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How to Write a Research Paper Introduction (with Examples)

How to Write a Research Paper Introduction (with Examples)

The research paper introduction section, along with the Title and Abstract, can be considered the face of any research paper. The following article is intended to guide you in organizing and writing the research paper introduction for a quality academic article or dissertation.

The research paper introduction aims to present the topic to the reader. A study will only be accepted for publishing if you can ascertain that the available literature cannot answer your research question. So it is important to ensure that you have read important studies on that particular topic, especially those within the last five to ten years, and that they are properly referenced in this section. 1 What should be included in the research paper introduction is decided by what you want to tell readers about the reason behind the research and how you plan to fill the knowledge gap. The best research paper introduction provides a systemic review of existing work and demonstrates additional work that needs to be done. It needs to be brief, captivating, and well-referenced; a well-drafted research paper introduction will help the researcher win half the battle.

The introduction for a research paper is where you set up your topic and approach for the reader. It has several key goals:

  • Present your research topic
  • Capture reader interest
  • Summarize existing research
  • Position your own approach
  • Define your specific research problem and problem statement
  • Highlight the novelty and contributions of the study
  • Give an overview of the paper’s structure

The research paper introduction can vary in size and structure depending on whether your paper presents the results of original empirical research or is a review paper. Some research paper introduction examples are only half a page while others are a few pages long. In many cases, the introduction will be shorter than all of the other sections of your paper; its length depends on the size of your paper as a whole.

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Table of Contents

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The introduction in a research paper is placed at the beginning to guide the reader from a broad subject area to the specific topic that your research addresses. They present the following information to the reader

  • Scope: The topic covered in the research paper
  • Context: Background of your topic
  • Importance: Why your research matters in that particular area of research and the industry problem that can be targeted

The research paper introduction conveys a lot of information and can be considered an essential roadmap for the rest of your paper. A good introduction for a research paper is important for the following reasons:

  • It stimulates your reader’s interest: A good introduction section can make your readers want to read your paper by capturing their interest. It informs the reader what they are going to learn and helps determine if the topic is of interest to them.
  • It helps the reader understand the research background: Without a clear introduction, your readers may feel confused and even struggle when reading your paper. A good research paper introduction will prepare them for the in-depth research to come. It provides you the opportunity to engage with the readers and demonstrate your knowledge and authority on the specific topic.
  • It explains why your research paper is worth reading: Your introduction can convey a lot of information to your readers. It introduces the topic, why the topic is important, and how you plan to proceed with your research.
  • It helps guide the reader through the rest of the paper: The research paper introduction gives the reader a sense of the nature of the information that will support your arguments and the general organization of the paragraphs that will follow. It offers an overview of what to expect when reading the main body of your paper.

What are the parts of introduction in the research?

A good research paper introduction section should comprise three main elements: 2

  • What is known: This sets the stage for your research. It informs the readers of what is known on the subject.
  • What is lacking: This is aimed at justifying the reason for carrying out your research. This could involve investigating a new concept or method or building upon previous research.
  • What you aim to do: This part briefly states the objectives of your research and its major contributions. Your detailed hypothesis will also form a part of this section.

How to write a research paper introduction?

The first step in writing the research paper introduction is to inform the reader what your topic is and why it’s interesting or important. This is generally accomplished with a strong opening statement. The second step involves establishing the kinds of research that have been done and ending with limitations or gaps in the research that you intend to address. Finally, the research paper introduction clarifies how your own research fits in and what problem it addresses. If your research involved testing hypotheses, these should be stated along with your research question. The hypothesis should be presented in the past tense since it will have been tested by the time you are writing the research paper introduction.

The following key points, with examples, can guide you when writing the research paper introduction section:

  • Highlight the importance of the research field or topic
  • Describe the background of the topic
  • Present an overview of current research on the topic

Example: The inclusion of experiential and competency-based learning has benefitted electronics engineering education. Industry partnerships provide an excellent alternative for students wanting to engage in solving real-world challenges. Industry-academia participation has grown in recent years due to the need for skilled engineers with practical training and specialized expertise. However, from the educational perspective, many activities are needed to incorporate sustainable development goals into the university curricula and consolidate learning innovation in universities.

  • Reveal a gap in existing research or oppose an existing assumption
  • Formulate the research question

Example: There have been plausible efforts to integrate educational activities in higher education electronics engineering programs. However, very few studies have considered using educational research methods for performance evaluation of competency-based higher engineering education, with a focus on technical and or transversal skills. To remedy the current need for evaluating competencies in STEM fields and providing sustainable development goals in engineering education, in this study, a comparison was drawn between study groups without and with industry partners.

  • State the purpose of your study
  • Highlight the key characteristics of your study
  • Describe important results
  • Highlight the novelty of the study.
  • Offer a brief overview of the structure of the paper.

Example: The study evaluates the main competency needed in the applied electronics course, which is a fundamental core subject for many electronics engineering undergraduate programs. We compared two groups, without and with an industrial partner, that offered real-world projects to solve during the semester. This comparison can help determine significant differences in both groups in terms of developing subject competency and achieving sustainable development goals.

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Paperpal Copilot is a generative AI-powered academic writing assistant. It’s trained on millions of published scholarly articles and over 20 years of STM experience. Paperpal Copilot helps authors write better and faster with:

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With Paperpal Copilot, create a research paper introduction effortlessly. In this step-by-step guide, we’ll walk you through how Paperpal transforms your initial ideas into a polished and publication-ready introduction.

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How to use Paperpal to write the Introduction section

Step 1: Sign up on Paperpal and click on the Copilot feature, under this choose Outlines > Research Article > Introduction

Step 2: Add your unstructured notes or initial draft, whether in English or another language, to Paperpal, which is to be used as the base for your content.

Step 3: Fill in the specifics, such as your field of study, brief description or details you want to include, which will help the AI generate the outline for your Introduction.

Step 4: Use this outline and sentence suggestions to develop your content, adding citations where needed and modifying it to align with your specific research focus.

Step 5: Turn to Paperpal’s granular language checks to refine your content, tailor it to reflect your personal writing style, and ensure it effectively conveys your message.

You can use the same process to develop each section of your article, and finally your research paper in half the time and without any of the stress.

The purpose of the research paper introduction is to introduce the reader to the problem definition, justify the need for the study, and describe the main theme of the study. The aim is to gain the reader’s attention by providing them with necessary background information and establishing the main purpose and direction of the research.

The length of the research paper introduction can vary across journals and disciplines. While there are no strict word limits for writing the research paper introduction, an ideal length would be one page, with a maximum of 400 words over 1-4 paragraphs. Generally, it is one of the shorter sections of the paper as the reader is assumed to have at least a reasonable knowledge about the topic. 2 For example, for a study evaluating the role of building design in ensuring fire safety, there is no need to discuss definitions and nature of fire in the introduction; you could start by commenting upon the existing practices for fire safety and how your study will add to the existing knowledge and practice.

When deciding what to include in the research paper introduction, the rest of the paper should also be considered. The aim is to introduce the reader smoothly to the topic and facilitate an easy read without much dependency on external sources. 3 Below is a list of elements you can include to prepare a research paper introduction outline and follow it when you are writing the research paper introduction. Topic introduction: This can include key definitions and a brief history of the topic. Research context and background: Offer the readers some general information and then narrow it down to specific aspects. Details of the research you conducted: A brief literature review can be included to support your arguments or line of thought. Rationale for the study: This establishes the relevance of your study and establishes its importance. Importance of your research: The main contributions are highlighted to help establish the novelty of your study Research hypothesis: Introduce your research question and propose an expected outcome. Organization of the paper: Include a short paragraph of 3-4 sentences that highlights your plan for the entire paper

Cite only works that are most relevant to your topic; as a general rule, you can include one to three. Note that readers want to see evidence of original thinking. So it is better to avoid using too many references as it does not leave much room for your personal standpoint to shine through. Citations in your research paper introduction support the key points, and the number of citations depend on the subject matter and the point discussed. If the research paper introduction is too long or overflowing with citations, it is better to cite a few review articles rather than the individual articles summarized in the review. A good point to remember when citing research papers in the introduction section is to include at least one-third of the references in the introduction.

The literature review plays a significant role in the research paper introduction section. A good literature review accomplishes the following: Introduces the topic – Establishes the study’s significance – Provides an overview of the relevant literature – Provides context for the study using literature – Identifies knowledge gaps However, remember to avoid making the following mistakes when writing a research paper introduction: Do not use studies from the literature review to aggressively support your research Avoid direct quoting Do not allow literature review to be the focus of this section. Instead, the literature review should only aid in setting a foundation for the manuscript.

Remember the following key points for writing a good research paper introduction: 4

  • Avoid stuffing too much general information: Avoid including what an average reader would know and include only that information related to the problem being addressed in the research paper introduction. For example, when describing a comparative study of non-traditional methods for mechanical design optimization, information related to the traditional methods and differences between traditional and non-traditional methods would not be relevant. In this case, the introduction for the research paper should begin with the state-of-the-art non-traditional methods and methods to evaluate the efficiency of newly developed algorithms.
  • Avoid packing too many references: Cite only the required works in your research paper introduction. The other works can be included in the discussion section to strengthen your findings.
  • Avoid extensive criticism of previous studies: Avoid being overly critical of earlier studies while setting the rationale for your study. A better place for this would be the Discussion section, where you can highlight the advantages of your method.
  • Avoid describing conclusions of the study: When writing a research paper introduction remember not to include the findings of your study. The aim is to let the readers know what question is being answered. The actual answer should only be given in the Results and Discussion section.

To summarize, the research paper introduction section should be brief yet informative. It should convince the reader the need to conduct the study and motivate him to read further. If you’re feeling stuck or unsure, choose trusted AI academic writing assistants like Paperpal to effortlessly craft your research paper introduction and other sections of your research article.

1. Jawaid, S. A., & Jawaid, M. (2019). How to write introduction and discussion. Saudi Journal of Anaesthesia, 13(Suppl 1), S18.

2. Dewan, P., & Gupta, P. (2016). Writing the title, abstract and introduction: Looks matter!. Indian pediatrics, 53, 235-241.

3. Cetin, S., & Hackam, D. J. (2005). An approach to the writing of a scientific Manuscript1. Journal of Surgical Research, 128(2), 165-167.

4. Bavdekar, S. B. (2015). Writing introduction: Laying the foundations of a research paper. Journal of the Association of Physicians of India, 63(7), 44-6.

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Home » Research Paper Introduction – Writing Guide and Examples

Research Paper Introduction – Writing Guide and Examples

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Research Paper Introduction

Research Paper Introduction

Research paper introduction is the first section of a research paper that provides an overview of the study, its purpose, and the research question (s) or hypothesis (es) being investigated. It typically includes background information about the topic, a review of previous research in the field, and a statement of the research objectives. The introduction is intended to provide the reader with a clear understanding of the research problem, why it is important, and how the study will contribute to existing knowledge in the field. It also sets the tone for the rest of the paper and helps to establish the author’s credibility and expertise on the subject.

