11 min

Research Paper Introductions: How to Write a Great One?

October 1, 2022

This in-depth guide will give you actionable knowledge to write a research paper introduction that will get your audience to follow your hard-worked study till the end.

The introduction is typically the shortest section of any research paper. But this doesn't make it any less critical.

It is one of the most influential parts of your paper.

Your readers will often decide to read your entire paper based on their initial impressions of the introduction.

However, writing a compelling introduction for your research paper can be challenging, especially for scholars publishing their first paper.

You may feel unsure about what information to cover and how to present it to provide an appealing hook for readers.

It's time to stop worrying.

Let’s dive into learning how to write an introduction for research papers.

What is an introduction to a research paper?

The introduction is the first major section of any research paper. It is a block of text that provides the reader with the preliminary information to understand the material presented in the paper. 

This section is commonly labeled with the header title "Introduction."

The introduction section generally appears between the "abstract" and "materials and methods" sections of the paper.

As a rule of thumb, the length of your introduction should be around 10-15% of the total research paper's length. So, if your research paper is five pages long, you should dedicate less than one page to the introduction.

Here is an example of a research paper with a well-composed introduction for your reference. A student submitted it as a requirement for his master's degree.

Research paper introduction example

Example of a research paper introduction.

Credit

Why is writing a good research paper introduction is so important?

A good introduction can improve the chances of your paper being fully read by the target audience. Here are some crucial ways it can help accomplish this goal.

Grab your reader's interest

Curiosity is a vital factor that leads readers to scroll further. It includes questions like "what?", "how?", "why?" etc.

A compelling introduction grabs your reader's interest and pulls them into reading more about your topic.

It convinces your reader that this specific topic is worth reading.

If you can capture their attention from the start, it will be easier for you to educate them about whatever point you want them to believe in later in the paper.

Enhance browsing experience

A strong introduction is a valuable tool for the writer and the reader. It can help the writer organize their thoughts and research. It also makes it easier for the reader to browse and navigate the entire paper easily.

Establish the scope of the project

If you do not clearly state the scope of a research paper in your introduction, then readers will be confused about what they are reading and why they should continue examining it. 

They may also lose interest if they feel the topic is too broad or too narrow for them.

A great introduction can answer the question upfront: What will you talk about?

It provides an overview of the project, where you can establish the scope of what you're trying to accomplish.

Explain the relevance of the problem

It is also essential to let your readers know about the specific research problem you are trying to solve in your paper. 

This will give them an idea about what kind of solutions you will present later in your essay and how those solutions can improve their lives or make their work easier.

Your introduction can help you explain the significance of your problem and why it needs to be solved.

How to write your research paper introduction

You should consider your introduction as a series of elements usually broken down into paragraphs, each with a specific information goal.

We explain below the critical components of a well-composed introduction and how you should write each one in the best possible manner.

If you follow these steps well, you should be able to piece everything together cohesively.

Background information: State what is known

Start an effective introduction with background information of what is already known about your research topic. This will help your readers understand how your research fits into the broader context.

It will also give them a sense of what they can expect from the research.

For example, if you're writing about how stress impacts learning, you might start with a summary of what is known about stress and its effects on learning.

Tips for writing a comprehensive background section for your research paper introduction

  • Use a strong hook sentence to introduce your topic to the reader. You may use a question, interesting fact, or anecdote.

Pro Tip: Try using AI to generate captivating opening sentences with CopyAI's free-to-use hook generator tool.

  • Use questions to frame the topic in the mind of the reader. For example, "What do we know about the role of GPU performance in deep learning?"

  • Present only relevant information. You may want to include details about other studies on the same topic, but only have this if it directly relates to your research project. For example, if you are writing about deep learning, you don't need to explain computer programming.

  • Cite other sources properly so readers know from where you got your information. You can make use of a citation index like Google Scholar or Scopus.

  • Prioritize recent and relevant literature supporting the current breadth of knowledge on the topic. Be concise and accurate in your literature review.

  • Include keywords from your paper's title to state the relevance of your study.

  • Consider using more specific definitions of key terms than generic definitions in your study.

  • Make use of review articles to assist with your literature review.

Problem: Highlight the knowledge gap and why you want to fill it

Next, you should focus on highlighting the gap in your research knowledge or understanding of the topic that you want to fill with your research.

A knowledge gap is a deficit between what people currently know about your topic and what they need or want to know.

If there are no gaps in their knowledge, then there may not be any reason for them to read your paper at all.

You want them to feel like they are missing out on something and that there is more they can learn about it. This way, they will likely read the paper until they reach your conclusion.

Aside from getting their attention, highlighting the knowledge gap also helps show that you have extensively researched the topic.

It can help convince your reader that you know what you are talking about and that they should trust what you write about your case.

