Writing academically

Writing Introductions

There are many ways to introduce an academic essay or assignment. Most academic writers, however, appear to do one or more of the following in their introductions:

  • establish the context, background and/or importance of the topic
  • indicate a problem, controversy or a gap in the field of study
  • define the topic or key terms
  • state the purpose of the essay/writing
  • provide an overview of the coverage and/or structure of the writing

Examples of phrases which are commonly employed to realise these functions are listed below. Note that there may be a certain amount of overlap between some of the categories under which the phrases are listed.

Introductory sections for research dissertations, are normally much more complex than this and, as well as the elements above, may include the following: a synopsis of key literature/current state of knowledge, synopsis of methods, lists of research questions or hypotheses to be tested, significance of the study, recognition of the limitations of the study, reasons for personal interest in the topic.

Establishing the importance of the topic:

  • One of the most significant current discussions in legal and moral philosophy is ...
  • It is becoming increasingly difficult to ignore the ...
  • X is the leading cause of death in western industrialised countries.
  • X is a common disorder characterised by ...
  • X is an important component in the climate system, and plays a key role in Y.
  • In the new global economy, X has become a central issue for ...
  • In the history of development economics, X has been thought of as a key factor in ...
  • Xs are one of the most widely used groups of antibacterial agents and ...
  • Xs are the most potent anti-inflammatory agents known.
  • X is a major public health problem, and the cause of about 4% of the global burden of disease.
  • X is an increasingly important area in applied linguistics.
  • Central to the entire discipline of X is the concept of ...
  • X is at the heart of our understanding of ...

Establishing the importance of the topic (time frame given):

  • Recent developments in X have heightened the need for ...
  • In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in ...
  • Recent developments in the field of X have led to a renewed interest in ...
  • Recently, researchers have shown an increased interest in ...
  • The past decade has seen the rapid development of X in many ...
  • The past thirty years have seen increasingly rapid advances in the field of ...
  • Over the past century there has been a dramatic increase in ...
  • One of the most important events of the 1970s was ...
  • Traditionally, Xs have subscribed to the belief that ...
  • X proved an important literary genre in the early Y community.
  • The changes experienced by Xs over the past decade remain unprecedented.
  • Xs are one of the most widely used groups of antibacterial agents and have been extensively used for decades to ...

Highlighting a problem in the field of study:

  • However, these rapid changes are having a serious effect ...
  • However, a major problem with this kind of application is ...
  • Lack of X has existed as a health problem for many years.
  • Despite its safety and efficacy, X suffers from several major drawbacks:
  • However, research has consistently shown that first year students have not attained an adequate understanding of ...
  • There is increasing concern that some Xs are being disadvantaged ...
  • Despite its long clinical success, X has a number of problems in use.
  • Questions have been raised about the safety of prolonged use of ...

Highlighting a controversy in the field of study:

  • To date there has been little agreement on what ...
  • More recently, literature has emerged that offers contradictory findings about ...
  • One observer has already drawn attention to the paradox in ...
  • In many Xs a debate is taking place between Ys and Zs concerning ...
  • The controversy about scientific evidence for X has raged unabated for over a century.
  • Debate continues about the best strategies for the management of  ...
  • This concept has recently been challenged by ... studies demonstrating …
  • One of the most significant current discussions in legal and moral philosophy is ...
  • One observer has already drawn attention to the paradox in ...
  • In many Xs a debate is taking place between Ys and Zs concerning ...
  • The controversy about scientific evidence for X has raged unabated for over a century.
  • Questions have been raised about the safety of prolonged use of ...
  • The issue of X has been a controversial and much disputed subject within the field of ...
  • The issue has grown in importance in light of recent ...
  • One major theoretical issue that has dominated the field for many years concerns ...
  • One major issue in early X research concerned ...

Highlighting a knowledge gap in the field of study (for research):

  • So far, however, there has been little discussion about ...
  • However, far too little attention has been paid to ...
  • Most studies in X have only been carried out in a small number of areas.
  • The research to date has tended to focus on X rather than Y.
  • In addition, no research has been found that surveyed ...
  • So far this method has only been applied to ...
  • Several studies have produced estimates of X (Smith, 2002; Jones, 2003), but there is still insufficient data for …
  • However, there have been no controlled studies which compare differences in ...
  • The experimental data are rather controversial, and there is no general agreement about ...
  • However, there is no reliable evidence that ...
  • X's analysis does not take account of ... nor does he examine ...

Focus, aim, argument:

  • This paper will focus on/examine/give an account of ...
  • This essay seeks to remedy these problems by analysing the literature of ...
  • The objectives of this research are to determine whether ...
  • This paper seeks to address the following questions:
  • This essay critically examines/discusses/traces ...
  • The purpose of this paper is to review recent research into the ...
  • This paper will review the research conducted on ...
  • This chapter reviews the literature concerning the usefulness of using ...
  • The aim of this paper is to determine/examine ...
  • The aim of this study was to evaluate and validate ...
  • In this paper I argue that ...
  • In the pages that follow, it will be argued that …
  • This paper attempts to show that ...
  • In this essay, I attempt to defend the view that ...

Outline of structure:

  • The main questions/issues addressed in this paper are: a), b and c).
  • This paper has been divided into four parts. The first part deals with ...
  • The essay has been organised in the following way.
  • This paper first gives a brief overview of the recent history of X.
  • This paper reviews the evidence for ...
  • This paper begins by ... It will then go on to ...
  • The first section of this paper will examine ...
  • Finally, ...
  • Chapter 2 begins by laying out the theoretical dimensions of the research, and looks at how …
  • Chapter 3 describes the design, synthesis, characterization and evaluation of ...
    The last chapter assesses the ...

Explaining Keywords

  • While a variety of definitions of the term X have been suggested, this paper will use the definition first suggested by Smith (1968) who saw it as ...
  • Throughout this paper the term X will refer to/will be used to refer to ...
  • In this article the acronym/abbreviation XYZ will be used. 

Adapted from Manchester University’s phrasebank

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