Structure of introductions

Although introductions of essays and research articles may look different depending on academic discipline, they will nonetheless usually say something about previous research in the field before presenting the focus of the article as well as stating in what way the article offers a new contribution to the field.

CARS: Creating a research space

The linguist John Swales's CARS (Creating a Research Space) model is useful for writers of introductions. The following brief presentation offers a simplified version of the model presented in Swales and Feak's Academic Writing for Graduate Students (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2012).

The word 'move' below means rhetorical strategy or stage in a text:

Move 1. Establishing a research territory

  • By showing that the research area is important
  • By introducing and reviewing previous research

Move 2. Establishing a niche

  • By showing a gap in previous research
  • By asking questions about previous research

Move 3. Occupying the niche

  • By outlining and stating the purpose of the study
  • By announcing findings / By indicating the structure of the text

Does your introduction follow CARS?

When you have drafted your essay or article's introduction section, use the following questions as a checklist to see to what extent your introduction follows CARS. The following questions can also be used for peer review activities. Not all disciplines and text formats follow exactly this model, of course, but nonetheless many writers find CARS useful as a model on which to base their introductions.

Move 1: Establishing a territory
Is there anything in the introduction that indicates that the topic to be discussed is part of a scholarly field or discussion/controversy? If yes, what effect does that have on your reading of the text? If no, is it possible to add something in order to establish that the essay topic draws on a scholarly debate, for instance?

Move 2: Establishing a niche
Does the introduction indicate that the essay aims to cover a gap in knowledge (an unanswered question)? This move may be more advanced than is necessary for some undergraduate essays, but identifying a research gap helps you to show that your particular angle is worth pursuing.

Move 3: Occupying the niche
Does the essay introduction indicate how the task at hand will be dealt with? Is there any information in the introduction about how the writer aims to carry out the discussion?


For tips on peer-review activities in connection with the writing of introductions, see

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