When you’re pursuing a PhD, and occasionally also for a Master’s degree, you will be required to do a dissertation. A dissertation, also known as a thesis, is a long paper detailing either an extended analysis of a topic, or original research, depending on your field of study. It is reviewed and examined by a thesis committee, and it’s the most important step for obtaining your doctorate.
Part of the writing process for your dissertation is the “background.” The background is a section of your thesis paper, and it’s actually distinct from the introduction. The introduction of your paper gives an overview of the subject of your thesis. It emphasizes the importance and utility of your area of research, overviewing what is currently known and outlining how your original thesis work can contribute to modern academic understanding of the topic. The “background” is a bit different. This section provides a review of the current literature on the subject. You’ll be synthesizing and discussing what is currently known, and what prior research or analysis has demonstrated. It gives an idea of the unanswered questions that your thesis will be examining, providing the larger context into which your work will fit. The background is usually separate from the introduction, though not always.
If you’re not sure how to write the background for your thesis paper, it’s often helpful to look at some examples to get a better idea of what it should look like and what it should include. Some of the places you can look for example dissertation papers include: