what is introduction of research paper

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How to Write a Research Paper Introduction (with Examples)

How to Write a Research Paper Introduction (with Examples)

The research paper introduction section, along with the Title and Abstract, can be considered the face of any research paper. The following article is intended to guide you in organizing and writing the research paper introduction for a quality academic article or dissertation.

The research paper introduction aims to present the topic to the reader. A study will only be accepted for publishing if you can ascertain that the available literature cannot answer your research question. So it is important to ensure that you have read important studies on that particular topic, especially those within the last five to ten years, and that they are properly referenced in this section. 1 What should be included in the research paper introduction is decided by what you want to tell readers about the reason behind the research and how you plan to fill the knowledge gap. The best research paper introduction provides a systemic review of existing work and demonstrates additional work that needs to be done. It needs to be brief, captivating, and well-referenced; a well-drafted research paper introduction will help the researcher win half the battle.

The introduction for a research paper is where you set up your topic and approach for the reader. It has several key goals:

  • Present your research topic
  • Capture reader interest
  • Summarize existing research
  • Position your own approach
  • Define your specific research problem and problem statement
  • Highlight the novelty and contributions of the study
  • Give an overview of the paper’s structure

The research paper introduction can vary in size and structure depending on whether your paper presents the results of original empirical research or is a review paper. Some research paper introduction examples are only half a page while others are a few pages long. In many cases, the introduction will be shorter than all of the other sections of your paper; its length depends on the size of your paper as a whole.

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Table of Contents

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The introduction in a research paper is placed at the beginning to guide the reader from a broad subject area to the specific topic that your research addresses. They present the following information to the reader

  • Scope: The topic covered in the research paper
  • Context: Background of your topic
  • Importance: Why your research matters in that particular area of research and the industry problem that can be targeted

The research paper introduction conveys a lot of information and can be considered an essential roadmap for the rest of your paper. A good introduction for a research paper is important for the following reasons:

  • It stimulates your reader’s interest: A good introduction section can make your readers want to read your paper by capturing their interest. It informs the reader what they are going to learn and helps determine if the topic is of interest to them.
  • It helps the reader understand the research background: Without a clear introduction, your readers may feel confused and even struggle when reading your paper. A good research paper introduction will prepare them for the in-depth research to come. It provides you the opportunity to engage with the readers and demonstrate your knowledge and authority on the specific topic.
  • It explains why your research paper is worth reading: Your introduction can convey a lot of information to your readers. It introduces the topic, why the topic is important, and how you plan to proceed with your research.
  • It helps guide the reader through the rest of the paper: The research paper introduction gives the reader a sense of the nature of the information that will support your arguments and the general organization of the paragraphs that will follow. It offers an overview of what to expect when reading the main body of your paper.

What are the parts of introduction in the research?

A good research paper introduction section should comprise three main elements: 2

  • What is known: This sets the stage for your research. It informs the readers of what is known on the subject.
  • What is lacking: This is aimed at justifying the reason for carrying out your research. This could involve investigating a new concept or method or building upon previous research.
  • What you aim to do: This part briefly states the objectives of your research and its major contributions. Your detailed hypothesis will also form a part of this section.

How to write a research paper introduction?

The first step in writing the research paper introduction is to inform the reader what your topic is and why it’s interesting or important. This is generally accomplished with a strong opening statement. The second step involves establishing the kinds of research that have been done and ending with limitations or gaps in the research that you intend to address. Finally, the research paper introduction clarifies how your own research fits in and what problem it addresses. If your research involved testing hypotheses, these should be stated along with your research question. The hypothesis should be presented in the past tense since it will have been tested by the time you are writing the research paper introduction.

The following key points, with examples, can guide you when writing the research paper introduction section:

  • Highlight the importance of the research field or topic
  • Describe the background of the topic
  • Present an overview of current research on the topic

Example: The inclusion of experiential and competency-based learning has benefitted electronics engineering education. Industry partnerships provide an excellent alternative for students wanting to engage in solving real-world challenges. Industry-academia participation has grown in recent years due to the need for skilled engineers with practical training and specialized expertise. However, from the educational perspective, many activities are needed to incorporate sustainable development goals into the university curricula and consolidate learning innovation in universities.

  • Reveal a gap in existing research or oppose an existing assumption
  • Formulate the research question

Example: There have been plausible efforts to integrate educational activities in higher education electronics engineering programs. However, very few studies have considered using educational research methods for performance evaluation of competency-based higher engineering education, with a focus on technical and or transversal skills. To remedy the current need for evaluating competencies in STEM fields and providing sustainable development goals in engineering education, in this study, a comparison was drawn between study groups without and with industry partners.

  • State the purpose of your study
  • Highlight the key characteristics of your study
  • Describe important results
  • Highlight the novelty of the study.
  • Offer a brief overview of the structure of the paper.

Example: The study evaluates the main competency needed in the applied electronics course, which is a fundamental core subject for many electronics engineering undergraduate programs. We compared two groups, without and with an industrial partner, that offered real-world projects to solve during the semester. This comparison can help determine significant differences in both groups in terms of developing subject competency and achieving sustainable development goals.

Write a Research Paper Introduction in Minutes with Paperpal

Paperpal Copilot is a generative AI-powered academic writing assistant. It’s trained on millions of published scholarly articles and over 20 years of STM experience. Paperpal Copilot helps authors write better and faster with:

  • Real-time writing suggestions
  • In-depth checks for language and grammar correction
  • Paraphrasing to add variety, ensure academic tone, and trim text to meet journal limits

With Paperpal Copilot, create a research paper introduction effortlessly. In this step-by-step guide, we’ll walk you through how Paperpal transforms your initial ideas into a polished and publication-ready introduction.

what is introduction of research paper

How to use Paperpal to write the Introduction section

Step 1: Sign up on Paperpal and click on the Copilot feature, under this choose Outlines > Research Article > Introduction

Step 2: Add your unstructured notes or initial draft, whether in English or another language, to Paperpal, which is to be used as the base for your content.

Step 3: Fill in the specifics, such as your field of study, brief description or details you want to include, which will help the AI generate the outline for your Introduction.

Step 4: Use this outline and sentence suggestions to develop your content, adding citations where needed and modifying it to align with your specific research focus.

Step 5: Turn to Paperpal’s granular language checks to refine your content, tailor it to reflect your personal writing style, and ensure it effectively conveys your message.

You can use the same process to develop each section of your article, and finally your research paper in half the time and without any of the stress.

The purpose of the research paper introduction is to introduce the reader to the problem definition, justify the need for the study, and describe the main theme of the study. The aim is to gain the reader’s attention by providing them with necessary background information and establishing the main purpose and direction of the research.

The length of the research paper introduction can vary across journals and disciplines. While there are no strict word limits for writing the research paper introduction, an ideal length would be one page, with a maximum of 400 words over 1-4 paragraphs. Generally, it is one of the shorter sections of the paper as the reader is assumed to have at least a reasonable knowledge about the topic. 2 For example, for a study evaluating the role of building design in ensuring fire safety, there is no need to discuss definitions and nature of fire in the introduction; you could start by commenting upon the existing practices for fire safety and how your study will add to the existing knowledge and practice.

When deciding what to include in the research paper introduction, the rest of the paper should also be considered. The aim is to introduce the reader smoothly to the topic and facilitate an easy read without much dependency on external sources. 3 Below is a list of elements you can include to prepare a research paper introduction outline and follow it when you are writing the research paper introduction. Topic introduction: This can include key definitions and a brief history of the topic. Research context and background: Offer the readers some general information and then narrow it down to specific aspects. Details of the research you conducted: A brief literature review can be included to support your arguments or line of thought. Rationale for the study: This establishes the relevance of your study and establishes its importance. Importance of your research: The main contributions are highlighted to help establish the novelty of your study Research hypothesis: Introduce your research question and propose an expected outcome. Organization of the paper: Include a short paragraph of 3-4 sentences that highlights your plan for the entire paper

Cite only works that are most relevant to your topic; as a general rule, you can include one to three. Note that readers want to see evidence of original thinking. So it is better to avoid using too many references as it does not leave much room for your personal standpoint to shine through. Citations in your research paper introduction support the key points, and the number of citations depend on the subject matter and the point discussed. If the research paper introduction is too long or overflowing with citations, it is better to cite a few review articles rather than the individual articles summarized in the review. A good point to remember when citing research papers in the introduction section is to include at least one-third of the references in the introduction.

The literature review plays a significant role in the research paper introduction section. A good literature review accomplishes the following: Introduces the topic – Establishes the study’s significance – Provides an overview of the relevant literature – Provides context for the study using literature – Identifies knowledge gaps However, remember to avoid making the following mistakes when writing a research paper introduction: Do not use studies from the literature review to aggressively support your research Avoid direct quoting Do not allow literature review to be the focus of this section. Instead, the literature review should only aid in setting a foundation for the manuscript.

Remember the following key points for writing a good research paper introduction: 4

  • Avoid stuffing too much general information: Avoid including what an average reader would know and include only that information related to the problem being addressed in the research paper introduction. For example, when describing a comparative study of non-traditional methods for mechanical design optimization, information related to the traditional methods and differences between traditional and non-traditional methods would not be relevant. In this case, the introduction for the research paper should begin with the state-of-the-art non-traditional methods and methods to evaluate the efficiency of newly developed algorithms.
  • Avoid packing too many references: Cite only the required works in your research paper introduction. The other works can be included in the discussion section to strengthen your findings.
  • Avoid extensive criticism of previous studies: Avoid being overly critical of earlier studies while setting the rationale for your study. A better place for this would be the Discussion section, where you can highlight the advantages of your method.
  • Avoid describing conclusions of the study: When writing a research paper introduction remember not to include the findings of your study. The aim is to let the readers know what question is being answered. The actual answer should only be given in the Results and Discussion section.

To summarize, the research paper introduction section should be brief yet informative. It should convince the reader the need to conduct the study and motivate him to read further. If you’re feeling stuck or unsure, choose trusted AI academic writing assistants like Paperpal to effortlessly craft your research paper introduction and other sections of your research article.

1. Jawaid, S. A., & Jawaid, M. (2019). How to write introduction and discussion. Saudi Journal of Anaesthesia, 13(Suppl 1), S18.

2. Dewan, P., & Gupta, P. (2016). Writing the title, abstract and introduction: Looks matter!. Indian pediatrics, 53, 235-241.

3. Cetin, S., & Hackam, D. J. (2005). An approach to the writing of a scientific Manuscript1. Journal of Surgical Research, 128(2), 165-167.

4. Bavdekar, S. B. (2015). Writing introduction: Laying the foundations of a research paper. Journal of the Association of Physicians of India, 63(7), 44-6.

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Writing a Research Paper Introduction (with 3 Examples)

Nail your research paper's introduction! Learn to captivate and inform readers from the start—our guide shows how!

what is introduction of research paper

Ertugrul Portakal

Apr 12, 2024

Writing a Research Paper Introduction (with 3 Examples)

TABLE OF CONTENTS

A catchy and informative introduction is essential in academic writing, especially if you want your readers to have background information about your paper. However, writing an interesting and informative introduction can sometimes be a time-consuming and tiring process. If you don't know where to start when crafting an introduction, no need to worry - we've got you covered!

In this article, we will explain step by step what an introduction is in academic writing and how to write it!

Ready? Let's start!

  • An introduction is a paragraph that provides information about your entire paper and aims to attract and inform the reader.
  • Before writing an introduction or even starting your paper, you need to research academic sources.
  • The first one or two sentences of an introduction paragraph should be a hook to attract the reader's attention.
  • Afterwards, you need to prepare the reader for your argument by giving background information about your topic.
  • Finally, you should state your argument about your topic with a thesis statement.
  • If you are writing a longer paper, you can inform your readers about the map of your paper.
  • If you are looking for an AI assistant to support you throughout your writing process, TextCortex is designed for you with its advanced features.

What is an Introduction in a research paper?

In any academic writing, including essays and research papers, an introduction is the first paragraph that the reader will encounter. This paragraph should both attract the reader's attention and give them the necessary information about the paper. In any academic paper, the introduction paragraph constitutes 10% of the paper's total word count. For example, if you are preparing a 3,000-word paper, your introduction paragraph should consist of approximately 300 words. You should also write sentences within these 300 words that will attract the reader's attention and provide them with information about the paper.

Importance of an Introduction Paragraph

The biggest function of an introduction paragraph is to prepare the reader for the author's thesis statement. A traditional introduction paragraph begins with a few sentences or questions that will catch the reader's attention. After attracting the reader's attention, necessary background information on the subject is given. Finally, the author explains to the readers what the whole paper is about by stating the thesis. A thesis statement is the final sentence that summarizes the main points of your paper and conveys your claim.

First Things First: Preliminary Research

When working on any academic writing type, it is essential to start by researching your topic thoroughly before beginning to type. What sets academic writing apart from other writing types is the requirement for it to be written using accurate information from reliable sources.

Researching academic sources can be a time-consuming and unnecessary process. One has to read through hundreds of pages, review dozens of articles and verify the accuracy of each source. However, if you're looking to reduce your workload and maximize efficiency by automating repetitive tasks such as literature review, ZenoChat is the perfect solution for you. With its web search feature, ZenoChat can use the entire internet as a data source. Additionally, by activating the "scholar" option of the ZenoChat web search feature, you can ensure that it only uses academic sources when generating output.

How to Create an Introduction for Academic Writing?

Creating an introduction paragraph that is interesting, informative, and conveys your thesis is an easier process than it seems. As long as you have sufficient information about your topic and an outline , you can write engaging introductions by following a few simple steps. Let's take a closer look at how to write an introduction for academic writing.

1-) Start with a Catchy Hook

Your first sentence is one of the factors that most influence a reader's decision to read your paper. This sentence determines the tone of your paper and attracts the reader's attention. For this reason, we recommend that you start your introduction paragraph with a strong and catchy hook sentence.

  • Avoid long and complex sentences
  • Use clear and concise sentences
  • Write a sentence that will spark the reader's curiosity
  • You can ask questions that will encourage the reader to read the remaining paragraph
  • Avoid fact or overly broad sentences
  • Avoid using dictionary definitions as your hook

2-) Give Background Information

After writing a strong hook sentence, you need to provide basic information about your topic so that the reader can understand what they will learn about when they read your paper. In this section, you can benefit from opinions that support or oppose your argument. Additionally, this section should refer to the body paragraphs of your writing.

  • You can write a background information sentence for each body paragraph.
  • The information here should be concise and compact
  • Avoid talking about your evidence and results unless necessary.

3-) State Your Thesis 

After attracting the reader's attention and providing background information, it is time to present your approach and argument towards the topic with a thesis statement. A thesis statement usually comprises one or two sentences and communicates the paper's argument to the reader. A well-written thesis statement should express your stance on the topic.

  • Avoid merely stating a fact
  • Claim your argument

4-) Tell Reader About Your Paper

Although you need to move on to body paragraphs after the thesis statement in short papers, it will be useful to add a few sentences that will guide the reader in your longer papers. This way, your readers can better understand which arguments they will encounter on which pages and the course of your paper. That leads the reader to clearly understand and follow your content.

Let’s Wrap it Up

Writing an interesting and informative introduction is usually a long process that requires a lot of rewriting. You may need to rewrite a sentence dozens of times so that your words and sentences clearly describe your paper and argument. Fortunately, you can generate state-of-the-art introductions using AI tools and use them with a little editing.

When it comes to text generation, paraphrasing, and grammar & spelling checking, TextCortex is the way to go with its advanced LLMs and customization options. With TextCortex, you can generate all writing types, including introduction, from scratch, rewrite your existing texts, change their tone of voice, or fix their grammar. TextCortex is available as a web application and browser extension. The TextCortex browser extension is integrated with 30,000+ websites and apps. So, you can complete your AI-driven writing tasks anywhere and anytime.

Let's examine a few sample introductions generated by TextCortex.

Example Introduction #1

“Should social media platforms be banned from collecting their users' data?”

example research paper introduction

Example Introduction #2

“Do electric vehicles decrease overall emissions?”

example research paper introduction 2

Example Introduction #3

“Is graffiti an act of vandalism or the creation of art?”

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what is introduction of research paper

How to write an effective introduction for your research paper

Last updated

20 January 2024

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However, the introduction is a vital element of your research paper . It helps the reader decide whether your paper is worth their time. As such, it's worth taking your time to get it right.

In this article, we'll tell you everything you need to know about writing an effective introduction for your research paper.

  • The importance of an introduction in research papers

The primary purpose of an introduction is to provide an overview of your paper. This lets readers gauge whether they want to continue reading or not. The introduction should provide a meaningful roadmap of your research to help them make this decision. It should let readers know whether the information they're interested in is likely to be found in the pages that follow.

Aside from providing readers with information about the content of your paper, the introduction also sets the tone. It shows readers the style of language they can expect, which can further help them to decide how far to read.

When you take into account both of these roles that an introduction plays, it becomes clear that crafting an engaging introduction is the best way to get your paper read more widely. First impressions count, and the introduction provides that impression to readers.

  • The optimum length for a research paper introduction

While there's no magic formula to determine exactly how long a research paper introduction should be, there are a few guidelines. Some variables that impact the ideal introduction length include:

Field of study

Complexity of the topic

Specific requirements of the course or publication

A commonly recommended length of a research paper introduction is around 10% of the total paper’s length. So, a ten-page paper has a one-page introduction. If the topic is complex, it may require more background to craft a compelling intro. Humanities papers tend to have longer introductions than those of the hard sciences.

The best way to craft an introduction of the right length is to focus on clarity and conciseness. Tell the reader only what is necessary to set up your research. An introduction edited down with this goal in mind should end up at an acceptable length.

  • Evaluating successful research paper introductions

A good way to gauge how to create a great introduction is by looking at examples from across your field. The most influential and well-regarded papers should provide some insights into what makes a good introduction.

