Chalmers Writing Guide

Background / theory

 Most theses contain a section between the introduction and the methods section. This varies considerably from field to field but might be an extended background to the topic, a theoretical section or a literature review. In a thesis describing experimental work, for example, the theory section provides the theoretical framework to understand the phenomenon / product treated by the laboratory test or report. In a thesis describing a case study, a literature review offers an overview of significant literature published on a topic. In general, this section should:
- show the reader you have done thorough research and are “well-versed in the field”, which will add strength and credibility to the claims you make later in the thesis

-justify your choice of research question, theoretical framework and method

-establish the importance of the topic

-provide background information needed to understand the study

-establish your study as a link in a chain of research

Content of the theory section

The content of the theory should be chosen based on the theory that your project is based on and how your thesis fits into that research area (see table 1).

Table 1: Elements of a theory section

Relevant theory
Presents the theory that provides the foundation for the report; gives the reader what he/she needs to know in order to interpret and understand your results and how you arrived at them. This theory should be referred to in the discussion / conclusion part of the report as well to show how your research connects to existing research.
Justifying choices
Explains how experiments/reports connect to or are influenced by the related theoretical framework; gives theoretical background of the choices made during the course of the work


-For more advice on selecting and using information, see Using information

-For more advice on writing a literature review, watch this Youtube clip from the North Carolina State University Libraries.