): The effects of Fluoride on the reproduction of three native Australian plant Species (School of Geography)
|Stage 1||Sample sentence extracts (the complete Introduction is 17 pages long)|
|Give some background (p.1 of 17)|
1.1 Fluoride in the environment
Molecular fluorine (F2) is the most electronegative of the elements and therefore is highly reactive. Due to its high reactivity it is never found in its elemental form in nature. It combines directly at both ordinary or elevated temperatures with all other elements except oxygen, nitrogen, and the lighter noble gases (Cotton & Wilkinson, 1980).
Example 5.2 (extract 2): The effects of Fluoride on the reproduction of three native Australian plant Species (School of Geography)
|Stage 2||Sample sentence extracts|
|Provide a review of the literature related to the topic (p.2 of 17)||The main source of elevated fluoride in plants comes from atmospheric industrial pollution. Because of its extensive industrial use, hydrogen fluoride is probably the greatest single atmospheric fluoride contaminant and is generally considered to be the most important plant pathogenic fluoride (WHO, 1984; Treshow, 1965)… However, fluorides can cause damage to sensitive plant species even at extremely low fluoride concentrations(Hill,1969), accumulate in large amounts within the plant and cause disease if ingested by herbivores(Weinstein, 1977).|
|Stages 4 and 5||Sample sentence extracts|
|Outline the current situation; Evaluate the current situation and indicate a gap (p.12 of 17)||Doley (1981) summarized several unpublished studies that compared the sensitivity rankings of 24 species according to the responses of photosynthesis and the development of visible injury symptoms. This analysis showed that for nine species, photosynthesis measurements indicated greater sensitivity than was obvious from visible assessment, and for seven species the converse applied. This indicated that, while it may generally be true that physiological responses occur at lower doses than visible injury, this does not always appear to be the case.|
Example 5.4 (extract 4): The effects of Fluoride on the reproduction of three native Australian plant Species (School of Geography)
|Stage 7||Sample sentence extracts|
|State the research problem(p.4 of 17)||In many Australian plant species, young expanding leaves appear much more severely injured by gaseous fluorides than are old leaves. This suggests, either that the young leaf tissues are more sensitive to fluoride than mature tissues, or that sufficient fluoride enters the tissues directly through the cuticle to disrupt normal leaf development before the stomata have fully developed and opened(Doley, 1986a). This question has not been resolved due to the inability to accurately localize low concentrations of fluoride(Doley, 1986a)|
Example 5.5 (extract 5): The effects of Fluoride on the reproduction of three native Australian plant Species (School of Geography)
|Stage 8||Sample sentence extracts|
|State the research aims and /or research objectives (extract p.16 of 17)||Knowledge of the effects of fluoride on the reproductive processes of species within a forest community will help predict potential changes within the community following an increase in atmospheric fluoride due to additional industrial sources, such as aluminium smelters. For these reasons, this project was designed to investigate the reproductive processes of selected species in a woodland near the aluminium smelter at Tomago.|
Example 5.6 (extract 6): The effects of Fluoride on the reproduction of three native Australian plant Species (School of Geography)
|Stage 11||Sample sentence extracts|
|State the outline of the Methodology (extract p.17 of 17).||Germination trials were performed on seeds collected from each species along the fluoride gradient to determine if fluoride has an effect on their viability and hence the regeneration fitness of each species. A density study was used to determine if there were any differences between numbers of mature and immature trees, number of trees producing seed follicles and the number of trees flowering in this season along a fluoride gradient. By using soils collected at various distances away from the smelter the study also investigated differences in germination from the natural soil seed reserve along a fluoride gradient.|
What does this tell you about thesis introductions?
Well, firstly, there are many choices that you can make. You will notice that there are variations not only between the different Schools in your faculty, but also between individual theses, depending on the type of information that is being communicated. However, there are a few elements that a good Introduction should include, at the very minimum:
- Either Statement of general topic Or Background information about the topic;
- Either Identification of disadvantages of current situation Or Identification of the gap in current research;
- Identification of importance of proposed research
- Either Statement of aims Or Statement of objectives
- An Outline of the order of information in the thesis