Dissecting examples: what works and why

We can make some general assumptions by looking at common elements of a good introduction, regardless of the field of research.

A common structure is to start with a broad context, and then narrow that down to specific research questions or hypotheses. This creates a funnel that establishes the scope and relevance.

The most effective introductions are careful about the assumptions they make regarding reader knowledge. By clearly defining key terms and concepts instead of assuming the reader is familiar with them, these introductions set a more solid foundation for understanding.

To pull in the reader and make that all-important good first impression, excellent research paper introductions will often incorporate a compelling narrative or some striking fact that grabs the reader's attention.

Finally, good introductions provide clear citations from past research to back up the claims they're making. In the case of argumentative papers or essays (those that take a stance on a topic or issue), a strong thesis statement compels the reader to continue reading.

Common pitfalls to avoid in research paper introductions

You can also learn what not to do by looking at other research papers. Many authors have made mistakes you can learn from.

We've talked about the need to be clear and concise. Many introductions fail at this; they're verbose, vague, or otherwise fail to convey the research problem or hypothesis efficiently. This often comes in the form of an overemphasis on background information, which obscures the main research focus.

Ensure your introduction provides the proper emphasis and excitement around your research and its significance. Otherwise, fewer people will want to read more about it.

  • Crafting a compelling introduction for a research paper

Let’s take a look at the steps required to craft an introduction that pulls readers in and compels them to learn more about your research.

Step 1: Capturing interest and setting the scene

To capture the reader's interest immediately, begin your introduction with a compelling question, a surprising fact, a provocative quote, or some other mechanism that will hook readers and pull them further into the paper.

As they continue reading, the introduction should contextualize your research within the current field, showing readers its relevance and importance. Clarify any essential terms that will help them better understand what you're saying. This keeps the fundamentals of your research accessible to all readers from all backgrounds.

Step 2: Building a solid foundation with background information

Including background information in your introduction serves two major purposes:

It helps to clarify the topic for the reader

It establishes the depth of your research

The approach you take when conveying this information depends on the type of paper.

For argumentative papers, you'll want to develop engaging background narratives. These should provide context for the argument you'll be presenting.

For empirical papers, highlighting past research is the key. Often, there will be some questions that weren't answered in those past papers. If your paper is focused on those areas, those papers make ideal candidates for you to discuss and critique in your introduction.

Step 3: Pinpointing the research challenge

To capture the attention of the reader, you need to explain what research challenges you'll be discussing.

For argumentative papers, this involves articulating why the argument you'll be making is important. What is its relevance to current discussions or problems? What is the potential impact of people accepting or rejecting your argument?

For empirical papers, explain how your research is addressing a gap in existing knowledge. What new insights or contributions will your research bring to your field?

Step 4: Clarifying your research aims and objectives

We mentioned earlier that the introduction to a research paper can serve as a roadmap for what's within. We've also frequently discussed the need for clarity. This step addresses both of these.

When writing an argumentative paper, craft a thesis statement with impact. Clearly articulate what your position is and the main points you intend to present. This will map out for the reader exactly what they'll get from reading the rest.

For empirical papers, focus on formulating precise research questions and hypotheses. Directly link them to the gaps or issues you've identified in existing research to show the reader the precise direction your research paper will take.

Step 5: Sketching the blueprint of your study

Continue building a roadmap for your readers by designing a structured outline for the paper. Guide the reader through your research journey, explaining what the different sections will contain and their relationship to one another.

This outline should flow seamlessly as you move from section to section. Creating this outline early can also help guide the creation of the paper itself, resulting in a final product that's better organized. In doing so, you'll craft a paper where each section flows intuitively from the next.

Step 6: Integrating your research question

To avoid letting your research question get lost in background information or clarifications, craft your introduction in such a way that the research question resonates throughout. The research question should clearly address a gap in existing knowledge or offer a new perspective on an existing problem.

Tell users your research question explicitly but also remember to frequently come back to it. When providing context or clarification, point out how it relates to the research question. This keeps your focus where it needs to be and prevents the topic of the paper from becoming under-emphasized.

Step 7: Establishing the scope and limitations

So far, we've talked mostly about what's in the paper and how to convey that information to readers. The opposite is also important. Information that's outside the scope of your paper should be made clear to the reader in the introduction so their expectations for what is to follow are set appropriately.

Similarly, be honest and upfront about the limitations of the study. Any constraints in methodology, data, or how far your findings can be generalized should be fully communicated in the introduction.

Step 8: Concluding the introduction with a promise

The final few lines of the introduction are your last chance to convince people to continue reading the rest of the paper. Here is where you should make it very clear what benefit they'll get from doing so. What topics will be covered? What questions will be answered? Make it clear what they will get for continuing.

By providing a quick recap of the key points contained in the introduction in its final lines and properly setting the stage for what follows in the rest of the paper, you refocus the reader's attention on the topic of your research and guide them to read more.

  • Research paper introduction best practices

Following the steps above will give you a compelling introduction that hits on all the key points an introduction should have. Some more tips and tricks can make an introduction even more polished.

As you follow the steps above, keep the following tips in mind.

Set the right tone and style

Like every piece of writing, a research paper should be written for the audience. That is to say, it should match the tone and style that your academic discipline and target audience expect. This is typically a formal and academic tone, though the degree of formality varies by field.

Kno w the audience

The perfect introduction balances clarity with conciseness. The amount of clarification required for a given topic depends greatly on the target audience. Knowing who will be reading your paper will guide you in determining how much background information is required.

Adopt the CARS (create a research space) model

The CARS model is a helpful tool for structuring introductions. This structure has three parts. The beginning of the introduction establishes the general research area. Next, relevant literature is reviewed and critiqued. The final section outlines the purpose of your study as it relates to the previous parts.

Master the art of funneling

The CARS method is one example of a well-funneled introduction. These start broadly and then slowly narrow down to your specific research problem. It provides a nice narrative flow that provides the right information at the right time. If you stray from the CARS model, try to retain this same type of funneling.

Incorporate narrative element

People read research papers largely to be informed. But to inform the reader, you have to hold their attention. A narrative style, particularly in the introduction, is a great way to do that. This can be a compelling story, an intriguing question, or a description of a real-world problem.

Write the introduction last

By writing the introduction after the rest of the paper, you'll have a better idea of what your research entails and how the paper is structured. This prevents the common problem of writing something in the introduction and then forgetting to include it in the paper. It also means anything particularly exciting in the paper isn’t neglected in the intro.

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  • USC Libraries
  • Research Guides

Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

  • 4. The Introduction
  • Purpose of Guide
  • Design Flaws to Avoid
  • Independent and Dependent Variables
  • Glossary of Research Terms
  • Reading Research Effectively
  • Narrowing a Topic Idea
  • Broadening a Topic Idea
  • Extending the Timeliness of a Topic Idea
  • Academic Writing Style
  • Applying Critical Thinking
  • Choosing a Title
  • Making an Outline
  • Paragraph Development
  • Research Process Video Series
  • Executive Summary
  • The C.A.R.S. Model
  • Background Information
  • The Research Problem/Question
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Citation Tracking
  • Content Alert Services
  • Evaluating Sources
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • Tiertiary Sources
  • Scholarly vs. Popular Publications
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Insiderness
  • Using Non-Textual Elements
  • Limitations of the Study
  • Common Grammar Mistakes
  • Writing Concisely
  • Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Footnotes or Endnotes?
  • Further Readings
  • Generative AI and Writing
  • USC Libraries Tutorials and Other Guides
  • Bibliography

The introduction leads the reader from a general subject area to a particular topic of inquiry. It establishes the scope, context, and significance of the research being conducted by summarizing current understanding and background information about the topic, stating the purpose of the work in the form of the research problem supported by a hypothesis or a set of questions, explaining briefly the methodological approach used to examine the research problem, highlighting the potential outcomes your study can reveal, and outlining the remaining structure and organization of the paper.

Key Elements of the Research Proposal. Prepared under the direction of the Superintendent and by the 2010 Curriculum Design and Writing Team. Baltimore County Public Schools.

Importance of a Good Introduction

Think of the introduction as a mental road map that must answer for the reader these four questions:

  • What was I studying?
  • Why was this topic important to investigate?
  • What did we know about this topic before I did this study?
  • How will this study advance new knowledge or new ways of understanding?

According to Reyes, there are three overarching goals of a good introduction: 1) ensure that you summarize prior studies about the topic in a manner that lays a foundation for understanding the research problem; 2) explain how your study specifically addresses gaps in the literature, insufficient consideration of the topic, or other deficiency in the literature; and, 3) note the broader theoretical, empirical, and/or policy contributions and implications of your research.

A well-written introduction is important because, quite simply, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. The opening paragraphs of your paper will provide your readers with their initial impressions about the logic of your argument, your writing style, the overall quality of your research, and, ultimately, the validity of your findings and conclusions. A vague, disorganized, or error-filled introduction will create a negative impression, whereas, a concise, engaging, and well-written introduction will lead your readers to think highly of your analytical skills, your writing style, and your research approach. All introductions should conclude with a brief paragraph that describes the organization of the rest of the paper.

Hirano, Eliana. “Research Article Introductions in English for Specific Purposes: A Comparison between Brazilian, Portuguese, and English.” English for Specific Purposes 28 (October 2009): 240-250; Samraj, B. “Introductions in Research Articles: Variations Across Disciplines.” English for Specific Purposes 21 (2002): 1–17; Introductions. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; “Writing Introductions.” In Good Essay Writing: A Social Sciences Guide. Peter Redman. 4th edition. (London: Sage, 2011), pp. 63-70; Reyes, Victoria. Demystifying the Journal Article. Inside Higher Education.

Structure and Writing Style

I.  Structure and Approach

The introduction is the broad beginning of the paper that answers three important questions for the reader:

  • What is this?
  • Why should I read it?
  • What do you want me to think about / consider doing / react to?

Think of the structure of the introduction as an inverted triangle of information that lays a foundation for understanding the research problem. Organize the information so as to present the more general aspects of the topic early in the introduction, then narrow your analysis to more specific topical information that provides context, finally arriving at your research problem and the rationale for studying it [often written as a series of key questions to be addressed or framed as a hypothesis or set of assumptions to be tested] and, whenever possible, a description of the potential outcomes your study can reveal.

These are general phases associated with writing an introduction: 1.  Establish an area to research by:

  • Highlighting the importance of the topic, and/or
  • Making general statements about the topic, and/or
  • Presenting an overview on current research on the subject.

2.  Identify a research niche by:

  • Opposing an existing assumption, and/or
  • Revealing a gap in existing research, and/or
  • Formulating a research question or problem, and/or
  • Continuing a disciplinary tradition.

3.  Place your research within the research niche by:

  • Stating the intent of your study,
  • Outlining the key characteristics of your study,
  • Describing important results, and
  • Giving a brief overview of the structure of the paper.

NOTE:   It is often useful to review the introduction late in the writing process. This is appropriate because outcomes are unknown until you've completed the study. After you complete writing the body of the paper, go back and review introductory descriptions of the structure of the paper, the method of data gathering, the reporting and analysis of results, and the conclusion. Reviewing and, if necessary, rewriting the introduction ensures that it correctly matches the overall structure of your final paper.

II.  Delimitations of the Study

Delimitations refer to those characteristics that limit the scope and define the conceptual boundaries of your research . This is determined by the conscious exclusionary and inclusionary decisions you make about how to investigate the research problem. In other words, not only should you tell the reader what it is you are studying and why, but you must also acknowledge why you rejected alternative approaches that could have been used to examine the topic.

Obviously, the first limiting step was the choice of research problem itself. However, implicit are other, related problems that could have been chosen but were rejected. These should be noted in the conclusion of your introduction. For example, a delimitating statement could read, "Although many factors can be understood to impact the likelihood young people will vote, this study will focus on socioeconomic factors related to the need to work full-time while in school." The point is not to document every possible delimiting factor, but to highlight why previously researched issues related to the topic were not addressed.

Examples of delimitating choices would be:

  • The key aims and objectives of your study,
  • The research questions that you address,
  • The variables of interest [i.e., the various factors and features of the phenomenon being studied],
  • The method(s) of investigation,
  • The time period your study covers, and
  • Any relevant alternative theoretical frameworks that could have been adopted.

Review each of these decisions. Not only do you clearly establish what you intend to accomplish in your research, but you should also include a declaration of what the study does not intend to cover. In the latter case, your exclusionary decisions should be based upon criteria understood as, "not interesting"; "not directly relevant"; “too problematic because..."; "not feasible," and the like. Make this reasoning explicit!

NOTE:   Delimitations refer to the initial choices made about the broader, overall design of your study and should not be confused with documenting the limitations of your study discovered after the research has been completed.

ANOTHER NOTE: Do not view delimitating statements as admitting to an inherent failing or shortcoming in your research. They are an accepted element of academic writing intended to keep the reader focused on the research problem by explicitly defining the conceptual boundaries and scope of your study. It addresses any critical questions in the reader's mind of, "Why the hell didn't the author examine this?"

III.  The Narrative Flow

Issues to keep in mind that will help the narrative flow in your introduction :

  • Your introduction should clearly identify the subject area of interest . A simple strategy to follow is to use key words from your title in the first few sentences of the introduction. This will help focus the introduction on the topic at the appropriate level and ensures that you get to the subject matter quickly without losing focus, or discussing information that is too general.
  • Establish context by providing a brief and balanced review of the pertinent published literature that is available on the subject. The key is to summarize for the reader what is known about the specific research problem before you did your analysis. This part of your introduction should not represent a comprehensive literature review--that comes next. It consists of a general review of the important, foundational research literature [with citations] that establishes a foundation for understanding key elements of the research problem. See the drop-down menu under this tab for " Background Information " regarding types of contexts.
  • Clearly state the hypothesis that you investigated . When you are first learning to write in this format it is okay, and actually preferable, to use a past statement like, "The purpose of this study was to...." or "We investigated three possible mechanisms to explain the...."
  • Why did you choose this kind of research study or design? Provide a clear statement of the rationale for your approach to the problem studied. This will usually follow your statement of purpose in the last paragraph of the introduction.

IV.  Engaging the Reader

A research problem in the social sciences can come across as dry and uninteresting to anyone unfamiliar with the topic . Therefore, one of the goals of your introduction is to make readers want to read your paper. Here are several strategies you can use to grab the reader's attention:

  • Open with a compelling story . Almost all research problems in the social sciences, no matter how obscure or esoteric , are really about the lives of people. Telling a story that humanizes an issue can help illuminate the significance of the problem and help the reader empathize with those affected by the condition being studied.
  • Include a strong quotation or a vivid, perhaps unexpected, anecdote . During your review of the literature, make note of any quotes or anecdotes that grab your attention because they can used in your introduction to highlight the research problem in a captivating way.
  • Pose a provocative or thought-provoking question . Your research problem should be framed by a set of questions to be addressed or hypotheses to be tested. However, a provocative question can be presented in the beginning of your introduction that challenges an existing assumption or compels the reader to consider an alternative viewpoint that helps establish the significance of your study. 
  • Describe a puzzling scenario or incongruity . This involves highlighting an interesting quandary concerning the research problem or describing contradictory findings from prior studies about a topic. Posing what is essentially an unresolved intellectual riddle about the problem can engage the reader's interest in the study.
  • Cite a stirring example or case study that illustrates why the research problem is important . Draw upon the findings of others to demonstrate the significance of the problem and to describe how your study builds upon or offers alternatives ways of investigating this prior research.

NOTE:   It is important that you choose only one of the suggested strategies for engaging your readers. This avoids giving an impression that your paper is more flash than substance and does not distract from the substance of your study.

Freedman, Leora  and Jerry Plotnick. Introductions and Conclusions. University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Introduction. The Structure, Format, Content, and Style of a Journal-Style Scientific Paper. Department of Biology. Bates College; Introductions. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Introductions. The Writer’s Handbook. Writing Center. University of Wisconsin, Madison; Introductions, Body Paragraphs, and Conclusions for an Argument Paper. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; “Writing Introductions.” In Good Essay Writing: A Social Sciences Guide . Peter Redman. 4th edition. (London: Sage, 2011), pp. 63-70; Resources for Writers: Introduction Strategies. Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies. Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Sharpling, Gerald. Writing an Introduction. Centre for Applied Linguistics, University of Warwick; Samraj, B. “Introductions in Research Articles: Variations Across Disciplines.” English for Specific Purposes 21 (2002): 1–17; Swales, John and Christine B. Feak. Academic Writing for Graduate Students: Essential Skills and Tasks . 2nd edition. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 2004 ; Writing Your Introduction. Department of English Writing Guide. George Mason University.

Writing Tip

Avoid the "Dictionary" Introduction

Giving the dictionary definition of words related to the research problem may appear appropriate because it is important to define specific terminology that readers may be unfamiliar with. However, anyone can look a word up in the dictionary and a general dictionary is not a particularly authoritative source because it doesn't take into account the context of your topic and doesn't offer particularly detailed information. Also, placed in the context of a particular discipline, a term or concept may have a different meaning than what is found in a general dictionary. If you feel that you must seek out an authoritative definition, use a subject specific dictionary or encyclopedia [e.g., if you are a sociology student, search for dictionaries of sociology]. A good database for obtaining definitive definitions of concepts or terms is Credo Reference .

Saba, Robert. The College Research Paper. Florida International University; Introductions. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina.

Another Writing Tip

When Do I Begin?

