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When readers reach the end of your introduction, they should understand why the study was done and why it is important. They should be clear about the problem and should want to read on! However:

If the problem is not stated in a reasonable, understandable way, readers will have no interest in your solution.’ (Barbara Gastel and Robert Day)

Here are some guidelines for writing your introduction.

Provide relevant information

  • Include only what the reader needs to know – not a history lesson, not a literature review.
  • Aim to elevate your reader’s knowledge from reasonable starting point.
  • Don’t start with something everyone knows or information that is not relevant to the study.

Demonstrate relevance to science

  • Modestly, say why the study is important and original.
  • Say what aroused your interest – why is the study exciting?

Deliver a clear and logical rationale (an argument in support of the research).

  • Start with the broad context of the problem and what is established knowledge.
  • Introduce what is not known and/or what is a problem.
  • Then propose a research question and/or hypothesis to be tested.
  • Finally, summarise the approach you will use to answer the question/test the hypothesis.

So, the sequence is: context – problem/unknown – question +/- credible hypothesis – approach.

Be mindful of busy readers. Many introductions are too long and readers can get bored or lose focus. Ideally, the last paragraph conveniently summarises the question/hypothesis, the overall method and why the study is important. Indeed, many skimmers will go straight to the last paragraph of the introduction rather than reading the whole introduction. (In some disciplines, the introduction finishes with the main findings and contribution.)