Research Structure

Background to the Study

The Background to the Study is the first essential component of Chapter One of your research project. It introduces the background to the study in order to situate the study in its proper perspective and context. It indicates the root of the problem being studied, presents appropriate context of the problem in relation to theory, research, and the extent to which previous studies have successfully investigated the problem, and where gaps exist that your study may attempt to address. In a nutshell, the background to your research project must include a detailed information in which you (a) explain what previous studies state about your topic, (b) discuss current developments surrounding your topic, and (c) identify the gap in literature that leads to your study. As you write the background statement, think through the learning outcomes:

 Learning Outcomes

By the time you complete this tutorial, you should be able to:

  1. state the general information on the background
  2. state the specific information on the background
  3. identify gaps in the study
  4. raise appropriate questions about the identified gaps
  5. provide scientific answers to the questions raised about identified gaps
  6. cite appropriately all sources and acknowledge them accordingly
The General Information on the Background

This part of the background focuses on the general scope of the study. It takes into account information that has general association with the topic under study. For instance, if it has to do with managing conflicts in the tourism sector, the general information can look at the general definition of conflicts; its effect on performance of workers in the hospitality industry and how it compares with the other known conflict management techniques; its disadvantages and the benefits derived from processes in managing conflict.

With this arrangement, you would be able to present a general idea on the topic and more importantly arrange your write-up in a logical format.

Example 1

If the research statement is about a new Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI) technology that can reduce the financial burden and the inconvenience of learners (workers) who combine studies with work, and also cover large distances in order to access instructions, then begin with statements about the overall importance of CAI. Discuss the educational, financial and societal implications for learners who cannot access instructions because of their proximity, job and family engagements. Talk about general goals that can improve online learning. Finally, describe how the particular subject of your research statement relates to those national or institutional needs (Mahama, 2013).

Example 2

Similarly, if you are writing a proposal on a study that will reduce congestion on urban streets, describe the extent of the problem. How much time is lost due to congestion at national level? How much does it affect air quality? How does your particular problem contribute to the solution? If your research statement describes a method or practice that will improve efficiencies in procedures in your focus area, how much time and resources are wasted by current practices.

Another example of general information on background by Soyebo and Omokayode (2016) is presented in Figure 1.


Figure. 1: Sample of background of study Source:

The Specific Information on the Background

The specific information on the background narrows the information and brings the chosen topic to focus by considering issues that precisely relate the topic. It forms the basis of the study. For instance,

  • If the topic is on implementing Computer-Assisted Instruction (CAI) as an instructional delivery media for online learning, you must concentrate on the strength and weaknesses of CAI as an online instructional delivery media vis-à-vis the other known instructional delivery media. You should as well highlight other known media of instructions on which the implementation can be based.
  • If the topic is on appraisal of composting as a waste management technique, you must concentrate on the strength and weaknesses of the composting as a waste management techniques vis-à-vis the other known waste management techniques. You must also highlight the other known methods of assessment that the appraisal can be based on (Fig. 2)
Pyrolysis, also referred to as thermolysis, gasification, cracking is a thermochemical decomposition of waste (organic and inorganic) to generate useful products such as gas, biofuel, char or activated carbon which can be used as raw materials to propel industrial growth. This waste management method is conspicuously missing as waste management technique in Ghana. This may be due to the lack of the technical expertise in the area or the facilities. That notwithstanding, pyrolysis offers the opportunity for the management of both organic and inorganic waste for energy generation and provision of other useful raw materials for industries.

Figure 2: Sample specific information on background. Source: Kutsanedzie, et al. (2015)

Identification of Gaps in the Background Information

This is the basis of the study which advances an argument for a scientific or intellectual discourse (Kutsanedzie, et al., 2015). It is best practice to identify a problem before finding a solution to it and not vice-versa. In this section, you point out the gaps available in the presented information captured in the specific information background. For instance, as regard the topic on composting stated earlier, though it is regarded as the most environmentally friendly organic waste management method and its product are beneficial for enriching the soil as an organic fertilizer. And when used immaturely, it can serve an entry of zoonotic and pathogenic microbes into the food chain to pose health hazards and threats to the public. This identified gap can stimulate the debate for the study (Figure 3).

Organic waste such as the coconut cannot easily be degraded via composting into organic fertilizer and biogas technology for gas generation. In terms of inorganic waste, plastics for packaging of water, food and gifts are predominant, and these cannot be managed by both aerobic and anaerobic digestion. According to Mohana et al. (2012) waste plastics also do not biodegrade in landfills and therefore are not easily recycled. For effective management of the country‘s waste challenges, a suitable waste management technique such as pyrolysis must be studied for its feasibility and effectiveness of being used for the management coconut fruit waste and plastic waste types for energy generation and industrial raw materials production for wealth creation.

Figure 3: Sample gap of the study. Source: Kutsanedzie, et al. (2015)

Raising Appropriate Questions on Identified Gaps

Once you have identified a gap in the study, it is now mandatory on you to raise all the necessary questions. The answers to these questions then become solutions for bridging the identified gaps. For example, (a) how can the survived zoonotic and pathogenic microbes be eliminated in the final compost, (b) what composting method can be used to achieve pathogenic-free compost, (c) how can teaching and learning be achieved by non residential learners, and (d) what instructional delivery media can be provided for online learners?

Providing Answers to Questions on Identified Gaps

This is where you propose interim answers to the raised questions although the study is yet to be undertaken. This is referred to as the project statement. For the questions raised in our example, the study statement can be framed as ― (a) there is a method of composting that can be used to achieve pathogenic-free compost, or (b) a much more efficient instructional delivery media can be developed to enhance online teaching and learning.


Kutsanedzie, F., Achio, S., & Ameko, E. (2015). Comprehensive approach to research writing and publication (1st ed.). New York: Science Publishing Group. ISBN: 978-1-940366-51-7

Mahama, A. (2013). Developing a sustainable computer-assisted instruction program for online learning (unpublished doctoral thesis). Honolulu: Atlantic International University

Mahama, A. (2015). ICT usage: The case of Junior High students, Ablekuma, Ghana. Deutschland, Germany: Scholars’ Press. ISBN: 978-3-639-76854-1. Also accessible at

Soyebo, K. O., & Omokayode, H. A. (2016). IUG Journal of Humanities and Social Sciences, 1(1), p. 1. ISSN: 2579 0390. Retrieved November 1, 2017 from

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). Writing a research statement. Retrieved October 21, 2017 from

Zepernick, J. (2015). Ten tips for writing an effective introduction in a research paper. Think Science. Retrieved October 20, 2017 from

4 replies on “Background to the Study”

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