A common question asked at the start of any paper is, "Where should I begin?" An equally important question to ask yourself is, "When do I begin?" Research problems in the social sciences rarely rest in isolation from history. Therefore, it is important to lay a foundation for understanding the historical context underpinning the research problem. However, this information should be brief and succinct and begin at a point in time that illustrates the study's overall importance. For example, a study that investigates coffee cultivation and export in West Africa as a key stimulus for local economic growth needs to describe the beginning of exporting coffee in the region and establishing why economic growth is important. You do not need to give a long historical explanation about coffee exports in Africa. If a research problem requires a substantial exploration of the historical context, do this in the literature review section. In your introduction, make note of this as part of the "roadmap" [see below] that you use to describe the organization of your paper.

Introductions. The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; “Writing Introductions.” In Good Essay Writing: A Social Sciences Guide . Peter Redman. 4th edition. (London: Sage, 2011), pp. 63-70.

Yet Another Writing Tip

Always End with a Roadmap

The final paragraph or sentences of your introduction should forecast your main arguments and conclusions and provide a brief description of the rest of the paper [the "roadmap"] that let's the reader know where you are going and what to expect. A roadmap is important because it helps the reader place the research problem within the context of their own perspectives about the topic. In addition, concluding your introduction with an explicit roadmap tells the reader that you have a clear understanding of the structural purpose of your paper. In this way, the roadmap acts as a type of promise to yourself and to your readers that you will follow a consistent and coherent approach to addressing the topic of inquiry. Refer to it often to help keep your writing focused and organized.

Cassuto, Leonard. “On the Dissertation: How to Write the Introduction.” The Chronicle of Higher Education , May 28, 2018; Radich, Michael. A Student's Guide to Writing in East Asian Studies . (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Writing n. d.), pp. 35-37.

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SciSpace Resources

How to Write an Introduction for a Research Paper

Sumalatha G

Table of Contents

Writing an introduction for a research paper is a critical element of your paper, but it can seem challenging to encapsulate enormous amount of information into a concise form. The introduction of your research paper sets the tone for your research and provides the context for your study. In this article, we will guide you through the process of writing an effective introduction that grabs the reader's attention and captures the essence of your research paper.

Understanding the Purpose of a Research Paper Introduction

The introduction acts as a road map for your research paper, guiding the reader through the main ideas and arguments. The purpose of the introduction is to present your research topic to the readers and provide a rationale for why your study is relevant. It helps the reader locate your research and its relevance in the broader field of related scientific explorations. Additionally, the introduction should inform the reader about the objectives and scope of your study, giving them an overview of what to expect in the paper. By including a comprehensive introduction, you establish your credibility as an author and convince the reader that your research is worth their time and attention.

Key Elements to Include in Your Introduction

When writing your research paper introduction, there are several key elements you should include to ensure it is comprehensive and informative.

  • A hook or attention-grabbing statement to capture the reader's interest.  It can be a thought-provoking question, a surprising statistic, or a compelling anecdote that relates to your research topic.
  • A brief overview of the research topic and its significance. By highlighting the gap in existing knowledge or the problem your research aims to address, you create a compelling case for the relevance of your study.
  • A clear research question or problem statement. This serves as the foundation of your research and guides the reader in understanding the unique focus of your study. It should be concise, specific, and clearly articulated.
  • An outline of the paper's structure and main arguments, to help the readers navigate through the paper with ease.

Preparing to Write Your Introduction

Before diving into writing your introduction, it is essential to prepare adequately. This involves 3 important steps:

  • Conducting Preliminary Research: Immerse yourself in the existing literature to develop a clear research question and position your study within the academic discourse.
  • Identifying Your Thesis Statement: Define a specific, focused, and debatable thesis statement, serving as a roadmap for your paper.
  • Considering Broader Context: Reflect on the significance of your research within your field, understanding its potential impact and contribution.

By engaging in these preparatory steps, you can ensure that your introduction is well-informed, focused, and sets the stage for a compelling research paper.

Structuring Your Introduction

Now that you have prepared yourself to tackle the introduction, it's time to structure it effectively. A well-structured introduction will engage the reader from the beginning and provide a logical flow to your research paper.

Starting with a Hook

Begin your introduction with an attention-grabbing hook that captivates the reader's interest. This hook serves as a way to make your introduction more engaging and compelling. For example, if you are writing a research paper on the impact of climate change on biodiversity, you could start your introduction with a statistic about the number of species that have gone extinct due to climate change. This will immediately grab the reader's attention and make them realize the urgency and importance of the topic.

Introducing Your Topic

Provide a brief overview, which should give the reader a general understanding of the subject matter and its significance. Explain the importance of the topic and its relevance to the field. This will help the reader understand why your research is significant and why they should continue reading. Continuing with the example of climate change and biodiversity, you could explain how climate change is one of the greatest threats to global biodiversity, how it affects ecosystems, and the potential consequences for both wildlife and human populations. By providing this context, you are setting the stage for the rest of your research paper and helping the reader understand the importance of your study.

Presenting Your Thesis Statement

The thesis statement should directly address your research question and provide a preview of the main arguments or findings discussed in your paper. Make sure your thesis statement is clear, concise, and well-supported by the evidence you will present in your research paper. By presenting a strong and focused thesis statement, you are providing the reader with the information they could anticipate in your research paper. This will help them understand the purpose and scope of your study and will make them more inclined to continue reading.

Writing Techniques for an Effective Introduction

When crafting an introduction, it is crucial to pay attention to the finer details that can elevate your writing to the next level. By utilizing specific writing techniques, you can captivate your readers and draw them into your research journey.

Using Clear and Concise Language

One of the most important writing techniques to employ in your introduction is the use of clear and concise language. By choosing your words carefully, you can effectively convey your ideas to the reader. It is essential to avoid using jargon or complex terminology that may confuse or alienate your audience. Instead, focus on communicating your research in a straightforward manner to ensure that your introduction is accessible to both experts in your field and those who may be new to the topic. This approach allows you to engage a broader audience and make your research more inclusive.

Establishing the Relevance of Your Research

One way to establish the relevance of your research is by highlighting how it fills a gap in the existing literature. Explain how your study addresses a significant research question that has not been adequately explored. By doing this, you demonstrate that your research is not only unique but also contributes to the broader knowledge in your field. Furthermore, it is important to emphasize the potential impact of your research. Whether it is advancing scientific understanding, informing policy decisions, or improving practical applications, make it clear to the reader how your study can make a difference.

By employing these two writing techniques in your introduction, you can effectively engage your readers. Take your time to craft an introduction that is both informative and captivating, leaving your readers eager to delve deeper into your research.

Revising and Polishing Your Introduction

Once you have written your introduction, it is crucial to revise and polish it to ensure that it effectively sets the stage for your research paper.

Self-Editing Techniques

Review your introduction for clarity, coherence, and logical flow. Ensure each paragraph introduces a new idea or argument with smooth transitions.

Check for grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, and awkward sentence structures.

Ensure that your introduction aligns with the overall tone and style of your research paper.

Seeking Feedback for Improvement

Consider seeking feedback from peers, colleagues, or your instructor. They can provide valuable insights and suggestions for improving your introduction. Be open to constructive criticism and use it to refine your introduction and make it more compelling for the reader.

Writing an introduction for a research paper requires careful thought and planning. By understanding the purpose of the introduction, preparing adequately, structuring effectively, and employing writing techniques, you can create an engaging and informative introduction for your research. Remember to revise and polish your introduction to ensure that it accurately represents the main ideas and arguments in your research paper. With a well-crafted introduction, you will capture the reader's attention and keep them inclined to your paper.

Suggested Reads

ResearchGPT: A Custom GPT for Researchers and Scientists Best Academic Search Engines [2023] How To Humanize AI Text In Scientific Articles Elevate Your Writing Game With AI Grammar Checker Tools

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How to Write an Introduction for a Research Paper

Academic Writing Service

How to write an introduction for a research paper? Eventually (and with practice) all writers will develop their own strategy for writing the perfect introduction for a research paper. Once you are comfortable with writing, you will probably find your own, but coming up with a good strategy can be tough for beginning writers.

The Purpose of an Introduction

Your opening paragraphs, phrases for introducing thesis statements, research paper introduction examples, using the introduction to map out your research paper.

How to Write an Introduction for a Research Paper

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  • First write your thesis.Your thesis should state the main idea in specific terms.
  • After you have a working thesis, tackle the body of your paper before you write the rest of the introduction. Each paragraph in the body should explore one specific topic that proves, or summarizes your thesis. Writing is a thinking process. Once you have worked your way through that process by writing the body of the paper, you will have an intimate understanding of how you are supporting your thesis. After you have written the body paragraphs, go back and rewrite your thesis to make it more specific and to connect it to the topics you addressed in the body paragraph.
  • Revise your introduction several times, saving each revision. Be sure your introduction previews the topics you are presenting in your paper. One way of doing this is to use keywords from the topic sentences in each paragraph to introduce, or preview, the topics in your introduction.This “preview” will give your reader a context for understanding how you will make your case.
  • Experiment by taking different approaches to your thesis with every revision you make. Play with the language in the introduction. Strike a new tone. Go back and compare versions. Then pick the one that works most effectively with the body of your research paper.
  • Do not try to pack everything you want to say into your introduction. Just as your introduction should not be too short, it should also not be too long. Your introduction should be about the same length as any other paragraph in your research paper. Let the content—what you have to say—dictate the length.

The first page of your research paper should draw the reader into the text. It is the paper’s most important page and, alas, often the worst written. There are two culprits here and effective ways to cope with both of them.

First, the writer is usually straining too hard to say something terribly BIG and IMPORTANT about the thesis topic. The goal is worthy, but the aim is unrealistically high. The result is often a muddle of vague platitudes rather than a crisp, compelling introduction to the thesis. Want a familiar example? Listen to most graduation speakers. Their goal couldn’t be loftier: to say what education means and to tell an entire football stadium how to live the rest of their lives. The results are usually an avalanche of clichés and sodden prose.

The second culprit is bad timing. The opening and concluding paragraphs are usually written late in the game, after the rest of the thesis is finished and polished. There’s nothing wrong with writing these sections last. It’s usually the right approach since you need to know exactly what you are saying in the substantive middle sections of the thesis before you can introduce them effectively or draw together your findings. But having waited to write the opening and closing sections, you need to review and edit them several times to catch up. Otherwise, you’ll putting the most jagged prose in the most tender spots. Edit and polish your opening paragraphs with extra care. They should draw readers into the paper.

After you’ve done some extra polishing, I suggest a simple test for the introductory section. As an experiment, chop off the first few paragraphs. Let the paper begin on, say, paragraph 2 or even page 2. If you don’t lose much, or actually gain in clarity and pace, then you’ve got a problem.

There are two solutions. One is to start at this new spot, further into the text. After all, that’s where you finally gain traction on your subject. That works best in some cases, and we occasionally suggest it. The alternative, of course, is to write a new opening that doesn’t flop around, saying nothing.

What makes a good opening? Actually, they come in several flavors. One is an intriguing story about your topic. Another is a brief, compelling quote. When you run across them during your reading, set them aside for later use. Don’t be deterred from using them because they “don’t seem academic enough.” They’re fine as long as the rest of the paper doesn’t sound like you did your research in People magazine. The third, and most common, way to begin is by stating your main questions, followed by a brief comment about why they matter.

Whichever opening you choose, it should engage your readers and coax them to continue. Having done that, you should give them a general overview of the project—the main issues you will cover, the material you will use, and your thesis statement (that is, your basic approach to the topic). Finally, at the end of the introductory section, give your readers a brief road map, showing how the paper will unfold. How you do that depends on your topic but here are some general suggestions for phrase choice that may help:

  • This analysis will provide …
  • This paper analyzes the relationship between …
  • This paper presents an analysis of …
  • This paper will argue that …
  • This topic supports the argument that…
  • Research supports the opinion that …
  • This paper supports the opinion that …
  • An interpretation of the facts indicates …
  • The results of this experiment show …
  • The results of this research show …

Comparisons/Contrasts

  • A comparison will show that …
  • By contrasting the results,we see that …
  • This paper examines the advantages and disadvantages of …

Definitions/Classifications

  • This paper will provide a guide for categorizing the following:…
  • This paper provides a definition of …
  • This paper explores the meaning of …
  • This paper will discuss the implications of …
  • A discussion of this topic reveals …
  • The following discussion will focus on …

Description

  • This report describes…
  • This report will illustrate…
  • This paper provides an illustration of …

Process/Experimentation

  • This paper will identify the reasons behind…
  • The results of the experiment show …
  • The process revealed that …
  • This paper theorizes…
  • This paper presents the theory that …
  • In theory, this indicates that …

Quotes, anecdotes, questions, examples, and broad statements—all of them can used successfully to write an introduction for a research paper. It’s instructive to see them in action, in the hands of skilled academic writers.

Let’s begin with David M. Kennedy’s superb history, Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929–1945 . Kennedy begins each chapter with a quote, followed by his text. The quote above chapter 1 shows President Hoover speaking in 1928 about America’s golden future. The text below it begins with the stock market collapse of 1929. It is a riveting account of just how wrong Hoover was. The text about the Depression is stronger because it contrasts so starkly with the optimistic quotation.

“We in America today are nearer the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land.”—Herbert Hoover, August 11, 1928 Like an earthquake, the stock market crash of October 1929 cracked startlingly across the United States, the herald of a crisis that was to shake the American way of life to its foundations. The events of the ensuing decade opened a fissure across the landscape of American history no less gaping than that opened by the volley on Lexington Common in April 1775 or by the bombardment of Sumter on another April four score and six years later. The ratcheting ticker machines in the autumn of 1929 did not merely record avalanching stock prices. In time they came also to symbolize the end of an era. (David M. Kennedy, Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929–1945 . New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 10)

Kennedy has exciting, wrenching material to work with. John Mueller faces the exact opposite problem. In Retreat from Doomsday: The Obsolescence of Major War , he is trying to explain why Great Powers have suddenly stopped fighting each other. For centuries they made war on each other with devastating regularity, killing millions in the process. But now, Mueller thinks, they have not just paused; they have stopped permanently. He is literally trying to explain why “nothing is happening now.” That may be an exciting topic intellectually, it may have great practical significance, but “nothing happened” is not a very promising subject for an exciting opening paragraph. Mueller manages to make it exciting and, at the same time, shows why it matters so much. Here’s his opening, aptly entitled “History’s Greatest Nonevent”:

On May 15, 1984, the major countries of the developed world had managed to remain at peace with each other for the longest continuous stretch of time since the days of the Roman Empire. If a significant battle in a war had been fought on that day, the press would have bristled with it. As usual, however, a landmark crossing in the history of peace caused no stir: the most prominent story in the New York Times that day concerned the saga of a manicurist, a machinist, and a cleaning woman who had just won a big Lotto contest. This book seeks to develop an explanation for what is probably the greatest nonevent in human history. (John Mueller, Retreat from Doomsday: The Obsolescence of Major War . New York: Basic Books, 1989, p. 3)

In the space of a few sentences, Mueller sets up his puzzle and reveals its profound human significance. At the same time, he shows just how easy it is to miss this milestone in the buzz of daily events. Notice how concretely he does that. He doesn’t just say that the New York Times ignored this record setting peace. He offers telling details about what they covered instead: “a manicurist, a machinist, and a cleaning woman who had just won a big Lotto contest.” Likewise, David Kennedy immediately entangles us in concrete events: the stunning stock market crash of 1929. These are powerful openings that capture readers’ interests, establish puzzles, and launch narratives.

Sociologist James Coleman begins in a completely different way, by posing the basic questions he will study. His ambitious book, Foundations of Social Theory , develops a comprehensive theory of social life, so it is entirely appropriate for him to begin with some major questions. But he could just as easily have begun with a compelling story or anecdote. He includes many of them elsewhere in his book. His choice for the opening, though, is to state his major themes plainly and frame them as a paradox. Sociologists, he says, are interested in aggregate behavior—how people act in groups, organizations, or large numbers—yet they mostly examine individuals:

A central problem in social science is that of accounting for the function of some kind of social system. Yet in most social research, observations are not made on the system as a whole, but on some part of it. In fact, the natural unit of observation is the individual person…  This has led to a widening gap between theory and research… (James S. Coleman, Foundations of Social Theory . Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990, pp. 1–2)

After expanding on this point, Coleman explains that he will not try to remedy the problem by looking solely at groups or aggregate-level data. That’s a false solution, he says, because aggregates don’t act; individuals do. So the real problem is to show the links between individual actions and aggregate outcomes, between the micro and the macro.

The major problem for explanations of system behavior based on actions and orientations at a level below that of the system [in this case, on individual-level actions] is that of moving from the lower level to the system level. This has been called the micro-to-macro problem, and it is pervasive throughout the social sciences. (Coleman, Foundations of Social Theory , p. 6)

Explaining how to deal with this “micro-to-macro problem” is the central issue of Coleman’s book, and he announces it at the beginning.

Coleman’s theory-driven opening stands at the opposite end of the spectrum from engaging stories or anecdotes, which are designed to lure the reader into the narrative and ease the path to a more analytic treatment later in the text. Take, for example, the opening sentences of Robert L. Herbert’s sweeping study Impressionism: Art, Leisure, and Parisian Society : “When Henry Tuckerman came to Paris in 1867, one of the thousands of Americans attracted there by the huge international exposition, he was bowled over by the extraordinary changes since his previous visit twenty years before.” (Robert L. Herbert, Impressionism: Art, Leisure, and Parisian Society . New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988, p. 1.) Herbert fills in the evocative details to set the stage for his analysis of the emerging Impressionist art movement and its connection to Parisian society and leisure in this period.

