Introduction (article structure)

Last revised by Jeremy Jones on 10 Apr 2023

The introduction of any article should be an "executive summary" that captures the essence of the article. This is especially true of a standard article. Any points should be brief and expanded later on in the article. It should not contain any bullet points. The length will vary, but it should not exceed four sentences in the vast majority of cases, and will usually be one paragraph. The "introduction" is the only section that every article will have.

The introduction is the very first paragraph and sits before "Epidemiology" (or "Terminology" if the section exists). It does not have its own heading (i.e. there is no heading stating "Introduction").

The first sentence should contain the title, and it should be in bold. In most cases, the plural form of the article name is used rather than the singular form. In other words, the article's first sentence with the title "X" should start with "X is..."

  • e.g. "Meningiomas are..." 

In some cases, pluralising is not appropriate and 'The' or 'A' may need to be inserted before the title (as is the case in this article). There are some cases where this form is preferred, mainly when the article is about an anatomical structure. In such cases, the preceding article ('The' or 'A') should not be bold.

  • e.g. "The stomach is..."

Regardless of whether the singular/plural form is used, it may be helpful to provide the singular/plural form in brackets following the emboldened title word if the singular/plural ending does not follow regular English rules.

  • e.g. "The jejunum (plural: jejuna or jejunums) is..."

Therefore within rounded brackets, the word 'singular' or 'plural' followed by a colon and then the singular or plural form, followed by the closing bracket. If there is more than one form then these are separated by the word 'or'.

If there is a commonly used alternative name, then this should immediately follow the more common term, separated by "also known as". 

  • e.g. "Treacher Collins syndrome, also known as mandibulofacial dysostosis, is a..."

The second term should also be in bold. Often conditions have many alternative names. Unless there are three well-known terms, which is uncommon, then only a maximum of two should be included in the introduction. Occasionally when there are several names or ambiguity about the name(s), it makes sense to create a separate "Terminology" section, which is placed after the introduction. 

Sometimes, names are purely historical, i.e. no-one now uses the term, and in these cases it may be better to include the name(s) in the History and etymology section, for example see Metal fume fever, which has twenty - now discarded - historical synonyms.

In addition every name, or variation thereof, should also be in the 'synonyms or alternative spelling' section at the bottom of the page. This helps ensure that a user searching for a condition by an alternative name is directed to the most appropriate page.

If the term is similar to another entity it is helpful to include a sentence with the following structure:

This condition should not be confused with [name of other similar condition]. 

e.g. Rigler triad should not be confused with Rigler sign or the Hoffman-Rigler sign.

The first sentence should also establish where this article resides relative to other content. It should include reference to (with link) to the 'parent' topic or topics. For example in the case of meningioma, the first sentence needs to link to the articles on tumors of the meninges.

It is important to include one or more of these 'context' links as it quickly allows readers to jump up a level or more to a more general discussion, should a broader understanding be required before reading further. 

If other articles discuss subset/related topics, clarification should be included in this section but in a new paragraph, with the following structure: 

Please refer to the article on [name of related condition] for a specific discussion of that entity. The remainder of this article pertains to [name/clarification of this article topic]. 

e.g. Please refer to the article on epidural (spinal) angiolipoma for a specific discussion of that entity. The remainder of this article pertains to the general features of peripheral angiolipomas

Here are a few articles with appropriate introductions: 

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