What’s the problem? Part 2

July 22, 2009 at 9:22 am Leave a comment

I’m reading a book right now called Engaging Ideas, by Seattle University English professor John Bean, and the following passage from chapter 1 caught my eye:

“Academic writing begins with the posing of a problem. The writer’s thesis statement is a tentative response to that problem, a ‘solution’ that must be supported with the kinds of reasons and evidence that are valued in the discipline.”

Bean makes this statement in support of his thesis: that incorporating writing into the undergraduate curriculum serves to promote critical thinking and problem solving in students. But it’s relevant to scientific writing, too, as I tried to convey (perhaps not as eloquently) in two recent posts: “What’s the problem?” and “Writing the introduction.”

So, once more for good measure: If you are ever wondering how to structure the introduction to a manuscript or what the introduction should include, just remember that the overall goal is to introduce your research problem, including its importance, and your proposed solution to your readers. (I’ve emphasized the reader here as a reminder to think about what background your audience will need to understand the problem). You will then go on to support your solution with the data and reasoning you present in the results and discussion sections.

For me, thinking about the introduction in this way creates a structure on which to hang all the pieces that this section is supposed to include: background, definitions, rationale for the study, research question, etc. In other words, it keeps me grounded in what the introduction is all about. I hope it does the same for you.


Entry filed under: Parts of the paper.

We need clichés like a (black) hole in the head Taking the bite out of criticism

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Science of Scientific Writing

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