David Bromwich writes about Wordsworth, a poet so familiar to students of English literature that it is hard to see him afresh, before his great achievements, when he was just a young outsider starting to write. To draw us into Wordsworth’s early work, Bromwich wants us to set aside our entrenched images of the famous mature poet and see him as he was in the 1790s, as a beginning writer on the margins of society. He accomplishes this ambitious task in the opening sentences of Disowned by Memory: Wordsworth’s Poetry of the 1790s :

Wordsworth turned to poetry after the revolution to remind himself that he was still a human being. It was a curious solution, to a difficulty many would not have felt. The whole interest of his predicament is that he did feel it. Yet Wordsworth is now so established an eminence—his name so firmly fixed with readers as a moralist of self-trust emanating from complete self-security—that it may seem perverse to imagine him as a criminal seeking expiation. Still, that is a picture we get from The Borderers and, at a longer distance, from “Tintern Abbey.” (David Bromwich, Disowned by Memory: Wordsworth’s Poetry of the 1790s . Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1998, p. 1)

That’s a wonderful opening! Look at how much Bromwich accomplishes in just a few words. He not only prepares the way for analyzing Wordsworth’s early poetry; he juxtaposes the anguished young man who wrote it to the self-confident, distinguished figure he became—the eminent man we can’t help remembering as we read his early poetry.

Let us highlight a couple of other points in this passage because they illustrate some intelligent writing choices. First, look at the odd comma in this sentence: “It was a curious solution, to a difficulty many would not have felt.” Any standard grammar book would say that comma is wrong and should be omitted. Why did Bromwich insert it? Because he’s a fine writer, thinking of his sentence rhythm and the point he wants to make. The comma does exactly what it should. It makes us pause, breaking the sentence into two parts, each with an interesting point. One is that Wordsworth felt a difficulty others would not have; the other is that he solved it in a distinctive way. It would be easy for readers to glide over this double message, so Bromwich has inserted a speed bump to slow us down. Most of the time, you should follow grammatical rules, like those about commas, but you should bend them when it serves a good purpose. That’s what the writer does here.

The second small point is the phrase “after the revolution” in the first sentence: “Wordsworth turned to poetry after the revolution to remind himself that he was still a human being.” Why doesn’t Bromwich say “after the French Revolution”? Because he has judged his book’s audience. He is writing for specialists who already know which revolution is reverberating through English life in the 1790s. It is the French Revolution, not the earlier loss of the American colonies. If Bromwich were writing for a much broader audience—say, the New York Times Book Review—he would probably insert the extra word to avoid confusion.

The message “Know your audience” applies to all writers. Don’t talk down to them by assuming they can’t get dressed in the morning. Don’t strut around showing off your book learnin’ by tossing in arcane facts and esoteric language for its own sake. Neither will win over readers.

Bromwich, Herbert, and Coleman open their works in different ways, but their choices work well for their different texts. Your task is to decide what kind of opening will work best for yours. Don’t let that happen by default, by grabbing the first idea you happen upon. Consider a couple of different ways of opening your thesis and then choose the one you prefer. Give yourself some options, think them over, then make an informed choice.

Whether you begin with a story, puzzle, or broad statement, the next part of the introduction should pose your main questions and establish your argument. This is your thesis statement—your viewpoint along with the supporting reasons and evidence. It should be articulated plainly so readers understand full well what your paper is about and what it will argue.

After that, give your readers a road map of what’s to come. That’s normally done at the end of the introductory section (or, in a book, at the end of the introductory chapter). Here’s John J. Mearsheimer presenting such a road map in The Tragedy of Great Power Politics . He not only tells us the order of upcoming chapters, he explains why he’s chosen that order and which chapters are most important:

The Plan of the Book The rest of the chapters in this book are concerned mainly with answering the six big questions about power which I identified earlier. Chapter 2, which is probably the most important chapter in the book, lays out my theory of why states compete for power and why they pursue hegemony. In Chapters 3 and 4, I define power and explain how to measure it. I do this in order to lay the groundwork for testing my theory… (John J. Mearsheimer, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics . New York: W. W. Norton, 2001, p. 27)

As this excerpt makes clear, Mearsheimer has already laid out his “six big questions” in the introduction. Now he’s showing us the path ahead, the path to answering those questions.

At the end of the introduction, give your readers a road map of what’s to come. Tell them what the upcoming sections will be and why they are arranged in this particular order.

After having written your introduction it’s time to move to the biggest part: body of a research paper.

Back to How To Write A Research Paper .

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Home » Research Paper – Structure, Examples and Writing Guide

Research Paper – Structure, Examples and Writing Guide

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Research Paper

Research Paper

Definition:

Research Paper is a written document that presents the author’s original research, analysis, and interpretation of a specific topic or issue.

It is typically based on Empirical Evidence, and may involve qualitative or quantitative research methods, or a combination of both. The purpose of a research paper is to contribute new knowledge or insights to a particular field of study, and to demonstrate the author’s understanding of the existing literature and theories related to the topic.

Structure of Research Paper

The structure of a research paper typically follows a standard format, consisting of several sections that convey specific information about the research study. The following is a detailed explanation of the structure of a research paper:

The title page contains the title of the paper, the name(s) of the author(s), and the affiliation(s) of the author(s). It also includes the date of submission and possibly, the name of the journal or conference where the paper is to be published.

The abstract is a brief summary of the research paper, typically ranging from 100 to 250 words. It should include the research question, the methods used, the key findings, and the implications of the results. The abstract should be written in a concise and clear manner to allow readers to quickly grasp the essence of the research.

Introduction

The introduction section of a research paper provides background information about the research problem, the research question, and the research objectives. It also outlines the significance of the research, the research gap that it aims to fill, and the approach taken to address the research question. Finally, the introduction section ends with a clear statement of the research hypothesis or research question.

Literature Review

The literature review section of a research paper provides an overview of the existing literature on the topic of study. It includes a critical analysis and synthesis of the literature, highlighting the key concepts, themes, and debates. The literature review should also demonstrate the research gap and how the current study seeks to address it.

The methods section of a research paper describes the research design, the sample selection, the data collection and analysis procedures, and the statistical methods used to analyze the data. This section should provide sufficient detail for other researchers to replicate the study.

The results section presents the findings of the research, using tables, graphs, and figures to illustrate the data. The findings should be presented in a clear and concise manner, with reference to the research question and hypothesis.

The discussion section of a research paper interprets the findings and discusses their implications for the research question, the literature review, and the field of study. It should also address the limitations of the study and suggest future research directions.

The conclusion section summarizes the main findings of the study, restates the research question and hypothesis, and provides a final reflection on the significance of the research.

The references section provides a list of all the sources cited in the paper, following a specific citation style such as APA, MLA or Chicago.

How to Write Research Paper

You can write Research Paper by the following guide:

  • Choose a Topic: The first step is to select a topic that interests you and is relevant to your field of study. Brainstorm ideas and narrow down to a research question that is specific and researchable.
  • Conduct a Literature Review: The literature review helps you identify the gap in the existing research and provides a basis for your research question. It also helps you to develop a theoretical framework and research hypothesis.
  • Develop a Thesis Statement : The thesis statement is the main argument of your research paper. It should be clear, concise and specific to your research question.
  • Plan your Research: Develop a research plan that outlines the methods, data sources, and data analysis procedures. This will help you to collect and analyze data effectively.
  • Collect and Analyze Data: Collect data using various methods such as surveys, interviews, observations, or experiments. Analyze data using statistical tools or other qualitative methods.
  • Organize your Paper : Organize your paper into sections such as Introduction, Literature Review, Methods, Results, Discussion, and Conclusion. Ensure that each section is coherent and follows a logical flow.
  • Write your Paper : Start by writing the introduction, followed by the literature review, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion. Ensure that your writing is clear, concise, and follows the required formatting and citation styles.
  • Edit and Proofread your Paper: Review your paper for grammar and spelling errors, and ensure that it is well-structured and easy to read. Ask someone else to review your paper to get feedback and suggestions for improvement.
  • Cite your Sources: Ensure that you properly cite all sources used in your research paper. This is essential for giving credit to the original authors and avoiding plagiarism.

Research Paper Example

Note : The below example research paper is for illustrative purposes only and is not an actual research paper. Actual research papers may have different structures, contents, and formats depending on the field of study, research question, data collection and analysis methods, and other factors. Students should always consult with their professors or supervisors for specific guidelines and expectations for their research papers.

Research Paper Example sample for Students:

Title: The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health among Young Adults

Abstract: This study aims to investigate the impact of social media use on the mental health of young adults. A literature review was conducted to examine the existing research on the topic. A survey was then administered to 200 university students to collect data on their social media use, mental health status, and perceived impact of social media on their mental health. The results showed that social media use is positively associated with depression, anxiety, and stress. The study also found that social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) are significant predictors of mental health problems among young adults.

Introduction: Social media has become an integral part of modern life, particularly among young adults. While social media has many benefits, including increased communication and social connectivity, it has also been associated with negative outcomes, such as addiction, cyberbullying, and mental health problems. This study aims to investigate the impact of social media use on the mental health of young adults.

Literature Review: The literature review highlights the existing research on the impact of social media use on mental health. The review shows that social media use is associated with depression, anxiety, stress, and other mental health problems. The review also identifies the factors that contribute to the negative impact of social media, including social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO.

Methods : A survey was administered to 200 university students to collect data on their social media use, mental health status, and perceived impact of social media on their mental health. The survey included questions on social media use, mental health status (measured using the DASS-21), and perceived impact of social media on their mental health. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and regression analysis.

Results : The results showed that social media use is positively associated with depression, anxiety, and stress. The study also found that social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO are significant predictors of mental health problems among young adults.

Discussion : The study’s findings suggest that social media use has a negative impact on the mental health of young adults. The study highlights the need for interventions that address the factors contributing to the negative impact of social media, such as social comparison, cyberbullying, and FOMO.

Conclusion : In conclusion, social media use has a significant impact on the mental health of young adults. The study’s findings underscore the need for interventions that promote healthy social media use and address the negative outcomes associated with social media use. Future research can explore the effectiveness of interventions aimed at reducing the negative impact of social media on mental health. Additionally, longitudinal studies can investigate the long-term effects of social media use on mental health.

Limitations : The study has some limitations, including the use of self-report measures and a cross-sectional design. The use of self-report measures may result in biased responses, and a cross-sectional design limits the ability to establish causality.

Implications: The study’s findings have implications for mental health professionals, educators, and policymakers. Mental health professionals can use the findings to develop interventions that address the negative impact of social media use on mental health. Educators can incorporate social media literacy into their curriculum to promote healthy social media use among young adults. Policymakers can use the findings to develop policies that protect young adults from the negative outcomes associated with social media use.

References :

  • Twenge, J. M., & Campbell, W. K. (2019). Associations between screen time and lower psychological well-being among children and adolescents: Evidence from a population-based study. Preventive medicine reports, 15, 100918.
  • Primack, B. A., Shensa, A., Escobar-Viera, C. G., Barrett, E. L., Sidani, J. E., Colditz, J. B., … & James, A. E. (2017). Use of multiple social media platforms and symptoms of depression and anxiety: A nationally-representative study among US young adults. Computers in Human Behavior, 69, 1-9.
  • Van der Meer, T. G., & Verhoeven, J. W. (2017). Social media and its impact on academic performance of students. Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 16, 383-398.

Appendix : The survey used in this study is provided below.

Social Media and Mental Health Survey

  • How often do you use social media per day?
  • Less than 30 minutes
  • 30 minutes to 1 hour
  • 1 to 2 hours
  • 2 to 4 hours
  • More than 4 hours
  • Which social media platforms do you use?
  • Others (Please specify)
  • How often do you experience the following on social media?
  • Social comparison (comparing yourself to others)
  • Cyberbullying
  • Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
  • Have you ever experienced any of the following mental health problems in the past month?
  • Do you think social media use has a positive or negative impact on your mental health?
  • Very positive
  • Somewhat positive
  • Somewhat negative
  • Very negative
  • In your opinion, which factors contribute to the negative impact of social media on mental health?
  • Social comparison
  • In your opinion, what interventions could be effective in reducing the negative impact of social media on mental health?
  • Education on healthy social media use
  • Counseling for mental health problems caused by social media
  • Social media detox programs
  • Regulation of social media use

Thank you for your participation!

Applications of Research Paper

Research papers have several applications in various fields, including:

  • Advancing knowledge: Research papers contribute to the advancement of knowledge by generating new insights, theories, and findings that can inform future research and practice. They help to answer important questions, clarify existing knowledge, and identify areas that require further investigation.
  • Informing policy: Research papers can inform policy decisions by providing evidence-based recommendations for policymakers. They can help to identify gaps in current policies, evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, and inform the development of new policies and regulations.
  • Improving practice: Research papers can improve practice by providing evidence-based guidance for professionals in various fields, including medicine, education, business, and psychology. They can inform the development of best practices, guidelines, and standards of care that can improve outcomes for individuals and organizations.
  • Educating students : Research papers are often used as teaching tools in universities and colleges to educate students about research methods, data analysis, and academic writing. They help students to develop critical thinking skills, research skills, and communication skills that are essential for success in many careers.
  • Fostering collaboration: Research papers can foster collaboration among researchers, practitioners, and policymakers by providing a platform for sharing knowledge and ideas. They can facilitate interdisciplinary collaborations and partnerships that can lead to innovative solutions to complex problems.

When to Write Research Paper

Research papers are typically written when a person has completed a research project or when they have conducted a study and have obtained data or findings that they want to share with the academic or professional community. Research papers are usually written in academic settings, such as universities, but they can also be written in professional settings, such as research organizations, government agencies, or private companies.

Here are some common situations where a person might need to write a research paper:

  • For academic purposes: Students in universities and colleges are often required to write research papers as part of their coursework, particularly in the social sciences, natural sciences, and humanities. Writing research papers helps students to develop research skills, critical thinking skills, and academic writing skills.
  • For publication: Researchers often write research papers to publish their findings in academic journals or to present their work at academic conferences. Publishing research papers is an important way to disseminate research findings to the academic community and to establish oneself as an expert in a particular field.
  • To inform policy or practice : Researchers may write research papers to inform policy decisions or to improve practice in various fields. Research findings can be used to inform the development of policies, guidelines, and best practices that can improve outcomes for individuals and organizations.
  • To share new insights or ideas: Researchers may write research papers to share new insights or ideas with the academic or professional community. They may present new theories, propose new research methods, or challenge existing paradigms in their field.

Purpose of Research Paper

The purpose of a research paper is to present the results of a study or investigation in a clear, concise, and structured manner. Research papers are written to communicate new knowledge, ideas, or findings to a specific audience, such as researchers, scholars, practitioners, or policymakers. The primary purposes of a research paper are:

  • To contribute to the body of knowledge : Research papers aim to add new knowledge or insights to a particular field or discipline. They do this by reporting the results of empirical studies, reviewing and synthesizing existing literature, proposing new theories, or providing new perspectives on a topic.
  • To inform or persuade: Research papers are written to inform or persuade the reader about a particular issue, topic, or phenomenon. They present evidence and arguments to support their claims and seek to persuade the reader of the validity of their findings or recommendations.
  • To advance the field: Research papers seek to advance the field or discipline by identifying gaps in knowledge, proposing new research questions or approaches, or challenging existing assumptions or paradigms. They aim to contribute to ongoing debates and discussions within a field and to stimulate further research and inquiry.
  • To demonstrate research skills: Research papers demonstrate the author’s research skills, including their ability to design and conduct a study, collect and analyze data, and interpret and communicate findings. They also demonstrate the author’s ability to critically evaluate existing literature, synthesize information from multiple sources, and write in a clear and structured manner.

Characteristics of Research Paper

Research papers have several characteristics that distinguish them from other forms of academic or professional writing. Here are some common characteristics of research papers:

  • Evidence-based: Research papers are based on empirical evidence, which is collected through rigorous research methods such as experiments, surveys, observations, or interviews. They rely on objective data and facts to support their claims and conclusions.
  • Structured and organized: Research papers have a clear and logical structure, with sections such as introduction, literature review, methods, results, discussion, and conclusion. They are organized in a way that helps the reader to follow the argument and understand the findings.
  • Formal and objective: Research papers are written in a formal and objective tone, with an emphasis on clarity, precision, and accuracy. They avoid subjective language or personal opinions and instead rely on objective data and analysis to support their arguments.
  • Citations and references: Research papers include citations and references to acknowledge the sources of information and ideas used in the paper. They use a specific citation style, such as APA, MLA, or Chicago, to ensure consistency and accuracy.
  • Peer-reviewed: Research papers are often peer-reviewed, which means they are evaluated by other experts in the field before they are published. Peer-review ensures that the research is of high quality, meets ethical standards, and contributes to the advancement of knowledge in the field.
  • Objective and unbiased: Research papers strive to be objective and unbiased in their presentation of the findings. They avoid personal biases or preconceptions and instead rely on the data and analysis to draw conclusions.

Advantages of Research Paper

Research papers have many advantages, both for the individual researcher and for the broader academic and professional community. Here are some advantages of research papers:

  • Contribution to knowledge: Research papers contribute to the body of knowledge in a particular field or discipline. They add new information, insights, and perspectives to existing literature and help advance the understanding of a particular phenomenon or issue.
  • Opportunity for intellectual growth: Research papers provide an opportunity for intellectual growth for the researcher. They require critical thinking, problem-solving, and creativity, which can help develop the researcher’s skills and knowledge.
  • Career advancement: Research papers can help advance the researcher’s career by demonstrating their expertise and contributions to the field. They can also lead to new research opportunities, collaborations, and funding.
  • Academic recognition: Research papers can lead to academic recognition in the form of awards, grants, or invitations to speak at conferences or events. They can also contribute to the researcher’s reputation and standing in the field.
  • Impact on policy and practice: Research papers can have a significant impact on policy and practice. They can inform policy decisions, guide practice, and lead to changes in laws, regulations, or procedures.
  • Advancement of society: Research papers can contribute to the advancement of society by addressing important issues, identifying solutions to problems, and promoting social justice and equality.

