This article was co-authored by Megan Morgan. International Affairs at the University of Georgia. She earned her PhD in English from the University of Georgia in 2015. There are 17 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. 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.
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. 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. When you write a research paper for publication you will be required to submit it along with a series of key words which give a quick indication of the areas of research you are addressing. You may also have certain key words in your title which you want to establish and emphasise in your introduction. 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.
Define any key terms or concepts. It may be necessary for you to clarify any key terms or concepts early on in your introduction. You need to express yourself clearly throughout your paper writing research hypothesis if you leave an unfamiliar term or concept unexplained you risk your readers not having a clear understanding of your argument. Introduce the topic through an anecdote or quotation. If you are writing a humanities or social science essay you can find more literary ways to begin your introduction and announce the topic of your paper. It is common for humanities essays in particular to begin with an illustrative anecdote or quotation that points to the topic of the research.
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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. Depending on the overall length of your paper, it will be necessary to include a review of the existing literature already published in the field. This is an important element of your paper which demonstrates that you have a strong knowledge and understanding of the debates and scholarship in your area.
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. Use the literature to focus in on your contribution. A concise but comprehensive literature review can be a very effective way to frame your own research paper. As you develop your introduction, you can move from the literature to focus in on your own work and its position relevant to the broader scholarship.
You can identify a gap in the existing scholarship and explain how you are addressing it and moving understanding forward. Elaborate on the rationale of your paper. Once you have framed your work within a broader context you can elaborate more fully on the rationale of your research and its particular strengths and importance. The rationale should clearly and concisely indicate the value of your paper and its contribution to the field.
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». Once you have indicated where your research sits in the field and the general rationale for your paper, you can specify the research questions the paper addresses. The literature review and rationale frames your research and introduces your research question.
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