Introduction, Methods & Materials

The Introduction should provide readers with the background information needed to understand your study, and the reasons why you conducted your experiments. The Introduction should answer the question: what question/problem did you study?

While writing the background, make sure your citations are:

  • Well balanced: If experiments have found conflicting results on a question, have you cited studies with both kinds of results?
  • Current: Every field is different, but you should aim to cite references that are not more than 10 years old if possible. Although be sure to cite the first discovery or mention in the literature even if it is older than 10 years.
  • Relevant: This is the most important requirement. The studies you cite should be strongly related to your research question.

Once you have provided background material and stated the problem or question for your study, tell the reader the purpose of your study. Usually the reason is to fill a gap in the knowledge or to answer a previously unanswered question. For example, if a drug is known to work well in one population, but has never been tested in a different population, the purpose of a study could be to test the efficacy and safety of the drug in the second population.

The final thing to include at the end of your Introduction is a clear and exact statement of your study aims. You might also explain in a sentence or two how you conducted the study.

TIP: Do not write a literature review in your Introduction, but do cite reviews where readers can find more information if they want it.

TIP: There is a famous saying in English: “A picture is worth a thousand words.” This means that, sometimes, an image can explain your findings far better than text could. So make good use of figures and tables in your manuscript! However, avoid including redundant figures and tables (e.g. two showing the same thing in a different format), or using figures and tables where it would be better to just include the information in the text (e.g. where there is not enough data for a table or figure).

This Methods and Materials section provides the reader with all the details of how you conducted your study. You should:

  • Use subheadings to separate different methodologies
  • Describe what you did in the past tense
  • Describe new methods in enough detail that another researcher can reproduce your experiment
  • Describe established methods briefly, and simply cite a reference where readers can find more detail
  • State all statistical tests and parameters


Next: Results

TIP: Check the ‘Instructions for Authors’ for your target journal to see how manuscripts should present the Materials and Methods. Also, as another guide, look at previously published papers in the journal or sample reports on the journal website.

For further support

We hope that with this tutorial you have a clearer idea of how the publication process works and feel confident in responding to editor and reviewers. Good luck with publishing your work!

If you feel that you would like some further support with writing your paper and understanding the peer review process, Springer Nature offer some services which may be of help.

  • Nature Research Editing Service offers high quality  English language and scientific editing. During language editing, Editors will improve the English in your manuscript to ensure the meaning is clear and identify problems that require your review. With Scientific Editing experienced development editors will improve the scientific presentation of your research in your manuscript and cover letter, if supplied. They will also provide you with a report containing feedback on the most important issues identified during the edit, as well as journal recommendations.
  • Our affiliates American Journal Experts also provide English language editing* as well as other author services that may support you in preparing your manuscript.
  • We provide both online and face-to-face training for researchers on all aspects of the manuscript writing process.

* Please note, using an editing service is neither a requirement nor a guarantee of acceptance for publication. 

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