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I have always believed that introductions should be short and to the point. I also am of the opinion that introductions to research articles or papers are the most important part of the paper and should be well written. And they should probably be written after the first draft of the research has been completed.
The introduction should answer a very important question: why did you even bother doing this research in the first place? In other words, the reader should be aware of the research question that is attempting to be answered.
The importance of the research can be established by trying to review the related literature about what you are trying to establish. The author/s should try to show that the topic is of great interest in the research community, and that there are many other articles that have done interesting work in this particular area of the subject. However, try to establish the uniqueness of your own particular work. Is this an area that has never been tackled in the literature before, and is this unique point of view worth looking into? Does the research question you are pursuing help in expanding the knowledge about it in some way?
Then, in no uncertain terms, state what this present research is about and what do you hope to achieve by doing it. Why is this particular research so important? And how do you hope to achieve it? What is different about this endeavor and how is it different from all the rest?
Novelty is what a lot of editors and readers look for. Many things have already been written about practically most topics, particularly in medicine. But a unique “twist” or a “surprise” may be what will make all the difference between you and the rest.
I have seen introductions that occupy half of the submitted paper, and the author ends up reviewing practically the world’s literature about a particular topic. Some authors believe that one has to do this to put a particular work in the correct context but doing this confuses the reader and makes your paper appear to lack focus.
On the other extreme, I have also seen papers that hardly put anything in the introduction. I think that assuming that the reader already understands the question being raised without the necessary background is wrong. Not everyone understands, and this may turn off more readers than you realize.
Entice the reader to complete reading your research article. Make a great introduction!
Jose Ma. C. Avila, MD