Masters Introduction chapter help?

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student1c101
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My Masters is almost complete but I am still working on my Introduction chapter. I've got about 3 weeks to finish it so it's not the end of the world but nobody has ever told me what goes in the masters introduction! Does anyone have any guide or examples of a good masters introduction? (I am doing a History by Research)
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gutenberg
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For the introduction to a history master's thesis, you're looking at including a few key things:

* the question(s)/topic under investigation - set out clearly what the thesis will investigate;
* some historical context. You don't need to give a blow-by-blow account of the events/people/phenomenon you're exploring, but some basic context is useful. Bear in mind that the examiners will probably know a bit about the topic, but may not be versed in it in great detail, so providing some background is helpful;
* a historiography review - outlining what has been written on the topic before, and how your work fits into that;
* an outline of your sources, and how you've used them. This could be described as 'methodology', though many historians struggle with that. Just explain your main sources, their strengths and weaknesses, etc.;
* a brief outline of the chapters, and what each will cover.

One thing to try and weave throughout the intro is an answer to the 'so what?' question. Why have you chosen to write on this, and why is it important or relevant? You can answer that at various moments, such as when outlining your research questions - spell out how your approach or focus is relevant and/or original. Likewise in sections on the historiography and sources, there are also opportunities to show why your particular topic needed to be done/expands existing knowledge.

Hope that helps! The intro is often the hardest part to write, so be prepared to give it the time it deserves, and to do rewrites etc. It is important to nail the intro: it's a cliché but a poor or confusing introduction can really put off readers, and leave them less willing to really engage with the rest of the work, so spend the time on it!
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student1c101
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(Original post by gutenberg)
For the introduction to a history master's thesis, you're looking at including a few key things:

* the question(s)/topic under investigation - set out clearly what the thesis will investigate;
* some historical context. You don't need to give a blow-by-blow account of the events/people/phenomenon you're exploring, but some basic context is useful. Bear in mind that the examiners will probably know a bit about the topic, but may not be versed in it in great detail, so providing some background is helpful;
* a historiography review - outlining what has been written on the topic before, and how your work fits into that;
* an outline of your sources, and how you've used them. This could be described as 'methodology', though many historians struggle with that. Just explain your main sources, their strengths and weaknesses, etc.;
* a brief outline of the chapters, and what each will cover.

One thing to try and weave throughout the intro is an answer to the 'so what?' question. Why have you chosen to write on this, and why is it important or relevant? You can answer that at various moments, such as when outlining your research questions - spell out how your approach or focus is relevant and/or original. Likewise in sections on the historiography and sources, there are also opportunities to show why your particular topic needed to be done/expands existing knowledge.

Hope that helps! The intro is often the hardest part to write, so be prepared to give it the time it deserves, and to do rewrites etc. It is important to nail the intro: it's a cliché but a poor or confusing introduction can really put off readers, and leave them less willing to really engage with the rest of the work, so spend the time on it!
Thank you, This is a pretty good outline that I'll attempt to follow. Hopefully because I have a few weeks left I should have plenty of time to edit the introduction until it works.
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gutenberg
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(Original post by student1c101)
Thank you, This is a pretty good outline that I'll attempt to follow. Hopefully because I have a few weeks left I should have plenty of time to edit the introduction until it works.
No worries. The order in which things appear obviously doesn't have to follow what I've set out, it's set out just as the points entered my head, so do play around and find a structure that works for you. You still have time so no reason to worry as far as I can see
What is your dissertation about, out of interest?
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student1c101
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(Original post by gutenberg)
No worries. The order in which things appear obviously doesn't have to follow what I've set out, it's set out just as the points entered my head, so do play around and find a structure that works for you. You still have time so no reason to worry as far as I can see
What is your dissertation about, out of interest?
It's a study on medieval women and how perceptions of then developed.
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QuantumPhys
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(Original post by gutenberg)
For the introduction to a history master's thesis, you're looking at including a few key things:

* the question(s)/topic under investigation - set out clearly what the thesis will investigate;
* some historical context. You don't need to give a blow-by-blow account of the events/people/phenomenon you're exploring, but some basic context is useful. Bear in mind that the examiners will probably know a bit about the topic, but may not be versed in it in great detail, so providing some background is helpful;
* a historiography review - outlining what has been written on the topic before, and how your work fits into that;
* an outline of your sources, and how you've used them. This could be described as 'methodology', though many historians struggle with that. Just explain your main sources, their strengths and weaknesses, etc.;
* a brief outline of the chapters, and what each will cover.

