2. The contribution
Every journal article makes a contribution to knowledge.
We can think of this as entering a conversation which has been going
on before we arrive, and will carry on after we leave.
Our goal is to say something that other people in the conversation will
find interesting, important and engaging.
We therefore need to be clear about what we want to say before we
open our mouths.
3. Locating the contribution
The usual way to begin a journal article is to establish the problem,
issue or puzzle that you are going to address.
This is situating yourself in the relevant conversation.
Depending on the journal you are writing for, this situating work might
be relatively local, or international.
4. Here is one example. I’m not suggesting that you do exactly what is
I am suggesting that it’s worth looking at a range of journal articles to
see how they situate their study and establish the contribution to be
This is reading for the writing – and doing reading for the writing
develops your understanding of the work that is done through various
forms of academic text.
5. Leppanen, J and Haahla, A
(2012) “Parent-child similarity
in environmental attitudes: a
pairwise comparison.” The
Journal of Environmental
Education 43(3) 162-176
For decades the environmental attitudes of children have been the
major focus of many environmental education (EE) programs
(Ballantyne, Fien, & Packer, 2001; Duvall & Zint, 2007; Uzzell, 1994). This
is primarily because the development of environmental attitudes in
childhood is seen as an important element in the formation of pro-
environmental behavior in later life (Ballantyne, Connell, & Fien, 2006;
Chawla, 1999; Meinhold & Malkus, 2005; Palmer, Suggate,Bajd, & Tsaliki,
One of the ways researchers and environmental educators can promote
environmentalism is to understand the relationship between
demographic variables, and environmental attitudes and behaviors, and
the implications these human-environment relationships may have on
social action and policy (e.g., Zelezny, Chua, & Aldrich, 2000). Much
research has examined the relationships between demographic
variables (e.g., education, age, socioeconomic status) and environmental
attitudes (Zelezny et al., 2000). However research on intergenerational
transmission of antecedents of pro-environmental behavior has been
limited and little has been done concerning pairwise associations of
environmental attitudes within family.
The first paragraph
establishes the (global)
need for understanding
are formed. Presumably
this is familiar to readers
of this journal.
The second paragraph
provides a scoping
statement about the kind
of research that has
already been conducted
and then establishes an
absence of research in a
The red text shows you
how this argument is
6. Naming the contribution
The importance of family processes should
not be overlooked as a means of
“multiplying” the impact of such processes
as EE programs on pro-environmental
behavior in everyday lives (e.g.,Ballantyne
et al., 2006; Ballantyne et al., 2001).
Therefore researchers (e.g., Ballantyne et
al.,2006; Duerden & Witt, 2010; Gr¿nh¿j &
Th¿gersen, 2009; Payne, 2010) have argued
that more research is needed to identify the
factors affecting the processes of
intergenerational learning concerning
The third paragraph explains why
it is important to have research in
this space – this goes to the
importance of the potential
7. Focusing in on the contribution
This paragraph begins the
process of stating what the
contribution of the paper
The authors don’t claim
that this paper will fill the
gap entirely – they are
making a start.
The authors justify filling
the space they have
identified by arguing why
they have started at a
particular point – they use
the literatures to justify
This study is one response to this need. The starting point for this
study is that the family is a particular type of small group, with
special functions (such as socialization), which involve both long-
term interpersonal influence as well as continual negotiations
regarding conformity and change between generations
(Bengtson&Black, 1973).Earlier studies indicate that environmental
attitude, similar to other attitudes; seem to form as a result of the
socialization processes (Acock& Bengtson, 1980; Gr¿nh¿j &
Th¿gersen, 2009; Guastello & Peissig, 1998; Maccoby, 2007). Thus
the close interaction within families and, in particular, the parents’
role as primary socialization agents for their children, might lead to
some level of correspondence of environmental attitudes between
generations (Gr¿nh¿j & Th¿gersen, 2009). Hence the socialization
perspective should form the first step to any attempt to examine
similarities and differences and intergenerational influence
between generations in environmental domain. The more that is
known about important patterns of identity processes between
family members over a wider range of people, the more focused EE
programs can be created.
8. Drawing boundaries around what will be
done and why
Analyzing the similarity of children’s and their parents’
attitudes in terms of means (elevation) and correlations
(pattern) could yield seemingly contradictory results.
Comparing means across the four groups (father, mother,
daughter, and son) it should be possible to discover whether
the younger generation is different from their parents’
generation in the variables of interest (generation gap).
However, even if a generation gap is found, there may still be
substantial consistency between paired parents and children.
For example, the younger generation as a group may have a
more negative environmental attitude than their parents, but
across children and their parents there may be clear
consistency in environmental attitudes when compared to
the attitudes of their respective cohorts (Guastello & Peissig,
1998; Gr¿nh¿j & Th¿gersen 2009; Tedin,1974).
The authors first of all
elaborate what the
research in the paper
actually is. They begin
this process by justifying
the approach they have
taken rather than doing
You may not have to do
exactly this, but it is
explaining why you have
taken a particular
approach and what this
may and may not mean.
9. Drawing on attitude theory (e.g., Eagly & Chaiken,
1993), environmental attitude was defined as being
based on values, composed of beliefs and affects
toward the environment and nature. The overall aim
of this study is to examine whether a generation gap
exists in environmental attitudes in Finland. Survey
data regarding student-parent environmental
attitudes was collected to determine what
quantitative associations exist, if any, in
environmental attitudes between 15- year-old
students (n = 237) and their parents (n = 212) in
Finland. The objectives of this study are to examine:
1. The pairwise similarity in environmental attitudes
between family members; by using
a. correlation, and
b. pairwise comparisons.
2. The generation gap in environmental attitudes, by
using groupwise comparison.
3. Whether parental educational background
influences their children’s environmental attitudes,
by using one-way ANOVA.
The authors then outline the broad
parameters of their study. They offer
their definition of environmental
attitude so readers know how they
understand the term. They then
describe in broad terms the kind of data
they have and what they have done
Much more detail will be given about
this in the Methods section of the paper
– just as there is more Literatures work
(A caveat: I have edited a few details in
this introduction so as not to cause
10. Naming the contribution
The results contribute some
preliminary findings to the
growing field of inquiry into
environmental socialization and
significant life experiences (SLE) in
the environmental domain.
At the end of reading this
introduction, even if you are
critical of some of the expression
or the ways in which the
argument has been put together,
you are left in no doubt about
what you will find in the paper
and why the authors say you need
to know about it. The potential
cotntribution is clear.
11. Examine some papers of your choosing to see how
the topic is located, justified and the contribution
named and elaborated.
I have shown an example from education, but
every disciplinary and journal community will have
its own specific variation on the ways in which the
contribution is located and delineated.
12. Talking before writing
It’s often helpful to talk about what you are going to write before you
start actually writing.
That’s’ because talking can help you clarify your ideas.
• You can hear where you haven’t yet got something sorted out and
then use talking around in order to help get it clear.
• You can rehearse the vocabulary you might need to use.
• You can hear how your ideas might sound to other people.
However, just as with “pomodoro” writing, it can help to have some
prompts to work to.
13. Use prompts to start talking your paper
What is the problem, puzzle or debate you are writing about?
Why is this important and to whom?
How will you addresses the problem, puzzle or debate in this
What will you specifically add to what is known? What will the
reader know at the end of the paper that they didn’t know at
What might happen as a result of the reader knowing this?