Academics Admission News Going to College Student Success

How to Write the Introduction to a Research Paper

Portrait of beautiful female college student writing an essay using a laptop computer on the bed

Writing an introduction to your research paper is very important, but it can be quite challenging. The introduction is your chance to make a good impression on the reader, and the way it is presented will set the pace for the rest of your work. You’ll need to create an introduction that engages the reader and presents a case for why your research is so important.

Here are the steps to follow for a spectacular introduction.

Step 1 – Introduce Your Topic

  • Announce the research topic. You can use an anecdote, question, or quotation to introduce the topic for many types of papers. Or for a scientific paper, an interesting statistic can also be used. Ensure you choose only one of these ways to introduce your topic to avoid confusing the reader.
  • Introduce keywords. These are relevant terms to the paper, such as the proper compounds to be used in a research experiment or the variables expected to be measured. Presenting them in the introduction places them in the reader’s mind throughout the rest of the paper.
  • Define terms and concepts. The reader may not easily understand certain words and concepts. Rather than assuming they know or that they will take the extra mile to research on them, it is safer to just define these key terms for them. A reader is more likely to continue reading your paper if they understand everything from the beginning.

Step 2 – Creating Context and Background for Your Paper

Include a short literature review to show that you know the relevant discussions and studies related to your topic in your discipline. It also indicates your focus on the literature that is most relevant to the topic. Since the introduction should be concise, show an overview of relevant research rather than a lengthy discussion. Start with broad themes and narrow down to what directly relates to your paper. Indicate any gaps in existing literature, the ways your research paper help to close them, and where your research lies in the pool of knowledge.

State your rationale for your topic. This is the reason why you are writing the paper and should indicate the value of your research and its contribution to the larger academic field. Do not just say you are filling a gap in the research; indicate the positive contribution of your work. Stae what is new in your research, and why it is significant.

Step 3 – Introduce Your Hypothesis

  • State the research questions relevant to your study. It should be related to the issues addressed in the ‘introduce your topic’ and literature review sections of the paper, and should not come as a surprise to the reader. The research questions appear at the end of the introduction section of your research paper, and they should be focused on a specific goal. The research questions are meant to mold a problem into a testable hypothesis
  • State the hypothesis. Also called a thesis statement, it indicates how your research will focus on a specific issue to get a specific result rather than focusing on the broader topic. You should indicate briefly how you arrived at this hypothesis by referring to the literature review. In scientific papers, the hypothesis can state an overview of the expected results.

Step 3 – Outline your paper

This part of a research paper introduction is not always necessary, as it could depend on the guidelines of a particular school or discipline. In case you are asked to provide an outline, it is written in a paragraph of four to five sentences indicating how you have organized the paper.

Step 4 – Additional Guidelines

You can apply these tips according to their relevance to your school or discipline to help you structure a good introduction for a research paper.

  • Length- The introduction to a research paper does not have a specific word count as that depends on the topic. However, always try to be as brief as possible to avoid losing the attention of the reader.
  • Make your hypothesis clear. This statement should show the side you are on that you hope to either prove or disprove in the research. If the hypothesis is not clear, it confuses the purpose of the entire paper.
  • When writing a hypothesis, avoid using the word hypothesis when introducing it as this makes your paper more organic.
  • Be logical in the way you connect your ideas, as this helps to keep your introduction concise. Writing opinions can take too much space, as opinion is rooted in emotion and thought, which can make your work unnecessarily long or deviate from the purpose of the research.
  • Write the introduction last after you have written the main body and conclusion. This tip makes writing your introduction stress-free because it is easier to see the direction that your research takes after it has been completed, and you have analyzed your sources and findings. For instance, it may be hard to indicate the value your work adds to the existing literature before you analyze your results and compose your findings.
  • Avoid dictionary definitions for key terms. It may seem wise to use the dictionary definition as the standard. However, although anyone can look up meanings in a dictionary, it is not an authoritative source because it does not take into account the context of your topic. You should use a subject-specific dictionary or encyclopedia instead.
  • Be organized by breaking your introduction down with subheadings. Creating an outline of your introduction before you start writing helps to ensure you include everything that is required.
  • The introduction in natural sciences research papers is written based on defined structures, which must be strictly observed. Make sure you are familiar with them if this is your discipline. In contrast, humanities research papers are more flexible on the type of structure you can use, and the above guideline can be used.

In conclusion, writing the introduction of your research paper is interesting. However, it requires some skill, experience, and the right guidelines.

For more great college tips, check out the other blogs on College Basics.