Limitations of Research Paper

Research papers also have some limitations that should be considered when interpreting their findings or implications. Here are some common limitations of research papers:

  • Limited generalizability: Research findings may not be generalizable to other populations, settings, or contexts. Studies often use specific samples or conditions that may not reflect the broader population or real-world situations.
  • Potential for bias : Research papers may be biased due to factors such as sample selection, measurement errors, or researcher biases. It is important to evaluate the quality of the research design and methods used to ensure that the findings are valid and reliable.
  • Ethical concerns: Research papers may raise ethical concerns, such as the use of vulnerable populations or invasive procedures. Researchers must adhere to ethical guidelines and obtain informed consent from participants to ensure that the research is conducted in a responsible and respectful manner.
  • Limitations of methodology: Research papers may be limited by the methodology used to collect and analyze data. For example, certain research methods may not capture the complexity or nuance of a particular phenomenon, or may not be appropriate for certain research questions.
  • Publication bias: Research papers may be subject to publication bias, where positive or significant findings are more likely to be published than negative or non-significant findings. This can skew the overall findings of a particular area of research.
  • Time and resource constraints: Research papers may be limited by time and resource constraints, which can affect the quality and scope of the research. Researchers may not have access to certain data or resources, or may be unable to conduct long-term studies due to practical limitations.

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What is a "good" introduction?

Citing sources in the introduction, "introduction checklist" from: how to write a good scientific paper. chris a. mack. spie. 2018..

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This is where you describe briefly and clearly why you are writing the paper. The introduction supplies sufficient background information for the reader to understand and evaluate the experiment you did. It also supplies a rationale for the study.

  • Present the problem and the proposed solution
  • Presents nature and scope of the problem investigated
  • Reviews the pertinent literature to orient the reader
  • States the method of the experiment
  • State the principle results of the experiment

It is important to cite sources in the introduction section of your paper as evidence of the claims you are making. There are ways of citing sources in the text so that the reader can find the full reference in the literature cited section at the end of the paper, yet the flow of the reading is not badly interrupted. Below are some example of how this can be done:     "Smith (1983) found that N-fixing plants could be infected by several different species of Rhizobium."     "Walnut trees are known to be allelopathic (Smith 1949,  Bond et al. 1955, Jones and Green 1963)."     "Although the presence of Rhizobium normally increases the growth of legumes (Nguyen 1987), the opposite effect has been observed (Washington 1999)." Note that articles by one or two authors are always cited in the text using their last names. However, if there are more than two authors, the last name of the 1st author is given followed by the abbreviation et al. which is Latin for "and others". 

From:  https://writingcenter.gmu.edu/guides/imrad-reports-introductions

  • Indicate the field of the work, why this field is important, and what has already been done (with proper citations).
  • Indicate a gap, raise a research question, or challenge prior work in this territory.
  • Outline the purpose and announce the present research, clearly indicating what is novel and why it is significant.
  • Avoid: repeating the abstract; providing unnecessary background information; exaggerating the importance of the work; claiming novelty without a proper literature search. 
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what is introduction of research paper

Microsoft 365 Life Hacks > Writing > How to write an introduction for a research paper

How to write an introduction for a research paper

Beginnings are hard. Beginning a research paper is no exception. Many students—and pros—struggle with how to write an introduction for a research paper.

This short guide will describe the purpose of a research paper introduction and how to create a good one.

a research paper being viewed on a Acer TravelMate B311 2-in-1 on desk with pad of paper.

What is an introduction for a research paper?

Introductions to research papers do a lot of work.

It may seem obvious, but introductions are always placed at the beginning of a paper. They guide your reader from a general subject area to the narrow topic that your paper covers. They also explain your paper’s:

  • Scope: The topic you’ll be covering
  • Context: The background of your topic
  • Importance: Why your research matters in the context of an industry or the world

Your introduction will cover a lot of ground. However, it will only be half of a page to a few pages long. The length depends on the size of your paper as a whole. In many cases, the introduction will be shorter than all of the other sections of your paper.

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Why is an introduction vital to a research paper?

The introduction to your research paper isn’t just important. It’s critical.

Your readers don’t know what your research paper is about from the title. That’s where your introduction comes in. A good introduction will:

  • Help your reader understand your topic’s background
  • Explain why your research paper is worth reading
  • Offer a guide for navigating the rest of the piece
  • Pique your reader’s interest

Without a clear introduction, your readers will struggle. They may feel confused when they start reading your paper. They might even give up entirely. Your introduction will ground them and prepare them for the in-depth research to come.

What should you include in an introduction for a research paper?

Research paper introductions are always unique. After all, research is original by definition. However, they often contain six essential items. These are:

  • An overview of the topic. Start with a general overview of your topic. Narrow the overview until you address your paper’s specific subject. Then, mention questions or concerns you had about the case. Note that you will address them in the publication.
  • Prior research. Your introduction is the place to review other conclusions on your topic. Include both older scholars and modern scholars. This background information shows that you are aware of prior research. It also introduces past findings to those who might not have that expertise.
  • A rationale for your paper. Explain why your topic needs to be addressed right now. If applicable, connect it to current issues. Additionally, you can show a problem with former theories or reveal a gap in current research. No matter how you do it, a good rationale will interest your readers and demonstrate why they must read the rest of your paper.
  • Describe the methodology you used. Recount your processes to make your paper more credible. Lay out your goal and the questions you will address. Reveal how you conducted research and describe how you measured results. Moreover, explain why you made key choices.
  • A thesis statement. Your main introduction should end with a thesis statement. This statement summarizes the ideas that will run through your entire research article. It should be straightforward and clear.
  • An outline. Introductions often conclude with an outline. Your layout should quickly review what you intend to cover in the following sections. Think of it as a roadmap, guiding your reader to the end of your paper.

These six items are emphasized more or less, depending on your field. For example, a physics research paper might emphasize methodology. An English journal article might highlight the overview.

Three tips for writing your introduction

We don’t just want you to learn how to write an introduction for a research paper. We want you to learn how to make it shine.

There are three things you can do that will make it easier to write a great introduction. You can:

  • Write your introduction last. An introduction summarizes all of the things you’ve learned from your research. While it can feel good to get your preface done quickly, you should write the rest of your paper first. Then, you’ll find it easy to create a clear overview.
  • Include a strong quotation or story upfront. You want your paper to be full of substance. But that doesn’t mean it should feel boring or flat. Add a relevant quotation or surprising anecdote to the beginning of your introduction. This technique will pique the interest of your reader and leave them wanting more.
  • Be concise. Research papers cover complex topics. To help your readers, try to write as clearly as possible. Use concise sentences. Check for confusing grammar or syntax . Read your introduction out loud to catch awkward phrases. Before you finish your paper, be sure to proofread, too. Mistakes can seem unprofessional.

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How to Write an Introduction For a Research Paper

Learn how to write a strong and efficient research paper introduction by following the suitable structure and avoiding typical errors.

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An introduction to any type of paper is sometimes misunderstood as the beginning; yet, an introduction is actually intended to present your chosen subject to the audience in a way that makes it more appealing and leaves your readers thirsty for more information. After the title and abstract , your audience will read the introduction, thus it’s critical to get off to a solid start.  

This article includes instructions on how to write an introduction for a research paper that engages the reader in your research. You can produce a strong opening for your research paper if you stick to the format and a few basic principles.

What is An Introduction To a Research Paper?

An introduction is the opening section of a research paper and the section that a reader is likely to read first, in which the objective and goals of the subsequent writing are stated. 

The introduction serves numerous purposes. It provides context for your research, explains your topic and objectives, and provides an outline of the work. A solid introduction will establish the tone for the remainder of your paper, enticing readers to continue reading through the methodology , findings, and discussion. 

Even though introductions are generally presented at the beginning of a document, we must distinguish an introduction from the beginning of your research. An introduction, as the name implies, is supposed to introduce your subject without extending it. All relevant information and facts should be placed in the body and conclusion, not the introduction.

Structure Of An Introduction

Before explaining how to write an introduction for a research paper , it’s necessary to comprehend a structure that will make your introduction stronger and more straightforward.

A Good Hook

A hook is one of the most effective research introduction openers. A hook’s objective is to stimulate the reader’s interest to read the research paper.  There are various approaches you may take to generate a strong hook:  startling facts, a question, a brief overview, or even a quotation. 

Broad Overview

Following an excellent hook, you should present a wide overview of your major issue and some background information on your research. If you’re unsure about how to begin an essay introduction, the best approach is to offer a basic explanation of your topic before delving into specific issues. Simply said, you should begin with general information and then narrow it down to your relevant topics.

After offering some background information regarding your research’s main topic, go on to give readers a better understanding of what you’ll be covering throughout your research. In this section of your introduction, you should swiftly clarify your important topics in the sequence in which they will be addressed later, gradually introducing your thesis statement. You can use some  The following are some critical questions to address in this section of your introduction: Who? What? Where? When? How? And why is that?

Thesis Statement

The thesis statement, which must be stated in the beginning clause of your research since your entire research revolves around it, is the most important component of your research.

A thesis statement presents your audience with a quick overview of the research’s main assertion. In the body section of your work, your key argument is what you will expose or debate about it. An excellent thesis statement is usually very succinct, accurate, explicit, clear, and focused. Typically, your thesis should be at the conclusion of your introductory paragraph/section.

Tips for Writing a Strong Introduction

Aside from the good structure, here are a few tips to make your introduction strong and accurate:

  • Keep in mind the aim of your research and make sure your introduction supports it.
  • Use an appealing and relevant hook that catches the reader’s attention right away.
  • Make it obvious to your readers what your stance is.
  • Demonstrate your knowledge of your subject.
  • Provide your readers with a road map to help them understand what you will address throughout the research.
  • Be succinct – it is advised that your opening introduction consists of around 8-9 percent of the overall amount of words in your article (for example, 160 words for a 2000 words essay). 
  • Make a strong and unambiguous thesis statement.
  • Explain why the article is significant in 1-2 sentences.
  • Remember to keep it interesting.

Mistakes to Avoid in Your Introduction

Check out what not to do and what to avoid now that you know the structure and how to write an introduction for a research paper .

  • Lacking a feeling of direction or purpose.
  • Giving out too much.
  • Creating lengthy paragraphs.
  • Excessive or insufficient background, literature, and theory.
  • Including material that should be placed in the body and conclusion.
  • Not writing enough or writing excessively.
  • Using too many quotes.

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How to write a research paper introduction (with examples).

what is introduction of research paper

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

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Welcome to our comprehensive guide on crafting the perfect introduction for your research paper. In this blog, we’ll explore the crucial elements of a strong introduction, highlight common pitfalls to avoid, and provide practical tips to effectively set the stage for your study’s objectives and significance. 

Table of Contents

Lack of a clear thesis statement, lack of clear objectives and scope, failure to establish the research significance, insufficient background information, inadequate literature review, ignoring the research gap, overly technical language, poor organization and flow, neglecting the audience, the importance of a good introduction.

A strong introduction sets the tone for the entire paper, guiding the reader through the research journey. It provides context, establishes relevance, and ensures the reader understands the importance of the study.

Starting a research project is exciting, but getting the introduction right is key. It’s like opening the door to your study and inviting readers in. However, there are some common missteps that can trip you up along the way.

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Common mistakes to avoid.

A thesis statement is the central argument or claim that guides the entire research paper. It is a concise summary of the main point or claim of the paper and is typically found at the end of the introduction. A clear thesis statement helps to focus the research, provide direction, and inform the reader of the paper’s purpose. Expert reviewers may even skip the rest of the introduction (as they are well versed in the topic) and focus only on your thesis statement, so it’s vital to make sure it is perfect!

When a research introduction lacks a clear thesis statement, several issues can arise:

  • Ambiguity : Without a clear thesis, the reader may be confused about the paper’s purpose and the main argument. Do not talk in vague terms. Whenever possible, use terminology established in recent literature. Narrow down the key aspects of the association that you are investigating (the study sample, the outcome and predictor measures) as much as possible.
  • Lack of Focus : The paper can become unfocused and meander through unrelated topics, making it difficult for the reader to follow the argument. Do not try to have more than 1-2 main aims in a paper. Even if you have done supplementary analysis, it is better to say so in the discussion. As a rule of thumb, try to answer one major question only!
  • Weak Argumentation : A well-defined thesis provides a strong foundation for building arguments. Without it, the arguments may appear weak and unsupported.

Let's be more practical:

1- In this paper, I will discuss climate change.

  • Problem: This statement is too broad and vague. It does not provide a clear direction or specific argument.

2- This paper argues that climate change, measured by global average temperature change, is primarily driven by human activities, such as deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels, and proposes policy measures to mitigate its impact.(1)

  • Strengths: – Specificity : It clearly states that the paper will focus on human activities as the main drivers of climate change. – Argument : It presents a specific claim that the paper will argue. – Direction : It hints at the structure of the paper by mentioning policy measures.

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Powerful Tips:

  • Be Specific : Clearly define the main argument or claim. Avoid vague or broad statements.
  • Be Concise : Keep the thesis statement concise, ideally one to two sentences.
  • Provide Direction : Indicate the structure of the paper by hinting at the main points that will be discussed.
  • Revise as Needed : Be prepared to revise the thesis statement as your research progresses and your understanding deepens.

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A clear statement of objectives and scope is crucial in a research paper introduction because it outlines what the study aims to achieve and defines the boundaries within which the research will be conducted.

Example of Lacking Clear Objectives and Scope: This paper examines the impacts of climate change on agriculture.

  • Problem : This statement is too broad and vague. It does not specify what aspects of climate change or agriculture will be studied, nor does it define the geographical or temporal scope.

Example with Clear Objectives and Scope: This study aims to investigate the effects of rising temperatures and changing precipitation patterns on crop yields in the Midwest United States from 2000 to 2010. The objectives are to (1) assess the impact of temperature changes on corn and soybean yields, (2) analyze how variations in precipitation affect crop growth, and (3) identify adaptive strategies employed by farmers in the region.(2)

Powerful tips:

  • Be Specific : Clearly state what the study aims to achieve and avoid vague or broad statements.
  • Identify Key Areas : Outline the main areas or aspects that the research will focus on.
  • Set Boundaries : Define the geographical, temporal, and conceptual boundaries of the research.
  • List Objectives : Clearly articulate specific research objectives or questions that the study will address.
  • Stay Realistic : Ensure that the objectives and scope are achievable within the constraints of the research project.
  • Make it flow : Make sure you are not repeating the same concepts as the thesis statement, as these two sections are often presented back-to-back in the final paragraph of the introduction! Remember: the thesis statement is your hypothesis or question, and your objectives are ‘how’ you are going to test your thesis.

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This mistake can result in the research appearing trivial or irrelevant, diminishing its potential impact. When the significance of the research is not well-established, readers may struggle to understand the value of the study and why they should care about it.

Example of Failure to Establish Research Significance: This study investigates the effects of social media usage on sleep patterns among teenagers.

  • Problem : The significance of studying social media’s impact on sleep patterns is not explained. The reader may wonder why this research is important or what implications it has.

Example with Established Research Significance: This study investigates the effects of social media usage on sleep patterns among teenagers. Understanding this relationship is crucial because insufficient sleep is linked to numerous health issues, including decreased academic performance, heightened stress levels, and increased risk of mental health problems. With the pervasive use of social media among adolescents, identifying how it impacts sleep can inform strategies for promoting healthier habits and improving overall well-being in this vulnerable age group.(3)

  • Link to Broader Issues : Connect the research topic to broader issues or trends that highlight its relevance and importance.
  • Explain Practical Implications : Discuss the potential practical applications or benefits of the research findings.
  • Address Gaps in Knowledge : Identify gaps in the existing literature that the research aims to fill.
  • Highlight Potential Impact : Emphasize the potential impact of the research on the field, society, or specific populations.
  • Use Concrete Examples : Provide concrete examples or scenarios to illustrate the significance of the research.

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Insufficient background information in the introduction of a research paper refers to failing to provide enough context for the reader to understand the research problem and its significance. Background information sets the stage for the research by offering necessary details about the topic, relevant theories, previous studies, and key terms.

This may lead to:

  • Reader Confusion : Without adequate context, readers may struggle to understand the research question, its importance, and how it fits into the broader field of study.
  • Weak Justification : Insufficient background can undermine the rationale for the research, making it difficult to justify why the study is necessary or valuable.
  • Misinterpretation : Lack of context can lead to misinterpretation of the research objectives, methods, and findings.

Example of Insufficient Background Information: In recent years, many researchers have studied the effects of social media on teenagers. This paper explores the relationship between social media use and anxiety among teenagers.

  • Problem : This introduction lacks specific details about the previous research, the theoretical framework, and key terms. It does not provide enough context for the reader to understand why the study is important.

Example of Adequate Background Information: Social media platforms have become an integral part of teenagers’ daily lives, with studies showing that 95% of teens have access to a smartphone and 45% are online almost constantly. Previous research has linked excessive social media use to various mental health issues, including anxiety and depression. However, the mechanisms underlying this relationship remain unclear. This paper explores the impact of social media use on anxiety levels among teenagers, focusing on the roles of social comparison and cyberbullying.(4)

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  • Review Relevant Literature : Summarize key studies and theories related to your topic.
  • Provide Context : Explain the broader context of your research problem.
  • Define Key Terms : Ensure that any specialized terms or concepts are clearly defined.
  • Identify the Research Gap : Highlight what is not yet known or understood about your topic.
  • Be Concise : Provide enough information to set the stage without overwhelming the reader with details.

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This mistake can occur when the literature review is too brief, lacks depth, omits key studies, or fails to critically analyze previous work. An inadequate literature review can undermine the foundation of the research by failing to provide the necessary context and justification for the study.

Inadequate Literature Review: There has been some research on the relationship between exercise and mental health. This paper will investigate this relationship further.

  • Problem : This review is too general and does not provide sufficient detail about the existing research or how it informs the current study.

