Structure of Introductions

Although introductions of essays and research articles may look different depending on academic discipline, they will nonetheless usually say something about previous research in the field before presenting the focus of the article as well as stating in what way the article offers a new contribution to the field.

CARS: Creating a research space

The linguist John Swales's CARS (Creating a Research Space) provides a useful model for writers of Introductions. The following brief presentation of the CARS model is a simplified version of the model presented in Swales and Feak (2012).

The word move here means rhetorical strategy or stage in a text:

Move 1. Establishing a research territory

  • By showing that the research area is important
  • By introducing and reviewing previous research

Move 2. Establishing a niche

  • By showing gap in previous research
  • By asking questions about previous research

Move 3. Occupying the niche

  • By outlining and stating purpose of the study
  • By announcing findings / By indicating structure of the text


Swales, J.M. & Feak, C.B. (2012). Academic writing for graduate students: Essential tasks and skills. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

Does your Introduction follow CARS?

When you have drafted your essay or article Introduction section, use the following questions as a check list to see to what extent your Introduction follows CARS. The following questions can also be used for peer review activities.

Not all disciplines and text formats follow exactly this model, of course, but many writers find CARS useful as a model on which to structurer their Introductions.

Move 1: Establishing a territory
Is there anything in the introduction that indicates that the topic to be discussed is part of a scholarly field or discussion/controversy? If yes, what effect does that have on your reading of the text? If no, is it possible to add something in order to establish that the essay topic draws on a scholarly debate, for instance?

Move 2: Establishing a niche
Does the introduction indicate that the essay aims to cover a gap of knowledge (an unanswered question)? This move is rather advanced for first-term essays as we do not demand that essays on this level need to present new knowledge. On the other hand, in order to be able to highlight why an essay topic is relevant and interesting, identifying a research gap will help you show why your particular angle is worth pursuing.

Move 3: Occupying the niche
Does the essay introduction indicate how the task at hand will be dealt with? Is there any information in the introduction about how the writer aims to carry out the discussion?