Tips for writing the problem part of your introduction well

  • Highlight areas where information availability is scarce.
  • Explain the importance of filling the knowledge gap. Highlight what could be possible if the research question is answered or not answered in time.
  • Justify your motivation to work on the presented problem.
  • Showcase your awareness about the future course of your study field.

Purpose, Hypothesis, and Rationale: State how your study will fill the gap

Finally, you should define the purpose behind your study, state a hypothesis of what outcomes you expect, and explain the rationale for your approach. 

These usually come at the end of an introduction, often in the last paragraph or in closing sentences before you get into your thesis statement and body paragraphs. A research paper typically has one clear statement of purpose.

Purpose statements are of two types

Quantitative



Example: “The purpose of this study is to determine the effect of different types of exercise on lung function and body weight in children with asthma.”

Qualitative



Example: “The purpose of this study is to understand better how people use smartphone technology in their daily lives.”

Hypothesis

A hypothesis statement is a sentence that predicts the outcome of a research project. It states what you think will happen in your study before you conduct it.

It is a testable explanation for an observation or phenomenon. A hypothesis can be either true or false, but it cannot simultaneously be true and false. If you have a statement in which both sides are possible, you need to break it down into two separate hypotheses.

While it is not necessary to include a hypothesis, it is good to have one. It tells readers what they should expect to find out from your research.

Example: "Students with high attendance rates have higher test scores than students who miss class regularly."

Rationale

In the end, you should close off with a rationale for the approach you plan to take for your study. One good reason is that it gives readers confidence that your argument is valid and worth reading further.

General tips for writing introductions that shine

We have also covered some valuable tips for writing polished introductions. Let us take note of them one by one.

Write your introduction before penning the conclusion

If you are wondering when you should write the introduction for your research paper, we suggest you cover it just before drafting your conclusion and after all other sections of your study.

There are various reasons why you would want to take this approach:

  • It forces you to know what you are writing about before you write it.
  • It gives you time to research other parts of your paper while writing the introduction, which will help ensure that all aspects of your research work are accurate.
  • You can save time later on by not having to change things around too much.

Use active voice as much as possible

Active voice is the preferred choice for most academic papers. It allows you to keep your sentences simple, clear, and concise. 

Active voice is also easier to read because it removes unnecessary words from your sentences.

In contrast to active voice, passive voice is dull, hard to follow, and less attractive to read. Passive voice is also less concise than active voice.

Tips on how to use active voice in your research paper introduction

  • Use the active verb form. Instead of writing "the results were analyzed," write "we analyzed the results."
  • Avoid pronouns such as "it" and "they" because they make it difficult for readers to understand who or what you are discussing. Instead, use specific nouns such as "this study" or "this experiment."
  • Use specific nouns and pronouns instead of general terms (e.g., "I" instead of "the researcher").

Pro Tip: Rewrite your sentences in an active voice quickly using CopyAI's Sentence Rewriter tool.

Keep it concise and relevant

Scholars often fail at writing their introductions by being vague or unclear about what they plan to discuss in the rest of their papers.

They may try to delve into too many topics or ramble on about too many things at once, which makes it difficult for readers to understand what they are trying to say.

A concise and clear introduction will help you get to the point in your paper. 

It will help keep your readers interested in what you are saying because they will quickly get familiar with what they are getting into when they start reading your paper.

Adapt to your academic field

Another helpful tip is adapting the introduction to your academic field.

For example, suppose you are working on a study about animals or plants. In that case, it will be much easier for your audience to understand what you are talking about if you use natural examples rather than books or movies.

In other words, when writing an introduction for a research paper in any academic field, ensure that it correctly suits the subject matter of your research work.

Proofread for error-free submission

It is essential to proofread your research paper introduction for errors before submission because if there are mistakes in this part of your paper, it will distract readers from what you are saying. If errors distract them, they may not take anything else away from your message.

Use a top-down information structure

Top-down structures are helpful because they provide a clear hierarchy of ideas, which can help readers understand what they need to know and why they need to know it. 

They also draw connections between different parts of your paper, which helps readers see how distinct ideas relate to one another.

Time to introduce your work to the world

Your introduction is like the "elevator pitch" to the scientific community.

It's your first chance to make an impression on the people who are most likely to read and cite your work. 

A good introduction will excite people about what you're doing and motivate them to read your paper.

We hope this guide has provided you with the foundational knowledge to write an introduction that helps meet your research paper's goals.

We wish you lots of success in your research career.

By the way, if you struggle to write persuasive emails geared toward your professors or research proposals to funding institutes, give CopyAI's suite of copywriting tools a try.

The free upgrade to your copywriting skills will surprise you.This article is part of an ongoing series on learning how to write in various styles, genres, and formats.