How to Write Research Paper Introduction

Writing an introduction for a research paper can be challenging because it sets the tone for the entire paper. Here are some steps to follow to help you write an effective research paper introduction:

  • Start with a hook : Begin your introduction with an attention-grabbing statement, a question, or a surprising fact that will make the reader interested in reading further.
  • Provide background information: After the hook, provide background information on the topic. This information should give the reader a general idea of what the topic is about and why it is important.
  • State the research problem: Clearly state the research problem or question that the paper addresses. This should be done in a concise and straightforward manner.
  • State the research objectives: After stating the research problem, clearly state the research objectives. This will give the reader an idea of what the paper aims to achieve.
  • Provide a brief overview of the paper: At the end of the introduction, provide a brief overview of the paper. This should include a summary of the main points that will be discussed in the paper.
  • Revise and refine: Finally, revise and refine your introduction to ensure that it is clear, concise, and engaging.

Structure of Research Paper Introduction

The following is a typical structure for a research paper introduction:

  • Background Information: This section provides an overview of the topic of the research paper, including relevant background information and any previous research that has been done on the topic. It helps to give the reader a sense of the context for the study.
  • Problem Statement: This section identifies the specific problem or issue that the research paper is addressing. It should be clear and concise, and it should articulate the gap in knowledge that the study aims to fill.
  • Research Question/Hypothesis : This section states the research question or hypothesis that the study aims to answer. It should be specific and focused, and it should clearly connect to the problem statement.
  • Significance of the Study: This section explains why the research is important and what the potential implications of the study are. It should highlight the contribution that the research makes to the field.
  • Methodology: This section describes the research methods that were used to conduct the study. It should be detailed enough to allow the reader to understand how the study was conducted and to evaluate the validity of the results.
  • Organization of the Paper : This section provides a brief overview of the structure of the research paper. It should give the reader a sense of what to expect in each section of the paper.

Research Paper Introduction Examples

Research Paper Introduction Examples could be:

Example 1: In recent years, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) has become increasingly prevalent in various industries, including healthcare. AI algorithms are being developed to assist with medical diagnoses, treatment recommendations, and patient monitoring. However, as the use of AI in healthcare grows, ethical concerns regarding privacy, bias, and accountability have emerged. This paper aims to explore the ethical implications of AI in healthcare and propose recommendations for addressing these concerns.

Example 2: Climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing our planet today. The increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere has resulted in rising temperatures, changing weather patterns, and other environmental impacts. In this paper, we will review the scientific evidence on climate change, discuss the potential consequences of inaction, and propose solutions for mitigating its effects.

Example 3: The rise of social media has transformed the way we communicate and interact with each other. While social media platforms offer many benefits, including increased connectivity and access to information, they also present numerous challenges. In this paper, we will examine the impact of social media on mental health, privacy, and democracy, and propose solutions for addressing these issues.

Example 4: The use of renewable energy sources has become increasingly important in the face of climate change and environmental degradation. While renewable energy technologies offer many benefits, including reduced greenhouse gas emissions and energy independence, they also present numerous challenges. In this paper, we will assess the current state of renewable energy technology, discuss the economic and political barriers to its adoption, and propose solutions for promoting the widespread use of renewable energy.

Purpose of Research Paper Introduction

The introduction section of a research paper serves several important purposes, including:

  • Providing context: The introduction should give readers a general understanding of the topic, including its background, significance, and relevance to the field.
  • Presenting the research question or problem: The introduction should clearly state the research question or problem that the paper aims to address. This helps readers understand the purpose of the study and what the author hopes to accomplish.
  • Reviewing the literature: The introduction should summarize the current state of knowledge on the topic, highlighting the gaps and limitations in existing research. This shows readers why the study is important and necessary.
  • Outlining the scope and objectives of the study: The introduction should describe the scope and objectives of the study, including what aspects of the topic will be covered, what data will be collected, and what methods will be used.
  • Previewing the main findings and conclusions : The introduction should provide a brief overview of the main findings and conclusions that the study will present. This helps readers anticipate what they can expect to learn from the paper.

When to Write Research Paper Introduction

The introduction of a research paper is typically written after the research has been conducted and the data has been analyzed. This is because the introduction should provide an overview of the research problem, the purpose of the study, and the research questions or hypotheses that will be investigated.

Once you have a clear understanding of the research problem and the questions that you want to explore, you can begin to write the introduction. It’s important to keep in mind that the introduction should be written in a way that engages the reader and provides a clear rationale for the study. It should also provide context for the research by reviewing relevant literature and explaining how the study fits into the larger field of research.

Advantages of Research Paper Introduction

The introduction of a research paper has several advantages, including:

  • Establishing the purpose of the research: The introduction provides an overview of the research problem, question, or hypothesis, and the objectives of the study. This helps to clarify the purpose of the research and provide a roadmap for the reader to follow.
  • Providing background information: The introduction also provides background information on the topic, including a review of relevant literature and research. This helps the reader understand the context of the study and how it fits into the broader field of research.
  • Demonstrating the significance of the research: The introduction also explains why the research is important and relevant. This helps the reader understand the value of the study and why it is worth reading.
  • Setting expectations: The introduction sets the tone for the rest of the paper and prepares the reader for what is to come. This helps the reader understand what to expect and how to approach the paper.
  • Grabbing the reader’s attention: A well-written introduction can grab the reader’s attention and make them interested in reading further. This is important because it can help to keep the reader engaged and motivated to read the rest of the paper.
  • Creating a strong first impression: The introduction is the first part of the research paper that the reader will see, and it can create a strong first impression. A well-written introduction can make the reader more likely to take the research seriously and view it as credible.
  • Establishing the author’s credibility: The introduction can also establish the author’s credibility as a researcher. By providing a clear and thorough overview of the research problem and relevant literature, the author can demonstrate their expertise and knowledge in the field.
  • Providing a structure for the paper: The introduction can also provide a structure for the rest of the paper. By outlining the main sections and sub-sections of the paper, the introduction can help the reader navigate the paper and find the information they are looking for.

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How to write an effective introduction for your research paper

Last updated

20 January 2024

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However, the introduction is a vital element of your research paper. It helps the reader decide whether your paper is worth their time. As such, it's worth taking your time to get it right.

In this article, we'll tell you everything you need to know about writing an effective introduction for your research paper.

  • The importance of an introduction in research papers

The primary purpose of an introduction is to provide an overview of your paper. This lets readers gauge whether they want to continue reading or not. The introduction should provide a meaningful roadmap of your research to help them make this decision. It should let readers know whether the information they're interested in is likely to be found in the pages that follow.

Aside from providing readers with information about the content of your paper, the introduction also sets the tone. It shows readers the style of language they can expect, which can further help them to decide how far to read.

When you take into account both of these roles that an introduction plays, it becomes clear that crafting an engaging introduction is the best way to get your paper read more widely. First impressions count, and the introduction provides that impression to readers.

  • The optimum length for a research paper introduction

While there's no magic formula to determine exactly how long a research paper introduction should be, there are a few guidelines. Some variables that impact the ideal introduction length include:

Field of study

Complexity of the topic

Specific requirements of the course or publication

A commonly recommended length of a research paper introduction is around 10% of the total paper’s length. So, a ten-page paper has a one-page introduction. If the topic is complex, it may require more background to craft a compelling intro. Humanities papers tend to have longer introductions than those of the hard sciences.

The best way to craft an introduction of the right length is to focus on clarity and conciseness. Tell the reader only what is necessary to set up your research. An introduction edited down with this goal in mind should end up at an acceptable length.

  • Evaluating successful research paper introductions

A good way to gauge how to create a great introduction is by looking at examples from across your field. The most influential and well-regarded papers should provide some insights into what makes a good introduction.

Dissecting examples: what works and why

We can make some general assumptions by looking at common elements of a good introduction, regardless of the field of research.

A common structure is to start with a broad context, and then narrow that down to specific research questions or hypotheses. This creates a funnel that establishes the scope and relevance.

The most effective introductions are careful about the assumptions they make regarding reader knowledge. By clearly defining key terms and concepts instead of assuming the reader is familiar with them, these introductions set a more solid foundation for understanding.

To pull in the reader and make that all-important good first impression, excellent research paper introductions will often incorporate a compelling narrative or some striking fact that grabs the reader's attention.

Finally, good introductions provide clear citations from past research to back up the claims they're making. In the case of argumentative papers or essays (those that take a stance on a topic or issue), a strong thesis statement compels the reader to continue reading.

Common pitfalls to avoid in research paper introductions

You can also learn what not to do by looking at other research papers. Many authors have made mistakes you can learn from.

We've talked about the need to be clear and concise. Many introductions fail at this; they're verbose, vague, or otherwise fail to convey the research problem or hypothesis efficiently. This often comes in the form of an overemphasis on background information, which obscures the main research focus.

Ensure your introduction provides the proper emphasis and excitement around your research and its significance. Otherwise, fewer people will want to read more about it.

  • Crafting a compelling introduction for a research paper

Let’s take a look at the steps required to craft an introduction that pulls readers in and compels them to learn more about your research.

Step 1: Capturing interest and setting the scene

To capture the reader's interest immediately, begin your introduction with a compelling question, a surprising fact, a provocative quote, or some other mechanism that will hook readers and pull them further into the paper.

As they continue reading, the introduction should contextualize your research within the current field, showing readers its relevance and importance. Clarify any essential terms that will help them better understand what you're saying. This keeps the fundamentals of your research accessible to all readers from all backgrounds.

Step 2: Building a solid foundation with background information

Including background information in your introduction serves two major purposes:

It helps to clarify the topic for the reader

It establishes the depth of your research

The approach you take when conveying this information depends on the type of paper.

For argumentative papers, you'll want to develop engaging background narratives. These should provide context for the argument you'll be presenting.

For empirical papers, highlighting past research is the key. Often, there will be some questions that weren't answered in those past papers. If your paper is focused on those areas, those papers make ideal candidates for you to discuss and critique in your introduction.

Step 3: Pinpointing the research challenge

To capture the attention of the reader, you need to explain what research challenges you'll be discussing.

For argumentative papers, this involves articulating why the argument you'll be making is important. What is its relevance to current discussions or problems? What is the potential impact of people accepting or rejecting your argument?

For empirical papers, explain how your research is addressing a gap in existing knowledge. What new insights or contributions will your research bring to your field?

Step 4: Clarifying your research aims and objectives

We mentioned earlier that the introduction to a research paper can serve as a roadmap for what's within. We've also frequently discussed the need for clarity. This step addresses both of these.

When writing an argumentative paper, craft a thesis statement with impact. Clearly articulate what your position is and the main points you intend to present. This will map out for the reader exactly what they'll get from reading the rest.

For empirical papers, focus on formulating precise research questions and hypotheses. Directly link them to the gaps or issues you've identified in existing research to show the reader the precise direction your research paper will take.

Step 5: Sketching the blueprint of your study

Continue building a roadmap for your readers by designing a structured outline for the paper. Guide the reader through your research journey, explaining what the different sections will contain and their relationship to one another.

This outline should flow seamlessly as you move from section to section. Creating this outline early can also help guide the creation of the paper itself, resulting in a final product that's better organized. In doing so, you'll craft a paper where each section flows intuitively from the next.

Step 6: Integrating your research question

To avoid letting your research question get lost in background information or clarifications, craft your introduction in such a way that the research question resonates throughout. The research question should clearly address a gap in existing knowledge or offer a new perspective on an existing problem.

