All dissertations, theses, or other lengthy academic works have an introduction and a conclusion, with the majority of students’ papers also containing an abstract. These three sections have many commonalities, with significant potential for crossover and duplication of content. However, when constructed expertly, these three distinct dissertation chapters should complement each other. The role of each of these sections and their content are described to demonstrate how the three parts should support each other.
The introduction is the first section of a dissertation which familiarises the reader with the topic of the dissertation. The writer will outline the subject and why it is interesting or relevant as well as detail the purpose of the dissertation. For example, the project may be undertaken to answer a specific question or questions, to assess the accuracy of past research, or to identify and describe phenomena associated with the topic. The introduction will usually benefit from a section that provides a clear definition of the research aims and objectives and should also identify the stakeholders who may benefit from the research.
The concepts associated with writing to introduction are simple, butthe construction of the introduction can be tricky; the section should be easy to read while concurrently stimulating the interest of the reader so they will wish to continue reading. Interest may be stimulated by providing some facts and figures to define a current problem, or with the use of cases to increasing understanding of the problem. In addition, it should be remembered the conclusion should answer or satisfy the declared purpose or questions detailed as the aim of the dissertation. It is often beneficial to review and edit the introduction after completing the dissertation to increase the sections’ alignment with the rest of the project. Usually an introduction should be no more than 10% of the total word count.
The answers to the research questions and aims should already be provided in the findings and discussion sections, where the research is reviewed in a logical manner leading to the results. The conclusion should review and recap the answers in the preceding sections bringing the relevant issues together in a concise manner without introducing any new information. The phrasing and presentation should reflect the style and content of the introduction, referring to the reasons for the research and how the findings are relevant. The conclusion should not usually exceed 10% of the word count.
The abstract is a section at the begiving of the dissertation which provides a summary of the entire paper. The abstract should start with details regarding the topic of the paper and the questions that were asked. The abstract may then include some details on how the questions were answered, such as information on the size of a sample if primary research was used, or the methodological approach if secondary research was implemented. Findings of the study should be summarised. A reader should understand the main points of the research reading only the abstract. Some universities may have a specific template or structure which they expect students to use. The abstract may vary in length but is usually between 200 and 300 words.