introduction to a research paper

How to Write an Introduction to a Research Paper

Writing a research paper is not always easy. This is a lengthy document that will require your entire focus. The introduction might be one of the easiest sections you will write. It is also where the reader is introduced to your topic. Therefore you have to make it count.

This article shows you how to write a stellar introduction for a research paper. So take some notes.

What are introductions?

Introductions provide an entry into your paper. They serve as important signposts for the reader by establishing the paper’s subject, stating the argument or research question guiding the paper, and highlighting how you will be making your argument (e.g., through the use of examples or evidence). Because they set up both the reader and the writer’s expectations, introductions need to be accurate and attention-grabbing. They should not summarize your entire paper (your readers want to read it) but instead should:

1) Establish that this is a scholarly work;

2) State your research question;

3) Highlight how you will attempt to answer this question.

Don’t go overboard with your introduction by adding too many details. Keep it short and sweet, something that “hooks” the reader—lures them in for a quick read before getting into the meat of the paper.

The first sentence should engage readers and control their experience as they begin reading. It is important to capture the reader’s attention, which you can accomplish by writing a strong first sentence.

When you are writing your thesis statement, think about how to grab readers’ attention. A good way is to refer to existing research on the subject or make an interesting sub-question that relates directly to the paper’s argument.

3 Key components of strong introductions

Brief background of problem or topic.

Provide a summary of the topic and some background information that led to this research being done. This section should provide clarity and context for the research question.

Statement of argument or research question.

When you start thinking about your introduction, take another look at your thesis statement. Most writers revise their theses only once before writing the paper itself. This leaves them with just one chance to craft a clear and compelling introduction. However, wait to finalize your thesis statement until after you have drafted your introduction. You may discover that additional editing is necessary.

Thesis statements can be difficult to write because it is hard to think of ways to say something. Sometimes authors end up saying something different from what they intended. The key is to keep it simple and focused on your argument or research question.

Roadmap of the rest of the research paper

Provide a roadmap for the reader of what will be contained in the body of the paper. It is usually best to avoid too much detail about how you will answer your question, but by including some general information, you can accomplish two things: 1) You give readers an idea of where they are going with this paper; 2) If they are interested in a particular aspect of your paper, it can clue them in on how important that topic will be within the paper.

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What should be included in the introduction of a research paper?

The introduction of a research paper is the first part of the writing process. This section aims to introduce your topic and give a summary of it. The goal behind an introduction is to make the reader interested in reading more about your topic, so therefore, you must attract their attention with a catchy first paragraph. The main purpose of the introduction is to provide a background for your topic. This section can be divided into three parts:

Introduce the topic sentence

Provide a summary of your topic

Give an overview of what you will be discussing in the paper

Thesis statement


Tips for structuring your introduction

Introduce your topic.

You should provide a summary or background of your topic. This is the “so what” of the research to contribute to the existing literature somehow. Your introduction can include:

A relevant quote from another source

An anecdote

A question you will be exploring

A definition

Statistics and facts about the issue

A description of the problem

An explanation of why this topic is important or interesting

Give background information concerning your topic.

Introduce your reader to the various issues surrounding the topic. This section allows you to share what you know about your topic. The things that are included in this section are:

Interpretations of events

Examples of the use of concepts or terms

Theoretical frameworks used to understand or investigate the issue

Historical context for the issue

A brief literature review

An explanation of how the topic fits into a larger context to show its importance for further research.

For example, if you were writing a paper about immigration and crime, you would include:

A definition of immigration

Statistics on immigration over time

How immigration has been used as a scapegoat for the crime

How media portrayals of immigrants have contributed to negative public perception

Theories about why immigration has increased over the last 50 years, such as globalization and free trade agreements.

Avoid giving too much detail in your introduction.

You need to be careful not to give too much away, as the introduction is intended to introduce a topic and make someone interested in reading about it. While it may seem that you are giving away the ending of your research paper, the chances are that readers will be encouraged by what you have said in your introduction, leading them to want to read more about your topic.

Clearly state your hypothesis or research question.

The hypothesis or research problem is the topic of your paper. It should be stated affirmatively as a statement rather than a question. A good hypothesis will have two elements:

It must be based on existing literature that already exists

It must take into account variables that can affect the research design-it must have theoretical usefulness/relevance

For example, if you were writing a paper about immigration and crime in Canada, the topic of the research paper would be:

“Does immigration increase crime rates in Canadian metropolitan areas?”

The hypothesis would be: “Yes.” There is a high correlation between the rise in immigration and an increase in crime rates.

Indicate the objectives and importance.

What is the significance of your research problem? Why should anyone care about what you have to say? In this section, you should explain why your topic is important enough to investigate. You should also provide a foundation for the reader so that they understand not only how it fits in with existing literature but also why it’s important from a theoretical standpoint.

For example, if you were writing a paper about immigration and crime in Canada, the topic of the research paper would be:

“Does immigration increase crime rates in Canadian metropolitan areas?”

The objectives would be:

To explore whether there is a correlation between the rise in immigration and an increase in crime rates

To explore why immigrants commit crimes at a higher rate than nonimmigrants or citizens

To explore how media portrayals of immigrants have contributed to negative public perception

Explaining why the topic is important from a theoretical standpoint would be:

In order to understand crime trends, it is necessary to take into account multiple factors. In this case, one of those factors is the increasing immigrant population in Canada. When discussing crime, increased immigration is often scapegoated as a contributor to the rise. However, few studies have actually been done on this subject, and no studies exist that can account for all variables outside of whether or not a person is an immigrant. This study will provide new information on existing literature by exploring the link between immigration and crime.

Conclude with the outline

(methods, results).

You should provide the reader with an idea of what to expect in your paper. Include your research question or hypothesis in this section if you haven’t already done so in your introduction. This is also where you will explain how you intend to answer that question or test that hypothesis. This section should include a brief discussion of the procedures that your paper will be following, including if you are using quantitative or qualitative research.

You can also provide more information on what you expect to find in this section. If some variables must remain hidden for ethical reasons, then mention that here as well. For example, if you were conducting an experiment that involved multiple age groups, you might mention that here.

Bottom Line

Writing a good introduction for a research paper raises the caliber of your paper. Besides, it is the first major section that your reader encounters. Therefore, this is your chance to make a good impression on your reader for the rest of the paper. Follow the tips noted above and watch your introductions scoop all the points. When research papers have good introductions, the instructor is motivated to give you more points as they read the rest of the paper. So do due diligence in this section, and you’ll reap the rewards.

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