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11 min

Research Paper Introductions: How to Write a Great One?

October 1, 2022

This in-depth guide will give you actionable knowledge to write a research paper introduction that will get your audience to follow your hard-worked study till the end.

The introduction is typically the shortest section of any research paper. But this doesn't make it any less critical.

It is one of the most influential parts of your paper.

Your readers will often decide to read your entire paper based on their initial impressions of the introduction.

However, writing a compelling introduction for your research paper can be challenging, especially for scholars publishing their first paper.

You may feel unsure about what information to cover and how to present it to provide an appealing hook for readers.

It's time to stop worrying.

Let’s dive into learning how to write an introduction for research papers.

What is an introduction to a research paper?

The introduction is the first major section of any research paper. It is a block of text that provides the reader with the preliminary information to understand the material presented in the paper. 

This section is commonly labeled with the header title "Introduction."

The introduction section generally appears between the "abstract" and "materials and methods" sections of the paper.

As a rule of thumb, the length of your introduction should be around 10-15% of the total research paper's length. So, if your research paper is five pages long, you should dedicate less than one page to the introduction.

Here is an example of a research paper with a well-composed introduction for your reference. A student submitted it as a requirement for his master's degree.

Research paper introduction example

Example of a research paper introduction.

Credit

Why is writing a good research paper introduction is so important?

A good introduction can improve the chances of your paper being fully read by the target audience. Here are some crucial ways it can help accomplish this goal.

Grab your reader's interest

Curiosity is a vital factor that leads readers to scroll further. It includes questions like "what?", "how?", "why?" etc.

A compelling introduction grabs your reader's interest and pulls them into reading more about your topic.

It convinces your reader that this specific topic is worth reading.

If you can capture their attention from the start, it will be easier for you to educate them about whatever point you want them to believe in later in the paper.

Enhance browsing experience

A strong introduction is a valuable tool for the writer and the reader. It can help the writer organize their thoughts and research. It also makes it easier for the reader to browse and navigate the entire paper easily.

Establish the scope of the project

If you do not clearly state the scope of a research paper in your introduction, then readers will be confused about what they are reading and why they should continue examining it. 

They may also lose interest if they feel the topic is too broad or too narrow for them.

A great introduction can answer the question upfront: What will you talk about?

It provides an overview of the project, where you can establish the scope of what you're trying to accomplish.

Explain the relevance of the problem

It is also essential to let your readers know about the specific research problem you are trying to solve in your paper. 

This will give them an idea about what kind of solutions you will present later in your essay and how those solutions can improve their lives or make their work easier.

Your introduction can help you explain the significance of your problem and why it needs to be solved.

How to write your research paper introduction

You should consider your introduction as a series of elements usually broken down into paragraphs, each with a specific information goal.

We explain below the critical components of a well-composed introduction and how you should write each one in the best possible manner.

If you follow these steps well, you should be able to piece everything together cohesively.

Background information: State what is known

Start an effective introduction with background information of what is already known about your research topic. This will help your readers understand how your research fits into the broader context.

It will also give them a sense of what they can expect from the research.

For example, if you're writing about how stress impacts learning, you might start with a summary of what is known about stress and its effects on learning.

Tips for writing a comprehensive background section for your research paper introduction

  • Use a strong hook sentence to introduce your topic to the reader. You may use a question, interesting fact, or anecdote.

Pro Tip: Try using AI to generate captivating opening sentences with CopyAI's free-to-use hook generator tool.

  • Use questions to frame the topic in the mind of the reader. For example, "What do we know about the role of GPU performance in deep learning?"

  • Present only relevant information. You may want to include details about other studies on the same topic, but only have this if it directly relates to your research project. For example, if you are writing about deep learning, you don't need to explain computer programming.

  • Cite other sources properly so readers know from where you got your information. You can make use of a citation index like Google Scholar or Scopus.

  • Prioritize recent and relevant literature supporting the current breadth of knowledge on the topic. Be concise and accurate in your literature review.

  • Include keywords from your paper's title to state the relevance of your study.

  • Consider using more specific definitions of key terms than generic definitions in your study.

  • Make use of review articles to assist with your literature review.

Problem: Highlight the knowledge gap and why you want to fill it

Next, you should focus on highlighting the gap in your research knowledge or understanding of the topic that you want to fill with your research.

A knowledge gap is a deficit between what people currently know about your topic and what they need or want to know.

If there are no gaps in their knowledge, then there may not be any reason for them to read your paper at all.

You want them to feel like they are missing out on something and that there is more they can learn about it. This way, they will likely read the paper until they reach your conclusion.

Aside from getting their attention, highlighting the knowledge gap also helps show that you have extensively researched the topic.

It can help convince your reader that you know what you are talking about and that they should trust what you write about your case.

