In a couple of recent blog entries I noted what you can and cannot learn from research 1) titles & 2) abstracts. Now, let me introduce you to the next part of research article: Introduction (or sometimes called Background or no title at all!). Introduction immediately follows the abstract.
The introduction/background “[a] outlines the background of the problem or issue being examined, [b] summarizes the existing literature on the subject, and [c] states the research questions, objectives, and possibly hypothesis” (p. 6, Davies & Logan, 2012)
This section follows the abstract. It may or may not have a heading(s) of “Introduction” or “Background” or both. Like the abstract, the Introduction describes the problem in which the researcher is interested & sometimes the specific research question or hypothesis that will be measured.
In the Intro/Background you will get a more full description of why the problem is a priority for research and what is already known about the problem (i.e., literature review).
Key point #1: Articles & research that are reviewed in theIntro/Background should be mostly within the past 5-7 years. Sometimes included are classic works that may be much older OR sometimes no recent research exists. If recent articles aren’t used, this should raise some questions in your mind. You know well that healthcare changes all the time!! If old studies are used the author should explain.
Key point #2: The last sentence or two in theIntro/Background is usually the research question or hypothesis (unless the author awards it its own section). If you need to know the research question/hypothesis right away, you can skip straight to the end of the Intro/background—and there it is!
Critical Thinking: 1) Read the abstract then 2) Read the 1st section of this 2015 free full-text article by Marie Flem Sørbø et al.: Past and recent abuse is associated with early cessation of breast feeding: results from a large prospective cohort in Norway
- Is it called Introduction/Background or both?
- What literature is already available on the problem or issue being examined?
- What are the research questions/hypotheses? (After reading above you should know exactly where to look for these now.)
For More Info: Check out especially Steps #1, #2, & #3 of How to read a research article.