Writing the Background of Your Study

The background of every study is the story existing behind it and usually comes in the introduction of a paper or thesis, though it is possible to elaborate on it later in the discussion section. Regardless of where you present your research background, you must concentrate on key goals in presenting it.

The reason for presenting the background is for your reader to understand the reason why you asked the research question and how your results adds to current evidence. It means that as you present the previous results, you should let your reader see the study gaps. In fact, the reader should know that your study aims to fill one or more of these gaps.

Keep focused

It might be tempting to start your background with different stories, but it is crucial to choose a right starting point. For example, If the subject of your study is cancer cells, you do not need to begin with the history of medical science. Instead you have to focus on new findings or more recent results that indicate persistent gaps in your field.

As you present the evidence that gave rise to your study, do not elaborate too much. You don’t need to discuss all details of prior findings like every step in a biochemical pathway. Only present those findings that are relevant to your own work and prompted you to ask your research question.

Connect your ideas

A crucial matter in presenting your background is the coherence and integrity of your story. Connecting the ideas and findings in a way to follow each other meaningfully is difficult for many writers. If it is the background of your thesis, then your theme will be its central question. Therefore, you use this theme as a lead in assembling the background of your study and it helps you stick only to the information that is relevant to this theme.

For instance, if you are working on a tumor cell biology with a focus on a specific pathway, that pathway and the steps that you are working on are the theme of your study. In presenting the background of this study you have to focus on the evidences that is directly related to that pathway. Do not expand and elaborate on other pathways or general issues in cell.

Underline the gaps

Your study started by asking a question and you did the research because it was an open question that required an answer. It means that you found a gap in the evidence that already existed. Laying out the relevant evidence that led to your research question, you should point to these gaps. Do not hesitate to clearly refer to gaps that your study aims to fill.

Not literature review

Remember that the background of a thesis is not the same as literature review. The background is directly related to what your work addresses and should keep the focus on that theme, while the literature review is broader and involve anything related to your work even generally. It is where to take the publications you refer to in the background and elaborate on their content and implications, treating them more exhaustively. 

Some tips for writing background section

Think about the direct chain of evidence guiding you to your own study. Prepare a list of the most important findings making up that chain of evidence. 

Summarize each contribution to that chain and make a meaningful story on theme. By using connecting words and phrases such as “then”, “following that discovery”, etc. show connections of your story to reader.

After the completion of your first draft, review it and remove all unnecessary things that do not relate to the chain of evidence that led to your research and the gaps it intends to fill. In the thesis you will be able to go through all these details in literature review section, but remember that the background should be a short summary of your literature review.

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