Tell users your research question explicitly but also remember to frequently come back to it. When providing context or clarification, point out how it relates to the research question. This keeps your focus where it needs to be and prevents the topic of the paper from becoming under-emphasized.

Step 7: Establishing the scope and limitations

So far, we've talked mostly about what's in the paper and how to convey that information to readers. The opposite is also important. Information that's outside the scope of your paper should be made clear to the reader in the introduction so their expectations for what is to follow are set appropriately.

Similarly, be honest and upfront about the limitations of the study. Any constraints in methodology, data, or how far your findings can be generalized should be fully communicated in the introduction.

Step 8: Concluding the introduction with a promise

The final few lines of the introduction are your last chance to convince people to continue reading the rest of the paper. Here is where you should make it very clear what benefit they'll get from doing so. What topics will be covered? What questions will be answered? Make it clear what they will get for continuing.

By providing a quick recap of the key points contained in the introduction in its final lines and properly setting the stage for what follows in the rest of the paper, you refocus the reader's attention on the topic of your research and guide them to read more.

  • Research paper introduction best practices

Following the steps above will give you a compelling introduction that hits on all the key points an introduction should have. Some more tips and tricks can make an introduction even more polished.

As you follow the steps above, keep the following tips in mind.

Set the right tone and style

Like every piece of writing, a research paper should be written for the audience. That is to say, it should match the tone and style that your academic discipline and target audience expect. This is typically a formal and academic tone, though the degree of formality varies by field.

Kno w the audience

The perfect introduction balances clarity with conciseness. The amount of clarification required for a given topic depends greatly on the target audience. Knowing who will be reading your paper will guide you in determining how much background information is required.

Adopt the CARS (create a research space) model

The CARS model is a helpful tool for structuring introductions. This structure has three parts. The beginning of the introduction establishes the general research area. Next, relevant literature is reviewed and critiqued. The final section outlines the purpose of your study as it relates to the previous parts.

Master the art of funneling

The CARS method is one example of a well-funneled introduction. These start broadly and then slowly narrow down to your specific research problem. It provides a nice narrative flow that provides the right information at the right time. If you stray from the CARS model, try to retain this same type of funneling.

Incorporate narrative element

People read research papers largely to be informed. But to inform the reader, you have to hold their attention. A narrative style, particularly in the introduction, is a great way to do that. This can be a compelling story, an intriguing question, or a description of a real-world problem.

Write the introduction last

By writing the introduction after the rest of the paper, you'll have a better idea of what your research entails and how the paper is structured. This prevents the common problem of writing something in the introduction and then forgetting to include it in the paper. It also means anything particularly exciting in the paper isn’t neglected in the intro.

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  • USC Libraries
  • Research Guides

Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

  • 4. The Introduction
  • Purpose of Guide
  • Design Flaws to Avoid
  • Independent and Dependent Variables
  • Glossary of Research Terms
  • Reading Research Effectively
  • Narrowing a Topic Idea
  • Broadening a Topic Idea
  • Extending the Timeliness of a Topic Idea
  • Academic Writing Style
  • Applying Critical Thinking
  • Choosing a Title
  • Making an Outline
  • Paragraph Development
  • Research Process Video Series
  • Executive Summary
  • The C.A.R.S. Model
  • Background Information
  • The Research Problem/Question
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Citation Tracking
  • Content Alert Services
  • Evaluating Sources
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • Tiertiary Sources
  • Scholarly vs. Popular Publications
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Insiderness
  • Using Non-Textual Elements
  • Limitations of the Study
  • Common Grammar Mistakes
  • Writing Concisely
  • Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Footnotes or Endnotes?
  • Further Readings
  • Generative AI and Writing
  • USC Libraries Tutorials and Other Guides
  • Bibliography

The introduction leads the reader from a general subject area to a particular topic of inquiry. It establishes the scope, context, and significance of the research being conducted by summarizing current understanding and background information about the topic, stating the purpose of the work in the form of the research problem supported by a hypothesis or a set of questions, explaining briefly the methodological approach used to examine the research problem, highlighting the potential outcomes your study can reveal, and outlining the remaining structure and organization of the paper.

Key Elements of the Research Proposal. Prepared under the direction of the Superintendent and by the 2010 Curriculum Design and Writing Team. Baltimore County Public Schools.

Importance of a Good Introduction

Think of the introduction as a mental road map that must answer for the reader these four questions:

  • What was I studying?
  • Why was this topic important to investigate?
  • What did we know about this topic before I did this study?
  • How will this study advance new knowledge or new ways of understanding?

According to Reyes, there are three overarching goals of a good introduction: 1) ensure that you summarize prior studies about the topic in a manner that lays a foundation for understanding the research problem; 2) explain how your study specifically addresses gaps in the literature, insufficient consideration of the topic, or other deficiency in the literature; and, 3) note the broader theoretical, empirical, and/or policy contributions and implications of your research.

A well-written introduction is important because, quite simply, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. The opening paragraphs of your paper will provide your readers with their initial impressions about the logic of your argument, your writing style, the overall quality of your research, and, ultimately, the validity of your findings and conclusions. A vague, disorganized, or error-filled introduction will create a negative impression, whereas, a concise, engaging, and well-written introduction will lead your readers to think highly of your analytical skills, your writing style, and your research approach. All introductions should conclude with a brief paragraph that describes the organization of the rest of the paper.

Hirano, Eliana. “Research Article Introductions in English for Specific Purposes: A Comparison between Brazilian, Portuguese, and English.” English for Specific Purposes 28 (October 2009): 240-250; Samraj, B. “Introductions in Research Articles: Variations Across Disciplines.” English for Specific Purposes 21 (2002): 1–17; Introductions. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; “Writing Introductions.” In Good Essay Writing: A Social Sciences Guide. Peter Redman. 4th edition. (London: Sage, 2011), pp. 63-70; Reyes, Victoria. Demystifying the Journal Article. Inside Higher Education.

Structure and Writing Style

I.  Structure and Approach

The introduction is the broad beginning of the paper that answers three important questions for the reader:

  • What is this?
  • Why should I read it?
  • What do you want me to think about / consider doing / react to?

Think of the structure of the introduction as an inverted triangle of information that lays a foundation for understanding the research problem. Organize the information so as to present the more general aspects of the topic early in the introduction, then narrow your analysis to more specific topical information that provides context, finally arriving at your research problem and the rationale for studying it [often written as a series of key questions to be addressed or framed as a hypothesis or set of assumptions to be tested] and, whenever possible, a description of the potential outcomes your study can reveal.

These are general phases associated with writing an introduction: 1.  Establish an area to research by:

  • Highlighting the importance of the topic, and/or
  • Making general statements about the topic, and/or
  • Presenting an overview on current research on the subject.

2.  Identify a research niche by:

  • Opposing an existing assumption, and/or
  • Revealing a gap in existing research, and/or
  • Formulating a research question or problem, and/or
  • Continuing a disciplinary tradition.

3.  Place your research within the research niche by:

  • Stating the intent of your study,
  • Outlining the key characteristics of your study,
  • Describing important results, and
  • Giving a brief overview of the structure of the paper.

NOTE:   It is often useful to review the introduction late in the writing process. This is appropriate because outcomes are unknown until you've completed the study. After you complete writing the body of the paper, go back and review introductory descriptions of the structure of the paper, the method of data gathering, the reporting and analysis of results, and the conclusion. Reviewing and, if necessary, rewriting the introduction ensures that it correctly matches the overall structure of your final paper.

II.  Delimitations of the Study

Delimitations refer to those characteristics that limit the scope and define the conceptual boundaries of your research . This is determined by the conscious exclusionary and inclusionary decisions you make about how to investigate the research problem. In other words, not only should you tell the reader what it is you are studying and why, but you must also acknowledge why you rejected alternative approaches that could have been used to examine the topic.

Obviously, the first limiting step was the choice of research problem itself. However, implicit are other, related problems that could have been chosen but were rejected. These should be noted in the conclusion of your introduction. For example, a delimitating statement could read, "Although many factors can be understood to impact the likelihood young people will vote, this study will focus on socioeconomic factors related to the need to work full-time while in school." The point is not to document every possible delimiting factor, but to highlight why previously researched issues related to the topic were not addressed.

Examples of delimitating choices would be:

  • The key aims and objectives of your study,
  • The research questions that you address,
  • The variables of interest [i.e., the various factors and features of the phenomenon being studied],
  • The method(s) of investigation,
  • The time period your study covers, and
  • Any relevant alternative theoretical frameworks that could have been adopted.

Review each of these decisions. Not only do you clearly establish what you intend to accomplish in your research, but you should also include a declaration of what the study does not intend to cover. In the latter case, your exclusionary decisions should be based upon criteria understood as, "not interesting"; "not directly relevant"; “too problematic because..."; "not feasible," and the like. Make this reasoning explicit!

NOTE:   Delimitations refer to the initial choices made about the broader, overall design of your study and should not be confused with documenting the limitations of your study discovered after the research has been completed.

ANOTHER NOTE : Do not view delimitating statements as admitting to an inherent failing or shortcoming in your research. They are an accepted element of academic writing intended to keep the reader focused on the research problem by explicitly defining the conceptual boundaries and scope of your study. It addresses any critical questions in the reader's mind of, "Why the hell didn't the author examine this?"

III.  The Narrative Flow

Issues to keep in mind that will help the narrative flow in your introduction :

  • Your introduction should clearly identify the subject area of interest . A simple strategy to follow is to use key words from your title in the first few sentences of the introduction. This will help focus the introduction on the topic at the appropriate level and ensures that you get to the subject matter quickly without losing focus, or discussing information that is too general.
  • Establish context by providing a brief and balanced review of the pertinent published literature that is available on the subject. The key is to summarize for the reader what is known about the specific research problem before you did your analysis. This part of your introduction should not represent a comprehensive literature review--that comes next. It consists of a general review of the important, foundational research literature [with citations] that establishes a foundation for understanding key elements of the research problem. See the drop-down menu under this tab for " Background Information " regarding types of contexts.
  • Clearly state the hypothesis that you investigated . When you are first learning to write in this format it is okay, and actually preferable, to use a past statement like, "The purpose of this study was to...." or "We investigated three possible mechanisms to explain the...."
  • Why did you choose this kind of research study or design? Provide a clear statement of the rationale for your approach to the problem studied. This will usually follow your statement of purpose in the last paragraph of the introduction.

IV.  Engaging the Reader

A research problem in the social sciences can come across as dry and uninteresting to anyone unfamiliar with the topic . Therefore, one of the goals of your introduction is to make readers want to read your paper. Here are several strategies you can use to grab the reader's attention:

  • Open with a compelling story . Almost all research problems in the social sciences, no matter how obscure or esoteric , are really about the lives of people. Telling a story that humanizes an issue can help illuminate the significance of the problem and help the reader empathize with those affected by the condition being studied.
  • Include a strong quotation or a vivid, perhaps unexpected, anecdote . During your review of the literature, make note of any quotes or anecdotes that grab your attention because they can used in your introduction to highlight the research problem in a captivating way.
  • Pose a provocative or thought-provoking question . Your research problem should be framed by a set of questions to be addressed or hypotheses to be tested. However, a provocative question can be presented in the beginning of your introduction that challenges an existing assumption or compels the reader to consider an alternative viewpoint that helps establish the significance of your study. 
  • Describe a puzzling scenario or incongruity . This involves highlighting an interesting quandary concerning the research problem or describing contradictory findings from prior studies about a topic. Posing what is essentially an unresolved intellectual riddle about the problem can engage the reader's interest in the study.
  • Cite a stirring example or case study that illustrates why the research problem is important . Draw upon the findings of others to demonstrate the significance of the problem and to describe how your study builds upon or offers alternatives ways of investigating this prior research.

