Chapter 1 Made Easy -->

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Chapter 1 Made Easy

Jamie Patterson picture
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 on the Walden Center for Research Quality website.

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.


Anonymous said...

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 (

Anonymous said...

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.

Walden Writing Center said...

Hi, Barbara! Jamie talks about chapter 2 here: I hope it helps!

Dr.FeB's said...

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

Anonymous said...

Thanks Jamie,

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

Andy said...

Thanks Jamie,

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


Anonymous said...

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.

Anonymous said...

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 :-)

Josh said...


Thank you so much for your "Chapter 1 Made Easy" piece. So incredibly helpful! about a "Chapter's 2 & 3 Made Easy"???



Walden Writing Center said...

You can find Jamie's chapter 2 (literature review) blog post here: We'll see about adding more "made easy" posts, okay? Also join us for webinars on each of the chapters. Our webinar schedule is

Walden Writing Center said...

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.

Anonymous said...

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! :)

Chaise said...

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.

Walden Writing Center said...

You're welcome, Chaise!

Walden Writing Center said...

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

VBBey-Walden Ph.D. H.S candidate said...

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.


Sparrow said...

hi i am just like a new born baby in 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?

linwinn said...

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.

Walden Writing Center said...

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

Walden Writing Center said...

Hurray, Jamie!

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

Walden Writing Center said...

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!

Walden Writing Center said...

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:

Walden Writing Center said...

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

Walden Writing Center said...

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

Walden Writing Center said...

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:

Thank you!

Walden Writing Center said...

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

Unknown said...

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

Walden Writing Center said...

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 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 [ ] and GOOD LUCK!

Unknown said...

I am from another university writing my dissertation chapter 1 and this helped a lot. Thank you.
I have heard that writing chapter 3 first is the easiest way to go about this.

Walden Writing Center said...

Oh, fantastic, Shauna!! Congratulations on reaching your dissertation writing process, and good luck. The task can be daunting, but it is so rewarding! The WUWC Blog is here for you!!! :) How did you find us?

Inquiring Mind Wants to Know said...

Hello. Respectfully, some of the information here appears to be incorrect or either some information is missing. How can the student have limitations in the proposal? After a person conducts the study, the individual then discovers the limitations of the study. The research the student conducts as described in Chapter 3 and discussed in chapter 4 enables the writer to recognize the limitations. Are you referring to delimitations? If you anticipate limitations at the onset of the study, then this recognition would allow you to update the study to prevent this piece from occurring? Please clarify.

Inquiring Mind Wants to Know said...

Please clarify why the writer would have limitations to a study during the proposal stage when that individual has not even conducted the study? If a researcher knows the limitations at the onset, wouldn't that person design the study to avoid those limitations. Do you mean delimitations? Additionally, if the writer has not conducted the study yet, could the writer label the study as significant? Do you mean Rationale for the Study or Importance of the Study? Please clarify.

Walden Writing Center said...

Hi, Inquiring Mind Wants to Know! Great questions. I suggest contacting our editors, who work on capstone documents, with your questions at As well, since capstone work is verb discipline and committee dependent, you might as your professor / committee for guidance on developing a study proposal.

Walden Writing Center said...

Great questions. Since editors work on capstone documents, I suggest contacting them with your questions ( That said, capstone work is very discipline and committee dependent, so it is best to discuss any proposal, dissertation, or project study developments and documents with your professor / committee.

C Doss said...

Where can I locate Jamie's Blog on Chapter 2. The Blog on chapter 1 was great!

Cliff Doss

Walden Writing Center said...

Hi Cliff! Although this isn't titled as a "made easy" post, here is what Jamie had to say about the literature review section:

DotyLovesEnglish said...

You mentioned that EdD project studies are different. Is it the headings/rubric alone that are different or the approach, paragaraph/page length, and other facets as well?

DotyLovesEnglish said...

Is there a concise blog over chapter 3 as well (for an EdD project study)? Thanks in advance!

Walden Writing Center said...

Hi Doty! Thanks for your questions. Since the answers to these questions require discipline and program specific information, we encourage you to reach out to your Chair/committee as much as possible. The Walden University Writing Center Dissertation Editors also have an email account you can reach out to with specific questions about writing your capstone project: Editor [at] WaldenU [dot] edu is a great way to get in touch with those who are trained to support your capstone work.