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Organization & the CARS Model

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Although each discipline has its own conventions for what articles, research reports, dissertations, and other types of scholarly writing should look like, academic writing shares some general characteristics across each field. One area of similarity is the introduction section. This handout provides strategies for revising introductions.

CARS (Creating a Research Space)

John Swales’ CARS model for introductions is based on his study of articles across a range of disciplines. He identified the following moves as common among most articles:

Move 1: Establishing a territory

Step 1 Claiming importance and/or

Step 2 Making topic generalizations and/or

Step 3 Reviewing items of previous research

Move 2: Establishing a niche

Step 1a Counter-claiming or

Step 1b Indicating a gap or

Step 1c Question-raising or

Step 1d Continuing a tradition

Move 3: Occupying the niche

Step 1a Outlining purposes or

Step 1b Announcing present research

Step 2 Announcing principle findings

Step 3 Indicating article structure

Writers can use these moves as a guide for revising their own writing, or for helping others.

Questions for Revision

Does the introduction to the piece of writing you are working with…

1) Establish the importance of the paper’s topic within the discipline?
2) Mention commonly accepted ideas about the topic?
3) Discuss previous research related to the topic?
4) Challenge existing beliefs about the topic?
5) Demonstrate a gap in current research on this topic?
6) Ask questions about current knowledge in the field?
7) Name an area of research that needs to be extended?
8) Explain the purpose of the paper?
9) Name the focus of the research?
10) List the primary findings of the research?
11) Outline the sections of the paper?

Topic Outline

A topic outline is a fast and easy way to analyze whether an introduction is effectively organized. According to Pyrczak and Bruce, a topic outline can help show the flow of an introduction to ensure it moves from a general introduction of the problem or gap to a specific discussion of the current research (33). The topic outline can be combined with the CARS model to improve your introduction or to offer advice to a peer.

Topic Outline Exercise

1) With your own paper, or a peer’s, read through the introduction section.
2) As you read, write down the main points in the introduction in outline form, using short phrases or sentences to describe what you see happening. The outline need not be complex.
3) After creating your outline, read through it to see if each of the moves in the CARS model is covered. Pay particular attention to whether the paper’s author:
a) Mentions how the paper fits into previous research,
b) Lists the paper’s main findings, and
c) Outlines the structure of the paper.
Works Cited

Pyrczak, Fred and Randall R. Bruce. Writing Empirical Research Reports: A Basic Guide for Students of the Social and Behavioral Sciences . Los Angeles: Pyrczak Publishing, 2000. Print.

Swales, John. Genre Analysis: English in Academic and Research Settings. 1990. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2008. Print.