NOTE:   It is important that you choose only one of the suggested strategies for engaging your readers. This avoids giving an impression that your paper is more flash than substance and does not distract from the substance of your study.

Freedman, Leora  and Jerry Plotnick. Introductions and Conclusions. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Introduction. The Structure, Format, Content, and Style of a Journal-Style Scientific Paper. Department of Biology. Bates College; Introductions. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Introductions. The Writer’s Handbook. Writing Center. University of Wisconsin, Madison; Introductions, Body Paragraphs, and Conclusions for an Argument Paper. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; “Writing Introductions.” In Good Essay Writing: A Social Sciences Guide . Peter Redman. 4th edition. (London: Sage, 2011), pp. 63-70; Resources for Writers: Introduction Strategies. Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies. Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Sharpling, Gerald. Writing an Introduction. Centre for Applied Linguistics, University of Warwick; Samraj, B. “Introductions in Research Articles: Variations Across Disciplines.” English for Specific Purposes 21 (2002): 1–17; Swales, John and Christine B. Feak. Academic Writing for Graduate Students: Essential Skills and Tasks . 2nd edition. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2004 ; Writing Your Introduction. Department of English Writing Guide. George Mason University.

Writing Tip

Avoid the "Dictionary" Introduction

Giving the dictionary definition of words related to the research problem may appear appropriate because it is important to define specific terminology that readers may be unfamiliar with. However, anyone can look a word up in the dictionary and a general dictionary is not a particularly authoritative source because it doesn't take into account the context of your topic and doesn't offer particularly detailed information. Also, placed in the context of a particular discipline, a term or concept may have a different meaning than what is found in a general dictionary. If you feel that you must seek out an authoritative definition, use a subject specific dictionary or encyclopedia [e.g., if you are a sociology student, search for dictionaries of sociology]. A good database for obtaining definitive definitions of concepts or terms is Credo Reference .

Saba, Robert. The College Research Paper. Florida International University; Introductions. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina.

Another Writing Tip

When Do I Begin?

A common question asked at the start of any paper is, "Where should I begin?" An equally important question to ask yourself is, "When do I begin?" Research problems in the social sciences rarely rest in isolation from history. Therefore, it is important to lay a foundation for understanding the historical context underpinning the research problem. However, this information should be brief and succinct and begin at a point in time that illustrates the study's overall importance. For example, a study that investigates coffee cultivation and export in West Africa as a key stimulus for local economic growth needs to describe the beginning of exporting coffee in the region and establishing why economic growth is important. You do not need to give a long historical explanation about coffee exports in Africa. If a research problem requires a substantial exploration of the historical context, do this in the literature review section. In your introduction, make note of this as part of the "roadmap" [see below] that you use to describe the organization of your paper.

Introductions. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; “Writing Introductions.” In Good Essay Writing: A Social Sciences Guide . Peter Redman. 4th edition. (London: Sage, 2011), pp. 63-70.

Yet Another Writing Tip

Always End with a Roadmap

The final paragraph or sentences of your introduction should forecast your main arguments and conclusions and provide a brief description of the rest of the paper [the "roadmap"] that let's the reader know where you are going and what to expect. A roadmap is important because it helps the reader place the research problem within the context of their own perspectives about the topic. In addition, concluding your introduction with an explicit roadmap tells the reader that you have a clear understanding of the structural purpose of your paper. In this way, the roadmap acts as a type of promise to yourself and to your readers that you will follow a consistent and coherent approach to addressing the topic of inquiry. Refer to it often to help keep your writing focused and organized.

Cassuto, Leonard. “On the Dissertation: How to Write the Introduction.” The Chronicle of Higher Education , May 28, 2018; Radich, Michael. A Student's Guide to Writing in East Asian Studies . (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Writing n. d.), pp. 35-37.

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How to Write a Research Introduction

Last Updated: December 6, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Megan Morgan, PhD . Megan Morgan is a Graduate Program Academic Advisor in the School of Public & International Affairs at the University of Georgia. She earned her PhD in English from the University of Georgia in 2015. There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 2,652,983 times.

The introduction to a research paper can be the most challenging part of the paper to write. The length of the introduction will vary depending on the type of research paper you are writing. An introduction should announce your topic, provide context and a rationale for your work, before stating your research questions and hypothesis. Well-written introductions set the tone for the paper, catch the reader's interest, and communicate the hypothesis or thesis statement.

Introducing the Topic of the Paper

Step 1 Announce your research topic.

  • In scientific papers this is sometimes known as an "inverted triangle", where you start with the broadest material at the start, before zooming in on the specifics. [2] X Research source
  • The sentence "Throughout the 20th century, our views of life on other planets have drastically changed" introduces a topic, but does so in broad terms.
  • It provides the reader with an indication of the content of the essay and encourages them to read on.

Step 2 Consider referring to key words.

  • For example, if you were writing a paper about the behaviour of mice when exposed to a particular substance, you would include the word "mice", and the scientific name of the relevant compound in the first sentences.
  • If you were writing a history paper about the impact of the First World War on gender relations in Britain, you should mention those key words in your first few lines.

Step 3 Define any key terms or concepts.

  • This is especially important if you are attempting to develop a new conceptualization that uses language and terminology your readers may be unfamiliar with.

Step 4 Introduce the topic through an anecdote or quotation.

  • If you use an anecdote ensure that is short and highly relevant for your research. It has to function in the same way as an alternative opening, namely to announce the topic of your research paper to your reader.
  • For example, if you were writing a sociology paper about re-offending rates among young offenders, you could include a brief story of one person whose story reflects and introduces your topic.
  • This kind of approach is generally not appropriate for the introduction to a natural or physical sciences research paper where the writing conventions are different.

Establishing the Context for Your Paper

Step 1 Include a brief literature review.

  • It is important to be concise in the introduction, so provide an overview on recent developments in the primary research rather than a lengthy discussion.
  • You can follow the "inverted triangle" principle to focus in from the broader themes to those to which you are making a direct contribution with your paper.
  • A strong literature review presents important background information to your own research and indicates the importance of the field.

Step 2 Use the literature to focus in on your contribution.

  • By making clear reference to existing work you can demonstrate explicitly the specific contribution you are making to move the field forward.
  • You can identify a gap in the existing scholarship and explain how you are addressing it and moving understanding forward.

Step 3 Elaborate on the rationale of your paper.

  • For example, if you are writing a scientific paper you could stress the merits of the experimental approach or models you have used.
  • Stress what is novel in your research and the significance of your new approach, but don't give too much detail in the introduction.
  • A stated rationale could be something like: "the study evaluates the previously unknown anti-inflammatory effects of a topical compound in order to evaluate its potential clinical uses".

Specifying Your Research Questions and Hypothesis

Step 1 State your research questions.

  • The research question or questions generally come towards the end of the introduction, and should be concise and closely focused.
  • The research question might recall some of the key words established in the first few sentences and the title of your paper.
  • An example of a research question could be "what were the consequences of the North American Free Trade Agreement on the Mexican export economy?"
  • This could be honed further to be specific by referring to a particular element of the Free Trade Agreement and the impact on a particular industry in Mexico, such as clothing manufacture.
  • A good research question should shape a problem into a testable hypothesis.

Step 2 Indicate your hypothesis.

  • If possible try to avoid using the word "hypothesis" and rather make this implicit in your writing. This can make your writing appear less formulaic.
  • In a scientific paper, giving a clear one-sentence overview of your results and their relation to your hypothesis makes the information clear and accessible. [10] X Trustworthy Source PubMed Central Journal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of Health Go to source
  • An example of a hypothesis could be "mice deprived of food for the duration of the study were expected to become more lethargic than those fed normally".

Step 3 Outline the structure of your paper.

  • This is not always necessary and you should pay attention to the writing conventions in your discipline.
  • In a natural sciences paper, for example, there is a fairly rigid structure which you will be following.
  • A humanities or social science paper will most likely present more opportunities to deviate in how you structure your paper.

Research Introduction Help

write an introduction for research paper

Community Q&A

Community Answer

  • Use your research papers' outline to help you decide what information to include when writing an introduction. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 1
  • Consider drafting your introduction after you have already completed the rest of your research paper. Writing introductions last can help ensure that you don't leave out any major points. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

write an introduction for research paper

  • Avoid emotional or sensational introductions; these can create distrust in the reader. Thanks Helpful 50 Not Helpful 12
  • Generally avoid using personal pronouns in your introduction, such as "I," "me," "we," "us," "my," "mine," or "our." Thanks Helpful 31 Not Helpful 7
  • Don't overwhelm the reader with an over-abundance of information. Keep the introduction as concise as possible by saving specific details for the body of your paper. Thanks Helpful 24 Not Helpful 14

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Publish a Research Paper

  • ↑ https://library.sacredheart.edu/c.php?g=29803&p=185916
  • ↑ https://www.aresearchguide.com/inverted-pyramid-structure-in-writing.html
  • ↑ https://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/introduction
  • ↑ https://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/PlanResearchPaper.html
  • ↑ https://dept.writing.wisc.edu/wac/writing-an-introduction-for-a-scientific-paper/
  • ↑ https://writing.wisc.edu/handbook/assignments/planresearchpaper/
  • ↑ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3178846/

About This Article

Megan Morgan, PhD

To introduce your research paper, use the first 1-2 sentences to describe your general topic, such as “women in World War I.” Include and define keywords, such as “gender relations,” to show your reader where you’re going. Mention previous research into the topic with a phrase like, “Others have studied…”, then transition into what your contribution will be and why it’s necessary. Finally, state the questions that your paper will address and propose your “answer” to them as your thesis statement. For more information from our English Ph.D. co-author about how to craft a strong hypothesis and thesis, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Introductions

What this handout is about.

This handout will explain the functions of introductions, offer strategies for creating effective introductions, and provide some examples of less effective introductions to avoid.

The role of introductions

Introductions and conclusions can be the most difficult parts of papers to write. Usually when you sit down to respond to an assignment, you have at least some sense of what you want to say in the body of your paper. You might have chosen a few examples you want to use or have an idea that will help you answer the main question of your assignment; these sections, therefore, may not be as hard to write. And it’s fine to write them first! But in your final draft, these middle parts of the paper can’t just come out of thin air; they need to be introduced and concluded in a way that makes sense to your reader.

Your introduction and conclusion act as bridges that transport your readers from their own lives into the “place” of your analysis. If your readers pick up your paper about education in the autobiography of Frederick Douglass, for example, they need a transition to help them leave behind the world of Chapel Hill, television, e-mail, and The Daily Tar Heel and to help them temporarily enter the world of nineteenth-century American slavery. By providing an introduction that helps your readers make a transition between their own world and the issues you will be writing about, you give your readers the tools they need to get into your topic and care about what you are saying. Similarly, once you’ve hooked your readers with the introduction and offered evidence to prove your thesis, your conclusion can provide a bridge to help your readers make the transition back to their daily lives. (See our handout on conclusions .)

