There is a simple axiom that every paper has the Introduction, Body, and Conclusion. And every student has to follow this hard and fast rule. However, while writing a research paper we often do not have an idea where to start. As a result, we bit around the bush asking if it is actually worth it.
The research paper introduction is one of the most important sections as it reveals the core points and provides the rationale for your whole study. It summarizes the main ideas of your research as well as allows the reader to delve into a theme. While it is not always obligatory to write an introduction before the Body, many students face difficulties coming to this part. The core of the Introduction section is to reveal the relevance of your topic, underline the objectives of the work, and put forward a hypothesis. It sounds like nothing new, but even with all things considered you need to catch your reader’s attention and give a reason to get to the end of your paper. And in fact, it is not always easy.
In the introduction, you also need to justify the choice of your topic, outline the structure of your work, and analyze the literature used. Taking these steps will significantly increase your chances to get a higher grade.
How to write an introduction for a research paper? Let’s get into the swing of things!
The introduction is the very first step in getting acquainted with your research paper. It helps you to make the first good impression or catch your reader off guard if you fail to cover the core issues. The introduction for the research paper is basically the presentation of the topic and main ideas. And it usually takes 1-3 pages depending on the context. In this section, it is necessary to touch on the novelty and significance of your work as well as expected results.
What issues should be addressed in the introduction?
As a rule, there is a separate section for research methods. However, sometimes it is recommended to mention the basics in the introduction to provide an idea of what data you have used. The object of the research refers to the wider area of study where the insight for your paper has been found. Meanwhile, the subject is what you have explored in your work (issue, phenomenon, etc.). It is tightly connected with the research question.
According to the USC Libraries guidelines, it is recommended to take the introduction section as a “mental road map” that addresses the following questions:
Answering the last question, you have to explain the relevance of your work, why it is important, and how it contributes to the existing knowledge.
Well, now you know what a good introduction should contain. And before you start writing it, you can list all of the key points to be mentioned in this section. Overall, making drafts is always useful when it is difficult to get started. It helps you evaluate the scope of work and avoid confusion during writing your paper. Samples and examples of good research introduction can also be helpful, so you can check them here.
However, if you are ready to start, let’s look into these steps to optimize the process.
At this stage, you need to get the reader acquainted with your theme revealing core points, highlighting the object and the subject of your work. What is your research about? What does the topic imply? And why does it actually matter? Answering these questions is essential to get your readers engaged and interested. If you want to integrate attention-grabbing elements, you can start with a famous quote, intriguing facts, or some relevant statistics. Sometimes, students who write a research paper in humanities mention anecdotes related to the point. While it is not always reasonable, it is also an option.
The purpose of any research is to gain new knowledge or develop existing theories by discovering new facts. There are two general types of research:
Basic research aimed at developing scientific knowledge;
Applied research seeking to solve practical problems or develop new processes, products or methods.
Considering this, the next step is to identify the research problem. Otherwise speaking, you need to clearly state the issue you want to address. A research problem can be defined as an issue requiring increased attention, or a gap in existing knowledge. If there is a deviance from a norm or standard that indicates a need for further study, this is how the research problem usually looks like. While many problems appear to have multiple solutions, difficulties arise when these solutions are not obvious or unavailable at the moment. And the first step in arriving at an effective solution is to indicate the problem.
A clear formulation of research questions contributes to the correct choice of research methods. The research question is the identification of what exactly needs to be explored. It can refer to the phenomena, processes, or the nature of the relationships between subjects. The research question focuses on the context of your study and allows setting requirements for the data you need to confirm or disprove your hypothesis.
There are several types of questions. For example, descriptive ones indicate what the issue consists of, or what characteristics it has. On the other hand, there are questions about functional dependencies that usually start with the word “how?”, or explanatory questions referring to the word “why?”. Thus, a good research question should be related to the subject of your research. The introduction is the place where you need to clearly state your research question as well as explain its relationships with the object and the subject.
If you do not want your readers guessing what is what, you need to clarify the main concepts and terms from the very start. Of course, you are sure your professor is well-aware of them. But if you are going to get your research paper published, some readers can easily get confused. Anyway, it is a common rule for the introduction section to run through the terms.
Explanation of the core concepts will allow the reader to get the idea of how the subject of your research interacts with the outside world and what impact it has. This step is more important than you can think as it indicates your own understanding of the topic.
The objectives of the research determine the ways a student reveals the topic of the work. To some extent, they reflect the expected results of your research and show what you want to achieve in your study. The objectives basically derive from the questions “Why do I do the research?” and “What contribution am I going to make?”. They usually correspond to the topic of the research. For example, your main objective may refer to describing a new phenomenon, studying its characteristics, identifying patterns, etc. The formulation of the research objective usually employs wording like “to develop”, “to establish”, “to justify”, “to identify”, etc.
Research objectives will also help you determine the main stages of your work to achieve the goal.
The hypothesis is a scientific assumption whose true meaning is uncertain. By putting forward a hypothesis you define the way you are going to achieve your research objectives. While doing research you can modify and correct initial hypotheses. However, it is important to come up with assumptions before doing research. Otherwise, your work will not have a direction. If your hypothesis is based on the exact knowledge, it loses its sense.
There can be several hypotheses, and all of them should be listed in the introduction. In the process of research, they can be confirmed or disproved. And this is totally normal as it will cover a gap in the existing theories or practice anyway. If the result is obvious from the beginning, the research itself is meaningless.
Once the objectives and hypotheses have been determined, you need to indicate the research design. It implies the combination of data collection and analysis requirements you set to achieve the research objectives. The design also refers to a brief outline of the core points such as methods of data-gathering, sources of information you rely on, and cases you will consider in your paper.
At this stage, you familiarize the readers with what they will see in your work. It will help them understand in which part of your paper they should look for the issues of interest.
The topic of your research should merit attention, i.e. be relevant. Otherwise, your work is meaningless and can appear to be a waste of time for the reader. Therefore, it is so important to explain the relevance of your paper. The relevance implies the necessity to investigate your subject. To figure it out, answer the question, “Why should I study the topic?” In other words, you need to prove that your research can influence modern society or science. It is also essential to evaluate the previous research done to date as well as difficulties that exist in the area of study. It is especially appreciated when students express their personal vision of the issues under study.
At this stage, it is also necessary to underline the novelty and significance of your work. Thus, you need to address the question “What contribution do you expect to make with your research?”
While there is a common belief that the introduction for the research paper should be written before the rest of your work, it is not always reasonable. However, there are some aspects to emphasize from the very start. Thus, relevance, objectives, and hypotheses are the first things to be mentioned. And it is fine to complete other steps after you have finished the rest of your paper.
The number of pages for the introduction varies. As a rule, it can reach up to 10% of the entire work. However, 1-3 pages are often enough to cover the steps listed above. The introduction should be related to the conclusion which is usually based on the objectives set at the beginning.
Taking into account that the introduction is not always the first stage of producing a research paper, there is a temptation to indicate only confirmed hypotheses. However, it is not recommended as it ruins the whole meaning of the research. A negative result is no problem when you can draw comprehensive conclusions. Overall, writing a research paper takes much time and effort. Some troubles can arise in the process. And if you cannot find a way out, this article can be useful – Why Students Should Use Help of a Writing Service.