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EDUC.7130: Research Writing in Social Sciences

Don't Bury the Lead

Remember when writing your opening sentences that although you have spent weeks if not months and years becoming closely familiar with your topic and your argument, your readers have not, so don't forget to clearly state at the outset what your topic and your argument is.

Effective Titles follow three basic rules:

Keep it simple, brief and attractive

Use appropriate descriptive words

Avoid abbreviations and jargon

Good research paper titles (typically 10–12 words long) use descriptive terms and phrases that accurately highlight the core content of the paper.


How to Write a Good Introduction

Introductions need to start with a broad motivating statement, which takes up one or two sentences. The scheme for these sentences typically is something like this: “XYZ is a really important issue because of A, B, and C.”

Following such a broad statement, there is usually some review of existing knowledge. This serves two purposes. One, you need to embed your work in the context of other people’s work. Two (a more political reason), you need to demonstrate that you know about other important players in the area in which you are publishing. Reviewers get very annoyed if you have missed their very important work, even though it’s on a related topic. You can’t (and shouldn’t!) cite everything, but it’s a good idea to be familiar with who else is working in your area, and give them credit for their work.

Introductions then become increasingly specific, like a funnel. At the very end, you present specific aims. The logic of an introduction thus typically flows something like this:

  • XY is an important issue
  • For example, it has these effects, and these other effects
  • These have been investigated in a number of ways
  • Author A came up with this explanation
  • Author B proposed an alternative explanation
  • To date, it is unknown what the role of the phenomenon Z is.
  • Phenomenon Z could be important because of this, that, and something else.
  • Here, we investigate the role of phenomenon Z in the context of …
  • Specifically, we addressed three aims:
    • First, we tested whether …
    • Second, we compared our findings …
    • Third, we applied our insights to …
  • Optional last sentence to summarise the key finding: “We show that …”

(from Writing a Journal Article)

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Suggestions for Writing Your Conclusion

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