Note that what constitutes a good introduction may vary widely based on the kind of paper you are writing and the academic discipline in which you are writing it. If you are uncertain what kind of introduction is expected, ask your instructor.

Why bother writing a good introduction?

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. The opening paragraph of your paper will provide your readers with their initial impressions of your argument, your writing style, and the overall quality of your work. A vague, disorganized, error-filled, off-the-wall, or boring introduction will probably create a negative impression. On the other hand, a concise, engaging, and well-written introduction will start your readers off thinking highly of you, your analytical skills, your writing, and your paper.

Your introduction is an important road map for the rest of your paper. Your introduction conveys a lot of information to your readers. You can let them know what your topic is, why it is important, and how you plan to proceed with your discussion. In many academic disciplines, your introduction should contain a thesis that will assert your main argument. Your introduction should also give the reader a sense of the kinds of information you will use to make that argument and the general organization of the paragraphs and pages that will follow. After reading your introduction, your readers should not have any major surprises in store when they read the main body of your paper.

Ideally, your introduction will make your readers want to read your paper. The introduction should capture your readers’ interest, making them want to read the rest of your paper. Opening with a compelling story, an interesting question, or a vivid example can get your readers to see why your topic matters and serve as an invitation for them to join you for an engaging intellectual conversation (remember, though, that these strategies may not be suitable for all papers and disciplines).

Strategies for writing an effective introduction

Start by thinking about the question (or questions) you are trying to answer. Your entire essay will be a response to this question, and your introduction is the first step toward that end. Your direct answer to the assigned question will be your thesis, and your thesis will likely be included in your introduction, so it is a good idea to use the question as a jumping off point. Imagine that you are assigned the following question:

Drawing on the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass , discuss the relationship between education and slavery in 19th-century America. Consider the following: How did white control of education reinforce slavery? How did Douglass and other enslaved African Americans view education while they endured slavery? And what role did education play in the acquisition of freedom? Most importantly, consider the degree to which education was or was not a major force for social change with regard to slavery.

You will probably refer back to your assignment extensively as you prepare your complete essay, and the prompt itself can also give you some clues about how to approach the introduction. Notice that it starts with a broad statement and then narrows to focus on specific questions from the book. One strategy might be to use a similar model in your own introduction—start off with a big picture sentence or two and then focus in on the details of your argument about Douglass. Of course, a different approach could also be very successful, but looking at the way the professor set up the question can sometimes give you some ideas for how you might answer it. (See our handout on understanding assignments for additional information on the hidden clues in assignments.)

Decide how general or broad your opening should be. Keep in mind that even a “big picture” opening needs to be clearly related to your topic; an opening sentence that said “Human beings, more than any other creatures on earth, are capable of learning” would be too broad for our sample assignment about slavery and education. If you have ever used Google Maps or similar programs, that experience can provide a helpful way of thinking about how broad your opening should be. Imagine that you’re researching Chapel Hill. If what you want to find out is whether Chapel Hill is at roughly the same latitude as Rome, it might make sense to hit that little “minus” sign on the online map until it has zoomed all the way out and you can see the whole globe. If you’re trying to figure out how to get from Chapel Hill to Wrightsville Beach, it might make more sense to zoom in to the level where you can see most of North Carolina (but not the rest of the world, or even the rest of the United States). And if you are looking for the intersection of Ridge Road and Manning Drive so that you can find the Writing Center’s main office, you may need to zoom all the way in. The question you are asking determines how “broad” your view should be. In the sample assignment above, the questions are probably at the “state” or “city” level of generality. When writing, you need to place your ideas in context—but that context doesn’t generally have to be as big as the whole galaxy!

Try writing your introduction last. You may think that you have to write your introduction first, but that isn’t necessarily true, and it isn’t always the most effective way to craft a good introduction. You may find that you don’t know precisely what you are going to argue at the beginning of the writing process. It is perfectly fine to start out thinking that you want to argue a particular point but wind up arguing something slightly or even dramatically different by the time you’ve written most of the paper. The writing process can be an important way to organize your ideas, think through complicated issues, refine your thoughts, and develop a sophisticated argument. However, an introduction written at the beginning of that discovery process will not necessarily reflect what you wind up with at the end. You will need to revise your paper to make sure that the introduction, all of the evidence, and the conclusion reflect the argument you intend. Sometimes it’s easiest to just write up all of your evidence first and then write the introduction last—that way you can be sure that the introduction will match the body of the paper.

Don’t be afraid to write a tentative introduction first and then change it later. Some people find that they need to write some kind of introduction in order to get the writing process started. That’s fine, but if you are one of those people, be sure to return to your initial introduction later and rewrite if necessary.

Open with something that will draw readers in. Consider these options (remembering that they may not be suitable for all kinds of papers):

  • an intriguing example —for example, Douglass writes about a mistress who initially teaches him but then ceases her instruction as she learns more about slavery.
  • a provocative quotation that is closely related to your argument —for example, Douglass writes that “education and slavery were incompatible with each other.” (Quotes from famous people, inspirational quotes, etc. may not work well for an academic paper; in this example, the quote is from the author himself.)
  • a puzzling scenario —for example, Frederick Douglass says of slaves that “[N]othing has been left undone to cripple their intellects, darken their minds, debase their moral nature, obliterate all traces of their relationship to mankind; and yet how wonderfully they have sustained the mighty load of a most frightful bondage, under which they have been groaning for centuries!” Douglass clearly asserts that slave owners went to great lengths to destroy the mental capacities of slaves, yet his own life story proves that these efforts could be unsuccessful.
  • a vivid and perhaps unexpected anecdote —for example, “Learning about slavery in the American history course at Frederick Douglass High School, students studied the work slaves did, the impact of slavery on their families, and the rules that governed their lives. We didn’t discuss education, however, until one student, Mary, raised her hand and asked, ‘But when did they go to school?’ That modern high school students could not conceive of an American childhood devoid of formal education speaks volumes about the centrality of education to American youth today and also suggests the significance of the deprivation of education in past generations.”
  • a thought-provoking question —for example, given all of the freedoms that were denied enslaved individuals in the American South, why does Frederick Douglass focus his attentions so squarely on education and literacy?

Pay special attention to your first sentence. Start off on the right foot with your readers by making sure that the first sentence actually says something useful and that it does so in an interesting and polished way.

How to evaluate your introduction draft

Ask a friend to read your introduction and then tell you what they expect the paper will discuss, what kinds of evidence the paper will use, and what the tone of the paper will be. If your friend is able to predict the rest of your paper accurately, you probably have a good introduction.

Five kinds of less effective introductions

1. The placeholder introduction. When you don’t have much to say on a given topic, it is easy to create this kind of introduction. Essentially, this kind of weaker introduction contains several sentences that are vague and don’t really say much. They exist just to take up the “introduction space” in your paper. If you had something more effective to say, you would probably say it, but in the meantime this paragraph is just a place holder.

Example: Slavery was one of the greatest tragedies in American history. There were many different aspects of slavery. Each created different kinds of problems for enslaved people.

2. The restated question introduction. Restating the question can sometimes be an effective strategy, but it can be easy to stop at JUST restating the question instead of offering a more specific, interesting introduction to your paper. The professor or teaching assistant wrote your question and will be reading many essays in response to it—they do not need to read a whole paragraph that simply restates the question.

Example: The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass discusses the relationship between education and slavery in 19th century America, showing how white control of education reinforced slavery and how Douglass and other enslaved African Americans viewed education while they endured. Moreover, the book discusses the role that education played in the acquisition of freedom. Education was a major force for social change with regard to slavery.

3. The Webster’s Dictionary introduction. This introduction begins by giving the dictionary definition of one or more of the words in the assigned question. Anyone can look a word up in the dictionary and copy down what Webster says. If you want to open with a discussion of an important term, it may be far more interesting for you (and your reader) if you develop your own definition of the term in the specific context of your class and assignment. You may also be able to use a definition from one of the sources you’ve been reading for class. Also recognize that the dictionary is also not a particularly authoritative work—it doesn’t take into account the context of your course and doesn’t offer particularly detailed information. If you feel that you must seek out an authority, try to find one that is very relevant and specific. Perhaps a quotation from a source reading might prove better? Dictionary introductions are also ineffective simply because they are so overused. Instructors may see a great many papers that begin in this way, greatly decreasing the dramatic impact that any one of those papers will have.

Example: Webster’s dictionary defines slavery as “the state of being a slave,” as “the practice of owning slaves,” and as “a condition of hard work and subjection.”

4. The “dawn of man” introduction. This kind of introduction generally makes broad, sweeping statements about the relevance of this topic since the beginning of time, throughout the world, etc. It is usually very general (similar to the placeholder introduction) and fails to connect to the thesis. It may employ cliches—the phrases “the dawn of man” and “throughout human history” are examples, and it’s hard to imagine a time when starting with one of these would work. Instructors often find them extremely annoying.

Example: Since the dawn of man, slavery has been a problem in human history.

5. The book report introduction. This introduction is what you had to do for your elementary school book reports. It gives the name and author of the book you are writing about, tells what the book is about, and offers other basic facts about the book. You might resort to this sort of introduction when you are trying to fill space because it’s a familiar, comfortable format. It is ineffective because it offers details that your reader probably already knows and that are irrelevant to the thesis.

Example: Frederick Douglass wrote his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave , in the 1840s. It was published in 1986 by Penguin Books. In it, he tells the story of his life.

And now for the conclusion…

Writing an effective introduction can be tough. Try playing around with several different options and choose the one that ends up sounding best to you!

Just as your introduction helps readers make the transition to your topic, your conclusion needs to help them return to their daily lives–but with a lasting sense of how what they have just read is useful or meaningful. Check out our handout on  conclusions for tips on ending your paper as effectively as you began it!

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Douglass, Frederick. 1995. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself . New York: Dover.

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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How to Write an Introduction for a Research Paper

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How to write an introduction for a research paper? Eventually (and with practice) all writers will develop their own strategy for writing the perfect introduction for a research paper. Once you are comfortable with writing, you will probably find your own, but coming up with a good strategy can be tough for beginning writers.

The Purpose of an Introduction

Your opening paragraphs, phrases for introducing thesis statements, research paper introduction examples, using the introduction to map out your research paper.

How to Write an Introduction for a Research Paper

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  • First write your thesis.Your thesis should state the main idea in specific terms.
  • After you have a working thesis, tackle the body of your paper before you write the rest of the introduction. Each paragraph in the body should explore one specific topic that proves, or summarizes your thesis. Writing is a thinking process. Once you have worked your way through that process by writing the body of the paper, you will have an intimate understanding of how you are supporting your thesis. After you have written the body paragraphs, go back and rewrite your thesis to make it more specific and to connect it to the topics you addressed in the body paragraph.
  • Revise your introduction several times, saving each revision. Be sure your introduction previews the topics you are presenting in your paper. One way of doing this is to use keywords from the topic sentences in each paragraph to introduce, or preview, the topics in your introduction.This “preview” will give your reader a context for understanding how you will make your case.
  • Experiment by taking different approaches to your thesis with every revision you make. Play with the language in the introduction. Strike a new tone. Go back and compare versions. Then pick the one that works most effectively with the body of your research paper.
  • Do not try to pack everything you want to say into your introduction. Just as your introduction should not be too short, it should also not be too long. Your introduction should be about the same length as any other paragraph in your research paper. Let the content—what you have to say—dictate the length.

