Graded Assignment: Introduction section to your final paper
Due at the beginning of Lab 5.
Introduction section of final paper. Read over the Introduction to the Project page in the wiki to identify the topic and experimental questions addressed. Include the history of the "Great Plate Count Anomaly" (the disparity between enumerating culturable and unculturable soil community microorganisms). A reference that may be helpful is :| Uncultivated Microorganisms by Slava Epstein in Microbiology Monographs Vol. 10, 2009 DOI: 10.1007/978-3-540-85465-4 available as an e-book through Springerlink at the Wellesley College Library or as a pdf file in the Resources section of the lab Sakai site.
The Introduction section of a scientific research report has an expected structure. The writer must keep in mind that the target audience is not just your instructor, but it includes a general readership who needs to be convinced that reading this paper is a worthwhile use of time. The first few sentences must "sell" the importance of the broad topic and your research goals. The reader also expects to find out quickly, exactly what the paper is about. Remember that the story is about what shows up first so choose your first sentence and first words should include "diversity and abundance of bacteria in a soil community" . Read other introduction sections of published papers and note the "hyperbole" words in the first few sentences that are there to heighten the sense of significance of the topic and of this investigation. Since information should move from broad to narrow, you should address the larger general topic before introducing your specific investigative goals. In our case, we will attempt experimentally to discover some of the ways that a community of soil bacteria, specifically and generally, functions co-operatively and competitively to exploit and provide resources in an microenvironment. The first paragraph is called the topic paragraph; therefore, don't begin a new paragraph without fulfilling the reader's expectation to find out your topic and experimental goals before she or he reads farther.
The rest of the introduction serves several functions, the most important of which is to get your general audience familiar with previous important findings that led you to want to attempt this investigation. This information should move from oldest to newest, or hierachically by importance, with most important first. What are the previous findings that led to our understanding that microbial soil communities are much richer, more varied, and more complex than we previously recognized? How do we know that ndividual members of soil communities have crucial roles in maintaining the health and viability of the whole micro or macro-habitat? Part of that awakening of understanding of richness and abundance comes from the genomic age. We are now able to identify, quantify, and compare individuals and communities of microorganims using their genes. We can assess evolutionary and functional relatedness using public databases of published gene sequences of indentified species. We never knew what was really there in microbial soil communities until the advent of large scale pyrosequencing that allowed more than a glimpse at a skewed sample of members gleaned from traditional, labor-intensive culture techniques.
Since this background information includes specific, seminal findings published by previous investigators, your introduction must include properly formatted, in-text citations to give credit to these invesigators. A references page with the full citation information is required. We are using the journal Cell's citation format. Model it exactly. Attention to detail matters. Students are often unsure where in the paragraph or sentence the (Name, year) citation goes. Look at other introduction sections of published research reports to get the feel for positioning citations properly. It is not acceptible to report several important findings in different sentences and have one citation at the end of the paragraph. The citation appears at the end of the sentence where you describe the finding or, if you have mentioned the investigators in the text, you put only the year in parathesis directly after the investigators' names. If you go on, in the following sentence to mention more about that study of a different finding published in the same paper, write the sentence in such a way that it is clear to the reader than you are continuing to elaborate on the investigation just cited. Sometimes you may mention several findings in a single sentence, requiring more than one citation per sentence. In that case, each citation comes directly after the phrase that mentions that investigator's contribution. Try not to cite authors of review articles; instead, site the original investigators. Your goal is to give credit to the team or person who made important breakthroughs rather than the author of the review article where you learned about the history of investigations in a topic. Sometimes you will see review articles cited as (Blah, 2010 review) to differentiate discoverer and reporter but, where possible, give credit to those who did the original work when you site a contribution to the field.
Sometimes introductions end with a summary of the investigative findings and conclusions. More commonly, and in this assignment, the introduction should end with a GENERAL overview of your experimental design. No methods detail should be included, but you reader wants to know how you will experimentally achieve your investigative goals. Satisfy that curiosity without overwhelming the reader with too much information. The schematic on the Introduction to the Project page should help you create a brief, hierachial, narrative description of our semester's work.
Your instructor will provide you with links or pdf files of some published research reports and review articles on your general topic. Use these references as models of how to structure an introduction and where and when to cite. As always, see your instructor for guidance if you have questions or problems. Good luck.