The Introduction

The introduction begins on a new page, with the paper’s title at the top, centered, but do not write ‘Introduction’ at the top. Typically a ‘funneling’ approach is used; this means that you begin broadly and narrow your focus as you progress towards the hypothesis/es. The introduction should include an introductory paragraph, a literature review, justification of how the current research will contribute to the body of literature, and study aims and hypotheses. These sections are elaborated upon below in addition to writing and formatting instructions.

Writing style and formatting
All paragraphs should be indented with no spaces between paragraphs. The introduction should be written in past tense or in ‘present perfect tense’ using the active voice. An example of past tense, active voice, is “Smith (2001) conducted the experiment…” or “Smith (2001) showed that…”. A ‘present perfect tense’ example is “researchers have shown…”. As you develop the introduction, you build a ‘picture’ for your reader, and provide the context for your study. Lastly, ensure that paragraphs are linked and flow clearly from one another.
Introductory paragraph
You should provide a broad introduction to the research topic in your opening paragraph. The main idea is to set the scene for your reader. Your opening sentences may define a key variable and/or highlight the relevance of the research. This can include statistics highlighting the prevalence of certain conditions or occurrences. If you are focusing on a theoretical framework in your research, it should be introduced or defined here. Lastly, ensure you justify the study's relevance and/or importance. This helps the reader to understand why the research is being conducted.
Literature review
After introducing the research topic, a review of theory or prior research relevant to the experiment/s is required; this forms the ‘literature review’. A useful guide on how to write about past research is to state what the authors did, to whom, and what they found. For example,"Tarik and Smith (2013) investigated the effects of priming on short term memory tasks in children with Asperger's and found that priming increased the number of words recalled compared to a control condition." You can also state what the authors concluded and/or limitations of the research. If reviewing theory ensure you present alternative viewpoints. Be selective when choosing studies to describe and only include past research that justifies your hypotheses. Furthermore, describe your studies in a logical sequence so that you build a body of evidence to support your hypotheses. You can do this by describing general research findings first and more specific ones related to your research last.
Justifying the research
After reviewing the literature it is your job to introduce why your study is being done; in other words, what will your research add to the current literature. This entails considering what has been learned from prior literature and identifying how research can extend upon this knowledge. You can do this by identifying the gaps in the prior research and stating how they will be overcome in the current study. Alternatively, you can identify prior study limitations and explain how the current literature will be performed differently. For instance, your purpose may be to replicate a prior study but to use a different sample of participants.
Study aims and hypotheses
Finally, the introduction ends with the study aims and a statement of the hypothesis/es to be tested. The study aims are specific to what your study wants to achieve. This may involve outlining specifically what your investigating, the methodology, and/or the sample you will use. For instance, "The current research endeavoured to overcome prior study limitations by using a multi-dimensional measure of empathy as opposed to a uni-dimensional scale. In addition, an adult sample was used as prior research has examined child samples only."

Hypotheses are predictions based on the prior research or theory. They are questions about your variables of interest and are developed from the past research that you describe in your literature review. Hypotheses should be written in past, not present tense and should not be numbered. The direction of any expected association between variables will also be stated in the hypothesis/es. It is important to note that hypotheses will be written differently depending on the type of analysis you are undertaking.
Common mistakes in writing an Introduction:

  • Not presenting the study justification at the beginning of the introduction.

  • Not presenting a coherent review of relevant literature that links directly to the hypothesis/es.

  • Not defining terms appropriate to your research topic.

  • Not stating clearly what the hypotheses are. You need to tell the reader what it is that you predict will happen, based on the research and theory you have reviewed. The hypotheses need to be stated at the end of the introduction section.

  • Not stating the direction of association between the variables to be tested. For example, when a difference between groups is predicted, you need to state what differences you anticipate. For example, will the change in one variable have a positive or negative effect on another variable?