Tips for writing the problem part of your introduction well

  • Highlight areas where information availability is scarce.
  • Explain the importance of filling the knowledge gap. Highlight what could be possible if the research question is answered or not answered in time.
  • Justify your motivation to work on the presented problem.
  • Showcase your awareness about the future course of your study field.

Purpose, Hypothesis, and Rationale: State how your study will fill the gap

Finally, you should define the purpose behind your study, state a hypothesis of what outcomes you expect, and explain the rationale for your approach. 

These usually come at the end of an introduction, often in the last paragraph or in closing sentences before you get into your thesis statement and body paragraphs. A research paper typically has one clear statement of purpose.

Purpose statements are of two types

Quantitative



Example: “The purpose of this study is to determine the effect of different types of exercise on lung function and body weight in children with asthma.”

Qualitative



Example: “The purpose of this study is to understand better how people use smartphone technology in their daily lives.”

Hypothesis

A hypothesis statement is a sentence that predicts the outcome of a research project. It states what you think will happen in your study before you conduct it.

It is a testable explanation for an observation or phenomenon. A hypothesis can be either true or false, but it cannot simultaneously be true and false. If you have a statement in which both sides are possible, you need to break it down into two separate hypotheses.

While it is not necessary to include a hypothesis, it is good to have one. It tells readers what they should expect to find out from your research.

Example: "Students with high attendance rates have higher test scores than students who miss class regularly."

Rationale

In the end, you should close off with a rationale for the approach you plan to take for your study. One good reason is that it gives readers confidence that your argument is valid and worth reading further.

General tips for writing introductions that shine

We have also covered some valuable tips for writing polished introductions. Let us take note of them one by one.

Write your introduction before penning the conclusion

If you are wondering when you should write the introduction for your research paper, we suggest you cover it just before drafting your conclusion and after all other sections of your study.

There are various reasons why you would want to take this approach:

  • It forces you to know what you are writing about before you write it.
  • It gives you time to research other parts of your paper while writing the introduction, which will help ensure that all aspects of your research work are accurate.
  • You can save time later on by not having to change things around too much.

Use active voice as much as possible

Active voice is the preferred choice for most academic papers. It allows you to keep your sentences simple, clear, and concise. 

Active voice is also easier to read because it removes unnecessary words from your sentences.

In contrast to active voice, passive voice is dull, hard to follow, and less attractive to read. Passive voice is also less concise than active voice.

Tips on how to use active voice in your research paper introduction

  • Use the active verb form. Instead of writing "the results were analyzed," write "we analyzed the results."
  • Avoid pronouns such as "it" and "they" because they make it difficult for readers to understand who or what you are discussing. Instead, use specific nouns such as "this study" or "this experiment."
  • Use specific nouns and pronouns instead of general terms (e.g., "I" instead of "the researcher").

Pro Tip: Rewrite your sentences in an active voice quickly using CopyAI's Sentence Rewriter tool.

Keep it concise and relevant

Scholars often fail at writing their introductions by being vague or unclear about what they plan to discuss in the rest of their papers.

They may try to delve into too many topics or ramble on about too many things at once, which makes it difficult for readers to understand what they are trying to say.

A concise and clear introduction will help you get to the point in your paper. 

It will help keep your readers interested in what you are saying because they will quickly get familiar with what they are getting into when they start reading your paper.

Adapt to your academic field

Another helpful tip is adapting the introduction to your academic field.

For example, suppose you are working on a study about animals or plants. In that case, it will be much easier for your audience to understand what you are talking about if you use natural examples rather than books or movies.

In other words, when writing an introduction for a research paper in any academic field, ensure that it correctly suits the subject matter of your research work.

Proofread for error-free submission

It is essential to proofread your research paper introduction for errors before submission because if there are mistakes in this part of your paper, it will distract readers from what you are saying. If errors distract them, they may not take anything else away from your message.

Use a top-down information structure

Top-down structures are helpful because they provide a clear hierarchy of ideas, which can help readers understand what they need to know and why they need to know it. 

They also draw connections between different parts of your paper, which helps readers see how distinct ideas relate to one another.

Time to introduce your work to the world

Your introduction is like the "elevator pitch" to the scientific community.

It's your first chance to make an impression on the people who are most likely to read and cite your work. 

A good introduction will excite people about what you're doing and motivate them to read your paper.

We hope this guide has provided you with the foundational knowledge to write an introduction that helps meet your research paper's goals.

We wish you lots of success in your research career.

By the way, if you struggle to write persuasive emails geared toward your professors or research proposals to funding institutes, give CopyAI's suite of copywriting tools a try.

The free upgrade to your copywriting skills will surprise you.This article is part of an ongoing series on learning how to write in various styles, genres, and formats.

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