The first page of your research paper should draw the reader into the text. It is the paper’s most important page and, alas, often the worst written. There are two culprits here and effective ways to cope with both of them.

First, the writer is usually straining too hard to say something terribly BIG and IMPORTANT about the thesis topic. The goal is worthy, but the aim is unrealistically high. The result is often a muddle of vague platitudes rather than a crisp, compelling introduction to the thesis. Want a familiar example? Listen to most graduation speakers. Their goal couldn’t be loftier: to say what education means and to tell an entire football stadium how to live the rest of their lives. The results are usually an avalanche of clichés and sodden prose.

The second culprit is bad timing. The opening and concluding paragraphs are usually written late in the game, after the rest of the thesis is finished and polished. There’s nothing wrong with writing these sections last. It’s usually the right approach since you need to know exactly what you are saying in the substantive middle sections of the thesis before you can introduce them effectively or draw together your findings. But having waited to write the opening and closing sections, you need to review and edit them several times to catch up. Otherwise, you’ll putting the most jagged prose in the most tender spots. Edit and polish your opening paragraphs with extra care. They should draw readers into the paper.

After you’ve done some extra polishing, I suggest a simple test for the introductory section. As an experiment, chop off the first few paragraphs. Let the paper begin on, say, paragraph 2 or even page 2. If you don’t lose much, or actually gain in clarity and pace, then you’ve got a problem.

There are two solutions. One is to start at this new spot, further into the text. After all, that’s where you finally gain traction on your subject. That works best in some cases, and we occasionally suggest it. The alternative, of course, is to write a new opening that doesn’t flop around, saying nothing.

What makes a good opening? Actually, they come in several flavors. One is an intriguing story about your topic. Another is a brief, compelling quote. When you run across them during your reading, set them aside for later use. Don’t be deterred from using them because they “don’t seem academic enough.” They’re fine as long as the rest of the paper doesn’t sound like you did your research in People magazine. The third, and most common, way to begin is by stating your main questions, followed by a brief comment about why they matter.

Whichever opening you choose, it should engage your readers and coax them to continue. Having done that, you should give them a general overview of the project—the main issues you will cover, the material you will use, and your thesis statement (that is, your basic approach to the topic). Finally, at the end of the introductory section, give your readers a brief road map, showing how the paper will unfold. How you do that depends on your topic but here are some general suggestions for phrase choice that may help:

  • This analysis will provide …
  • This paper analyzes the relationship between …
  • This paper presents an analysis of …
  • This paper will argue that …
  • This topic supports the argument that…
  • Research supports the opinion that …
  • This paper supports the opinion that …
  • An interpretation of the facts indicates …
  • The results of this experiment show …
  • The results of this research show …

Comparisons/Contrasts

  • A comparison will show that …
  • By contrasting the results,we see that …
  • This paper examines the advantages and disadvantages of …

Definitions/Classifications

  • This paper will provide a guide for categorizing the following:…
  • This paper provides a definition of …
  • This paper explores the meaning of …
  • This paper will discuss the implications of …
  • A discussion of this topic reveals …
  • The following discussion will focus on …

Description

  • This report describes…
  • This report will illustrate…
  • This paper provides an illustration of …

Process/Experimentation

  • This paper will identify the reasons behind…
  • The results of the experiment show …
  • The process revealed that …
  • This paper theorizes…
  • This paper presents the theory that …
  • In theory, this indicates that …

Quotes, anecdotes, questions, examples, and broad statements—all of them can used successfully to write an introduction for a research paper. It’s instructive to see them in action, in the hands of skilled academic writers.

Let’s begin with David M. Kennedy’s superb history, Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929–1945 . Kennedy begins each chapter with a quote, followed by his text. The quote above chapter 1 shows President Hoover speaking in 1928 about America’s golden future. The text below it begins with the stock market collapse of 1929. It is a riveting account of just how wrong Hoover was. The text about the Depression is stronger because it contrasts so starkly with the optimistic quotation.

“We in America today are nearer the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land.”—Herbert Hoover, August 11, 1928 Like an earthquake, the stock market crash of October 1929 cracked startlingly across the United States, the herald of a crisis that was to shake the American way of life to its foundations. The events of the ensuing decade opened a fissure across the landscape of American history no less gaping than that opened by the volley on Lexington Common in April 1775 or by the bombardment of Sumter on another April four score and six years later. The ratcheting ticker machines in the autumn of 1929 did not merely record avalanching stock prices. In time they came also to symbolize the end of an era. (David M. Kennedy, Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929–1945 . New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 10)

Kennedy has exciting, wrenching material to work with. John Mueller faces the exact opposite problem. In Retreat from Doomsday: The Obsolescence of Major War , he is trying to explain why Great Powers have suddenly stopped fighting each other. For centuries they made war on each other with devastating regularity, killing millions in the process. But now, Mueller thinks, they have not just paused; they have stopped permanently. He is literally trying to explain why “nothing is happening now.” That may be an exciting topic intellectually, it may have great practical significance, but “nothing happened” is not a very promising subject for an exciting opening paragraph. Mueller manages to make it exciting and, at the same time, shows why it matters so much. Here’s his opening, aptly entitled “History’s Greatest Nonevent”:

On May 15, 1984, the major countries of the developed world had managed to remain at peace with each other for the longest continuous stretch of time since the days of the Roman Empire. If a significant battle in a war had been fought on that day, the press would have bristled with it. As usual, however, a landmark crossing in the history of peace caused no stir: the most prominent story in the New York Times that day concerned the saga of a manicurist, a machinist, and a cleaning woman who had just won a big Lotto contest. This book seeks to develop an explanation for what is probably the greatest nonevent in human history. (John Mueller, Retreat from Doomsday: The Obsolescence of Major War . New York: Basic Books, 1989, p. 3)

In the space of a few sentences, Mueller sets up his puzzle and reveals its profound human significance. At the same time, he shows just how easy it is to miss this milestone in the buzz of daily events. Notice how concretely he does that. He doesn’t just say that the New York Times ignored this record setting peace. He offers telling details about what they covered instead: “a manicurist, a machinist, and a cleaning woman who had just won a big Lotto contest.” Likewise, David Kennedy immediately entangles us in concrete events: the stunning stock market crash of 1929. These are powerful openings that capture readers’ interests, establish puzzles, and launch narratives.

Sociologist James Coleman begins in a completely different way, by posing the basic questions he will study. His ambitious book, Foundations of Social Theory , develops a comprehensive theory of social life, so it is entirely appropriate for him to begin with some major questions. But he could just as easily have begun with a compelling story or anecdote. He includes many of them elsewhere in his book. His choice for the opening, though, is to state his major themes plainly and frame them as a paradox. Sociologists, he says, are interested in aggregate behavior—how people act in groups, organizations, or large numbers—yet they mostly examine individuals:

A central problem in social science is that of accounting for the function of some kind of social system. Yet in most social research, observations are not made on the system as a whole, but on some part of it. In fact, the natural unit of observation is the individual person…  This has led to a widening gap between theory and research… (James S. Coleman, Foundations of Social Theory . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990, pp. 1–2)

After expanding on this point, Coleman explains that he will not try to remedy the problem by looking solely at groups or aggregate-level data. That’s a false solution, he says, because aggregates don’t act; individuals do. So the real problem is to show the links between individual actions and aggregate outcomes, between the micro and the macro.

The major problem for explanations of system behavior based on actions and orientations at a level below that of the system [in this case, on individual-level actions] is that of moving from the lower level to the system level. This has been called the micro-to-macro problem, and it is pervasive throughout the social sciences. (Coleman, Foundations of Social Theory , p. 6)

Explaining how to deal with this “micro-to-macro problem” is the central issue of Coleman’s book, and he announces it at the beginning.

Coleman’s theory-driven opening stands at the opposite end of the spectrum from engaging stories or anecdotes, which are designed to lure the reader into the narrative and ease the path to a more analytic treatment later in the text. Take, for example, the opening sentences of Robert L. Herbert’s sweeping study Impressionism: Art, Leisure, and Parisian Society : “When Henry Tuckerman came to Paris in 1867, one of the thousands of Americans attracted there by the huge international exposition, he was bowled over by the extraordinary changes since his previous visit twenty years before.” (Robert L. Herbert, Impressionism: Art, Leisure, and Parisian Society . New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988, p. 1.) Herbert fills in the evocative details to set the stage for his analysis of the emerging Impressionist art movement and its connection to Parisian society and leisure in this period.

David Bromwich writes about Wordsworth, a poet so familiar to students of English literature that it is hard to see him afresh, before his great achievements, when he was just a young outsider starting to write. To draw us into Wordsworth’s early work, Bromwich wants us to set aside our entrenched images of the famous mature poet and see him as he was in the 1790s, as a beginning writer on the margins of society. He accomplishes this ambitious task in the opening sentences of Disowned by Memory: Wordsworth’s Poetry of the 1790s :

Wordsworth turned to poetry after the revolution to remind himself that he was still a human being. It was a curious solution, to a difficulty many would not have felt. The whole interest of his predicament is that he did feel it. Yet Wordsworth is now so established an eminence—his name so firmly fixed with readers as a moralist of self-trust emanating from complete self-security—that it may seem perverse to imagine him as a criminal seeking expiation. Still, that is a picture we get from The Borderers and, at a longer distance, from “Tintern Abbey.” (David Bromwich, Disowned by Memory: Wordsworth’s Poetry of the 1790s . Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998, p. 1)

That’s a wonderful opening! Look at how much Bromwich accomplishes in just a few words. He not only prepares the way for analyzing Wordsworth’s early poetry; he juxtaposes the anguished young man who wrote it to the self-confident, distinguished figure he became—the eminent man we can’t help remembering as we read his early poetry.

Let us highlight a couple of other points in this passage because they illustrate some intelligent writing choices. First, look at the odd comma in this sentence: “It was a curious solution, to a difficulty many would not have felt.” Any standard grammar book would say that comma is wrong and should be omitted. Why did Bromwich insert it? Because he’s a fine writer, thinking of his sentence rhythm and the point he wants to make. The comma does exactly what it should. It makes us pause, breaking the sentence into two parts, each with an interesting point. One is that Wordsworth felt a difficulty others would not have; the other is that he solved it in a distinctive way. It would be easy for readers to glide over this double message, so Bromwich has inserted a speed bump to slow us down. Most of the time, you should follow grammatical rules, like those about commas, but you should bend them when it serves a good purpose. That’s what the writer does here.

The second small point is the phrase “after the revolution” in the first sentence: “Wordsworth turned to poetry after the revolution to remind himself that he was still a human being.” Why doesn’t Bromwich say “after the French Revolution”? Because he has judged his book’s audience. He is writing for specialists who already know which revolution is reverberating through English life in the 1790s. It is the French Revolution, not the earlier loss of the American colonies. If Bromwich were writing for a much broader audience—say, the New York Times Book Review—he would probably insert the extra word to avoid confusion.

