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Introduction

Your introduction will need to include background information which is generally accepted as fact in a discipline. This is usually presented in the simple present tense.

Example 1

Haemophilia A, also known as Factor VIII deficiency, is a serious inherited disorder characterised by bleeding in soft tissue, muscles and weight-bearing joints (Gitschier, 1989).

Example 2

Changes in stream health due to anthropogenic effects necessitate regular sampling and monitoring (Mulholland et al, 2005).

In the introduction you also will need to explain why the research you are writing about is important or necessary. This is usually done by using a form of the present tense.

Example

Genomics provides crucial information for rational drug design.

The choice of tense indicates your view

You will need to refer to existing research relevant to your work, and you can indicate your opinion of the research you are writing about by a careful selection of tense.

For example, when you use the present tense you are indicating to the reader that you believe that the research findings are still true and relevant, even though the original research may have been conducted some time ago.

Example 1

Many of the lakes and wetlands in the region are located in craters or valleys blocked by early Pliocene lava flows (Ollier and Joyce, 1964).

Example 2

Potassium is necessary for the maturation of berries and canes and is absorbed in large quantities by vines (Nagarajah and McCarthy, 1996).

Past tenses to report research

If you use a past tense in your introduction when you refer to previous research, you are indicating to the reader that that there may be a gap in the existing research, or that the research may no longer be true or relevant.

Example

A great deal of research has been conducted on the basic techniques of nuclear transfer, but few experiments have been carried out to discover the most appropriate age of the cytoplasm to support nuclear transfer most effectively.

This suggests that you believe that more experiments are necessary. This gap is further emphasised by the phrase but few experiments.

Look at the two sentences below. The first sentence, in the present tense, suggests that you are not sure that the assumption is correct. The second sentence is in a form of the past tense called the past perfect tense. If you are using this form you are suggesting that this was true up to now, but there may be a problem with the assumption.

Present tense

Clark and Thompson (2006) assume that there is a clear linkage between first flowering date and mean air temperature.

Past perfect tense

Clark and Thompson (2006) have assumed that there is a clear linkage between first flowering date and mean air temperature

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