How to write an introduction for a research paper

Writing research papers is easily accomplished in a series of steps. One of the most important steps is writing the research paper introduction. It’s important to know how to write an introduction for a research paper. Why? Because a well-written research paper introduction will set the tone for your paper and make your readers want to read on.

What is an introduction?

Your introduction will give the reader a preview of what is to follow in your paper. It doesn’t have to include a lot of details, just the main points that you will be covering in your paper. So anxious are you to get to the meat of your topic that you might be tempted to blast through the introduction with only a little thought. If you take that approach, however, you are missing an opportunity to educate, entertain and persuade your readers.

A Research Guide for Students suggests, “State your thesis and the purpose of your research paper clearly. What is the chief reason you are writing the paper? State also how you plan to approach your topic. Is this a factual report, a book review, a comparison, or an analysis of a problem? Explain briefly the major points you plan to cover in your paper and why readers should be interested in your topic.”

Your introduction will accomplish the following:

  • Gain your reader’s attention
  • Create an interest in reading the rest of the paper
  • Provide background information on your topic
  • Define your thesis statement which is the main point of your paper

Writing your introduction

The introduction is the first section of your research paper but should you write it first? Jumping into the introduction too soon in the writing process may not be the best choice, according to Jay Silverman, Elaine Hughes, and Diana Roberts Wienbroer, authors of Shortcuts for the Student Writer. They said, “Sometimes you may get stuck writing an introduction. In that case, try writing your introduction after you’ve written the rest of the first draft. Ofen you don’t find your real main point until you’ve written several pages.”

On the other hand, if you have done extensive preparation for your paper, you may be able to dive right in and complete the introduction. “If your project changes in the creating process, it is important to make sure that your introduction accurately reflects what you will be saying. If, however, you have written a good outline and stick to it, then it is fine to start writing your introduction first. Just make sure in your proofreading that you have kept the thread consistent throughout the paper,” advised Holly Samuels of the CRLS Research Guide.

Different approaches to writing the introduction

The purpose of your paper may suggest a particular approach that you might take in writing the introduction to your research paper. For example, if the purpose of your paper is to enlighten the reader with information, you might begin your introduction with a brief statement that summarizes your topic such as, “Between the years of 1840 and 1870 an estimated 250,000 women undertook the long and arduous journey west taking one of three routes: the Oregon Trail, the California Trail, or the Santa Fe Trail.”

If your purpose is to persuade the reader to take action or to adopt a particular point of view, then you might want to start your introduction by making a bold statement for your position. For example, “The United States can end its dependence on foreign oil within the next five years by adopting new fuel economy standards.”

Ever since the first humans living in caves passed on their myths and history while sitting around the campfire, stories have played a central role in communication. Stories paint mental pictures that draw the reader in. Your introduction could include a brief story that illustrates the importance of the topic and its broader implications.

Yet another approach is to begin with a general statement about your topic then become more and more specific with each succeeding sentence. Finally, you conclude your introduction with your thesis statement.

Your research paper introduction need not be long. It could be a few sentences to a couple of paragraphs in length. It’s not the word count that’s important — if your reader can tell what the paper is about and is inspired to read the entire paper, then you can consider your introduction a success.

Want more research paper help? We’re busy putting together a full arsenal of tools, tips and videos to help you tackle the toughest research assignments while keeping your cool. Check out our blog post, “New Questia research tutorials: Term paper research and writing now easier than ever.”

21 replies
  1. Stella says:

    Thanks a lot Claire for this nice article on how to write an introduction. It is really of a great help to me. Keep it up and may God bless you.

    • Grace says:

      Thanks for the guidelines on writing the introduction of a thesis. I have found it very helpful. I am currently struggling with how to start my introduction on the topic of my thesis for DBA programme.

  2. Tsholofelo says:

    Hi, I need help on finalized Research proposals on the topic:what is the relationship between organizational commitment and innovative behaviour between managers at a casino, in the Southern Gauteng?

  3. Saad Raheem Abed says:

    Thanks for this notes, but I think there is amany issues don remember about the introductions. One of these issues is the subjects thats you want to deal with it, like your thesis, you want to write about it. So the purport is very important in introduction, and et.c..
    Thanks with best regards

  4. Saad Raheem Abed says:

    Thanks for this notes, but I think there are amany issues don’t remember about the introductions. One of these issues is the subjects thats you want to deal with it, like your thesis, you want to write about it. So the purport is very important in introduction, and et.c..
    Thanks with best regards

  5. samia caouli says:

    Of great help and value this type of information. I am looking for an interesting topic of research in applies linguistics, but I do not succeed to find the first step. Can you help me?

  6. akinpelu funmilayo says:

    Thanks for your guidance. Please is this research titled child status indices as predictors of overall wellbeing of vulnerable children in Nigeria appropriate or needs to be reframe. If so, kindly assist me come up with a better one


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