Example with Adequate Literature Review: Research has consistently shown that regular physical activity has positive effects on mental health. For example, a study by Gujral et al. (2019) demonstrated that aerobic exercise can significantly reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Similarly, Smith and Lee (2020) found that strength training also contributes to improved mood and reduced stress levels. However, much of the existing research has focused on adult populations, with relatively few studies examining these effects in adolescents. Additionally, the specific types of exercise that are most beneficial for different mental health outcomes have not been thoroughly investigated. This study aims to explore the effects of various types of exercise on the mental health of high school students, thereby addressing these gaps in the literature.(5-6)

  • Be Comprehensive : Review a broad range of studies related to the research topic to provide a thorough context.
  • Be Specific : Cite specific studies, including their methodologies, findings, and relevance to the current research.
  • Be Critical : Analyze and evaluate the existing research, identifying strengths, weaknesses, and gaps.
  • Be Structured : Organize the literature review logically, grouping studies by themes or findings to create a coherent narrative.
  • Be Relevant : Focus on the most relevant studies that directly relate to the research question and objectives.

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Ignoring the research gap in a research paper introduction means failing to identify and articulate what specific aspect of the topic has not been explored or adequately addressed in existing literature. The research gap is a critical component because it justifies the necessity and originality of the study. Without highlighting this gap, the research may appear redundant or lacking in significance.

How huge is this mistake?

  • Lack of Justification : The study may not appear necessary or relevant, diminishing its perceived value.
  • Redundancy : The research may seem to duplicate existing studies, offering no new insights or contributions to the field. Even if you are using methodology similar to previous studies, it is important to note why you are doing so e.g., few studies have used that specific methodology, and you would like to validate it in your sample population!
  • Reader Disinterest : Readers may lose interest if they do not see the unique contribution or purpose of the research.

Example of Ignoring the Research Gap: Many studies have examined the effects of exercise on mental health. This paper looks at the relationship between physical activity and depression.

  • Problem : This introduction does not specify what aspect of the relationship between physical activity and depression has not been studied, failing to highlight the unique contribution of the research.

Example of Identifying the Research Gap: Numerous studies have demonstrated the general benefits of physical activity on mental health, particularly its role in alleviating symptoms of depression. However, there is limited research on how different types of exercise (e.g., aerobic vs. anaerobic) specifically impact depression levels among various age groups. This study investigates the differential effects of aerobic and anaerobic exercise on depression in young adults, aiming to fill this gap in the literature.(6)

  • Conduct a Thorough Literature Review : Understand the current state of research in your field to identify what has been studied and where gaps exist.
  • Be Specific : Clearly articulate what specific aspect has not been covered in existing studies.
  • Link to Your Study : Explain how your research will address this gap and contribute to the field.
  • Use Evidence : Support your identification of the gap with references to previous studies.
  • Emphasize Significance : Highlight why filling this gap is important for advancing knowledge or practical applications.

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Overly technical language refers to the excessive use of jargon, complex terms, and highly specialized language that may be difficult for readers, especially those not familiar with the field, to understand. While technical language is sometimes necessary in academic writing, overusing it in the introduction can create several problems:

  • Reader Alienation : Readers may find the text intimidating or inaccessible, leading to disengagement.
  • Lack of Clarity : The main points and significance of the research can become obscured by complex terminology.
  • Reduced Impact : The research may fail to communicate its importance effectively if readers struggle to understand the introduction.

Example of Overly Technical Language: The present study examines the metacognitive strategies employed by individuals in the domain of second language acquisition, specifically focusing on the interaction between declarative and procedural memory systems in the process of syntactic parsing.

  • Problem : This sentence is loaded with jargon (“metacognitive strategies,” “second language acquisition,” “declarative and procedural memory systems,” “syntactic parsing”), which can be overwhelming and confusing for readers not familiar with these terms.

Example with Simplified Language: This study looks at the thinking strategies people use when learning a second language. It focuses on how different types of memory, such as the knowledge of facts and the skills for doing things, help in understanding sentence structures.(7)

  • Know Your Audience : Tailor the language to the intended audience, ensuring it is accessible to both specialists and non-specialists.
  • Define Term s: When technical terms are necessary, provide clear definitions or explanations.
  • Use Analogies : Simplify complex concepts using analogies or examples that are easy to understand.
  • Avoid Jargon : Limit the use of jargon and specialized terms, especially in the introduction.
  • Seek Feedback : Ask peers or non-experts to read the introduction and provide feedback on clarity and accessibility.

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Poor organization and flow in a research paper introduction refer to a lack of logical structure and coherence that makes the introduction difficult to follow. This can occur when ideas are presented in a haphazard manner, transitions between sections are weak or non-existent, and the overall narrative is disjointed. A well-organized introduction should smoothly guide the reader from the general context to the specific objectives of the study.

Example of Poor Organization and Flow: “Climate change affects agriculture in various ways. Many studies have looked at the impact on crop yields. This paper will discuss the economic implications of these changes. Climate models predict increased variability in weather patterns, which will affect water availability. Researchers have found that higher temperatures reduce the growing season for many crops.”

  • Problem : The ideas are presented in a scattered manner without clear connections. The mention of economic implications seems out of place, and there are abrupt shifts between topics.

Example with Good Organization and Flow: Climate change poses significant challenges to agriculture by altering weather patterns, impacting crop yields, and affecting water availability. Numerous studies have shown that increased temperatures can shorten the growing season for many crops, leading to reduced yields. Additionally, climate models predict increased variability in weather patterns, which complicates water management for farmers. These changes not only affect food production but also have substantial economic implications for agricultural communities. This paper will examine the economic impacts of climate-induced changes in agriculture, focusing on crop yield variability and water resource management.(1)

  • Create an Outline : Before writing, outline the main points you want to cover in the introduction.
  • Think in terms of an inverted triangle : Begin broadly to introduce basic concepts related to your topic. As you progress through the introduction, you can introduce more and more specific topics until you have enough information to justify your thesis statement
  • Use Transitional Phrases : Employ transitional phrases and sentences to connect ideas and sections smoothly.
  • Follow a Logical Sequence : Present information in a logical order, moving from general context to specific objectives.
  • Maintain Focus : Stay focused on the main topic and avoid introducing unrelated ideas.
  • Revise for Coherence : Review and revise the introduction to ensure that it flows well and that each part contributes to the overall narrative.

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Neglecting the audience refers to failing to consider the background, knowledge level, and interests of the intended readers when writing the introduction of a research paper. This mistake can manifest in several ways, such as using overly technical language for a general audience, providing insufficient background information for readers unfamiliar with the topic, or failing to engage the readers’ interest.

Example of Neglecting the Audience: For experts in genomic sequencing, this study explores the epigenetic modifications resulting from CRISPR-Cas9 interventions, focusing on the methylation patterns and histone modifications observed in gene-edited cells.

  • Problem : This introduction assumes a high level of expertise in genomic sequencing and epigenetics, which may alienate readers without this background.

Example with Audience Consideration: CRISPR-Cas9 is a groundbreaking tool in genetic research that allows scientists to edit DNA with precision. However, altering genes can lead to unexpected changes in how genes are expressed, known as epigenetic modifications. This study investigates these changes by looking at specific markers on DNA, such as methylation patterns, and how they affect gene activity in cells that have been edited using CRISPR-Cas9. Our goal is to understand the broader implications of gene editing on cellular functions, which is crucial for advancing medical research and treatments.(8)

  • Identify the Audience : Determine who the intended readers are (e.g., experts, students, general public) and tailor the language and content accordingly. Read papers from the journals you are considering for submission. Professional editors curate the language used in these papers and are a great starting point to identify the level of expertise of your audience!
  • Simplify Language : Use clear and straightforward language, avoiding jargon and technical terms unless they are necessary and well-explained.
  • Provide Background Information : Include sufficient background information to help readers understand the context and significance of the research.
  • Engage the Reader : Start with an engaging introduction that highlights the relevance and importance of the research topic.
  • Anticipate Questions : Consider what questions or concerns the audience might have and address them in the introduction

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By following these guidelines and avoiding common pitfalls, you can create an introduction that not only grabs the attention of your readers but also sets the stage for a compelling and impactful research paper.

Final Tips:

  • Revise and refine your introduction multiple times to ensure clarity and coherence.
  • Seek feedback from peers, mentors, or advisors to identify areas for improvement.
  • Keep your audience in mind and tailor your language and content to their needs and interests.
  • Stay focused on your research objectives and ensure that every part of your introduction contributes to achieving them.
  • Be confident in the significance of your research and its potential impact on your field or community.

Let your introduction be more than just words on a page. It’s a doorway to understanding. To help you along, we’ve created a practical course on writing and publishing research projects. It’s 100% risk-free, with a money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied. Try it out now by clicking here .

Wishing you success on your research journey!

Marina Ramzy Mourid, Hamza Ibad, MBBS

Dr. Ibad graduated from the Aga Khan University Medical College and completed a post-doctoral research fellowship at Johns Hopkins in the Department of Radiology (Musculoskeletal Division). Dr. Ibad’s research and clinical interests include deep-learning applications for automated image interpretation, osteoarthritis, and sarcopenia-related health outcomes.

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About thematchguy, become a researcher in the united states, interested in learning more about literature search with examples from published literature, the comprehensive research course, the systematic review course, the medical statistics course, how to find research positions in the us.

1. Abbass K, Qasim MZ, Song H, Murshed M, Mahmood H, Younis I. A review of the global climate change impacts, adaptation, and sustainable mitigation measures. Environ Sci Pollut Res. 2022;29(28):42539-42559. doi:10.1007/s11356-022-19718-6

2. Cai X, Wang D, Laurent R. Impact of climate change on crop yield: a case study of rainfed corn in central illinois. Journal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology. 2009;48(9):1868-1881. doi:10.1175/2009JAMC1880.1

3. Van Den Eijnden RJJM, Geurts SM, Ter Bogt TFM, Van Der Rijst VG, Koning IM. Social media use and adolescents’ sleep: a longitudinal study on the protective role of parental rules regarding internet use before sleep. IJERPH. 2021;18(3):1346. doi:10.3390/ijerph18031346

4. Schmitt, M. (2021). Effects of social media and technology on adolescents: What the evidence is showing and what we can do about it. Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences Education, 38(1), 51-59.

5. Gujral S, Aizenstein H, Reynolds CF, Butters MA, Erickson KI. Exercise effects on depression: Possible neural mechanisms. General Hospital Psychiatry. 2017;49:2-10. doi:10.1016/j.genhosppsych.2017.04.012

6. Smith PJ, Merwin RM. The role of exercise in management of mental health disorders: an integrative review. Annu Rev Med. 2021;72(1):45-62. doi:10.1146/annurev-med-060619-022943

7. Sun Q, Zhang LJ. Understanding learners’ metacognitive experiences in learning to write in English as a foreign language: A structural equation modeling approach. Front Psychol. 2022;13:986301. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2022.986301

8. Kolanu ND. Crispr–cas9 gene editing: curing genetic diseases by inherited epigenetic modifications. Glob Med Genet. 2024;11(01):113-122. doi:10.1055/s-0044-1785234

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How to write an introduction for a research paper

How to write a introduction for a research paper

Writing an introduction for a research paper can be one of the hardest parts of the writing process. How do you get started? In this post, we discuss the components of an introduction and explore strategies for writing one successfully.

What is an introduction?

The introduction to a research paper provides background information or context on the topic. It also includes the thesis statement and signposts that let the reader know what you will cover in the rest of the paper.

Depending on the type of research paper that you’re writing, you may also include a brief state of the field in your introduction. You might also put that in a separate section, called a literature review. Before you tackle writing your introduction, be sure to consult the assignment guidelines for your paper.

How to write an introduction

An introduction provides an overview of your topic and any background information that your readers need to know in order to understand the context. It generally concludes with an explicit statement of your position on the topic, which is known as your thesis statement.

The opening section

Many papers begin with a hook: a short anecdote or scenario that draws the reader in and gives a hint of what the paper will cover. A hook allows you to capture your reader’s attention and provides an anchor for the context that you will provide in the bulk of the introduction.

Most of your introduction should be taken up with background information, but this doesn’t mean that you should fill your opening section with overly general statements. Instead, provide key pieces of information (like statistics) that a reader would need to know in order to understand your main argument.

The thesis statement

Towards the end of the introduction, you should state your thesis, preferably in the form of "I argue that..." or "This paper argues that..." or a similar phrase. Although it’s called a “thesis statement,” your thesis can be more than one sentence.

Finally, an introduction contains a brief outline or "signposts" of what the rest of the article will cover (also known as forecasting statements). You can use language like, “in what follows,” or “in the rest of the paper,” to signal that you are describing what you’ll do in the remainder of the paper.

Tips for writing an introduction

1. don’t rely on generalizations.

An introduction is not simply filler. It has a very specific function in a research paper: to provide context that leads up to a thesis statement.

You may be tempted to start your paper with generalizations like, “many people believe that...” or, “in our society...,” or a general dictionary definition, because you’re not sure what kind of context to provide. Instead, use specific facts like statistics or historical anecdotes to open your paper.

2. State your thesis directly

Once you’ve provided the appropriate, and specific, background information on your topic, you can move on to stating your thesis. As a rule of thumb, state your thesis as directly as possible. Use phrases like “I argue that..” to indicate that you are laying out your main argument.

3. Include signposts

A strong introduction includes clear signposts that outline what you will cover in the rest of the paper. You can signal this by using words like, “in what follows,” and by describing the steps that you will take to build your argument.

4. Situate your argument within the scholarly conversation

Some types of research papers require a separate literature review in which you explore what others have written about your topic.

Even if you’re not required to have a formal literature review, you should still include at least a paragraph in which you engage with the scholarly debate on your chosen subject. Be sure to include direct quotes from your sources . You can use BibGuru’s citation generator to create accurate in-text citations for your quotes.

This section can come directly before your thesis statement or directly after it. In the former case, your state of the field will function as additional context for your thesis.

Frequently Asked Questions about how to write an introduction for a research paper

A good introduction provides specific background information on your topic, sets up your thesis statement, and includes signposts for what you’ll cover in the rest of the paper.

An introduction should include context, a thesis statement, and signposts.

Do not include generalizations, apologies for not being an expert, or dictionary definitions in your introduction.

The length of your introduction depends on the overall length of your paper. For instance, an introduction for an 8-10 page paper will likely be anywhere from 1-3 pages.

You can choose to start an introduction with a hook, an important statistic, an historical anecdote, or another specific piece of background information.

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How to Write the Introduction to a Scientific Paper?

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An Introduction to a scientific paper familiarizes the reader with the background of the issue at hand. It must reflect why the issue is topical and its current importance in the vast sea of research being done globally. It lays the foundation of biomedical writing and is the first portion of an article according to the IMRAD pattern ( I ntroduction, M ethodology, R esults, a nd D iscussion) [1].

I once had a professor tell a class that he sifted through our pile of essays, glancing at the titles and introductions, looking for something that grabbed his attention. Everything else went to the bottom of the pile to be read last, when he was tired and probably grumpy from all the marking. Don’t get put at the bottom of the pile, he said. Anonymous

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The Introduction Section

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Abstract and Keywords

what is introduction of research paper

Writing and publishing a scientific paper

1 what is the importance of an introduction.

An Introduction to a scientific paper familiarizes the reader with the background of the issue at hand. It must reflect why the issue is topical and its current importance in the vast sea of research being done globally. It lays the foundation of biomedical writing and is the first portion of an article according to the IMRAD pattern ( I ntroduction, M ethodology, R esults, a nd D iscussion) [ 1 ].

It provides the flavour of the article and many authors have used phrases to describe it for example—'like a gate of the city’ [ 2 ], ‘the beginning is half of the whole’ [ 3 ], ‘an introduction is not just wrestling with words to fit the facts, but it also strongly modulated by perception of the anticipated reactions of peer colleagues’, [ 4 ] and ‘an introduction is like the trailer to a movie’. A good introduction helps captivate the reader early.

figure a

2 What Are the Principles of Writing a Good Introduction?

A good introduction will ‘sell’ an article to a journal editor, reviewer, and finally to a reader [ 3 ]. It should contain the following information [ 5 , 6 ]:

The known—The background scientific data

The unknown—Gaps in the current knowledge

Research hypothesis or question

Methodologies used for the study

The known consist of citations from a review of the literature whereas the unknown is the new work to be undertaken. This part should address how your work is the required missing piece of the puzzle.

3 What Are the Models of Writing an Introduction?

The Problem-solving model

First described by Swales et al. in 1979, in this model the writer should identify the ‘problem’ in the research, address the ‘solution’ and also write about ‘the criteria for evaluating the problem’ [ 7 , 8 ].

The CARS model that stands for C reating A R esearch S pace [ 9 , 10 ].

The two important components of this model are:

Establishing a territory (situation)

Establishing a niche (problem)

Occupying a niche (the solution)

In this popular model, one can add a fourth point, i.e., a conclusion [ 10 ].

4 What Is Establishing a Territory?

This includes: [ 9 ]

Stating the general topic and providing some background about it.

Providing a brief and relevant review of the literature related to the topic.

Adding a paragraph on the scope of the topic including the need for your study.

5 What Is Establishing a Niche?

Establishing a niche includes:

Stating the importance of the problem.

Outlining the current situation regarding the problem citing both global and national data.

Evaluating the current situation (advantages/ disadvantages).

Identifying the gaps.

Emphasizing the importance of the proposed research and how the gaps will be addressed.

Stating the research problem/ questions.

Stating the hypotheses briefly.