One thing to try and weave throughout the intro is an answer to the 'so what?' question. Why have you chosen to write on this, and why is it important or relevant? You can answer that at various moments, such as when outlining your research questions - spell out how your approach or focus is relevant and/or original. Likewise in sections on the historiography and sources, there are also opportunities to show why your particular topic needed to be done/expands existing knowledge.

Hope that helps! The intro is often the hardest part to write, so be prepared to give it the time it deserves, and to do rewrites etc. It is important to nail the intro: it's a cliché but a poor or confusing introduction can really put off readers, and leave them less willing to really engage with the rest of the work, so spend the time on it!
Do you know if it is possible to base one masters dissertation entirely on secondary sources?
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gutenberg
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(Original post by student1c101)
It's a study on medieval women and how perceptions of then developed.
Sounds very interesting! Good luck!
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gutenberg
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(Original post by QuantumPhys)
Do you know if it is possible to base one masters dissertation entirely on secondary sources?
In history it would be suicidal to have no primary sources at master's level. Even in our undergrads' history dissertations, we expect to see sustained engagement with and analysis of primary sources. So I would say if you wanted to pass, then no it isn't possible.
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(Original post by gutenberg)
In history it would be suicidal to have no primary sources at master's level. Even in our undergrads' history dissertations, we expect to see sustained engagement with and analysis of primary sources. So I would say if you wanted to pass, then no it isn't possible.
By primary sources do you mean interviews, questionnaires etc? What if I analyse a very high-level theory, let's say Marxism, in new empirical context of let's say India, can I base my entire dissertation on secondary studies in the literature and things like government statistics from India?
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gutenberg
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(Original post by QuantumPhys)
By primary sources do you mean interviews, questionnaires etc? What if I analyse a very high-level theory, let's say Marxism, in new empirical context of let's say India, can I base my entire dissertation on secondary studies in the literature and things like government statistics from India?
From your visitor messages it seems you are in economics/sociology? I'm afraid I don't know what the criteria are for a good dissertation at master's level in those subjects - do you have an assigned supervisor? Ask their advice. Or ask in the relevant forums here.

I would say however that having an entirely secondary-based diss would seem strange to me. However, that is how it's done in history, which is what I know in depth. Perhaps it is possible in other subjects, especially through evaluating theories etc. But you need some more, informed advice than what I can offer.
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QuantumPhys
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(Original post by gutenberg)
From your visitor messages it seems you are in economics/sociology? I'm afraid I don't know what the criteria are for a good dissertation at master's level in those subjects - do you have an assigned supervisor? Ask their advice. Or ask in the relevant forums here.

