Chapter 1 Made Easy -->

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Chapter 1 Made Easy

28 comments

By Jamie Patterson, Dissertation Editor

The number one problem I see with the writing in chapter 1 of a capstone study is that the writer is trying too hard. This should come as really great news if you haven’t started writing and will probably come as a blow if you have. Not to worry; this blog post is all anyone needs to write or revise for a perfect chapter 1--that is, if you’re writing a dissertation or an EdD research study. (My apologies to other schools, which have slightly different requirements.) Some of the golden nuggets to follow will certainly apply, but know that requirements for DBA and EdD project studies are slightly different.

No matter what school you’re in, my first piece of advice for making chapter 1 easy is to write it after chapter 3. Chapter 3 is where you’ll delineate the methodology of your study, where you’ll get to the real nuts and bolts of what it is that you’ll be doing. Because chapter 1 is introducing your study, it will be much easier to write after you’ve had a chance to really formalize what, exactly, it is that you’ll be doing.

Next, keep things as simple and to the point as possible. Never forget that chapter 1 is an introduction and is meant to do just that: introduce. Clear, concise, and to the point should be your writer’s mantra (referred to by APA as “economy of expression”). Chapter 1 in particular is incredibly formulaic. There are very specific pieces of information that you must present to your reader. Rubrics are available to help you present this specific information: http://researchcenter.waldenu.edu

Taking the rubric, then, you’ll outline your chapter 1 in this way:

Introduction (Shoot for one page, maybe two. Refer to greater detail in chapter 2)
Problem Statement (A really strong paragraph will suffice)
Nature of the Study (One paragraph. Refer to greater detail in chapter 3)
Research Questions and Hypotheses (Simply list your research questions. Note: if qualitative, no hypotheses)
Research Objectives (One paragraph)
Purpose of the Study (One paragraph)
Theoretical Base (quantitative) or Conceptual Framework (qualitative; no more than a page)
Operational Definitions (Four or five are fine)
Assumptions (Short paragraph)
Limitations (Short paragraph)
Scope and Delimitations (Short paragraph)
Significance of the Study (No more than a page)
Summary and Transition (No more than a page)

Okay, now that we’ve completely mapped out all the Level 1 headings for your chapter 1 (and I do mean completely; please don’t add to these headings), let’s talk about some elements here that might not be intuitive for all writers.

To begin, at Walden all quantitative studies require a null and an alternative hypothesis. When you present your research questions and hypotheses, do so by presenting the question, followed immediately by the corresponding null and alternative hypotheses, following the example below and the guidelines on APA 4.45 for guidance.

Research Question 1: Listed here following a one half inch indent, followed by a question mark.
H01: Place the H in italics, the 0 in subscript, and 1 in plain font, followed by a colon, followed by the hypothesis.
H11: The alternative hypothesis will follow the null hypothesis.
Research Question 2: Most often, focusing your research questions and limiting the number will also help you to focus the entire study.
H02: The null hypothesis for Research Question 2 goes here.
H12: The alternative hypothesis for Research Question 2 goes here.

Note that qualitative studies are not hypothesis driven and therefore will not include hypotheses.

Next, note that the assumptions will be based on the study itself. That is, what will you assume to be true as you conduct this study? For most qualitative studies, for instance, the researcher assumes that the participants will be honest and open in their responses. For all studies, the researcher makes the assumption that the chosen methodology is the best possible tool for solving the research problem. Take care to leave any assumptions about the outcome of your study out of this section (a common mistake I see). Remember you are an unbiased scientist. The assumptions you make in chapter 1 are related to the functionality of the study itself.

Finally, let’s talk about limitations and delimitations in very basic terms. The limitations are elements of your study that you have no control over. The delimitations of the study are choices you made as a researcher. That’s why the delimitations and scope of the study are often grouped together: both the delimitations and scope are explaining the choices you made to define the parameters of the study.

Seems pretty simple, right?
It is!

I promise you, it is. Chapter 1 is as formulaic as it comes, and it behooves you to follow that formula as closely as possible. Think of who your actual readers will be: people like me who read hundreds, if not thousands, of academic documents in a single year. There’s a specific language that extends to how and when information is presented, and meeting your educated readers’ expectations of that language and presentation will make it easier for your content to shine through.

So, just to review: write chapter 1 after you’ve written chapter 3 and, I would suggest, after you’ve at least started the research for chapter 2. Keep things simple, concise, and rubric adherent. Remember: after you’ve fulfilled the requirements of the rubric you can stop writing. Really.

Chapter 1 is just that easy.

28 comments :

  1. Hi Jamie,

    What to do? Should I rewrite to cut down what I have already written? I have been working off the Step-by-Step for Writing Dissertations manual that I downloaded about a year ago. Your wonderful, cut to the chase, is not what this manual instructs. For example, for the theoretical framework it states 2-3 pages or for the introduction it states 2-3 pages plus than another 3-4 pages for the background. You do not even mention a background. Please advise. Thanx! Cheers, Sarah-Kate Hawkins (sarahkate.hawkins@waldenu.edu)

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  2. Jaimie,
    Your comments solved my problem and I can't thank you enough. Regarding chapter 2 in a quantitative study do you have any other outlines or am I on my own.
    Barbara

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  3. Hi, Barbara! Jamie talks about chapter 2 here: http://waldenwritingcenter.blogspot.com/2012/02/when-is-literature-review-literature.html. I hope it helps!

