Master Introduction and Paragraph Strategies Now (Writing Newsletter #3)

the writing newsletter Jul 07, 2022
Professor Lennart in a suit with a white outline looking up to the top right corner. Text saying in white font repeating the title of the post.

Happy July. Thank you again for subscribing to my The Writing Newsletter. I hope you are enjoying the Summer (or Winter in the Southern Hemisphere).

It's been an interesting month for me. The professorial work at the University is not slowing down but ramping up. The summer has many writing-hungry graduate students just getting ready to submit their work to CHI this year, and I am still trying to understand how selling online works. šŸ«£ While I recorded some awesome new content for the CHI course in the last month, I always want to do more. And there is more coming this month. I also produced some more free content on my YouTube channel (I wanted to do one every week, but man, that's a struggle if you work full time). I would love for you to check them out (subscribe, like, and all that funny business):


Professionally, I wrapped up most of my duties as Papers co-chair of CHI PLAY 2022 (together with Guo Freeman and Scott Bateman) and with our new revise and resubmit process much work went into the extra reviewing in the second round. Quite a challenging process. But the publications are now part of the journal Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, which has now been ranked at #4 in the updated Google Scholar metrics this year, so CHI PLAY is getting closer to CHI's impact.

After we've sent out the notifications, many researchers probably thought: "Rejected! Again! I hate academia!" I know it's soul-crushing to feel like this after getting another paper rejected. Nobody wants to be in that situation over and over again. It sucks. Not to mention the self-doubts that creep in about your writing abilities, questioning the validity of your research, or feeling like you don't belong. That can be so exhausting.

But don't give up or quit academia yet. You know you're not alone. Others have gone through this process for years. For example, I have built systems to combat cluelessness and systematize strategies in research writing. Once I've built my systems and understood the publication process in detail, writing papers became fun again. I wasn't frustrated anymore about what I can submit, I struggled less with last-minute writing scrambles, and was not confused about the type of contribution I'm making to the HCI community. The training that I created was to help my graduate students avoid suffering from the same frustrations that I went through when I learned how to write for CHI and HCI journals.

There's always this writing newsletter, my podcast (which I promise to update again soon) and the How to Write Better Research Papers course to teach you everything I know about writing better research papers. I ran a 50% off sale last month, which surprisingly wasn't as effective as I thought, but I figure many people are currently just busy doing the research or find it challenging to pay for the course. My goal is to implement parity purchasing power next month for the course if I can figure out how to do it.

Enough about my life and how the course is coming together. Here are some hot writing tips for this month.


How to write an introduction to a paper

In 2004, Linguist John M. Swales discussed a deviant take on how to write introductions. Most researchers could learn a thing or two from his work. Here's the gist of it.

In 1990, Swales proposed to structure the introduction section in research papers as the CARS (Create A Research Space) model

  1. Establishing a territory
  2. Establishing a niche
  3. Occupying the niche.

11 years later, Lewin et al. proposed a modern update on this rhetorical structure of a research paper introduction as

  1. Claiming relevance of field
  2. Establishing the gap present research is meant to fill
  3. Previewing authors' new accomplishments.

Additionally, computational linguists propose a much simpler 4-step model for research paper introductions:

  1. Background
  2. Other research
  3. Contrast/Research Gap
  4. Aim of the paper

This prompted Swales to update his CARS model into a different process for writing introductions:

Establishing a...

  1. Territory (citations a must)
    • Discuss general topics with increasing specificity
  2. Niche (citations optional)
    • Indicate a gap OR add to what we know
    • Present positive justification (optional)
  3. Presenting the present work (citations optional)
    1. (obligatory) Announcing present research descriptively and/or purposively
    2. (optional) Presenting RQs or hypotheses
    3. (optional) Definitional clarifications
    4. (optional) Summarizing methods
    5. Announcing principal outcomes
    6. Stating the value of the present research
    7. Outlining the structure of the paper

The PEEL Technique for Paragraph Writing

PEEL or sometimes TEEL stands for Point (sometimes Topic), Evidence, Explanation, Link. And this is how you structure writing paragraphs. Every paragraph should be broken down into those four sections.

  1. Point: What’s the fastest way to make your point? Simply state it in the first sentence of your paragraph. This is also called the topic sentence.
  2. Evidence: People who succeed in presenting evidence support their main point with examples. So, here are a few easy ways you can expand upon the point you made with examples:
    1. Facts
    2. Statistics
    3. Research findings
    4. Quotes from credible authorities or primary texts in the field
    5. Anything that plausibly supports your point
  3. Explanation: Success for explanations in a paragraph 100% comes down to (Note that sometimes you can switch the order of evidence and explanation):
    1. Showing your understanding of the topic
    2. Explaining it in more detail
    3. How and why your evidence supports your point
    4. Help the reader interpret the evidence
  4. Link: The last paragraph sentence serves to boost your original point or link directly to the next paragraph's main point. This link sentence serves as a transition to the next topic.

The faster you can adopt this PEEL framework, the easier it will be for you to:

  • Structure your writing
  • Reinforce your argumentation
  • Guide the reader through your paper

I wish you good luck on your journey and hope this tip was valuable to you. Rate this newsletter here.

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