Many students and professionals agree that writing a research paper isn’t something they look forward to at first. While writing a research paper gives you the opportunity to learn about new topics you were not familiar with before, the process of compiling the paper can be daunting. In fact, one of the most difficult aspects of writing research papers is coming up with a way to grasp the reader’s interest with an attention-grabbing introduction paragraph. Even though the introduction paragraph is relatively short, it is one of the most important components because it gives the reader an initial “sample” of the rest of the paper.
There are three major components an author needs to consider in the intro: the first sentence, setting the context, and the thesis statement. Once you have these planned out, putting together the introduction will become much more manageable and successful.
The Attention Grabber
While the first sentence may not take up a huge portion of the introduction paragraph, it should be given some consideration and thought nonetheless. This will be the very first sentence the reader will see and can provoke interest in the rest of the paper if done well. A good first sentence should grab the reader’s attention and evoke curiosity and a desire to continue reading. One good method for coming up with effective attention grabbers is by contradicting the expectations of a general group of people. Is there something about the research topic that is commonly misunderstood that ties into what you are trying to prove, or does the research paper present a unique perspective? Discussing such things is the perfect way to open up the introduction paragraph and will make it easier to expand on other ideas in the following sentences.
Setting the Context
The sentences that follow the attention grabber should set the tone and underscore the purpose of the paper to some degree. There is only so much that can go into an introduction paragraph, but it’s important to make sure some of the introduction paragraph relates to the target audience. What issues are surrounding the research topic? Why is this topic important to consider? Answering questions like these not only maintains interest in reading more of the paper, but also allows the paragraph to flow smoothly into the third component—the thesis statement.
Some argue this statement is the most important component of the introduction paragraph. Whereas the sentences following the attention grabber set the tone of the introduction paragraph, the thesis statement sets the tone of the entire research paper. A good way to approach forming a thesis statement is to pinpoint the key arguments of the research paper and condense those arguments into one to two sentences. It shouldn’t be longer than one to two sentences because it only offers a very brief outline of what’s being discussed in the remainder of the paper—potentially confusing the reader about the paper argument if the thesis statement is too long. A well-structured research paper will have arguments supported by a few big ideas.
A good method for forming a thesis statement is to state the main argument and briefly mention those big ideas as support. This type of thesis statement will allow the rest of the paper to flow in a clear, organized manner—keeping the reader interested. In addition, forming a thesis this way can help the writer organize the rest of the paper in a structured way. When brainstorming the thesis statement, consider how the issues surrounding the research topic relate to the argument of the paper.
Like any task, writing takes practice. With time and effort, you will become very skilled at figuring out which methods work best for your particular thinking process.
Now that I’ve shared some helpful tips for creating an introduction paragraph, does the task seem a bit more manageable? Also, what are some ways you could ease the process of putting these three components together?
Shannon Pierce is a senior undergraduate student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign majoring in Molecular & Cellular Biology with minors in Chemistry and Business. Throughout college, she has had to write a fair share of research papers from topics about plant pathology, history, and climate change, among others.