Write an Introduction

The introduction answers the questions:

  • What am I studying?
  • Why is it an important question? Why should the reader read on?
  • What do we know already about it?
  • What basis do I need to provide (such that the reader can understand my study)?

The introduction

  • includes a statement of the goal of the study: why it was undertaken
  • 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 the thesis
    • 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 posing)
  • should be at a level that makes it easy to understand for readers with a general science background, for example your classmates

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 paper.

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 using subheads.