Nova A.
Nova A.

How to Write an Introduction for a Research Paper - A Step-by-Step Guide

10 min read

Published on: Jan 5, 2024

Last updated on: Jan 30, 2024

How to Write an Introduction for a Research Paper

The introduction to your research paper sets the stage for what lies ahead. Just like a first impression, it's crucial to get it right. 

Drafting an impactful introduction involves answering early questions, making a personal connection, and setting the tone for your entire paper. 

In this guide, we will explore the intricacies of writing research paper introductions. We will offer insights to ensure your research paper introduction not only meets but exceeds expectations. 

Let's transform the challenge into a skill, making your introductions as compelling as your research.

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What is a Research Paper Introduction?

A research paper introduction serves as the gateway to your study, encapsulating its essence in a concise preview. This section strategically engages readers, offering a roadmap while highlighting the significance of the study. 

A well-crafted introduction captivates attention, sets the tone, and entices readers to delve deeper into the research. 

How Long Should a Research Paper Introduction Be?

The optimal length for a research paper introduction is typically 5-10% of the total paper length. For instance, in a 10-page paper, aim for an introduction spanning approximately half a page to a full page. 

Conciseness is key—provide enough information to establish the context, research problem, and objectives, but avoid unnecessary details. 

Must-Have Elements in Your Research Paper Introduction

Here are the essential parts of the introduction in a research paper:

  • Background Context: Introduce your topic and provide the necessary context.
  • Research Gap: Identify the gap or problem in existing literature.
  • Rationale and Motivation: Explain the reasons behind your research and its significance.
  • Thesis Statement: Clearly state the main point or argument of your research.
  • Relevance: Explain how your paper addresses the identified gap or problem.

5 Steps To Write an Introduction for Research Paper

The importance of introduction in research paper writing can not be ignored. In this section, we will discuss the steps to write a perfect introduction: 

Step 1: Start with Introducing your Topic

The opening lines of your research paper introduction are highly important. To make a powerful entrance, begin with a clear introduction to your topic. This initial step is about capturing your readers' attention and making them eager to explore further. 

Consider employing a fact, an intriguing question, or a relevant quote to start your introduction. The key is to create an immediate connection between your audience and the subject area.

Difference between Argumentative and Empirical Research:

There are two primary approaches in research—argumentative and empirical. The choice of hook often aligns with the nature of the research being undertaken. 

In an argumentative paper, the hook serves to pose a provocative question or statement that aligns with the argument to come. 

Example of an Argumentative Paper Hook:

Is the relentless expansion of urban areas contributing to the disappearance of biodiversity?

An empirical paper utilizes the hook to present a broad observation, often backed by existing research, that sets the stage for the specific investigation to follow.

Example of an Empirical Paper Hook:

The advancements in artificial intelligence have transformed the landscape of education, yet the impact on student learning outcomes remains a field ripe for exploration.

Step 2: Provide the Background Information

Once your audience is intrigued by the topic, the next logical step is to provide background information. This contextualizes your research and helps readers understand the broader concept in which your study exists. 

Mention the historical, social, or scientific details that set the stage for your research. The goal is to ensure that readers have the necessary foundation to comprehend the significance of your study.

Background Information in Argumentative Research: 

In an argumentative paper, it is essential to offer specific background details that set the stage for your research. For instance, if your study explores the environmental impact of a particular industry, dive into relevant statistics and findings. 

Example:

Fast Fashion Argumentative Paper Background

Recent reports indicate that the fast fashion industry is a major contributor to environmental degradation. According to a study by [Source], the production of cheap, disposable clothing results in significant carbon emissions, water pollution, and textile waste. With fashion trends changing rapidly, the environmental toll of fast fashion raises concerns about the sustainability of current consumer practices.

Background Information in Empirical Research:

For an empirical paper, focus on summarizing existing research relevant to your study. This mini-literature review should inform readers about the current state of research in your field. 

Example:

Teaching Method Empirical Paper Background

Numerous studies (Johnson et al., 2015; Smith & Brown, 2017) have explored different teaching methods and their effects on student performance. While some research suggests a positive correlation between interactive learning techniques and academic achievement, there remains a gap in understanding how the recently introduced method of gamified learning impacts student engagement and long-term retention. This study seeks to address this gap and contribute valuable insights to the ongoing discourse on innovative pedagogical approaches.

Step 3: Establish your Research Problem

With the backdrop set, it's time to describe the focal point of your research article—the research problem. Clearly articulate the problem or question your study aims to address. 

This step is critical for laying the groundwork and helping your audience understand the purpose and significance of your study.

In an argumentative paper, the research problem can be straightforwardly stated, emphasizing its importance and what makes your argument unique. 

Example:

The alarming levels of plastic pollution in our oceans demand urgent attention and action. Despite ongoing efforts, policymakers seem hesitant to acknowledge the magnitude of the issue. This paper proposes a radical approach, commensurate with the scale of the problem, to prompt a paradigm shift in addressing ocean pollution.

In an empirical paper, the establishment of the specific research problem is linked to the existing literature. It involves:

  • Identifying the research gap your work aims to fill
  • Addressing limitations in previous research studies
  • Outline the contribution your research makes to the existing body of knowledge.

