Introduction and conclusion thesis chapters

Both the introduction and conclusion chapters frame your thesis. The introduction gives a preview of the thesis and often indicates the standard of the thesis. The conclusion gives a convincing summary of the thesis’s findings.

The introduction allows you to orient the reader to your research project and preview the organisation of your thesis. In the introduction, state what the topic is about, explain why it needs to be further researched and introduce your research question(s) or hypothesis.

Whilst patterns of organisation in introductions vary, there are some common features that will help you to achieve an informative and engaging introduction. Let’s identify these features:

  1. Introduce the topic
  2. Define key terms and concepts
  3. Give background and context for the topic (this may include a brief literature review)
  4. Review and evaluate the current state of knowledge in the topic (this may include a brief literature review)
  5. Identify any gaps, shortcomings and problems in the research to date
  6. Introduce your research question(s) or hypothesis
  7. Briefly describe your methodology and/or theoretical approach
  8. Explain the aim of your research and what contribution it will make to the topic
  9. Give an overview of the chapter outline of the thesis.

It’s important to note that, depending on your field of study and the faculty requirements of your thesis, not all of these features will be relevant. Also, these features may occur in varied orders.

Most people write many drafts of their introduction. It can be useful to write one early in the research process to clarify your thinking. You will need to write a version for your confirmation proposal and other milestones. As your research progresses and your ideas develop, you will need to revise it. When the final draft of chapters is complete, check the introduction once more to make sure that it accurately reflects what you have actually done.

Depending on the type of research presented in the thesis, conclusion chapters or sections tend to include at least some of the following:

  1. A clear answer to your research question or hypothesis
  2. Summary of the main findings or argument
  3. Connections between your findings or argument to other research
  4. Explanation and significance of the findings
  5. Implications of the findings
  6. Limitations of the research and methodology
  7. Recommendations for future research

Your conclusion chapter is the place to emphasise the new knowledge that you’ve contributed to the field of study and explain its significance. This chapter is your opportunity to leave a strong impression on the reader (assessors) about the strength and relevance of your research, and your skills as a researcher.

Importantly, the conclusion chapter must link with your introduction chapter to complete the framing of the thesis and demonstrate that you have achieved what you set out to do.