How to write the Introduction of a scientific paper

January 14, 2016

Dr. Jennifer C van Velkinburgh, Filipodia Publishing


The Introduction section can be a challenge to write, as it must manipulate the reader’s attention to focus on the most relevant information for a study’s objectives and eventual conclusions in a comprehensive manner while not being overly dense or boring. One way to think of the Introduction is as a link between the audience’s daily life and the world of the author’s analysis. This section is of particular importance since it not only sets up a reader’s expectation of the data presented within the paper but also grabs their attention so that they want to continue reading (and possibly citing in their own future publications).


Generally, an effective Introduction includes two sections of content: relevant background and the research thesis statement.


The opening sentences should provide a context with supporting information for the topic that will be discussed. This background must be relevant to the paper’s topic, but it should never be a mini-review of the history (which will make the introduction boring and tedious). The introduction may, however, include some interesting examples or thought-provoking questions to grab the reader’s attention.


For the research thesis statement, we can justify the importance of the topic and how the authors will address it using their relevant research presented in the subsequent parts of the main text. This will give a whole picture to the audience about the organization and structure of the paper.


It is sometimes suggested that the introduction be written after the M&M and Results sections, so that the introduction can better match the whole manuscript and the flow of ideas. Regardless of when the Introduction section is written, it is absolutely necessary to ensure that its content consistently reflects the presentation of the entire paper.