In Introducing the Introduction I explained that a PhD introduction has two primary roles: research context and thesis map or guide. This article focuses on the first of those two roles, which is to provide sufficient background information so that the reader can appreciate the importance of the research, its rationale, its purpose and where it fits within the existing body of knowledge.
A good starting point for this is to ask yourself why you are doing the particular research project. What is it that interested you and made you think it was a research question worth asking? If you can answer that then you have an obvious segue into the research question and how you will attempt to answer it. From there you simply need to build backwards to provide the background context.
If there was a particular issue, event or incident that triggered your interest then begin by explaining what it was. As part of that explanation it usually helps to discuss the history of the issue, event or incident – the back story. This will go a long way to establishing the context as it sets out the conditions and events that resulted in the circumstances giving rise to your research question.
Once you have described how the world arrived at the particular point where your research question arose or became important, then you should discuss what, if anything, has happened since then that affects your research. Have there been any (unsuccessful) attempts to resolve the issue or any important parallel developments? Try to include any factor that has shaped your research question or is likely to affect your answer to that question. You can end this part of your introduction by setting out your research question as a connection between the context of your research and the guide to your thesis. The PhD Consultancy can provide any support and assistance you need to produce a powerful introduction.