I am writing my proposal (that is, the qualifying exam/proposal defence right before the final thesis defence) and my advisor suggested in my outline for the 1st chapter(Introduction) the following order:

  1. Introduction to the domain
  2. Motivating the proposed approach using an example
  3. Discussing in brief the reasons why state-of-the-art fail to address certain parts of the problem
  4. Our approach mentioning its different parts in brief
  5. Challenges in the field/problem that our approach needs to address
  6. Our contribution

I am a little lost on how to separately write the subsections for approach and contribution. Are these two terms different? If so how?

  • 1
    What does your advisor think?
    – Bryan Krause
    Sep 22, 2021 at 2:21

1 Answer 1


An approach is a description of your methodology. A contribution statement describes how your study advances the literature. The approach could be the 98% the same for two studies, but the contribution could be very different.

People read an approach to see how you technically did something. This is probably very long. A contribution statement is typically short (probably something like 10% or less in length compared to the approach) that is sort of an "elevator pitch."

For example, let's say a lot of research on concussion and depression has been done in male athletes1. You could do the exact same diagnostic, imaging, and questionnaire batteries in college football athletes and female soccer athletes, but add in another questionnaire that better matches depression symptoms that women report vs. men.

The approach sections would be very similar, but the contribution of the second study (an understudied population, a more psychometrically valid instrument) is greater.

1 This is a made-up example but not one I think is totally implausible.

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