The message “Know your audience” applies to all writers. Don’t talk down to them by assuming they can’t get dressed in the morning. Don’t strut around showing off your book learnin’ by tossing in arcane facts and esoteric language for its own sake. Neither will win over readers.

Bromwich, Herbert, and Coleman open their works in different ways, but their choices work well for their different texts. Your task is to decide what kind of opening will work best for yours. Don’t let that happen by default, by grabbing the first idea you happen upon. Consider a couple of different ways of opening your thesis and then choose the one you prefer. Give yourself some options, think them over, then make an informed choice.

Whether you begin with a story, puzzle, or broad statement, the next part of the introduction should pose your main questions and establish your argument. This is your thesis statement—your viewpoint along with the supporting reasons and evidence. It should be articulated plainly so readers understand full well what your paper is about and what it will argue.

After that, give your readers a road map of what’s to come. That’s normally done at the end of the introductory section (or, in a book, at the end of the introductory chapter). Here’s John J. Mearsheimer presenting such a road map in The Tragedy of Great Power Politics . He not only tells us the order of upcoming chapters, he explains why he’s chosen that order and which chapters are most important:

The Plan of the Book The rest of the chapters in this book are concerned mainly with answering the six big questions about power which I identified earlier. Chapter 2, which is probably the most important chapter in the book, lays out my theory of why states compete for power and why they pursue hegemony. In Chapters 3 and 4, I define power and explain how to measure it. I do this in order to lay the groundwork for testing my theory… (John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics . New York: W. W. Norton, 2001, p. 27)

As this excerpt makes clear, Mearsheimer has already laid out his “six big questions” in the introduction. Now he’s showing us the path ahead, the path to answering those questions.

At the end of the introduction, give your readers a road map of what’s to come. Tell them what the upcoming sections will be and why they are arranged in this particular order.

After having written your introduction it’s time to move to the biggest part: body of a research paper.

Back to How To Write A Research Paper .

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  • 08 May 2019

Toolkit: How to write a great paper

A clear format will ensure that your research paper is understood by your readers. Follow:

1. Context — your introduction

2. Content — your results

3. Conclusion — your discussion

Plan your paper carefully and decide where each point will sit within the framework before you begin writing.

write an introduction for research paper

Collection: Careers toolkit

Straightforward writing

Scientific writing should always aim to be A, B and C: Accurate, Brief, and Clear. Never choose a long word when a short one will do. Use simple language to communicate your results. Always aim to distill your message down into the simplest sentence possible.

Choose a title

A carefully conceived title will communicate the single core message of your research paper. It should be D, E, F: Declarative, Engaging and Focused.

Conclusions

Add a sentence or two at the end of your concluding statement that sets out your plans for further research. What is next for you or others working in your field?

Find out more

See additional information .

doi: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-019-01362-9

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Microsoft 365 Life Hacks > Writing > How to write an introduction for a research paper

How to write an introduction for a research paper

Beginnings are hard. Beginning a research paper is no exception. Many students—and pros—struggle with how to write an introduction for a research paper.

This short guide will describe the purpose of a research paper introduction and how to create a good one.

a research paper being viewed on a Acer TravelMate B311 2-in-1 on desk with pad of paper.

What is an introduction for a research paper?

Introductions to research papers do a lot of work.

It may seem obvious, but introductions are always placed at the beginning of a paper. They guide your reader from a general subject area to the narrow topic that your paper covers. They also explain your paper’s:

  • Scope: The topic you’ll be covering
  • Context: The background of your topic
  • Importance: Why your research matters in the context of an industry or the world

Your introduction will cover a lot of ground. However, it will only be half of a page to a few pages long. The length depends on the size of your paper as a whole. In many cases, the introduction will be shorter than all of the other sections of your paper.

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Why is an introduction vital to a research paper?

The introduction to your research paper isn’t just important. It’s critical.

Your readers don’t know what your research paper is about from the title. That’s where your introduction comes in. A good introduction will:

  • Help your reader understand your topic’s background
  • Explain why your research paper is worth reading
  • Offer a guide for navigating the rest of the piece
  • Pique your reader’s interest

Without a clear introduction, your readers will struggle. They may feel confused when they start reading your paper. They might even give up entirely. Your introduction will ground them and prepare them for the in-depth research to come.

What should you include in an introduction for a research paper?

Research paper introductions are always unique. After all, research is original by definition. However, they often contain six essential items. These are:

  • An overview of the topic. Start with a general overview of your topic. Narrow the overview until you address your paper’s specific subject. Then, mention questions or concerns you had about the case. Note that you will address them in the publication.
  • Prior research. Your introduction is the place to review other conclusions on your topic. Include both older scholars and modern scholars. This background information shows that you are aware of prior research. It also introduces past findings to those who might not have that expertise.
  • A rationale for your paper. Explain why your topic needs to be addressed right now. If applicable, connect it to current issues. Additionally, you can show a problem with former theories or reveal a gap in current research. No matter how you do it, a good rationale will interest your readers and demonstrate why they must read the rest of your paper.
  • Describe the methodology you used. Recount your processes to make your paper more credible. Lay out your goal and the questions you will address. Reveal how you conducted research and describe how you measured results. Moreover, explain why you made key choices.
  • A thesis statement. Your main introduction should end with a thesis statement. This statement summarizes the ideas that will run through your entire research article. It should be straightforward and clear.
  • An outline. Introductions often conclude with an outline. Your layout should quickly review what you intend to cover in the following sections. Think of it as a roadmap, guiding your reader to the end of your paper.

These six items are emphasized more or less, depending on your field. For example, a physics research paper might emphasize methodology. An English journal article might highlight the overview.

Three tips for writing your introduction

We don’t just want you to learn how to write an introduction for a research paper. We want you to learn how to make it shine.

There are three things you can do that will make it easier to write a great introduction. You can:

  • Write your introduction last. An introduction summarizes all of the things you’ve learned from your research. While it can feel good to get your preface done quickly, you should write the rest of your paper first. Then, you’ll find it easy to create a clear overview.
  • Include a strong quotation or story upfront. You want your paper to be full of substance. But that doesn’t mean it should feel boring or flat. Add a relevant quotation or surprising anecdote to the beginning of your introduction. This technique will pique the interest of your reader and leave them wanting more.
  • Be concise. Research papers cover complex topics. To help your readers, try to write as clearly as possible. Use concise sentences. Check for confusing grammar or syntax . Read your introduction out loud to catch awkward phrases. Before you finish your paper, be sure to proofread, too. Mistakes can seem unprofessional.

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How to write an introduction for a research paper

Learn how to write a strong and efficient research paper introduction by following the suitable structure and avoiding typical errors.

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An introduction to any type of paper is sometimes misunderstood as the beginning; yet, an introduction is actually intended to present your chosen subject to the audience in a way that makes it more appealing and leaves your readers thirsty for more information. After the title and abstract, your audience will read the introduction, thus it’s critical to get off to a solid start.  

This article includes instructions on how to write an introduction for a research paper that engages the reader in your research. You can produce a strong opening for your research paper if you stick to the format and a few basic principles.

What is an introduction to a research paper?

An introduction is the opening section of a research paper and the section that a reader is likely to read first, in which the objective and goals of the subsequent writing are stated. 

The introduction serves numerous purposes. It provides context for your research, explains your topic and objectives, and provides an outline of the work. A solid introduction will establish the tone for the remainder of your paper, enticing readers to continue reading through the methodology, findings, and discussion. 

Even though introductions are generally presented at the beginning of a document, we must distinguish an introduction from the beginning of your research. An introduction, as the name implies, is supposed to introduce your subject without extending it. All relevant information and facts should be placed in the body and conclusion, not the introduction.

Structure of an introduction

Before explaining how to write an introduction for a research paper , it’s necessary to comprehend a structure that will make your introduction stronger and more straightforward.

A good hook

A hook is one of the most effective research introduction openers. A hook’s objective is to stimulate the reader’s interest to read the research paper.  There are various approaches you may take to generate a strong hook:  startling facts, a question, a brief overview, or even a quotation. 

Broad overview

Following an excellent hook, you should present a wide overview of your major issue and some background information on your research. If you’re unsure about how to begin an essay introduction, the best approach is to offer a basic explanation of your topic before delving into specific issues. Simply said, you should begin with general information and then narrow it down to your relevant topics.

After offering some background information regarding your research’s main topic, go on to give readers a better understanding of what you’ll be covering throughout your research. In this section of your introduction, you should swiftly clarify your important topics in the sequence in which they will be addressed later, gradually introducing your thesis statement. You can use some  The following are some critical questions to address in this section of your introduction: Who? What? Where? When? How? And why is that?

Thesis statement

The thesis statement, which must be stated in the beginning clause of your research since your entire research revolves around it, is the most important component of your research.

A thesis statement presents your audience with a quick overview of the research’s main assertion. In the body section of your work, your key argument is what you will expose or debate about it. An excellent thesis statement is usually very succinct, accurate, explicit, clear, and focused. Typically, your thesis should be at the conclusion of your introductory paragraph/section.

Tips for writing a strong introduction

Aside from the good structure, here are a few tips to make your introduction strong and accurate:

  • Keep in mind the aim of your research and make sure your introduction supports it.
  • Use an appealing and relevant hook that catches the reader’s attention right away.
  • Make it obvious to your readers what your stance is.
  • Demonstrate your knowledge of your subject.
  • Provide your reader with a road map to help them understand what you will address throughout the research.
  • Be succinct – it is advised that your opening introduction consists of around 8-9 percent of the overall amount of words in your article (for example, 160 words for a 2000 words essay). 
  • Make a strong and unambiguous thesis statement.
  • Explain why the article is significant in 1-2 sentences.
  • Remember to keep it interesting.

Mistakes to avoid in your introduction

Check out what not to do and what to avoid now that you know the structure and how to write an introduction for a research paper .

  • Lacking a feeling of direction or purpose.
  • Giving out too much.
  • Creating lengthy paragraphs.
  • Excessive or insufficient background, literature, and theory.
  • Including material that should be placed in the body and conclusion.
  • Not writing enough or writing excessively.
  • Using too many quotes.

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How to Write an Effective Introduction

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  • 1 Sydney Kimmel Medical College.
  • 2 Rothman Institute, Philadelphia, PA.
  • PMID: 30234565
  • DOI: 10.1097/BSD.0000000000000714

Ideally, the Introduction is an essential attention grabbing section of a research paper. If written correctly, the Introduction peaks the reader's interest as well as serves as a roadmap for the rest of the paper. An effective Introduction builds off related empirical research and demonstrates a gap in which the current study fills. Finally, the Introduction proposes the research question(s) which will be answered in subsequent sections of the paper. A strong Introduction also requires the use of a simple and well-organized format as well as the avoidance of common pitfalls.

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How to Write the Introduction to a Scientific Paper?

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  • Atul Kakar 5 &
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An Introduction to a scientific paper familiarizes the reader with the background of the issue at hand. It must reflect why the issue is topical and its current importance in the vast sea of research being done globally. It lays the foundation of biomedical writing and is the first portion of an article according to the IMRAD pattern ( I ntroduction, M ethodology, R esults, a nd D iscussion) [1].

