The background of your manuscript should put your research into the context of the previous literature and be limited to a concise 3-4 paragraph (~400 words or ~10- 15% of manuscript text) narrative that explains the background for the study, validates its importance, and frames the specific issue addressed. The background should be limited to information and literature pertinent to the study. This section is a funnel – start broad by describing the big picture topic and then narrow down to the specific research objectives of this study one paragraph at a time.

Beginning

The beginning paragraph should discuss the research problem and explain its significance, with special attention to the prevalence, incidence, cost, quality of life, and/or mortality. Your first paragraph should persuade readers why this is an important issue and explain the potential for broad impact.

  • There is a growing body of literature that recognizes the importance of …
  • In the history of Xs, X has been thought of as a key factor in …
  • Xs are one of the most widely used groups of Y and have been extensively used for ….
  • X is of interest because … However, X could be a contributing factor to …
  • A number of cross-sectional studies suggest an association between X and Y…
  • Previous studies of X have not dealt with … / There is little published data on …
  • This indicates a need to understand the various perceptions of X that exist among …
  • This paper analyses the impact of …
  • The specific objective of this study was to …

Middle

The middle paragraph(s) should summarize the literature results of relevant previous studies and highlight the key areas of disagreement in the field. Provide specific information on unresolved issues or controversies related to the specific questions investigated in this manuscript. These paragraphs should outline what is known and what is still unknown. Provide a clear “gap” in the knowledge that your study will narrow or fill.

  • The existing literature on X is extensive and focuses particularly on …
  • It is only since the work of Smith (2001) that the study of X has gained momentum.
  • Several lines of evidence suggest that …
  • In an analysis of X, Smith et al. (2012) found … Unlike Smith, Jones (2013) argues that …
  • Some writers (e.g. Smith, 2002) have attempted to draw fine distinctions between …
  • Taken together, these studies support the notion that …

End

The last paragraph should discuss what your study investigated, how your study addressed the previously identified gap in the literature, and why it matters. This section should conclude with 1-2 sentences stating the study’s purpose and the primary and secondary objectives, identical to those in the Abstract.

  • This study aimed to…  The main objectives are: a), b) and c).
  • There are two primary aims of this study: 1. To investigate … 2. To ascertain …
  • Characterization of X is important for our increased understanding of …
  • The importance and originality of this study are that it explores …

References

  1. Cals JWL, Kotz D. Effective writing and publishing scientific papers, part III: introduction. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. 2013;66(7):702. doi:10.1016/j.jclinepi.2013.01.004
  2. Kotz D, Cals JWL. Effective writing and publishing scientific papers—part I: how to get started. Journal of Clinical Epidemiology. 2013;66(4):397. doi:10.1016/j.jclinepi.2013.01.002
  3. Kliewer MA. Writing It Up: A Step-by-Step Guide to Publication for Beginning Investigators. Published online 2005:6.
  4. Vintzileos AM, Ananth CV. How to write and publish an original research article. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. 2010;202(4):344.e1-344.e6. doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2009.06.038
  5. Branson RD. Anatomy of a Research Paper. RESPIRATORY CARE. 2004;49(10):7.