Seven Common Mistakes in Dissertation Introductions

In this article, we share great insights into the seven most common dissertation introduction mistakes and how you can avoid them.

Dissertation introductions set the scene for your study and what’s to come.

Mess it up, and you could undermine months and months of hard graft.

If you’ve written your dissertation introduction or are about to sit down and crack on with it. It can be useful to be mindful of some of the common mistakes students make in this section in this aspect of the dissertation structure.

Seven Common Dissertation Introduction Mistakes

  1. Failure to provide sufficient background for the study

We frequently observe students who fail to provide sufficient context for their study topic. To put it another way, they don’t explain where their research fits into the existing literature (and the real world, for that matter!).

A good introduction should clearly outline the context of the study and why it is of relevance. To aid your reader’s orientation, you should describe the what-, where-, who-, and when-type factors. This background information will help your reader grasp what’s going on in the field and lay the groundwork for your study rationale (we’ll get to that shortly).

While it’s tempting to gloss over this information, keep in mind that your reader is unlikely to be familiar with your point of view, so you’ll need to set the scene. Always write for the clever layman — someone who is interested in your subject but isn’t an expert. Whether you’re writing a dissertation or an essay introduction, make no assumptions about what your reader already knows; instead, start at the beginning and lay a solid contextual basis.

  1. Not sufficiently justifying the topic

Another typical error we see students make in the introductory chapter is failing to provide sufficient rationale for their research subject and goals. Students frequently fall back on the extremely simplistic rationale that “it hasn’t been done before.” While this may appear to be a decent justification (and uniqueness is an important aspect of your justification), it isn’t sufficient to explain your research merit. An excellent introduction should describe not only the project’s uniqueness but also the practical and theoretical value of answering your research objectives.

Ensure you choose a great dissertation topic that is worthy of further research.

Seek to respond to the following questions:

  • What are you investigating (and how original is this novel)?
  • Why is it significant (will benefit the field)?
  • Who will profit from the research, and who will suffer if it is not conducted?

These are critical issues that you must respond to thoroughly and in light of previous studies. This section of the introduction should not be skipped. If your study topic isn’t well-justified, no matter how brilliant the remainder of your dissertation or thesis is, it won’t matter all that much.

  1. Choosing a research topic that is too broad

Another typical error we see when providing dissertation proofreading services is students choosing a topic that isn’t concentrated or detailed enough — in other words, a topic that is too broad. While this problem may have begun much earlier in the dissertation writing process, it usually manifests itself in the opening chapter and serves as a warning indication of impending complications.

It’s understandable that as a researcher, you want to use your knowledge to help solve the world’s problems. It’s vital to remember, though, that you’ll rarely be able to tackle a research problem on your own. However, by expanding on the work of others, you can contribute to a bigger field of inquiry (and produce research that others can build on).

As a result, your topic can’t be too broad; otherwise, you’ll only skim the surface and come up with nothing useful. A restricted, well-defined research goal, on the other hand, will allow you to dig deep and add value.

If you’re researching how demographic factors influence educational outcomes, for instance, focus on one specific variable. Consider what aspects of society you are most interested in. You can then refine your research topic to something like, “The correlation between parental income and educational outcomes in inner-city schools.”

This will help you focus your research, dig deep into a topic of interest, and provide more insightful results.

Always remember that you’ll rarely be able to answer a research problem on your own, but you can add to the body of knowledge by building on the work of others.

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  1. Having unclear study goals, objectives, or research questions

This error frequently occurs in conjunction with the prior one (topic too broad). Your study may become muddled and lack direction if it lacks specific research aims, objectives, research questions, and a clear dissertation methodology. As a result, it’s critical that your introduction properly defines and communicates your study goals, objectives, and research questions. These three parts set the tone for the rest of your project and (should) run through it like a “golden thread” of uniformity.

Let’s say you’re studying educational outcomes:

You decided to focus on parental income as a potential variable that influences children’s educational outcomes. Now, you need to identify what exactly you need to know about income and educational achievements.

You would then position it as a research goal with this restricted focus.

This research will investigate the correlation between parental income and educational income in inner-city schools.

By reducing the scope, you give the reader a lot clearer notion of what you’re trying to accomplish, and you will have a much clearer focus for both your literature review and fieldwork.