I would say however that having an entirely secondary-based diss would seem strange to me. However, that is how it's done in history, which is what I know in depth. Perhaps it is possible in other subjects, especially through evaluating theories etc. But you need some more, informed advice than what I can offer.
Very interesting, could you please tell me what would be example of a primary data research done on something like "Norman legacy in Sicily and its impact on the Lombards" or something like this? Or a grand historical theory of modernity in the context of WWII? Is it not the case that students would be basically using what is already written, with new argument?
Please explain this to me as a Historian because I genuinely do not know
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gutenberg
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(Original post by QuantumPhys)
Very interesting, could you please tell me what would be example of a primary data research done on something like "Norman legacy in Sicily and its impact on the Lombards" or something like this? Or a grand historical theory of modernity in the context of WWII? Is it not the case that students would be basically using what is already written, with new argument?
Please explain this to me as a Historian because I genuinely do not know
I'm not a medievalist, but if you were interested in Norman Sicily you could for example write about the legacy of the Normans and the contribution of that legacy to the violence of the Sicilian Vespers, and the apparent desire among many Sicilians for a return to the perceived rights and privileges they enjoyed under Norman rule, compared to being ruled by the Hohenstaufen. To do that you would examine a range of primary sources, such as commentaries and accounts of the rebellion: some are contained in 'autobiographies' of key figures, while others exist as independent accounts. History students do of course use other people's writings to help advance their arguments (or as a springboard to disagree and advance a new interpretation), but the fundamental engagement should be with the primary sources as much as possible, trying to ask different questions of it than have been asked in the past. With the Sicilian example, you could for instance decide to see what the role of women was in the violence, and re-examine the primary documents for evidence of female involvement, and build on existing work explaining the conflict by contributing this gender dimension, and what new interpretations it can offer us.
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(Original post by gutenberg)
I'm not a medievalist, but if you were interested in Norman Sicily you could for example write about the legacy of the Normans and the contribution of that legacy to the violence of the Sicilian Vespers, and the apparent desire among many Sicilians for a return to the perceived rights and privileges they enjoyed under Norman rule, compared to being ruled by the Hohenstaufen. To do that you would examine a range of primary sources, such as commentaries and accounts of the rebellion: some are contained in 'autobiographies' of key figures, while others exist as independent accounts. History students do of course use other people's writings to help advance their arguments (or as a springboard to disagree and advance a new interpretation), but the fundamental engagement should be with the primary sources as much as possible, trying to ask different questions of it than have been asked in the past. With the Sicilian example, you could for instance decide to see what the role of women was in the violence, and re-examine the primary documents for evidence of female involvement, and build on existing work explaining the conflict by contributing this gender dimension, and what new interpretations it can offer us.
Thank you for this example. This is a very good example and it helped me to understand how such research would look like. Although an autobiography itself would be in some sort of book/publication and this is why I would consider this a secondary data. I understand that I am wrong and that historians would normally refer to such publication as primary data?
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(Original post by QuantumPhys)
Thank you for this example. This is a very good example and it helped me to understand how such research would look like. Although an autobiography itself would be in some sort of book/publication and this is why I would consider this a secondary data. I understand that I am wrong and that historians would normally refer to such publication as primary data?
1) not all 'autobiographies' are published, especially from earlier periods. Often they were compiled without any intention of publishing them. Even calling them 'autobiographies' is problematic, but it's a useful shorthand for personal writing of some types;

2) if the so-called 'autobiography' was originally written in the 13th century by a witness to the Sicilian Vespers, or soon after, it would be a primary source. Even if it was subsequently published. There are many editions of (for example) medieval chronicles that have been published as scholarly editions by Penguin or the like, to help with accessibility. But they would still be considered primary sources, since (to put it simply) the document was written at the time of the event under investigation, rather than by a 21st-century scholar.
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(Original post by gutenberg)
1) not all 'autobiographies' are published, especially from earlier periods. Often they were compiled without any intention of publishing them. Even calling them 'autobiographies' is problematic, but it's a useful shorthand for personal writing of some types;

2) if the so-called 'autobiography' was originally written in the 13th century by a witness to the Sicilian Vespers, or soon after, it would be a primary source. Even if it was subsequently published. There are many editions of (for example) medieval chronicles that have been published as scholarly editions by Penguin or the like, to help with accessibility. But they would still be considered primary sources, since (to put it simply) the document was written at the time of the event under investigation, rather than by a 21st-century scholar.
By analogy, would you as a scholar consider World Bank, IMF or government body statistics or report to constitute a primary data? Thank you
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(Original post by QuantumPhys)
By analogy, would you as a scholar consider World Bank, IMF or government body statistics or report to constitute a primary data? Thank you
They could be, depending on what you were using them for.
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(Original post by gutenberg)
They could be, depending on what you were using them for.
A theory from the literature makes certain predictions about a particular country, I then take this theory and all of its critique in the literature review, apply it to a new country, and 'test' its predictions on the basis of the aforementioned data. Intuitively, as a scholar, do you see a problem with this way of research?
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It could do, yes. But to reiterate, I think this is something you really need to run by your supervisor to make sure.
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