Reading Scientific Research: Introduction
I have started this series for those who are experiencing reading scientific research for the first time. If you are someone who have been exposed to articles for a long time then this post is not for you. However, if you classify yourself as a beginner in reading research papers then go ahead you might find something interesting here. In case you have missed the first post of the series which have covered the title and abstract you can visit the page here. Introduction also termed "background" is found immediately after the abstract. It attempts to answer three basic questions: first, what is the issue or the problem being investigated? Second, why the research is being conducted? Lastly, why we should care about this research. Authors will often try to answer these questions in different ways. Nonetheless, they try to keep it as informative as possible.
Anatomy of Introduction
I like to think of the introduction as an inverted pyramid. It starts broad then it narrows as it goes. Generally speaking, an introduction has three sections or at least it should cover these three sections:
The General Topic:
Usually, an introduction will start to give a general idea about the topic it intends to cover. This means highlighting the scope, impact and current status of the problem being investigated. For example, if the article is aiming to cover a topic regarding a disease. The first thing it should mention is how big is this problem (epidemiology), how it cause suffering to the population affected and lastly how much it is costing the society to deal with this disease. Now this is just an example and the the author will change the way of presenting the general idea of the topic depending on the type of topic itself. However, the framework is similar thus you should have no problem reading this part.
The Specific Topic:
I also call it the narrower topic, it is where the author will take the reader from general topic into the specific matter/ issue to be addressed by the research paper. Basically, what is done here is to set the framework of the study by stating a hypothesis or purpose. Logically, after introducing the general topic to the reader in the first bit of the introduction the second part will orientate the reader that the paper is considering one or two aspects of the problem to be addressed. in addition, this section should explain the key concepts and summarize the existing literature of this particular topic in order to identify the gap in the literature. This will give justification to conduct new research aiming to fill the gap in the literature.
Motivation for Research:
Here basically the author should point to the reader “How will answering this problem would advance research in this area, industry, in policy or in people lives? “ Or to put differently, should indicate the value of the research being conducted. This is crucial to attract the attention of us (readers) and authors will simply try to justify why the will dedicate their time and effort to research this issue. Authors have different ways to present this section however the common thing that it is usually presented after the specific topic and after identifying the gap in the literature.
Lastly, the inverted pyramid should point at specific aims or objectives that the research is intending to cover. It should be written in a clear and unambiguous way. Normally, authors dedicate a specific heading to highlight the aim/objective. They also tend to use phrases such as: "This study examines...", "This paper characterizes..." or "this paper focuses on..."
Here you have. Now grab a researcher paper and look at its introduction. Does it have the same anatomy we have highlighted in this post?
If you you think I have missed something here please add it in the comment box.