Swales’ Three-Move Model for Introductions

With Revisions and Adaptation for Classroom Use by James Luberda


The following is based upon an empirically-derived model of how “real-world” research article introductions commonly proceed. Note that it is not a set of rules, but rather something of a guide as to what readers of research articles and academic essays are likely to expect (and find), a set of patterns in introductions that facilitate their reading and comprehension. You might think of each “move” below as a kind of verbal action—a “move” a writer will make to have a particular effect on the reader. By constructing an introduction more or less along these lines, you ensure your reader has enough information to follow your essay and make use of the information it contains.


Move 1    Establishing a territory

In this opening move, the writer may do one or more of the following to broadly sketch out where the subject of his/her essay falls—the “big picture”

·        Point out the importance of the general subject

·        Make generalizations about the subject

·        Review items of previous research


Move 2    Establishing a niche

In this move, the writer then indicates to the reader the particular area of the broader subject that the essay will deal with. This can be done using one or more of the following:

·        Make a counter-claim, i.e. assert something contrary to expectations

·        Indicate a gap in the existing research/thinking

·        Raise a question about existing research/thinking

·        Suggest the essay is continuing a tradition, i.e. it is following in the footsteps of previous research/thinking

Move 3    Occupying the niche

In this move, the writer then sketches out exactly what this particular essay will accomplish in relation to move #2, and gives the reader a sense of how the essay will proceed. In general, each of the steps below will appear in this move, in order:

·        Step 1: Outline the purpose of the essay, or state the research that was pursued

·        Step 2: State the principal findings of the essay—what the reader can expect the essay/research will have accomplished for them by the time they get to the end

·        Step 3: Indicate, roughly, the structure of the essay—what will appear in it and in what order