Introducing the Topic, Its Significance and Your Conceptual Framework

Introducing the Topic, Its Significance and Your Conceptual Framework
One of the primary purposes of the introduction in a thesis proposal (as in the thesis itself) is to identify the topic, problem or phenomenon on which the proposal and ultimately the thesis will focus. This might be introduced at any time in the introduction, though mentioning it briefly near the beginning and developing it as you proceed into a more comprehensive statement often works well. You should aim for absolute clarity and a precise definition of the nature and parameters of your topic, and be prepared to adjust your statement(s) in response to the feedback of your supervisor and other members of your thesis committee. It is essential to get this element of the proposal right during the proposal meeting if not before, because it lies at the heart of the thesis you will write, and changing it once the thesis is drafted can involve a great deal of work. The research you do in the course of the thesis may well necessitate some later adjustments to the problem as initially stated, but that is a very different matter.
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An introduction should also explain the significance of the topic, problem or phenomenon under investigation. This is sometimes addressed immediately after identifying the topic, but it can also be achieved in the course of or immediately after outlining the background of your research and previous scholarship in the area. The significance of the topic, problem or phenomenon can be indicated in a number of ways, such as describing its impact, its complexity or mysterious nature, its occurrence and persistence, or the number of people or regions affected. The significance of your research topic is intertwined with the nature and methodology of your research, and your thesis committee may have suggestions for improvements and clarifications that are well worth consideration.
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Also essential in an introduction is the establishment of a conceptual framework for the proposal and the thesis as a whole. A conceptual framework is very much like a textual map of the territory that you intend to investigate – a map that serves to define exactly what the territory that will be covered by the thesis is. Like the topic, problem or phenomenon you intend to explore in your thesis, the conceptual framework you describe in your proposal (or thesis) introduction may well change somewhat as your research develops, and it may also require some refinement in response to suggestions from your supervisor and thesis committee. It is essential to begin with a framework that allows you to include in meaningful ways everything you wish to investigate in your research. Tables and figures are sometimes used to visualise and clarify the conceptual framework of a thesis, so if you think they will be helpful for communicating your meaning to your thesis committee, do design them carefully and include them in your proposal introduction.

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