Structuring Thesis Chapters: The Introductory/ Concluding Paragraphs

Introductory paragraph

A chapter’s introductory paragraph can serve a number of distinctive functions. It can:

  • show the relationship of the chapter to the thesis
  • introduce or signpost the block of text about to be read
  •  provide a link with the preceding chapter (in the same way that the concluding paragraph can provide a link with the following chapter).

The introductory paragraph is also the first of a number of paragraphs constituting a discrete chapter, so it can also link with the following paragraph in the chapter.

Consider a simple checklist to confirm that your introductory paragraphs function to:


 It’s a relatively simple matter to review your work to establish if your introductory paragraphs are fulfilling each of these functions. Relatively simple, that is, if you are clear on what it is your thesis is arguing and have a clear sense of what the chapter covers!

 Concluding paragraph

In terms of function, a chapter’s concluding paragraph mirrors the introductory paragraph. The concluding paragraph can:

  •  reiterate how this chapter (the block of text just read) was related to the thesis
  •  provide a sense of completion or conclusion for this particular block of text
  •  provide a link with the following chapter.

And as the last of a number of paragraphs constituting the chapter, so it can also

  • link with the chapter’s preceding paragraph(s).

Again, consider a simple checklist!

The following chapter, ‘Searching for demons: the quest for balance and harmony’ from the Masters thesis Encircling the wind: the inscription of Chinese medicine on the Australian landscape demonstrates how simple it is to ensure that a chapter’s introductory and concluding paragraphs are achieving these functions.


 The preceding chapter suggested [1] that the sources for Chinese medicine are not ‘static’, but change over time according to the new contexts in which they are read. This dynamic and fluid aspect of the sources of Chinese medicine can be seen in relation to the ancient medical concept of ke [2] or possession (Sivin 1987, Harper 1982, Unschuld 1980). As this chapter indicates, [3] the concept dates to early Chou times and has remained a key idea for ‘traditional’ medicine, though not in the same way.As this chapter argues, since Chou times possession has been apprehended according to the changing contexts of social life, in terms of which it has assumed various meanings and translations. [4]


 By focusing on the notion of possession, [5] practitioners are introduced to other ways of understanding how qi can also be an evil influence. The discussion returns practioners to ‘unfamiliar’ ways of understanding illness causation and how this informs our understanding of states of being. This chapter has shown [6] how evil qi or possession can be understood differently at different times and still have meaning for people. The following chapter focuses on [7]  more familiar emblematic structures such as yinyang, qi, wu xing and liu jing, giving emphasis to how true qi is said to move and change in the body. Comprehension of these and other Chinese medical ideas builds upon the metaphor and symbols which inform and structure discourse on the nature of qi. [8]

[1] Links with the previous chapter.[2] Moves onto aspects to be dealt with in this block of text.

[3] Signposts what’s covered in this chapter.

[4] Relates the chapter to the thesis.

[5] Links with the preceding paragraph (which dealt with the notion of possession).

[6] Concludes this particular chapter.

[7] Links with the following chapter.

[8] Links with the thesis (the first and second sentences linking the content of this chapter to the thesis, while the final sentence links this and other chapters to the thesis).

The next example, from Greg Gow’s PhD thesis The language of culture and the culture of language: Oromo identity in Melbourne, Australia, shows how a link can be established between the concluding paragraph of one chapter and the introductory paragraph of the next.

Chapter 4: The mourning of a ‘nation’ without a ‘state’


 The Oromo may be forgotten, unrecognised and ‘nationless’ in the somewhat old fashioned sense which still informs most of the world’s élite and the subjugated Oromo nationalists. Nevertheless, in this small park in inner-city Melbourne [9] a nation – perhaps a postmodern nation—expressed itself in celebration. Like the gaddaa condolence ritual and the transgressive speech at the African cultural festival, it is in such collective activity that Melbourne’s Oromo transform their standing. [10] Such performances function as a virtual cipher for the carnivalesque: the elements of play, celebration, transgression and subversion enabling Oromo people to turn (momentarily) the ‘natural order of things’ to their own ends (Buchanan 1997b, pp. 177-8). As argued throughout this thesis, language provides the common link in all of the performances. [11] But what is striking in the performances, like the women’s at the barbeque, is the critical role of music. As the following chapter elaborates, [12]music serves to provide a focal point in the transformation of Oromo individuals into an Oromo nation, as the transgressive carnival moves beyond extraordinary singular occasions to the quotidian ‘everyday’.

Chapter 5: Musical aesthetics and the production of place


 Melbourne’s Oromo singers/musicians Shantam Shubisa, Afandi Siyo and Ture Lenco are displaced musicians whose identities have been largely built around their music and the Oromo Liberation struggle. For these musicians, identity has been eroded with their displacement from rural Oromiya and the immediate struggle. At the same time, they must keep identifying with the struggle, which gives cohesion, not only to these musicians but more generally to Melbourne’s Oromo community, [13] for whom it is a unifying factor. Because so many people have paid such a high price for the struggle, they cannot imagine life without it. Music feeds their imagination by providing points of connection with a rural world and the struggle of the past. Indeed, the re-creation of rural identities in Melbourne largely depends upon these musicians and their music. For many of Melbourne’s Oromo, music does not merely evoke nostalgic memories of a place now gone but, rather, serves as the primary means by which they are able to maintain connections with the land (biyya). [14] Via a fusion of fantasy and real bodily practices, musical activities affectively define a space without boundaries—enabling Melbourne’s Oromo to materially relocate themselves from marginalised city-bound people to city-based Oromo with rural identities. [15]

 [9] Links with the preceding paragraph (dealing with an Oromo women’s barbeque at a small  park).

[10] Concludes this particular chapter (by reiterating the meaning or significance of what has been described).

[11] Links with the thesis.

[12]Links with the following chapter.

[13] Implicitly links with the previous chapter (and its themes of collective identity formation, displacement and cohesion—previously of women, now of musicians).

[14] Specifies aspects to be covered in this chapter.

[15] Relates the chapter to the overall thesis.


Adams., R. (2013). DEMYSTIFY YOUR THESIS (p132) . Victoria University

1 Comment
  1. Abdullahi Inusa says

    The literature references suppose to be for long. ? I mean how many years of resource referance materials do we need for literature review ?

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