According to Reyes, there are three overarching goals of a good introduction: 1) ensure that you summarize prior studies about the topic in a manner that lays a foundation for understanding the research problem; 2) explain how your study specifically addresses gaps in the literature, insufficient consideration of the topic, or other deficiency in the literature; and, 3) note the broader theoretical, empirical, and/or policy contributions and implications of your research.
You should assume that your paper is aimed at someone with a good working knowledge of your particular field.
For example, a paper about evolutionary adaptations need not go into too much detail about Darwin – it’s assumed your reader already has this knowledge..
Organize the information so as to present the more general aspects of the topic early in the introduction, then narrow your analysis to more specific topical information that provides context, finally arriving at your research problem and the rationale for studying it [often written as a series of key questions to be addressed or framed as a hypothesis or set of assumptions to be tested] and, whenever possible, a description of the potential outcomes your study can reveal. Centre for Applied Linguistics, University of Warwick; Samraj, B.
It is often useful to review the introduction late in the writing process. Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Sharpling, Gerald. “Introductions in Research Articles: Variations Across Disciplines.” Giving the dictionary definition of words related to the research problem may appear appropriate because it is important to define specific terminology that readers may be unfamiliar with.
For example, if you were performing educational research, you may assume that all students at the same school are from a very similar socio-economic background, with randomization smoothing out any variables.
By alerting the reader to the fact that these assumptions have been made, you are giving them the opportunity to interpret and assess the results themselves.
The introduction leads the reader from a general subject area to a particular topic of inquiry.
It establishes the scope, context, and significance of the research being conducted by summarizing current understanding and background information about the topic, stating the purpose of the work in the form of the research problem supported by a hypothesis or a set of questions, explaining briefly the methodological approach used to examine the research problem, highlighting the potential outcomes your study can reveal, and outlining the remaining structure and organization of the paper.
This section can then flow into how you are going to fill the gap, laying out your objectives and methodology.
You are trying to predict what impact your research will have and the consequences of rejecting or accepting the null hypothesis.