Importantly, your research objective (or objectives) should be concrete activities you’ll undertake to answer your research questions and satisfy your study aims. Aim for specificity and clarity. Detail your research targets, objectives, and questions in the introduction chapter to make it clear what you’ll be looking into.

  1. Having misaligned research objectives, goals, and questions

If your study aims, objectives, and questions tug in conflicting directions, you’re going to struggle.

Essentially, the three elements of the golden thread will be misaligned.

Misalignment of the golden thread is a serious issue because it means the study will not be able to fulfil its research goals (or will have the wrong goals!). As a result, it’s critical that your research goals, objectives, and study questions are all in sync.

Your research goal(s) should answer the following question:

What is the major goal and purpose of your research?”

In simple terms, the research goals are a high-level description of what you’re seeking to accomplish.

The “how” of your research is defined by your research objectives. This is where you put your goals into concrete steps, similar to a to-do list.

Make sure you stay on topic and consider the study goals when writing your research objectives. If your research is focused on Facebook, for example, don’t deviate to Twitter and LinkedIn.

Finally, your research questions are the exact questions that your study will attempt to address. Taking your research aims and objectives and turning them into questions is the simplest way to construct research questions (and ensure they’re aligned). For instance:

“What percentage of SMEs use Facebook Advertising.”

“How does Facebook advertising benefit SMEs?”

It’s important that your research goals, objectives, and study questions are all in sync.

These should move in the same way from broad to narrow. As a result, double-check that everything is in order and that you are not going off on any unnecessary tangents.

  1. Poorly defined scope

A poorly defined and/or justified scope is another mistake we see students make with their introduction chapter. It’s natural to want to be the “next great thing,” but as we discussed before, the overarching goal of your research is to contribute to a body of knowledge.

You may wish for your research to be generalizable and applicable to a variety of situations; however, this is often difficult (if not impossible) to achieve in practice.

It’s much better to reduce your focus and be more particular about the extent of your investigation.

Discuss the where, when, and who of your research topic in the introduction chapter of your dissertation or thesis.

Returning to our Facebook advertising and SMEs example, what types of SMEs are you specifically interested in (and how do you define what constitutes a SME)? What business do they operate in, and where are they located? Is the emphasis on early-stage SMEs or later-stage SMEs? You may, for example, focus your research on SMEs in the financial industry and UK-based businesses that have been in operation for at least five years.

Your project will become much more focused, manageable, and replicable if you reduce its scope. A solid scope not only keeps you focused, it also aids other researchers in replicating your work.

After that, make sure you have a solid reason for your scope. It’s fine, for example, to concentrate on SMEs in the United Kingdom, but you must explain why you did so. Why these SMEs in particular? Why should they be studied?

Make sure you highlight how much research has previously been performed in your research field of interest. This will be part of your justification if there isn’t much existing literature. But don’t just claim:

It’s never been done before.

Why hasn’t this been done already?

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  1. Failure to provide a detailed structural outline

The final mistake we see in dissertation introduction chapters is failing to provide a detailed description of the dissertation/thesis document structure. A strong outline assists the reader in orienting themselves by providing a clear picture of what to expect throughout the text and where to search for any specific information they require.

In practice, your outline should come near the conclusion of your introduction chapter, as it sets the tone for the rest of your paper. Your introduction chapter will end abruptly and inconsistently without it.

The outline itself does not have to be long. Each chapter should be covered by one or two lines. The writing itself can be formulaic, with each chapter merely explaining what it covers. Consider the following scenario:

The existing literature on organisational trust will be reviewed in Chapter 2, with the goal of first conceptualising and defining organisational trust, then finding potential antecedents, and finally formulating hypotheses.

The theoretical framework will be described in Chapter 3. The use of a quantitative, deductive research approach will be defended, and the overall research design, including its limitations, will be examined.

It can be difficult to achieve a flow or keep a golden thread across a long paper like a thesis or dissertation. As you can see from the sample above, a strong structural outline helps to tie everything together by weaving a story throughout your research study and preparing the reader for what’s next.

A solid outline shows the reader what to expect from the document and where to search for any specific information they need.

Mistakes in Dissertation Introductions

We’ve discussed seven frequent blunders students make with their dissertation or thesis introduction chapters in this post. Naturally, this isn’t an exhaustive list, but it’s a good place to start if you want to avoid the most common problems.

Dissertation Introduction Tips

Dissertation introduction tips. A free infographic


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