Writing an introduction
The introduction answers the questions:
- What am I studying?
- Why is it an important question? Why should the reader read
- What do we know already about it?
- What basis do I need to provide (such that the reader can
understand my study)?
- includes a statement of the goal of the study: why it was
- sets the context for your proposed project and must capture
the reader's interest
- explains the background of your study starting from a broad
picture narrowing in on your research question
- give sufficient background information to allow the reader
to understand the context and significance of the question you
are trying to address
- reviews what is known about your research topic as far as it
is relevant to your thesis
- cites relevant references
- all cited work should be directly relevant to the goals of
- give enough references such that a reader could, by going to
the library or on-line, achieve a sophisticated understanding
of the context and significance of the question
- try to cite those who had the idea or ideas first, but also
cite those who have done the most recent and relevant work.
- this is not a place to summarize everything you have ever
read on a subject
- explain the scope of your work, what will and will not be
included (if you are answering only part of the question you are
- should be at a level that makes it easy to understand for
readers with a general science background, for example your
The structure of the introduction can be thought of as an inverted triangle - the
broadest part at the top representing the most general information
and focusing down to the specific problem you studied. Organize
the information to present the more general aspects of the topic
early in the introduction, then narrow toward the more specific
topical information that provides context, finally arriving at
your thesis statement.
For long introductions give the reader already an indication
earlier of what question you'll be addressing.
Be sure to include a hook
at the beginning of the introduction. This is a statement of
something sufficiently interesting to motivate your reader to read
the rest of the paper, it is an important/interesting scientific
problem that your paper either solves or addresses. You should
draw the reader in and make them want to read the rest of the
It can be useful to sketch out the introduction backwards, start
with the specific focus of your study and work upward to the broader
context. It is hard to write a good introduction until you know what
the body of the paper says. Consider making a concept map, it will
help to identify the elements you need in the introduction.
You can break up the introduction section into logical segments by