After the abstract, examiners will usually read your overall thesis introduction (Mullins & Kiley, 2002, p. 376) carefully to assess the importance and quality of the research undertaken. Whether you are writing a minor thesis (Honours or Masters) or a major thesis (PhD, whether it is a conventional thesis, thesis by compilation or exegesis), the introduction's role is the same: to introduce readers to the research presented and its significance by providing some background context.

Introduction structure diagram

The introduction should also justify the focus and parameters of your research. It therefore needs to clearly set out the:

  • problem that the thesis addresses
  • relevance of the research within the broader field or discipline
  • specific research aim or objective, that is, why the research was undertaken
  • methodology 
  • thesis structure, which outlines the organisation, distribution and relationship between the key issues and themes discussed in the body of your thesis, that is, shows how one chapter or paper leads to the next or are linked.

The introduction shapes reader-expectations of what they will find on reading your thesis, so take care to deliver on what you say you will do in the introduction. The following pages provide tips for approaching and writing your thesis introduction and the introductory sections of the individual chapters.




  • Mullins, G., & Kiley, M. (2002). 'It's a PhD, not a Nobel Prize': How experienced examiners assess research theses. Studies in Higher Education27(4), 369-386. doi:10.1080/0307507022000011507