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How to Write the Introduction

By Barbara Gastel | Aug. 21, 2023  | Research writing

The blog comprises hints from How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper, 9th edition (2022). These suggestions come from Chapter 10, “How to Write the Introduction”.

Three points from this chapter: 
(1) In a scientific paper, major roles of the introduction include (1) giving readers the background needed to understand and appreciate the research being reported and (2) indicating the purpose of the research. 
(2) The introduction usually should resemble a funnel, starting with the broad context and then narrowing down to focus on the new research being reported. It generally should (1) begin with information on the overall topic and its importance, then (2) present highlights of relevant previous research, then (3) identify the knowledge gap that the current research was meant to fill, and then (4) indicate the objectives, research questions, or hypotheses of the research. Near the end, sometimes the introduction (5) states the general approach used in the research. Sometimes, it also (6) states the main findings. Whether it does so tends to vary among fields and journals.  
(3) The usual length of the introduction varies among fields and journals. In some fields and journals, the introduction is short (a few paragraphs or just one paragraph). In other fields and journals, the introduction may be long, sometimes containing an extensive review of the literature. If unsure how long your introduction should be, see whether the journal’s instructions for authors say anything in this regard, and look at other introductions in your target journal. 

Looking forward to providing some points from other chapters next time!

Barbara Gastel, MD, is professor of integrative biosciences and medical humanities at Texas A&M University, College Station, USA, where she coordinates the graduate program in science communication.

This series of posts originally appeared on Professor Barbara Gastel's LinkedIn page.

How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper, by Barbara Gastel and Robert A Day, is available in paperbackhardback, and Kindle formats.

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