Step by Step Guide for Writing the Introduction of a Research Paper
Writing a final year project (thesis or dissertation) could be a strenuous task that consumes time, resources and energy. However, it has been discovered that writing is not only a skill but an act. The more an individual (researcher, students, any other person in the field of research) writes, the better they become.
There are some key elements that every researcher must put into consideration while writing a dissertation. This series provides a step by step insight into making the journey an easy one. Most thesis (dissertation or projects) are divided into five components which are introduction (chapter one), literature review (chapter two), methodology (chapter three), results and discussions (chapter four) and, summary, conclusion and recommendations (chapter five).
In order to provide a comprehensive and incisive way the project should be written, each chapter and its contents would be discussed, starting with the introduction.
The introduction is the first chapter of a thesis or dissertation. It contains vital details such as the background to the study, statement of the problem, research objectives, research questions, research hypothesis, the scope of the study, the significance of the study, limitation (optional) and operational definition of terms.
Background to the Study
The study’s background will provide the relevance of the issues highlighted in the thesis or dissertation. It could include research that is both important and required. The study’s background is used to demonstrate the relevance of a thesis question and build up the dissertation. An assessment of the research issue, existing knowledge concerning the topic, similar research on the topic, and similar approaches on the issue at hand are all part of the background to the study. After discussing the contributions of other studies in the area, the researcher can then elucidate how the study will fill these gaps (in the case of articles in a journal or researcher paper) and build on existing research in the areas. It is imperative to provide the background and history of information in this subheading effectively. The background should be drafted as a synopsis of your understanding of past studies as well as what a study intends to accomplish. For instance, if looking at a topic such as “Branding and Firm Performance,” the researcher should critically look at what existing literature is saying about branding and how branding is measured while also looking at performance and how different literature see the concept. The background to the study precedes the statement of the problem. There must be a flow from the background to the study to the statement of the problem
Statement of the Problem
A statement of the problem is about an issue of interest, a condition that needs to be improved, a complexity that needs to be addressed, or a critical concern extant literature, theory or practice that has not been investigated yet. The statement of the problem reveals what others have done and what the research tends to do. The statement of the problem indicates what is already known (existing literature has provided this), what the researcher intends to know (direction of the study provided by thorough investigation of extant literature) and why it is pivotal to know what is intended to be known (relevance of addressing the problem). It is also important to note that a particular problem statement needs not to address every issue or gap discovered in the literature. It could address an issue of methodology. For instance, most studies could be exploratory in discussing an issue of concern. The gap here could be for the research to make it an empirical study by testing a hypothesis using statistical tools to determining the degree of influence or effect. A gap could also exist if a study has been carried out in a particular place (let say an advanced economy) and the researcher wishes to replicate it in another geographical location (let say, an emerging economy). Without a statement of the problem, there is no need to carry out research. The statement of the problem shows the direction the research is going to. There must be flow from the statement of the problem to the research objective
The research objective shows the purpose of the study. It indicates what the research intends to do. It contains a broad aim and specific objectives. From the example given above on “Branding and Performance”, the research objectives could be stated thus:
“The general aim of the study is to investigate the influence of branding on firm performance. The specific objectives are to;
- assess the influence of branding on profitability,
- investigate the influence of branding on market share,
- ascertain how branding interacts with return on investments.”
It is also important to note that there should be a flow between research objectives and research questions
A research question is a query that a study is centered on. It should be straightforward: it provides sufficient precise details so that one’s readers understand its intent without requiring further clarification. A research question is seen as a question that a study seeks to answer. To formulate a research question, it is imperative to first decide whether the study will be quantitative, qualitative or mixed (the would have been addressed in the statement of the problem). The answer to a research question will aid in the resolution of a research problem or question. Based on the example stated above, the research questions would be stated thus.
“In line with the research objectives, the following research questions were raised:
- How does branding influence profitability
- To what extent does branding impact market share
- In what way does branding affect the return on investments.”
From the research questions flows, the research hypotheses
A research hypothesis is a tentative, precise, and verifiable statement or predictive statement about the potential result of a scholarly study regarding a specific gap in the existing literature, such as assumed differences between groups on a given item or correlation between variables. A hypothesis could be stated in the null (H0) or alternative (HA). The null hypothesis is a commonly used statistical key assumption that no causal relation or significance exists between two sets of observed data and measured phenomena based on a single exogenous variable. An alternative hypothesis is one in which the researchers anticipate a difference (or an effect) among two or more variables; that is, the linear relationship of the statistics is not due to chance. Based on the example above, the research hypothesis is stated in the null
Ho: Branding does not have a significant effect on profitability
Ho: Branding does not significantly influence market share
HA: Branding has a significant effect on return on assets
Significance of the study
The study’s significance is a formatted statement that describes why the current study was necessary. It justifies the significance of the research and considers its impact on the area of research, its impact on existing learning, and how others will benefit from it. It should state how it will benefit those in the academia, those in the industry concerned, government and policymakers, among others.
Scope of the Study
The scope of the study pertains to the parameters within which the study will be carried out; it is also called the scope of research. To define the scope of the study, it is pivotal to first identify all of the elements that will be considered in the thesis and where the thesis will be carried and why it will be carried out in that place. It could also indicate the period of time it will be carried out.
Definition of Terms
A comprehensive discussion of the technical language and metrics used during a study is referred to as the operational definition of terms. The purpose of this is to standardize the definition of keywords. For instance, how is branding defined in the study, and how is performance used in the study.