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How to write the introductory chapter to a thesis or doctoral dissertation

This 2020 is weird in many ways. Several of my students are finishing up their degrees within the context of a global pandemic (COVID-19). But because the world was set up for degree and thesis completion before we knew our world would be changed forever, my students’ degrees have continuex and time passes inexorably. Therefore, I have continued to supervise theses normally.

One of my PhD students is on the road to finishing up her doctoral dissertation. When we sat down to discuss her progress, I realized I did not have a handy resource for her to consult how to write her introductory chapter. So I wrote a Twitter thread from where this blog post derives.

Reading writing working

Over the course of the years I’ve developed resources for graduate and undergraduate students to help them prepare for their dissertation proposal stage and the final defense. These posts are linked in the tweets below.

Based on these posts, I wrote (off-the-cuff, quickly) a draft table of contents for the introductory chapter of a thesis or doctoral dissertation (you can see these below). I want to note that in the case of doctoral candidates, I believe that it is FUNDAMENTAL to emphasize the ORIGINAL theoretical and empirical contributions of the dissertation. Whereas Masters and undergraduate theses aren’t as focused on contributions, for the PhD these are fundamental.

Desk in my room (Malakoff, France)

You can find my templates on Google Drive and Dropbox (click on the hyperlinks) or click on the Twitter links below.

Hopefully this template will help students across the board (undergraduate, Masters and PhD, obviously adjusting for specific degrees).

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Posted in academia, writing.

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7 Responses

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  1. Mushaf Fatima says

    It’s really helpful

  2. Sphamandla Nkambule says

    Very very insightful indeed Prof…. Can I kindly as if anyone is available to read and help me improve my Introductory Chapter, please email me via

  3. LTNoel says

    The link in Dropbox works well.Thanks for the information.

  4. Eber Beck Jr. says

    Good resource; very helpful. Thanks!

  5. Ademola Olurode says

    Conscise and helpful to me as i needed to put up a good proposal for my Phd study abroad.
    Thank you but I will love to lay my hands on a broader material from you that can help my proposal and eventual thesis.

  6. Abigail Nkazimulo Nyathi says

    Very practical guidelines and an easy to comprehend flow. What’s left is application hope to achieve this.

  7. Alma García says

    Muchas gracias por estos recursos, de verdad no sé que hubiera hecho sin todos tus consejos durante el doctorado.

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