I am in my last year of my PhD and start focusing on writing my thesis. In the course of my PhD I had to apply twice for external funding, in which I - thanks God - succeeded.

I believe that part of that success was - aside of the "hot" topic - the way I presented my research. I wrote roughly 10 pages in style of a paper, where I had an abstract (5-6 phrases about my research answering the 5 common w-questions) for those who had just 1 minute to spare. However, instead of presenting my text of 8 pages right away, I added first a text of about 1,5 pages in which I wrote about my research in categories like motivation, research gap, my approach and contribution, research questions, method, time and work schedule in greater detail for those who had about 4 minutes to spare.

Is it good practice, a good idea to do the same for my PhD thesis, presenting the major argumentative path in the first chapter "Introduction" on perhaps max. 5 pages? My idea is that the reader (supervisors) do not need to read the entire dissertation to understand/identify the major arguments (but obviously need to, for him/her to challenge my entire work) and to not get tempted to only read the conclusions of each chapter to prevent that they get a sided idea (just in case).

My idea is basically to allow the reader to follow my entire argumentation easier, not to help them skip pages or save them time (like in the case of the funding application).


2 Answers 2


Every dissertation or thesis should have an introduction.

When I receive a student's thesis to read, I usually do not have numerous hours to pick out the details of every page. Having a 4-8 page introduction is extremely helpful in allowing me to learn what is most important in the overall arguments of the thesis. An introduction allows readers to see the major theme of the work.

When I wrote my own dissertation, I treated the introduction chapter much like an extended abstract. It highlighted what the reader needed to watch for and established the overall theme of my work.

The introduction can also serve a useful purpose of providing a place to take care of some of the administrative aspects of the thesis such as acknowledgements and holistic citations ("This thesis was written using LaTeX; all code was written in C++). These things are given their own pages at times, but I found it useful to be able to just place them in a paragraph in the introduction.

  • Thank you very much, DC 541, for input! This cleared things up.
    – Til Hund
    Nov 6, 2018 at 16:31

First thing to do: check if it is common in your field to write conclusions.

Next, there is a German academic saying that roughly translates to "Introduction is called so, because it's written last."* Really do so.

Next, when it's time, fly over the thesis with your mental eye. What is this actually about? What are you doing? What is your hypothesis? (You should actually know that a bit earlier, but I digress.) What is the starting point?

The art of sepulation has been studied for over 70 years [1,2,3]. Tihiy presented the key questions of sepulka sciencies in his seminal work [4]. This thesis focuses on sepulation phase B (in the standard denotion [5]) where we found ...

A bit of historic lookback is also nice, but it's not the major focus of an introduction, just a further gimmick.

The first algorithm that is known to us was reported by Euclid [1], though modern historians tend to believe that is it was not his own creation [2-4]. Further well-known personalities, such as Eratosthenes of Cyrene, Plato, and Archimedes of Syracuse have contributed to the Ancient Greek notion of ...

The main ingredients are:

  • You may gently introduce the subject with a motivation or a historical review.
  • You should present your research topic, your hypothesis.
  • You should show the contributions of your work. You can do this somewhat at length, 3-5 pages are Ok in my opinion. There is a whole thesis for the gory details. Basically, you rewrite the contributions / conclusions of separate chapters in other words.
  • You may list the chapters and their role for the whole thesis.
  • You may thank your supervisor and your friends in the introduction, but this can be done elsewhere.
  • You may put a dedication somewhere around the introduction.

The questions, the introduction text needs to answer are:

  • What is she/he doing? / What did she/he do?
  • Where does she/he stand in the field?
  • Why does it matter?

Now, for the conclusions. It's the "should" parts, you need to address here. If you do conclusions at all, you really, really need to pick up your hypothesis and tell what you know now about it. Does it hold? Why not? What parts did fail? Then I'd write basically the same thing, but in a more affirmative way:


We aim to inspect the B-stage of cooperative sepulation in order to ...


From the careful inspection of the B-stage of cooperative and competitive sepulations (Chapters 17 and 23) we deduced a general theory of B-sepulations (Part 3) that allowed us to ...

If you don't do conclusions, you may formulate the introduction more offensively:

We inspect B-stage of speulations in Part 2 and deduce a general theory of it in Part 3.

Hope, it helps.

*: Vorwort heißt Vorwort, weil's zuletzt geschrieben wird.

  • Thank you very much, Oleg, for this great answer. :)
    – Til Hund
    Nov 6, 2018 at 20:42

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