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Write Introductions and Conclusions

Identifying the aims

An introduction to a scientific paper should achieve three things: first, it should identify the specific area you will address. Second, it should focus on the rationale for undertaking the work. Third, it should place this rationale in context by providing the reader with the necessary background to understand the question(s) addressed in an experiment as well as identifying the 'gap' in our understanding that this experiment is meant to fill.

To achieve these aims, start by introducing the area of science that your report addresses and then identify the specific questions your experiments attempt to answer. For example, if you are writing a paper on the effectiveness of prosthetic valves in heart surgery, you may start by describing the science of implantable devices and then focus on your specific experiment or report.

Providing context

Try to anticipate your peers' or professors' responses and reactions by providing them with the information needed to situate your experiment and your findings. Be sure to explain the key concepts or theories that are necessary to understand your experiment. Keep in mind that, unless instructed otherwise, you can assume that your reader has a basic understanding of your field of science and you only need to explain specialized terms or ideas.

These explanations will help to provide a context for your hypothesis and situate your work in relation to previous work in the same area. If you are not asked to provide an actual "Background" section in your report, you can provide a systematic review of the relevant literature when discussing the specific questions your experiments address; this will also situate your work in the field. (***Be sure to give credit to researchers through appropriate citation.***) In other words, the introduction provides the background information that the reader needs in order to understand the procedures and objectives involved in your experiment.

Stating the hypothesis, methods, and results

You can finish your introduction by clearly stating the hypothesis or objectives of your research. Some of the phrases you can use to do this are:

  • The main purpose of the experiment reported here is to…
  • The purpose of this study is to explore…
  • In this paper we give preliminary results for…
  • It the aim of this paper to determine…

Alternatively, studies published in peer-reviewed academic journals usually include a brief description of the methods used in the study and an outline of major findings. This helps the reader to assess the evidence for them as she or he reads. For example "To determine the change in expression of CD35 we used qRT- PCR."

Remember, when writing an introduction to a science paper, your audience is more likely to be convinced of your results if you are clear about where your claim comes from and how it was reached. As such, you should not set out to persuade your audience as much as to communicate clearly and simply what research you are reporting, how you set up your experiment, and the results that came from it. There is, however, a difference between writing an introduction to a lab report and a research paper or proposal. In lab reports the introduction should allow your reader to be able to replicate your experiment and trace the background research you did to set up the experiment. In a research paper or proposal, the introduction should reinforce the validity of the claims you have reached, researched, or the work you propose to do.

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