This can take many forms including a survey of the history of the occurrence of the problem or phenomenon and a summary or brief review of previous research on the topic.
• Explain the value or significance of your research, which is often achieved as or immediately after you introduce background material.
The most obvious answer is as long as it needs to be – no longer and no shorter.
This is absolutely true, but also rather unhelpful if you do not yet know exactly how long your introduction needs to be.
Significance can be demonstrated by describing the impact of a problem, its complexity or mysterious nature, its occurrence and persistence, and the number of people or regions affected.
• Indicate gaps, problems, misconceptions and the like in the published research on your topic or in your subject area, and suggest how your research aims to fill those gaps, resolve the problems and correct any misconceptions by presenting new ways of perceiving and understanding the situation.A conceptual framework is very much like an accurate textual map of the territory investigated in your research, so it should allow you to include in meaningful ways everything you wish to report, discuss, interpret and argue.• Outline the aims and objectives of your research.A doctoral thesis in the humanities might consist of a good many more words and paragraphs than a Ph D thesis in the sciences does, but that scientific thesis might in turn make up the difference in tables, charts and other presentations of data.In a traditionally structured scientific thesis at the postgraduate level, where the introduction is followed by chapters dedicated to methodology, results, discussion and, finally, conclusions, an introduction that constitutes about 10% of the overall length is generally acceptable.The level of the research conducted by the student, the academic or scientific discipline, the depth of specialisation, the topic or problem investigated and the preferences of the department as well as the advice of the student’s mentors are among these.The nature of the research, then, will determine the length and much else about the introduction because it is that research that the introduction must introduce, and introduce well, to examiners and other readers.Even more important, however, will be the content you are required to include in your introduction.Here, too, those guidelines, mentors and successful theses and dissertations will prove invaluable.In fact, the introductions to scholarly theses and dissertations of all kinds tend to have very similar primary functions, so I have listed a number of these below.Do be aware, however, that these points are particularly relevant to a thesis or dissertation that makes an original contribution to knowledge.