The introductory chapter of your thesis is chapter one of your study; as such, it must be written well. It is normally given the title, “General Introduction.” Sections of this chapter are the background to the study; statement of problem; research question; objectives of the study; significance of the study; methodology for the study; delimitation of the study; and organization of the chapters.In this article, I discuss these points to assist you in writing your introductory chapter.
- Background to the Study
The background to the study establishes the context of the research. It explains why your research is important. In this section, you outline the historical developments in the literature that led to the current topic. If the study is interdisciplinary, it should describe how different disciplines are connected and what aspects of each discipline would be studied. The student should highlight the development of his or her research topic and identify the main gaps that need to be addressed. A good background to a study should be organized by finding answers to the following questions: (1) What is known about the broad topic? (2) What are the gaps or missing links that need to be addressed? (3) What is the significance of addressing those gaps? (4) What are the rationale and hypothesis of your study? The background section should discuss your findings in a chronological manner to accentuate the progress in the field and the missing points that need to be addressed. The background should be written as a summary of your interpretation of previous research and what your study proposes to accomplish.
- Statement of Problem
The heart of any research project is the problem. This must be stated clearly and completely. At a minimum, you should describe it in one or more grammatically complete sentences. Your research problem should be stated in such a way that it answers the following questions: (1) What am I researching? (2) For what purpose am I conducting the research? Finding answers to such questions could help you focus your problem statement.
- Research Question(s)
A research question is a question that your research study or project sets out to answer. You should have a main research question; and from the main, you could have minor questions that help to provide information for answering the main research question. Ask open-ended “how” and “why” questions about your general topic. Your questions should be specific, clear and focused. Don’t ask questions that demand “yes” and “no” answers. Such questions have no space for explanations.
- Objective(s) of the Study
What do you hope to achieve at the end of the study? Your objectives should be stated in measurable terms. The number of objectives must align with the number of research questions. This is because at the end of your study, you would take each research question and state whether the objective for that particular question has been answered. It is important to state here that each research question and objective could be repackaged into a publishable journal article.
- Significance of the Study
How important would your study be to academia? How important would it be for policy formation? These are questions that you should be answering as you state the significance of your study. Don’t state how the findings of your research will help your church or a group. Even though they might have sponsored your study, remember that you will be given an academic degree by a university on completion.
- Methodology for the Study
There are basically three types of research methodologies: Quantitative, qualitative and a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods known as the mixed method. The quantitative research method is number driven; the data is collected by recording numbers. With qualitative research, data is collected through what people say; and the mixed method generates data through numbers and words. The research methodology is treated in detail later in the study.
- Delimitation of the Study
This simply means that you have to set boundaries within which you would conduct your study. You have to focus on where you would collect data and who would be your interviewees and respondents. If you don’t do that you would end up collecting data from places outside the domain of your study. For instance, you would collect data from Kumasi Municipality whilst the study is situated at Ejisu; you would collect data from people you meet on the street whilst you stated in your methodology that you would interview 10 pastors of Pentecostal Churches at Ejisu.
- Organization of the Chapters
In this section, you outline what each chapter would entail. Chapter one – General Introduction. You state all the topics discussed above. Chapter two – Literature Review. State the literature you would review in themes. Chapter Three – Methodology. Describe in detail the approach for the study. Chapter Four – Data interpretation, analysis, findings and discussion of findings. Chapter Five – Conclusion. This includes what you set out to research; summary of the research process; summary of findings; contribution to knowledge; issues emerging out of the study; recommendations; and conclusions.
This article provides readers with the basic outline of writing the introductory chapter to your PhD Thesis. On your own try to write an introduction to your thesis project using the provided guide.
This article is published with the kind courtesy of the author – Prof. Jonathan Edward Tetteh Kuwornu-Adjaottor. He is an Associate Professor of New Testament and Mother Tongue Biblical Hermeneutics in the Department of Religious Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Kumasi, Ghana.