Move Occupying the niche

The introduction concludes (in paragraph 5) with the following key phrases: 'In the present study we sought to investigate the social effects of expressive writing . . .', 'Three predictions were tested. First . . .'.

Slatcher and Pennebaker thus follow Swales and Feak's analysis almost line by line. It is also worth noting, in passing, that the literature review in this paper is quite short, and there are only nine references. Day and Gastel (2006) comment that, 'Introductions should supply sufficient information to allow the reader to understand and evaluate the results of the present study without (them) needing to refer to previous publications on the topic' (pp. 57-8).

Of course many papers are written with more detailed substructures. Three types of structure typical in introductions are:

1 The one listed above — where the authors establish their niche by indicating limitations or omissions in the previous research.

2 One where two (or more) different areas of research are reviewed — and the authors establish their niche by bringing them together.

3 One where some previous research has provided support for a particular finding or theory, and some has not — and the authors establish their niche by seeking to resolve and explain this.

Further, there are disciplinary variations: Haggan (1998), for example, examined the introductions for twenty-six articles in the sciences, twenty-six in linguistics and twenty-six in the arts. She found that the introductions in the science papers were less likely to contain a plan for the paper than were the introductions in linguistics, and that they lay midway in their use of impersonal language between introductions in the arts (the least personal) and introductions in linguistics (the most personal). Introductions in the sciences were more personal, however, when there was more than one author.

Such disciplinary formulaic introductions enhance the clarity of a paper and ensure that the readers' expectations about the format and the purpose of an introduction are maintained. Such devices keep the reader reading.

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