I once had a professor tell a class that he sifted through our pile of essays, glancing at the titles and introductions, looking for something that grabbed his attention. Everything else went to the bottom of the pile to be read last, when he was tired and probably grumpy from all the marking. Don’t get put at the bottom of the pile, he said. Anonymous

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The Introduction Section

write an introduction for research paper

Abstract and Keywords

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Writing the Abstract

1 what is the importance of an introduction.

An Introduction to a scientific paper familiarizes the reader with the background of the issue at hand. It must reflect why the issue is topical and its current importance in the vast sea of research being done globally. It lays the foundation of biomedical writing and is the first portion of an article according to the IMRAD pattern ( I ntroduction, M ethodology, R esults, a nd D iscussion) [ 1 ].

It provides the flavour of the article and many authors have used phrases to describe it for example—'like a gate of the city’ [ 2 ], ‘the beginning is half of the whole’ [ 3 ], ‘an introduction is not just wrestling with words to fit the facts, but it also strongly modulated by perception of the anticipated reactions of peer colleagues’, [ 4 ] and ‘an introduction is like the trailer to a movie’. A good introduction helps captivate the reader early.

figure a

2 What Are the Principles of Writing a Good Introduction?

A good introduction will ‘sell’ an article to a journal editor, reviewer, and finally to a reader [ 3 ]. It should contain the following information [ 5 , 6 ]:

The known—The background scientific data

The unknown—Gaps in the current knowledge

Research hypothesis or question

Methodologies used for the study

The known consist of citations from a review of the literature whereas the unknown is the new work to be undertaken. This part should address how your work is the required missing piece of the puzzle.

3 What Are the Models of Writing an Introduction?

The Problem-solving model

First described by Swales et al. in 1979, in this model the writer should identify the ‘problem’ in the research, address the ‘solution’ and also write about ‘the criteria for evaluating the problem’ [ 7 , 8 ].

The CARS model that stands for C reating A R esearch S pace [ 9 , 10 ].

The two important components of this model are:

Establishing a territory (situation)

Establishing a niche (problem)

Occupying a niche (the solution)

In this popular model, one can add a fourth point, i.e., a conclusion [ 10 ].

4 What Is Establishing a Territory?

This includes: [ 9 ]

Stating the general topic and providing some background about it.

Providing a brief and relevant review of the literature related to the topic.

Adding a paragraph on the scope of the topic including the need for your study.

5 What Is Establishing a Niche?

Establishing a niche includes:

Stating the importance of the problem.

Outlining the current situation regarding the problem citing both global and national data.

Evaluating the current situation (advantages/ disadvantages).

Identifying the gaps.

Emphasizing the importance of the proposed research and how the gaps will be addressed.

Stating the research problem/ questions.

Stating the hypotheses briefly.

Figure 17.1 depicts how the introduction needs to be written. A scientific paper should have an introduction in the form of an inverted pyramid. The writer should start with the general information about the topic and subsequently narrow it down to the specific topic-related introduction.

figure 1

Flow of ideas from the general to the specific

6 What Does Occupying a Niche Mean?

This is the third portion of the introduction and defines the rationale of the research and states the research question. If this is missing the reviewers will not understand the logic for publication and is a common reason for rejection [ 11 , 12 ]. An example of this is given below:

Till date, no study has been done to see the effectiveness of a mesh alone or the effectiveness of double suturing along with a mesh in the closure of an umbilical hernia regarding the incidence of failure. So, the present study is aimed at comparing the effectiveness of a mesh alone versus the double suturing technique along with a mesh.

7 How Long Should the Introduction Be?

For a project protocol, the introduction should be about 1–2 pages long and for a thesis it should be 3–5 pages in a double-spaced typed setting. For a scientific paper it should be less than 10–15% of the total length of the manuscript [ 13 , 14 ].

8 How Many References Should an Introduction Have?

All sections in a scientific manuscript except the conclusion should contain references. It has been suggested that an introduction should have four or five or at the most one-third of the references in the whole paper [ 15 ].

9 What Are the Important Points Which Should be not Missed in an Introduction?

An introduction paves the way forward for the subsequent sections of the article. Frequently well-planned studies are rejected by journals during review because of the simple reason that the authors failed to clarify the data in this section to justify the study [ 16 , 17 ]. Thus, the existing gap in knowledge should be clearly brought out in this section (Fig. 17.2 ).

figure 2

How should the abstract, introduction, and discussion look

The following points are important to consider:

The introduction should be written in simple sentences and in the present tense.

Many of the terms will be introduced in this section for the first time and these will require abbreviations to be used later.

The references in this section should be to papers published in quality journals (e.g., having a high impact factor).

The aims, problems, and hypotheses should be clearly mentioned.

Start with a generalization on the topic and go on to specific information relevant to your research.

10 Example of an Introduction

figure b

11 Conclusions

An Introduction is a brief account of what the study is about. It should be short, crisp, and complete.

It has to move from a general to a specific research topic and must include the need for the present study.

The Introduction should include data from a literature search, i.e., what is already known about this subject and progress to what we hope to add to this knowledge.

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Nundy, S., Kakar, A., Bhutta, Z.A. (2022). How to Write the Introduction to a Scientific Paper?. In: How to Practice Academic Medicine and Publish from Developing Countries?. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-5248-6_17

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  1. Writing a Research Paper Introduction

    Table of contents. Step 1: Introduce your topic. Step 2: Describe the background. Step 3: Establish your research problem. Step 4: Specify your objective (s) Step 5: Map out your paper. Research paper introduction examples. Frequently asked questions about the research paper introduction.

  2. How to Write a Research Paper Introduction (with Examples)

    Define your specific research problem and problem statement. Highlight the novelty and contributions of the study. Give an overview of the paper's structure. The research paper introduction can vary in size and structure depending on whether your paper presents the results of original empirical research or is a review paper.

  3. Research Paper Introduction

    Research Paper Introduction. Research paper introduction is the first section of a research paper that provides an overview of the study, its purpose, and the research question(s) or hypothesis(es) being investigated. It typically includes background information about the topic, a review of previous research in the field, and a statement of the research objectives.

  4. How to Write an Introduction for a Research Paper

    Step 2: Building a solid foundation with background information. Including background information in your introduction serves two major purposes: It helps to clarify the topic for the reader. It establishes the depth of your research. The approach you take when conveying this information depends on the type of paper.

  5. How to Write an Essay Introduction

    Step 1: Hook your reader. Step 2: Give background information. Step 3: Present your thesis statement. Step 4: Map your essay's structure. Step 5: Check and revise. More examples of essay introductions. Other interesting articles. Frequently asked questions about the essay introduction.

  6. Introductions

    In general, your introductions should contain the following elements: When you're writing an essay, it's helpful to think about what your reader needs to know in order to follow your argument. Your introduction should include enough information so that readers can understand the context for your thesis. For example, if you are analyzing ...

  7. 4. The Introduction

    The introduction leads the reader from a general subject area to a particular topic of inquiry. It establishes the scope, context, and significance of the research being conducted by summarizing current understanding and background information about the topic, stating the purpose of the work in the form of the research problem supported by a hypothesis or a set of questions, explaining briefly ...

  8. How to Write an Introduction for a Research Paper

    When writing your research paper introduction, there are several key elements you should include to ensure it is comprehensive and informative. A hook or attention-grabbing statement to capture the reader's interest. It can be a thought-provoking question, a surprising statistic, or a compelling anecdote that relates to your research topic.

  9. How to Write a Research Introduction: 10 Steps (with Pictures)

    Download Article. 1. Announce your research topic. You can start your introduction with a few sentences which announce the topic of your paper and give an indication of the kind of research questions you will be asking. This is a good way to introduce your readers to your topic and pique their interest.

  10. Introductions

    1. The placeholder introduction. When you don't have much to say on a given topic, it is easy to create this kind of introduction. Essentially, this kind of weaker introduction contains several sentences that are vague and don't really say much. They exist just to take up the "introduction space" in your paper.

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    To help guide your reader, end your introduction with an outline of the structure of the thesis or dissertation to follow. Share a brief summary of each chapter, clearly showing how each contributes to your central aims. However, be careful to keep this overview concise: 1-2 sentences should be enough. Note.

  12. How to Write an Introduction for a Research Paper

    After you've done some extra polishing, I suggest a simple test for the introductory section. As an experiment, chop off the first few paragraphs. Let the paper begin on, say, paragraph 2 or even page 2. If you don't lose much, or actually gain in clarity and pace, then you've got a problem. There are two solutions.

  13. Toolkit: How to write a great paper

    A clear format will ensure that your research paper is understood by your readers. Follow: 1. Context — your introduction. 2. Content — your results. 3. Conclusion — your discussion. Plan ...

  14. Writing a Research Paper Introduction (with 3 Examples)

    1-) Start with a Catchy Hook. Your first sentence is one of the factors that most influence a reader's decision to read your paper. This sentence determines the tone of your paper and attracts the reader's attention. For this reason, we recommend that you start your introduction paragraph with a strong and catchy hook sentence.

  15. How to Write a Research Paper Introduction in 4 Steps

    Hannah, a writer and editor since 2017, specializes in clear and concise academic and business writing. She has mentored countless scholars and companies in writing authoritative and engaging content. A great research paper introduction starts with a catchy hook and ends with a road map for the research. At every step, QuillBot can help.

  16. How to write an introduction for a research paper

    Narrow the overview until you address your paper's specific subject. Then, mention questions or concerns you had about the case. Note that you will address them in the publication. Prior research. Your introduction is the place to review other conclusions on your topic. Include both older scholars and modern scholars.

  17. How to write an introduction for a research paper

    Be succinct - it is advised that your opening introduction consists of around 8-9 percent of the overall amount of words in your article (for example, 160 words for a 2000 words essay). Make a strong and unambiguous thesis statement. Explain why the article is significant in 1-2 sentences. Remember to keep it interesting.

  18. How to Write an Effective Introduction

    Abstract. Ideally, the Introduction is an essential attention grabbing section of a research paper. If written correctly, the Introduction peaks the reader's interest as well as serves as a roadmap for the rest of the paper. An effective Introduction builds off related empirical research and demonstrates a gap in which the current study fills.

  19. How to Write a Research Paper

    Develop a thesis statement. Create a research paper outline. Write a first draft of the research paper. Write the introduction. Write a compelling body of text. Write the conclusion. The second draft. The revision process. Research paper checklist.

  20. (PDF) How to Write an Introduction for Research

    The key thing is. to guide the reader into your topic and situate your ideas. Step 2: Describe the background. This part of the introduction differs depending on what approach your paper is ...

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    The introduction to an academic essay will generally present an analytical question or problem and then offer an answer to that question (the thesis). ... When you're writing a paper based on your own research, you will need to provide more context about the sources you're going to discuss. If you're not

  22. How to Write the Introduction to a Scientific Paper?

    A scientific paper should have an introduction in the form of an inverted pyramid. The writer should start with the general information about the topic and subsequently narrow it down to the specific topic-related introduction. Fig. 17.1. Flow of ideas from the general to the specific. Full size image.

  23. Welcome to the Purdue Online Writing Lab

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  24. A Guide on How to Write an Abstract for a Research Paper

    Use strong action verbs to describe the effect of your research, such as "transforms," "enables," "revolutionizes," or "underscores.". 5. Keep it concise. Focus on writing within the word limit and keeping the information that is required to be showcased or highlighted. After drafting your abstract, review it specifically for ...