Introduction sections of biomedical research papers: integration of research variables into social functions
Medical Writing

Introduction sections of biomedical research papers: integration of research variables into social functions

Jin Xu

School of Foreign Studies, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou 510515, China

Corresponding to: Jin Xu, Associate Professor. Southern Medical University, Guangzhou 510515, China. Email: meden@smu.edu.cn.

Submitted Oct 21, 2013. Accepted for publication Nov 04, 2013.

doi: 10.3978/j.issn.2072-1439.2013.11.03


It has long been recognized that learning to write academic genres essentially means developing an understanding of the social practices of one’s discipline, becoming aware of the functions of texts and how these functions are conventionally accomplished. The conventions of their writing, therefore, are always embedded in deeper epistemological frameworks that are frequently discipline specific (1). Specifically, the research paper remains the pre-eminent genre of the academy (2). Its publication involves a long process of persuading editors, reviewers and peers to accept a claim as interesting or valid, drawing on approved and familiar discourses to do so (2). And its writing presents challenges for non-native English scholars and novice scholars due to their unawareness of its social nature and conventions.

Biomedical research refers to studies of the medical issues and problems using biological methodologies, including basic medical research and clinical medical research, whose design is largely based on the combination of the three basic research elements, namely the independent variable (variable X), the subject (variable Z) and the dependent variable (variable Y) (3). The research paper remains the pre-eminent genre of the biomedical academy, which can be categorized into three types based on the research design: the hypothesis-testing paper (a research story about verifying a hypothesis), the descriptive paper (description of a newly discovered object, such as a structure) and the methods papers (description of a new or improved method, material, or apparatus) (4). The reasonable combination of the basic research elements is the key for the research design and the basis for the writing of the biomedical research papers (3). In this paper, we attempted to integrate the research design elements into the micro-structure of the introduction section of biomedical research papers, intending to clarify the social functions underlying the foregrounded newness and importance of the research. Three examples of biomedical research papers were chosen for text analysis, including one hypothesis-testing paper, one descriptive paper and one methods paper (Figures 1-3).

Figure 1 Hypothesis testing paper. Note, references cited by the examplar research paper are omitted here.
Figure 2 Methods paper. Note, references cited by the examplar research paper are omitted here.
Figure 3 Descriptive paper. Note, references cited by the examplar research paper are omitted here.

Generally, the social nature of the research paper is to persuade the peer readers. The introduction section of a biomedical research paper is to justify each element contained in the title to foreground the newness and importance of the research. An understanding of the social functions of the introduction section would definitely facilitate its writing as what the peer readers expect.


Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the provincial educational research foundation of Guangdong in China (2011TJK330) to Jin Xu.

Disclosure: The author declares no conflict of interest.


References

  1. Hyland K. Disciplinary Discourses: Social Interactions in Academic Writing. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited, 2000.
  2. Hyland K. Academic Discourse: English in a Global Context. New York: Continuum, 2009.
  3. Wei EQ. Writing Biomedical Research Papers in English. Beijing: Science Press, 2006.
  4. Zeiger M. Essentials of Writing Biomedical Research Papers. Second Edition. San Francisco: McGraw-Hill, 2000.
Cite this article as: Xu J. Introduction sections of biomedical research papers: integration of research variables into social functions. J Thorac Dis 2013;5(6):919-922. doi: 10.3978/j.issn.2072-1439.2013.11.03