Figure 17.1 depicts how the introduction needs to be written. A scientific paper should have an introduction in the form of an inverted pyramid. The writer should start with the general information about the topic and subsequently narrow it down to the specific topic-related introduction.

figure 1

Flow of ideas from the general to the specific

6 What Does Occupying a Niche Mean?

This is the third portion of the introduction and defines the rationale of the research and states the research question. If this is missing the reviewers will not understand the logic for publication and is a common reason for rejection [ 11 , 12 ]. An example of this is given below:

Till date, no study has been done to see the effectiveness of a mesh alone or the effectiveness of double suturing along with a mesh in the closure of an umbilical hernia regarding the incidence of failure. So, the present study is aimed at comparing the effectiveness of a mesh alone versus the double suturing technique along with a mesh.

7 How Long Should the Introduction Be?

For a project protocol, the introduction should be about 1–2 pages long and for a thesis it should be 3–5 pages in a double-spaced typed setting. For a scientific paper it should be less than 10–15% of the total length of the manuscript [ 13 , 14 ].

8 How Many References Should an Introduction Have?

All sections in a scientific manuscript except the conclusion should contain references. It has been suggested that an introduction should have four or five or at the most one-third of the references in the whole paper [ 15 ].

9 What Are the Important Points Which Should be not Missed in an Introduction?

An introduction paves the way forward for the subsequent sections of the article. Frequently well-planned studies are rejected by journals during review because of the simple reason that the authors failed to clarify the data in this section to justify the study [ 16 , 17 ]. Thus, the existing gap in knowledge should be clearly brought out in this section (Fig. 17.2 ).

figure 2

How should the abstract, introduction, and discussion look

The following points are important to consider:

The introduction should be written in simple sentences and in the present tense.

Many of the terms will be introduced in this section for the first time and these will require abbreviations to be used later.

The references in this section should be to papers published in quality journals (e.g., having a high impact factor).

The aims, problems, and hypotheses should be clearly mentioned.

Start with a generalization on the topic and go on to specific information relevant to your research.

10 Example of an Introduction

figure b

11 Conclusions

An Introduction is a brief account of what the study is about. It should be short, crisp, and complete.

It has to move from a general to a specific research topic and must include the need for the present study.

The Introduction should include data from a literature search, i.e., what is already known about this subject and progress to what we hope to add to this knowledge.

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Nundy, S., Kakar, A., Bhutta, Z.A. (2022). How to Write the Introduction to a Scientific Paper?. In: How to Practice Academic Medicine and Publish from Developing Countries?. Springer, Singapore. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-981-16-5248-6_17

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Organizing Academic Research Papers: 4. The Introduction

  • Purpose of Guide
  • Design Flaws to Avoid
  • Glossary of Research Terms
  • Narrowing a Topic Idea
  • Broadening a Topic Idea
  • Extending the Timeliness of a Topic Idea
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The introduction serves the purpose of leading the reader from a general subject area to a particular field of research. It establishes the context of the research being conducted by summarizing current understanding and background information about the topic, stating the purpose of the work in the form of the hypothesis, question, or research problem, briefly explaining your rationale, methodological approach, highlighting the potential outcomes your study can reveal, and describing the remaining structure of the paper.

Key Elements of the Research Proposal. Prepared under the direction of the Superintendent and by the 2010 Curriculum Design and Writing Team. Baltimore County Public Schools.

Importance of a Good Introduction

Think of the introduction as a mental road map that must answer for the reader these four questions:

  • What was I studying?
  • Why was this topic important to investigate?
  • What did we know about this topic before I did this study?
  • How will this study advance our knowledge?

A well-written introduction is important because, quite simply, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. The opening paragraph of your paper will provide your readers with their initial impressions about the logic of your argument, your writing style, the overall quality of your research, and, ultimately, the validity of your findings and conclusions. A vague, disorganized, or error-filled introduction will create a negative impression, whereas, a concise, engaging, and well-written introduction will start your readers off thinking highly of your analytical skills, your writing style, and your research approach.

Introductions . The Writing Center. University of North Carolina.

Structure and Writing Style

I. Structure and Approach

The introduction is the broad beginning of the paper that answers three important questions for the reader:

  • What is this?
  • Why am I reading it?
  • What do you want me to think about / consider doing / react to?

Think of the structure of the introduction as an inverted triangle of information. Organize the information so as to present the more general aspects of the topic early in the introduction, then narrow toward the more specific topical information that provides context, finally arriving at your statement of purpose and rationale and, whenever possible, the potential outcomes your study can reveal.

These are general phases associated with writing an introduction:

  • Highlighting the importance of the topic, and/or
  • Making general statements about the topic, and/or
  • Presenting an overview on current research on the subject.
  • Opposing an existing assumption, and/or
  • Revealing a gap in existing research, and/or
  • Formulating a research question or problem, and/or
  • Continuing a disciplinary tradition.
  • Stating the intent of your study,
  • Outlining the key characteristics of your study,
  • Describing important results, and
  • Giving a brief overview of the structure of the paper.

NOTE: Even though the introduction is the first main section of a research paper, it is often useful to finish the introduction very late in the writing process because the structure of the paper, the reporting and analysis of results, and the conclusion will have been completed and it ensures that your introduction matches the overall structure of your paper.

II.  Delimitations of the Study

Delimitations refer to those characteristics that limit the scope and define the conceptual boundaries of your study . This is determined by the conscious exclusionary and inclusionary decisions you make about how to investigate the research problem. In other words, not only should you tell the reader what it is you are studying and why, but you must also acknowledge why you rejected alternative approaches that could have been used to examine the research problem.

Obviously, the first limiting step was the choice of research problem itself. However, implicit are other, related problems that could have been chosen but were rejected. These should be noted in the conclusion of your introduction.

Examples of delimitating choices would be:

  • The key aims and objectives of your study,
  • The research questions that you address,
  • The variables of interest [i.e., the various factors and features of the phenomenon being studied],
  • The method(s) of investigation, and
  • Any relevant alternative theoretical frameworks that could have been adopted.

Review each of these decisions. You need to not only clearly establish what you intend to accomplish, but to also include a declaration of what the study does not intend to cover. In the latter case, your exclusionary decisions should be based upon criteria stated as, "not interesting"; "not directly relevant"; “too problematic because..."; "not feasible," and the like. Make this reasoning explicit!

NOTE: Delimitations refer to the initial choices made about the broader, overall design of your study and should not be confused with documenting the limitations of your study discovered after the research has been completed.

III. The Narrative Flow

Issues to keep in mind that will help the narrative flow in your introduction :

  • Your introduction should clearly identify the subject area of interest . A simple strategy to follow is to use key words from your title in the first few sentences of the introduction. This will help focus the introduction on the topic at the appropriate level and ensures that you get to the primary subject matter quickly without losing focus, or discussing information that is too general.
  • Establish context by providing a brief and balanced review of the pertinent published literature that is available on the subject. The key is to summarize for the reader what is known about the specific research problem before you did your analysis. This part of your introduction should not represent a comprehensive literature review but consists of a general review of the important, foundational research literature (with citations) that lays a foundation for understanding key elements of the research problem. See the drop-down tab for "Background Information" for types of contexts.
  • Clearly state the hypothesis that you investigated . When you are first learning to write in this format it is okay, and actually preferable, to use a past statement like, "The purpose of this study was to...." or "We investigated three possible mechanisms to explain the...."
  • Why did you choose this kind of research study or design? Provide a clear statement of the rationale for your approach to the problem studied. This will usually follow your statement of purpose in the last paragraph of the introduction.

IV. Engaging the Reader

The overarching goal of your introduction is to make your readers want to read your paper. The introduction should grab your reader's attention. Strategies for doing this can be to:

  • Open with a compelling story,
  • Include a strong quotation or a vivid, perhaps unexpected anecdote,
  • Pose a provocative or thought-provoking question,
  • Describe a puzzling scenario or incongruity, or
  • Cite a stirring example or case study that illustrates why the research problem is important.

NOTE:   Only choose one strategy for engaging your readers; avoid giving an impression that your paper is more flash than substance.

Freedman, Leora  and Jerry Plotnick. Introductions and Conclusions . University College Writing Centre. University of Toronto; Introduction . The Structure, Format, Content, and Style of a Journal-Style Scientific Paper. Department of Biology. Bates College; Introductions . The Writing Center. University of North Carolina; Introductions . The Writer’s Handbook. Writing Center. University of Wisconsin, Madison; Introductions, Body Paragraphs, and Conclusions for an Argument Paper. The Writing Lab and The OWL. Purdue University; Resources for Writers: Introduction Strategies . Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies. Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Sharpling, Gerald. Writing an Introduction . Centre for Applied Linguistics, University of Warwick; Writing Your Introduction. Department of English Writing Guide. George Mason University.

Writing Tip

Avoid the "Dictionary" Introduction

Giving the dictionary definition of words related to the research problem may appear appropriate because it is important to define specific words or phrases with which readers may be unfamiliar. However, anyone can look a word up in the dictionary and a general dictionary is not a particularly authoritative source. It doesn't take into account the context of your topic and doesn't offer particularly detailed information. Also, placed in the context of a particular discipline, a term may have a different meaning than what is found in a general dictionary. If you feel that you must seek out an authoritative definition, try to find one that is from subject specific dictionaries or encyclopedias [e.g., if you are a sociology student, search for dictionaries of sociology].

Saba, Robert. The College Research Paper . Florida International University; Introductions . The Writing Center. University of North Carolina.

Another Writing Tip

When Do I Begin?

A common question asked at the start of any paper is, "where should I begin?" An equally important question to ask yourself is, "When do I begin?" Research problems in the social sciences rarely rest in isolation from the history of the issue being investigated. It is, therefore, important to lay a foundation for understanding the historical context underpinning the research problem. However, this information should be brief and succinct and begin at a point in time that best informs the reader of study's overall importance. For example, a study about coffee cultivation and export in West Africa as a key stimulus for local economic growth needs to describe the beginning of exporting coffee in the region and establishing why economic growth is important. You do not need to give a long historical explanation about coffee exportation in Africa. If a research problem demands a substantial exploration of historical context, do this in the literature review section; note in the introduction as part of your "roadmap" [see below] that you covering this in the literature review.

Yet Another Writing Tip

Always End with a Roadmap

The final paragraph or sentences of your introduction should forecast your main arguments and conclusions and provide a description of the rest of the paper [a "roadmap"] that let's the reader know where you are going and what to expect.

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General Research Paper Guidelines: Introduction

Introduction.

Generally, all academic introductory sections should introduce readers to your topic and scope, moving readers from a broad overview to your specific, narrow focus. In an academic introduction, you should also indicate your perspective on or argument about your given topic and explain to readers why the study of your topic is important. An introduction can range from a single paragraph to multiple paragraphs, depending on the length and scope of your draft.

For research papers, in particular, you want to make sure your introduction not only meets the general guidelines above but also does the following:

  • Includes a central argument, problem statement, or thesis statement, detailing the intent, rationale, and/or purpose of your research.
  • Addresses why your problem or topic is important.
  • Outlines the design, method, and/or key characteristics of your research.
  • Describes important results or conclusions of your research.
  • Provides a brief, yet clear overview of the structure of the paper.
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The main goal of the introductory section of a research paper is to set the context for the reader, convey basic information about the research project, and highlight the most notable aspects of the study including research background, significance, contribution to the field, and important findings. It also often serves as a hook to capture the reader's attention. As such, the introduction section of a research article is an important part of the writing process. In this workshop, we will draw from the scholarly and academic journals, using introduction sections of published articles in the humanities, social sciences, sciences, and engineering, to highlight and demonstrate best practices in writing a clear and meaningful introductory section as well as to avoid common writing pitfalls.

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Since its first definition by Lambin in 2012, Radiomics saw an impressive raise and is currently one of the cutting-edge fields of imaging research. The possibility to mine quantitative data from medical imaging represents an invaluable occasion to improve our knowledge in several diseases and to offer patient-tailored treatments. The huge amount of data extracted from medical imaging by radiomic analysis requires adequate systems to elaborate them. Among those, artificial intelligence (AI) surely represents the most powerful and attractive option to translate radiomics analysis into predictive models that can have an impact on daily clinical practice. However, there are still challenges to be solved before the introduction of radiomics and AI into clinical practice, such as the lack of standardization and reproducibility. This Research Topic aims to collect papers exploring the use of radiomics and artificial intelligence (both machine learning and deep learning) in the field of nuclear medicine and radiology, including all their possible applications for different imaging methods. We are interested in collecting original articles or reviews focusing on radiomic analysis and artificial intelligence in oncological and non-oncological applications of medical imaging. Moreover, we are also interested in feasibility papers, aiming to improve the standardization and reproducibility of radiomic analysis.

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  • Evening regular activity breaks extend subsequent free-living sleep time in healthy adults: a randomised crossover trial
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  • http://orcid.org/0000-0002-4594-8730 Jennifer T Gale 1 ,
  • Jillian J Haszard 2 ,
  • Dorothy L Wei 1 ,
  • Rachael W Taylor 3 ,
  • Meredith C Peddie 1
  • 1 Department of Human Nutrition , University of Otago , Dunedin , New Zealand
  • 2 Biostatistics Centre , University of Otago , Dunedin , New Zealand
  • 3 Department of Medicine , University of Otago , Dunedin , New Zealand
  • Correspondence to Jennifer T Gale; jen.gale{at}postgrad.otago.ac.nz

Objective To determine if performing regular 3-min bouts of resistance exercise spread over 4 hours in an evening will impact subsequent sleep quantity and quality, sedentary time and physical activity compared with prolonged uninterrupted sitting.

Methods In this randomised crossover trial, participants each completed two 4-hour interventions commencing at approximately 17:00 hours: (1) prolonged sitting and (2) sitting interrupted with 3 min of bodyweight resistance exercise activity breaks every 30 min. On completion, participants returned to a free-living setting. This paper reports secondary outcomes relating to sleep quality and quantity, physical activity and sedentary time which were assessed using wrist-worn ActiGraph GT3+ accelerometers paired with a sleep and wear time diary.

Results A total of 28 participants (women, n=20), age 25.6±5.6 years, body mass index 29.5±6.7 kg/m 2 (mean±SD) provided data for this analysis. Compared with prolonged sitting, regular activity breaks increased mean sleep period time and time spent asleep by 29.3 min (95% CI: 1.3 to 57.2, p=0.040) and 27.7 min (95% CI: 2.3 to 52.4, p=0.033), respectively, on the night of the intervention. There was no significant effect on mean sleep efficiency (mean: 0.2%, 95% CI: −2.0 to 2.4, p=0.857), wake after sleep onset (1.0 min, 95% CI: −9.6 to 11.7, p=0.849) and number of awakenings (0.8, 95% CI: −1.8 to 3.3, p=0.550). Subsequent 24-hour and 48-hour physical activity patterns were not significantly different.

Conclusions Performing bodyweight resistance exercise activity breaks in the evening has the potential to improve sleep period and total sleep time and does not disrupt other aspects of sleep quality or subsequent 24-hour physical activity. Future research should explore the longer-term impact of evening activity breaks on sleep.

Trial registration number Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ACTRN12621000250831).

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Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Data described in the manuscript will be made available upon reasonable request to the corresponding author.

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See:  http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ .

https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjsem-2023-001774

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WHAT IS ALREADY KNOWN ON THIS TOPIC

Evidence indicates that evening exercise sessions have no disruptive effects and, in some cases, positive impacts on elements of sleep quality, however, current recommendations discourage exercise prior to bedtime. The regular activity breaks protocol has been shown to improve postprandial metabolism, however, the impact on subsequent sleep is unknown.

WHAT THIS STUDY ADDS

Interrupting evening sedentary time with 3 min of light-intensity to moderate-intensity bodyweight resistance exercises every 30 min extends subsequent free-living time spent asleep by 27 min and has no disruptive effects on other elements of sleep and 24-hour physical activity patterns in healthy adults.

HOW THIS STUDY MIGHT AFFECT RESEARCH, PRACTICE OR POLICY

Sleep hygiene recommendations should be reviewed to better reflect the current pool of evidence. Regularly interrupting prolonged sitting with short bouts of activity breaks is a promising intervention that may improve cardiometabolic health through multiple mechanisms (postprandial metabolism and sleep).

Introduction

Insufficient sleep can adversely affect diet 1 and has been associated with an increased risk of cardiometabolic diseases including incident coronary heart disease 2–4 and type 2 diabetes. 3 4 Other components of sleep are also important; difficulty with initiating and maintaining sleep also increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, 5 and disrupted sleep has been associated with a greater risk of coronary heart disease 6 and other cardiometabolic risk factors such as elevated blood pressure and blood lipid levels. 7

Although higher levels of daytime physical activity generally promote better sleep, current sleep hygiene recommendations discourage high-intensity exercise prior to bed because exercise-induced elevations in body temperature and heart rate can result in poorer sleep quality. 8 However, these recommendations do not appear widely supported by current evidence, with many experimental studies reporting no significant negative effects of late-night exercise on sleep quality 9 10 and some reporting favourable effects. 11–13 It may also be important to consider if changing activity patterns in the evening impacts overall physical activity and 24-hour activity patterns with existing data limited to children. 14 To date, no study appears to have investigated the impact of breaking up sedentary time in the evening by performing short bouts of light-intensity to moderate-intensity resistance exercises on subsequent sleep and physical activity patterns.

The evening period is a prime time to target behaviours that influence cardiometabolic health. Adults accrue the longest periods of uninterrupted sitting 15–17 and consume almost half their daily energy intake during this time. 18 Insulin sensitivity is also diminished in the evening 19 and together, these factors promote elevated postprandial responses, which can be detrimental to cardiometabolic health over time. 20 This activity breaks protocol, which interrupts evening prolonged sitting with 3 min of simple resistance exercises every 30 min, has shown to positively affect postprandial metabolism. 21 However, how this protocol, which increases the amount of activity participants are doing in the hours immediately preceding bedtime, influences subsequent sleep is unknown.