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  4. This is what I've been searching for. Thank you all!!

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    1. You are so welcome! We are so glad you found this blog post to be helpful.

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  5. Thanks Jamie,

    I felt more confident writing and revising chapter 1 of my dissertation. Thanks again!!

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    Replies
    1. Hurray, Jamie!

      We are thrilled to discover that this blog post helped fuel your confidence! We wish you the best on your continued writing.

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  6. Thanks Jamie,

    I'm getting prepared to begin my dissertation work I found your note very helpful. Keep posting!

    Andy

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    1. It looks like this blog post came at a great time for you. We are thrilled to see that it was helpful to you.

      Thank you for your encouragement to keep posts like this one coming!

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  7. Hi Jame, thanks for this. I will be submitting chapter 1 shortly. This gave me some guidelines in terms of length and depth. I will write again to let you know how it goes.

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    1. We are thrilled that this post was helpful to you! Please do let us know how your writing is coming a long. Here is our email: editor@waldenu.edu

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  8. Jamie - I cannot express in words how helpful this was. If you knew how many pages I am currently at with the first draft of my proposal, you would tell me to stop and EDIT!

    Thank you :-)

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    Replies
    1. Hurray! We are so glad to hear how helpful this blog post was to you! Thank you so much for letting us know.

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  9. Jamie,

    Thank you so much for your "Chapter 1 Made Easy" piece. So incredibly helpful!

    So...how about a "Chapter's 2 & 3 Made Easy"???

    Best,

    Josh

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    1. Josh,
      You can find Jamie's chapter 2 (literature review) blog post here: http://waldenwritingcenter.blogspot.com/2012/02/when-is-literature-review-literature.html. We'll see about adding more "made easy" posts, okay? Also join us for webinars on each of the chapters. Our webinar schedule is http://writingcenter.waldenu.edu/415.htm

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  10. Don't worry everyone!

    It's a common student instinct to overwrite this chapter because you're excited about the topic or want to show off the interesting literature you've been reading. That's why it's great to make an appointment with a tutor or to step back on your own and ask yourself how much background you actually need.

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  11. Hey - to anyone reading this blog, someone needs to address how we are to insert a figure into the body of our document (it sure is easier to have them all at the end on individual pages). I have no problem getting a figure onto the page, but then ... ! OMG! How do you want us to format it so that it's not moving text all over the place or text moving it everywhere? How do you want the layout? Horizontal and Vertical alignment? Lock anchor? Move object with text? Allow overlap? Layout in table cell?

    This stuff needs serious addressing.

    Thanks! :)

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the suggestion. We'll put this topic on the rotation for a future Tech Tips blog post.

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  12. Thank you Jamie for a great synopsis and suggestions regarding the 'flow of chapters'. It can be a bit overwhelming for those of us just beginning the arduous dissertation journey. I appreciate your willingness to share with us insights that ease the process and lighten the load.

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  13. VBBey-Walden Ph.D. H.S candidateApril 7, 2013 at 7:51 PM

    This entire dialogue was very helpful. I am building on my introduction page for my final project, and Jamie explained a cut to the chase breakdown on each area of the research. Thanks for all the helpful tips. I really see an amazing amount of information here to assist with all the things that I need to better perform in. For example, cohesion and flow, critical thinking, and writing in general.

    I'll be visiting the webinar site more often.

    VBBey

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for your thoughtful response. We are glad that you will be visiting more often.

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  14. hi i am just like a new born baby in research.my teacher gave me a topic for presentation and that is how to write first chepter of research?i just want to ask that is yous above given details are related to my topic?

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    1. We are so glad to receive that this blog post was helpful to you.

      To answer your question, the topics do differ.

      Feel free to connect with us via email and ask any further questions that you may have: editor@waldenu.edu

      Thank you!

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  15. Thanks so much. I have read so much guidance I was feeling befuddled and am revisiting the Introduction Chapter as I write up. Your clarity is such a relief. Many thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you for sharing that you were feeling befuddled and that this blog post provided you with relief. Hurray!

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  16. Hello Jamie,
    Is the outline update with the new dissertation template, Updated September 2016? What is the background length? Thanks for this blog it's exactly what I was looking. With the posted questions being from 2012, I want to make sure everything discussed still applies.
    Thank you
    Jackie Wilson jacquelyne.wilson@waldenu.edu

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    Replies
    1. Greetings Jackie! Thanks for checking in about the updates to the new dissertation template. You definitely pointed out an important point: This advice was published in 2011 and there have been a great deal of updates to the Walden U Dissertation process since then. Use these suggestions as general advice only, but make sure you are paying close attention to the current requirements.

      Did you know that you can email Editor@WaldenU.edu with any and all capstone-related questions. This email account is monitored by a REAL person (not a robot), and that real person is a professional Writing Center Dissertation Editor. They work with Capstone writers like you all the time and can answer your questions in detail.

      Please reach out to our Capstone Editor team [ Editor@waldenu.edu ] and GOOD LUCK!

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