Example:

While numerous studies have delved into the impact of social media on mental health, insufficient attention has been paid to the nuanced role of specific features in triggering anxiety among adolescents. This paper addresses the research gap by exploring the relationship between Instagram's image-centric platform and the heightened prevalence of anxiety in adolescent girls. By doing so, it aims to contribute valuable insights to the ongoing discourse on social media's impact on mental well-being.


Tip: Use the funnel-down technique while writing your research paper introduction:

  • General to Specific
  • Historical to Latest
  • International to Local

Step 4: Outline your Research Objectives

Having established the problem, it's time to outline your research objectives. Clearly define the goals your study aims to achieve, offering a roadmap for the reader. These objectives provide direction to your research and shape the narrative of your paper. 

Clarity in stating your objectives ensures that readers understand the purpose and focus of your study.

In an argumentative paper, the focus lies on presenting a thesis statement that embodies the position the paper will advocate for, supported by evidence and arguments.

Example:

This paper contends that implementing stricter regulations on single-use plastic consumption is imperative to curbing environmental degradation and preserving biodiversity.

An empirical paper typically frames a research question (and sometimes a hypothesis) that guides the investigation.

Example:

Research Question: What impact does parental involvement in homework have on elementary school students' academic performance?

Hypothesis: It was hypothesized that increased parental involvement in homework tasks positively correlates with enhanced academic performance among elementary school students.

Step 5: Outline the Paper's Structure 

The final step in crafting a good introduction is to outline the structure of your research paper. Provide a brief overview of the main sections, signaling to your readers how the paper will unfold. 

This roadmap ensures that your audience knows what to expect, enhancing the overall readability and comprehension of your research.

In an argumentative paper, the structure often follows a logical progression. It follows an order, such as introducing the thesis statement, presenting supporting arguments, and concluding with a compelling summary. 

Example:

This paper will start by introducing the alarming rise of air pollution in urban areas, followed by an exploration of the contributing factors. Subsequently, it will present a comprehensive analysis of existing regulations and their limitations. The paper will then advocate for the implementation of stricter emission controls as a viable solution to mitigate the detrimental effects of air pollution.

An empirical paper adheres to a more structured scientific format, commonly following the "introduction, methods, results, discussion" framework.

Example:

This study follows the standard scientific format, beginning with an introduction to the research question and objectives. The methods section outlines the experimental design and data collection procedures. Results will be presented and analyzed in the subsequent section, leading to a comprehensive discussion of the findings and their implications. The paper concludes with a synthesis of key insights and avenues for future research.

Research Paper Introduction Examples

Let’s take a look at a research paper introduction: 

Research Paper Introduction

The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) into various sectors has spurred a paradigm shift in the way we perceive and interact with technology. (Opening Statement (Hook)) In recent years, the applications of AI have become increasingly diverse, ranging from diagnostic tools to personalized treatment plans. (Background and Context) This research paper seeks to delve into the multifaceted impact of AI on modern healthcare, examining its implications for patient care, medical research, and healthcare management. (Statement of the Problem or Research Question) This paper aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of the impact of AI in healthcare, shedding light on the opportunities and challenges that arise in this dynamic intersection of technology and medicine. (Purpose of the Study) The introduction narrows down to focus on healthcare as a specific domain where the transformative role of AI is particularly noteworthy. (Scope and Focus) As the world grapples with the rapid integration of AI into healthcare, this research endeavors to contribute a deeper understanding of the opportunities and challenges presented by this dynamic interaction between technology and medicine. (Thesis Statement)

Below are full examples of research paper introductions in PDF documents:

To Sum it Up!

Drafting an effective introduction for your research paper is a vital step that sets the tone for your entire work. By following this step-by-step guide, you can structure your introduction to engage your readers and provide a clear roadmap for your research. 

Remember to transition from the general to the specific, maintain the appropriate tense, and consider your audience's background knowledge.

If you find yourself struggling with the complexities of your research paper, remember that help is just a click away. Consult CollegeEssay.org for expert assistance. 

Our research paper writing service is ready to support you on your academic journey.

Ready to ace your research paper introduction? Get in touch with our expert writing service now!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I express the importance of my research if I lack confidence?

Don't hesitate to explain why your field of study is valuable.

What tense should I use in the introduction?

Use the present simple tense for statements like "Much study in recent years has focused on..." or opt for the present tense for general statements.

What kind of facts should I start with?

Consider your audience's level of background knowledge; if it's specific, begin with detailed information, and if it's broad, start with more general facts.

What if I have multiple background facts to start with?

Begin with the most general fact that many readers will know, creating a common starting point before delving into specific details.

I'm unsure where to start. Any suggestions?

Look at your research paper title for inspiration; define key terms or start with a fact related to the title.

Can I begin by describing the problem I aim to solve?

While possible, it's often challenging to define the problem without providing enough background information for the reader to understand.

Are research references considered part of the literature review?

No, references in the introduction contribute to the background of general research in the area; the literature review, found later, delves into individual studies and their details.

Why include references if it's only background information?

References are included to avoid plagiarism, give credit to others' work, and enable readers to locate and review the mentioned studies.

Nova A.

WRITTEN BY

Nova A. (Literature, Marketing)

As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova Allison has eight years of experience in writing both technical and scientific content. With a focus on developing online content plans that engage audiences, Nova strives to write pieces that are not only informative but captivating as well.

As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova Allison has eight years of experience in writing both technical and scientific content. With a focus on developing online content plans that engage audiences, Nova strives to write pieces that are not only informative but captivating as well.

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