How to write your dissertation: Introduction

How to write your dissertation: Introduction

A dissertation is a scary thing, and many of us will have to write one at the end of our third year. Some of us are already there. Here are a few things that I have learned over the course of writing my dissertation that I would like to share with you.

Firstly, the basics – layout. Most dissertations are laid out in the format of introduction (1500 words), 3 chapters (2500 words each) and finally a conclusion (1000 words). And in this blog, I will focus on the introduction part of the dissertation.

What do I put in it?

The dissertation introduction is to tell your audience why you are going to write this dissertation, what significance will your dissertation bring your fields discussion? Are you going to add a new perspective? Are you approaching the topic in a different way? Are your primary sources different? Why does this topic interest you? Etcetera.

Next, you want to give a brief overview of your dissertation. What your chapters will concentrate on and the overall argument that your dissertation will give. In doing so, you should give a reason why you have decided to focus your chapters on the subject you have chosen. Furthermore, try to tell the reader what (sub)questions each chapter will try to answer/ give light to.


This is a very important part of your introduction. It will tell the reader how you have approached your topic, why you have chosen the primary and secondary sources that you have, as well as why you have not focused on material that you will not include. Did you have a process in choosing your primary sources? And how will you analyse these sources?

The methodology is a great way to talk about how your primary and secondary sources will be used to help you answer your dissertation question, what purpose do they serve? It gives you a chance to talk about the usefulness of your chosen sources, and why these were picked and why are important.

The methodology also allows you to consider the limitations of your study. Are there any practical restrictions such as travel or cost? Technical limitations, for instance, are some sources in a language that you cannot read or get translated? Or emotional limitations, is a topic too unethical or too stressful to challenge? If you have any of these limitations then voice them in the methodology part of your introduction.

There is no specific order that these questions need to be approached in your introduction but it is important that you include them all and make the introduction flow.

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How to write your dissertation: Introduction

Lisa Bastow

I am a History student at Keele University.