24.10.2020 •

The Introduction

Important first impressions after the title and abstract

The Introduction should discuss why you did the research and why it is valuable or necessary. This should be complemented by an expert understanding of prior work in this field, typically via a literature review highlighting the significance of your research in the context of the scientific record. The introduction should cover what is known, what is unknown, and the objective of the current study. A useful guide on how to structure one's introduction is offered by Boyd [R. K. Boyd, Rapid Commun. Mass Spectrom. 2012, 26, 1725]. While this guidance is offered in respect to the mass spectrometry discipline, it offers an extremely useful system for the structuring of an introduction. In the Boydian method, the introduction should be considered in four parts or subsections. The first three of which provide a “drill‐down” from the general to the specific, topped off with a final subsection discussing the objective of the work as a segue into the Experimental section. 

Broken down, these sections can be viewed as follows: 

  • Subsection 1 

Broad context behind the experiment—include citations of the broader relevant literature here.

  • Subsection 2 

Narrowing down to the specific problem addressed by the research.

  • Subsection 3 

Zeroes in the specific problem, more detailed review of the literature specific to the investigation, with an expert theoretical and experimental critique. Be cautious in this section to keep the literature review relevant, focus on research that is directly relevant to the topic at hand.

  • Subsection 4 

Objective of the present work—this section should simply reflect the main objective of the research as described in the rationale section of the abstract.

The anatomy of a research article

Research articles generally follow two standard formats, depending on the nature of the investigation. Although the headings in these structures may be named differently from journal to journal, these formats are commonly referred to as IMRaD and IRDaM. Each of these assemblies consist of an Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion although the order and structure of these components differ in each variant.


The IMRaD structure is the most common structure used in scientific writing. This structure is as follows:

  • Introduction
  • Methods
  • Results and Discussion


The IRDaM structure is typically used when a hypothesis is tested without having the experiments planned in advance, a progressive investigative trajectory where the results of one experiment inform which experiment should be undertaken next. These are otherwise known as sequential results. The IRDaM structure is composed as follows:

  • Introduction
  • Results and Discussion
  • Methods

This article is a short version of the comprehensive and freely available tutorial "How to write a research article for MRC", written by Paul Trevorrow and Gary E. Martin.