Therefore, the aims of this study were to determine the effect of performing regular resistance exercise breaks compared with prolonged sitting in the evening over 4 hours in a laboratory setting on the secondary outcomes sleep quantity and quality (sleep period time, efficiency and wake after sleep onset), sedentary time and physical activity over the subsequent free-living 48 hours.

Study design

This study was a randomised crossover trial. This manuscript focuses on secondary outcomes related to sleep quantity and quality and patterns of physical activity and sedentary time. The primary outcome has been published previously, see Gale et al . 21 For further details, see attached the study protocol in online supplemental file 1 .

Supplemental material

Participants.

This study was conducted in Dunedin, New Zealand. Thirty participants aged 18–40 years were recruited by word of mouth. A sample size of 30 participants was estimated to provide 80% power (5% significance) to detect a difference of 0.4 SD in glucose total area under the curve (which was the primary outcome of this study). Eligible participants were: non-smokers, not taking medications or supplements known to impact glucose or triglyceride metabolism, able to speak and understand English, without intolerances or allergies to gluten or dairy (these components were present in the test meals) and those who self-reported habitual sedentary time of more than 5 hours (work) and 2 hours (evening) per day. Participants were asked to obtain medical clearance if their responses to the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire indicated that physical activity may not be appropriate (n=1). Participants from across the body mass index categories (minimum 18.5 kg/m 2 , no upper limit) were recruited to ensure representation from all groups given the relationship between obesity and glycaemic control. All participants provided written informed consent.

Preliminary measures

Participants attended an introductory session at the University of Otago to confirm eligibility for enrolment. Blood pressure was measured using an automated sphygmomanometer (OMRON HEM-907; Omron Healthcare; Kyoto, Japan) and a correctly sized cuff. Participants were excluded if their systolic or diastolic blood pressure readings were greater than 130 mm Hg and 90 mm Hg, respectively. Standard height and weight were measured in duplicate following standard procedures. Experimental protocols were discussed, and participants watched a video that demonstrated the exercises. Participants practiced the required exercises under supervision from the study research assistant (Registered Dietitian) who was instructed on how to observe and correct technique by a member of the research team who has a degree in Exercise Science (MCP). On completion of primary measurements, participants were fitted with an ActiGraph GT3X+ (ActiGraph, Pensacola, Florida, USA) accelerometer to be worn continuously (24 hours per day) on their non-dominant wrist for seven consecutive days to capture habitual physical activity and sleep patterns. Participants were provided with a wear time diary to record non-wear time, what times they retired to bed, attempted to sleep and woke up. Participants were also asked to record any physical activity performed while not wearing the accelerometer (eg, swimming or contact sport) or to record activities known to be inaccurately identified by the accelerometer (eg, stationary cycling, certain resistance-based exercises or yoga).

Randomisation

Participants were randomised to complete the two experimental conditions in one of two possible orders ( figure 1 ), stratified by weight status. The randomisation sequence was generated by MCP prior to recruitment using Stata (V.16; StataCorp, College Station, Texas, USA) and concealed electronically. The randomisation sequence was revealed and assigned on the afternoon prior to each participant beginning their first experimental condition. Participants were informed of their allocated sequence on arrival.

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CONSORT study flow chart. BMI, body mass index; CONSORT, Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials.

Pre-intervention standardisation protocols

To minimise diet-induced variability on experimental days, participants were provided with a standardised breakfast, morning tea, lunch and additional snacks to be consumed before 14:00 hours on each experimental day. A detailed summary of the standardised meal protocol is reported elsewhere. 21 Participants were fitted with an ActiGraph GT3X+ accelerometer for continuous wear on their non-dominant wrist from the morning of the intervention day to 48 hours after the intervention. In the 24 hours prior to the first experimental condition, participants were asked to avoid all moderate-intensity to vigorous-intensity physical activity. Participants verbally self-reported compliance with all pre-intervention protocols before each experimental session.

Intervention protocol

Details of the laboratory intervention sessions have been described previously. 21 Each participant completed two 4-hour sessions, on the same day of the week, from 17:00–17:30 to 21:30–22:00 hours, separated by a minimum 6-day washout to eliminate carry-over effects (median 6 days, IQR 6–12 days). The intervention sessions were conducted on either Tuesday or Thursday evenings, to ensure the next day was a ‘typical’ weekday, rather than a weekend day. In the prolonged sitting condition, participants remained seated for the duration of the session. The regular activity breaks condition was identical, except participants interrupted sitting with 3 min of simple resistance exercises every 30 min. Each break involved three exercises (chair squats, calf raises and standing knee raises with straight leg hip extensions) for 20 s each over three rounds. Participants performed exercises in time with a video recording of a person performing the exercises in a time standardised manner, and included reminders about form and a timer. These simple, body weight resistance exercises were chosen as the mode of activity breaks for this study as they do not require equipment, can be performed on the spot and have been used previously. 22 During the first session, participants were permitted to get up and use the bathroom as required and bathroom breaks were replicated during the subsequent session. While seated participants were able to watch television, read or work on a portable device during both conditions. Two standardised meals were provided during each condition at baseline and 2 hours. Sessions were supervised by two members of the research team. All participants completed every activity break, and no adverse events were reported during the breaks. Following the sessions, participants returned to their normal free-living environment with no further standardisation.

Physical activity and sleep data processing

For both periods of physical activity assessment (pre-trial habitual physical activity and the assessment of activity immediately prior to, during and after each intervention) time-stamped activity data were downloaded using ActiLife software (ActiLife V.6.13.4), saved in 15 s epoch and imported into Stata. Self-reported sleep and wake times were entered manually into ActiLife to constrain the Cole-Kripke algorithm 23 that determined sleep period time (time between self-reported time attempted sleep and the wake time), wake after sleep onset (WASO (minutes spent awake between sleep onset determined by algorithm and end of sleep)), total sleep time (amount of time spent sleeping during sleep period time for example, sleep period time minus WASO), number of awakenings and sleep efficiency (how consolidated the sleep was). The intensity and duration of activity performed during self-reported non-wear time (eg, contact sport) were identified and manually overwritten in Stata. Sedentary time was classified as <2860 counts/min, with total physical activity represented by over this cut point (ie, ≥2860), which therefore combines light, moderate and vigorous activity. 24 Valid wear time was classified as wear time ≥10 hours during waking hours.

Physical activity and sleep data were separated into two distinct time periods: intervention and post-intervention ( online supplemental figure 1 ). The post-intervention period was defined as the 48-hour period following the end time of the experimental condition although each nocturnal period (defined based on self-reported attempted sleep and wake times) during the post-intervention period was analysed separately.

Statistical analysis

Thirty participants completed the study, however, two participants with missing data were excluded (n=1: accelerometer malfunction, n=1: removed accelerometer overnight). Twenty-eight participants were included in the analyses. To investigate differences between conditions, mixed-effects regression models were used with sleep and activity variables as outcomes, intervention condition as the independent variable and participant as a random effect. Mean differences, 95% CIs and p values were calculated. Residuals of models were plotted and visually assessed for homoskedasticity and normality. A p value of <0.05 was considered statistically significant. All analyses were carried out in Stata V.17.0 (StataCorp LLC, College Station, Texas, USA).

Time spent in physical activity and sedentary behaviour were reported in (1) absolute minutes and (2) proportions of the waking day. Both are reported because if sleep period time is different between conditions, then absolute minutes in activity and sedentary time would necessarily be different due to the 24-hour constraint of the day. In this situation, the difference in activity or sedentary time may not represent the effect of the intervention directly, but rather represent displacement of other time because of a change in sleep period time. Proportions, however, describe differences in time-use composition of the waking day, independent of sleep period time. Both are informative.

The first 24 hours was analysed as the primary time period to assess the acute effects of regular activity breaks in the evening. The full post-intervention period (48 hours) was analysed as the secondary time period to determine if any acute effects were apparent over 2 days.

As an increase in these sleep and activity variables can be either health promoting (sleep period time, total sleep time, sleep efficiency and physical activity) or not health promoting (WASO, number of night awakenings and sedentary time), a forest plot was created so that direction and strength of effects could be visually assessed more easily. For this, all mean differences and 95% CIs were standardised to be in units of SD.

Equity, diversity and inclusion statement

Our research and author team consist of women, junior, mid-career and senior researchers from different disciplines (Human Nutrition & Dietetics, Biostatistics Sleep and Exercise Sciences); however, all members are based at one University. We acknowledge that our study population is mostly well-educated, white women. We did not purposefully recruit marginalised communities, nor did we investigate the effects of merorganisation on the observed responses.

This study was commenced in March 2021 and ended in October 2021 when the intended sample size was reached (n=30). Participants were mostly women, of New Zealand European ethnicity, and 19–39 years of age ( table 1 ). Based on habitual accelerometry prior to intervention, participants spent 7 hours 47 min (SD 1 hour 13 min) asleep, 10 hours 31 min (1 hour 27 min) sedentary and 4 hours 55 min (1 hour 20 min) engaged in total (light and moderate-to-vigorous) physical activity on average. Three-quarters of participants had an optimal sleep duration, 21% were short sleepers (<7 hours) and 4% were long sleepers (>9 hours).

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Participant characteristics* (n=28)

In the first nocturnal period, regular activity breaks increased sleep period time (the quantity of time between sleep onset and end of sleep) by 29.3 min (95% CI: 1.3 to 57.2, p=0.040, table 2 ) compared with prolonged sitting. There were no significant differences in sleep efficiency, WASO and number of awakenings. Total sleep time (amount of time a person spends sleeping during sleep period) was 27.7 min longer (95% CI: 2.3 to 52.4, p=0.033) following the regular activity breaks intervention (7 hours 12 min, SD 48 min) compared with prolonged sitting (6 hours and 45 min, SD 82 min) ( table 2 ). Time that sleep was attempted did not significantly differ between conditions (11:56 pm for prolonged sitting and 11:58 pm for regular activity breaks) whereas mean wake times the following morning were different (7:35 am for prolonged sitting, 8:06 am for regular activity breaks ( online supplemental table 1 ).

The effect of regular activity breaks and prolonged sitting in the evening on sleep, physical activity and sedentary time in the following 24 hours (n=28)

There were no statistically significant differences in activity patterns in the 24 hours following each intervention. However, compared with prolonged sitting, the regular activity breaks intervention resulted in 18 min (95% CI: −50.3 to 13.8, p=0.265) less total physical activity and 1.6% (95% CI: −4.6 to 1.4, p=0.289) less waking time being active, in the 24-hour period following intervention.

Figure 2 shows health-promoting effects of regular activity breaks in the evening with increased sleep period time (effect size 0.42 SD, 95% CI: 0.01 to 0.82) and total sleep time (effect size 0.38 SD, 95% CI: 0.01 to 0.75), as well as a (small, non-significant) decrease in sedentary time. Decreases in sleep efficiency and total physical activity and increases in WASO and number of awakenings were all small (effect size <0.3) and non-significant.

Standardised effect sizes for sleep and physical activity variables for night one following the regular activity breaks intervention compared with prolonged sitting, grouped as either health promoting or not health promoting.

There were no significant differences in measures of sleep or activity over the entire 48 hours following each intervention ( table 3 ). The mean difference in sleep period time for regular activity breaks compared with prolonged sitting in the subsequent 48-hour period was 0 min (−20.5 to 20.5, p>0.999). Mean bedtime, sleep onset and wake times for each nocturnal period by intervention can be found in online supplemental eTable 1 .

The effect of regular activity breaks and prolonged sitting in the evening on sleep, physical activity and sedentary time in the following 48 hours (n=28)

This study appears to be the first to explore the effect of evening resistance exercise breaks on subsequent sleep quality and physical activity patterns in healthy adults. Our results indicate that performing regular activity breaks in the evening in a laboratory setting significantly improves free-living sleep period time and total sleep time. Furthermore, this pattern of activity does not appear to disrupt other measured components of free-living sleep quality, nor does it negatively impact subsequent free-living physical activity.

These results add to a growing body of evidence that indicates evening exercise does not disrupt sleep quality, despite current sleep recommendations to the contrary. A meta-analysis of 23 experimental studies reported that, compared with no-exercise, performing one bout of physical activity ending within 4 hours prior to bedtime had no effect on total sleep time, WASO, sleep onset latency and efficiency. 10 Most of these studies used high-intensity cardiovascular physical activity protocols such as cycling or running, usually as a singular bout. Much less research has employed resistance exercise protocols 11 25 26 which may also be a more pragmatic and simple choice for evening activity breaks protocols as individuals can perform the breaks on the spot without interrupting evening activities, such a streaming, thus improving adherence. Our study extends these findings by showing that short bouts of resistance activity performed throughout the evening also do not disrupt sleep quality, and in fact may be beneficial to total sleep time.

While existing research indicates that evening exercise may not adversely impact sleep, the mechanisms by which evening exercise influences sleep quality remain unclear. Increases in core temperature and extended periods of heart rate elevation which can influence melatonin production and increase neurological activity are unlikely with regular activity breaks using resistance exercises 25 27 performed in short bouts, which may explain why there were no differences in sleep quality in the present study. However, the mechanisms behind sleep extension observed in the current study are harder to explain and require further mechanistic data to elucidate.

It is important to note that after completing the prolonged sitting intervention, more than half of our participants (57%) slept <7 hours that night. Therefore, regular bodyweight resistance exercise breaks in the evening have the potential to help individuals meet optimal sleep recommendations and, over the long term, reduce cardiometabolic disease risk. Furthermore, previous research indicates that 30 additional minutes of sleep time have been found to have a positive impact of clinical well-being, thus suggesting our results are clinically relevant, especially so if the benefit could be extended over the long-term. 28

Over the subsequent two nocturnal periods, the mean difference in sleep period time between interventions was 0 min which could indicate some degree of compensation for the additional sleep accrued in the first nocturnal period. Interestingly, as studies often assess compensation for sleep loss rather than sleep extension, 29 explanations of this effect will require further research. Although not statistically significant, there was a reduction in total physical activity of 18 min in the 24 hours following the regular activity breaks intervention compared with prolonged sitting. However, as the proportion of waking time spent in total activity did not change, it seems likely that the additional sleep has, in this case, displaced some total activity.

Research and policy implications

These results provide further evidence that the prevailing guidance to avoid physical activity in the hours before sleep should be removed from sleep hygiene recommendations. To better assess compensatory effects, future studies should assess the impact of performing evening regular activity breaks on sleep quality and activity patterns over a longer period. Additionally, future research should investigate the mechanisms driving evening regular activity breaks induced sleep extension.

Strengths and limitations

Key strengths of the study include its crossover design, which controls for individual variability, and our examination of both the immediate effects of the exercise protocols on sleep and the longer-term examination on activity patterns. Rigorous standardisation protocols were employed for food and physical activity. These strengths elevate the likelihood that the increase in sleep observed can be attributed to the regular activity breaks. Word of mouth recruitment resulted in a sample that was mostly young adult women, which limits the generalisability of the findings. However, participants self-reported spending large parts of their day (at least 5 hours) and evening (at least 2 hours) sedentary. This probably reflects the activity patterns of a wider portion of the population as it is estimated that adults spend more than half of the day engaged in sedentary behaviour. 30 There is limited nationally representative data on sedentary behaviour among New Zealand adults, however, habitual sedentary time of participants in the current study (65% of waking time) is slightly more than larger samples of adults from the USA (58% of monitored wake time). 31 Although participants were not screened for sleep disorders/complaints, objectively measured baseline sleep duration was somewhat similar to national data (collected via self-report) which indicated that ~68% of adults met sleep guidelines (75% in the current study) while 27% were short sleepers (21% in the current study). 32 As sleep was the main outcome, accelerometers were worn on the wrist, rather than on the waist (which is more appropriate for measurement of physical activity). As differentiating between moderate-to-vigorous and light-intensity physical activity can be difficult using existing wrist-worn accelerometry cut points, 33 only total physical activity was reported. As with all laboratory studies, the highly controlled setting may not reflect behaviour in a free-living setting. Thus, further research is required to assess whether activity breaks performed in the evening in a free-living setting can replicate beneficial impacts on sleep as reported here.

Evidence indicates that regular evening activity breaks have a positive effect on acute postprandial glucose and insulin responses in healthy adults. 21 The current study shows that this same protocol also extends subsequent sleep. Future research should explore the acceptability of performing regular evening activity breaks in a free-living setting to inform further intervention development. Additionally, future health initiatives could include tools (eg, a mobile application) to break up evening sedentary time with activity, which hold promise in improving cardiometabolic health via multiple targets (postprandial metabolism and sleep).

Ethics statements

Patient consent for publication.

Not applicable.

Ethics approval

This study involves human participants. The study was approved by the University of Otago Ethics Committee (Health; H20/161, December 2020). Participants gave informed consent to participate in the study before taking part.

Acknowledgments

We thank all study participants and research staff involved in the project.

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Supplementary materials

Supplementary data.

This web only file has been produced by the BMJ Publishing Group from an electronic file supplied by the author(s) and has not been edited for content.

  • Data supplement 1
  • Data supplement 2

Presented at Prior Presentation: Parts of this study were presented in abstract form at the Sleep in Aotearoa 2023 Annual Scientific Meeting, Dunedin, New Zealand, 22–23 June 2023.

Contributors MCP, JJH and RT contributed to conceptualisation. JJH and MCP contributed to methodology. JTG and JJH contributed to formal analysis. MCP, JJH and JTG contributed to investigation. MCP contributed to resources. JJH contributed to data curation. JTG contributed to writing—original draft preparation. JTG, DLW, JJH, RT and MCP contributed to writing—review and editing. JJH and MCP contributed to supervision. JTG contributed to project administration. MCP contributed to funding acquisition. All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.

Funding This research was funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand. JTG was supported by the Department of Human Nutrition Doctoral Scholarship, University of Otago.

Disclaimer MCP is the guarantor of this work and, as such, had full access to all the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Competing interests None declared.

Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.

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