Introducing a research paper can be the most challenging part to write. Its length will vary depending on the type of work you are doing. The introduction should announce your topic and provide the context and rationale for your work before stating your research questions and hypotheses. Well-written introductions set the tone of the work, capture the reader's attention and convey the thesis or hypothesis.
Part 1 of 3: Introducing the Work Theme
Step 1. Advertise your research topic
You can begin the introduction with a few sentences that state the topic of your work and indicate the type of research questions you will seek to answer. This is a good way to introduce your topic to readers and hold their attention. The first few sentences should be indicative of a larger problem, which will be covered in more depth in the rest of the introduction, leading to your specific research questions.
- In scientific articles, this approach is sometimes referred to as an "inverted triangle" because you start with the most comprehensive material and work your way up to specific elements.
- The phrase "Over the 20th century, our view of the possibility of life on other planets has changed dramatically" introduces a topic, but in general terms.
- It gives the reader an indication of the content of the article and encourages them to continue reading.
Step 2. Use keywords
When writing a scientific paper for publication, you will need to submit it along with a series of keywords, which give a brief indication of the research areas you will be covering. You might also have put some keywords in the title, and you might want to define and emphasize them in your introduction.
- For example, in an article about the behavior of rats exposed to a specific substance, you would include the word "rat" and the scientific name of the relevant compound in the first few sentences.
- If you are writing a history article about the impact of World War I on gender relations in England, you should mention these keywords in the first lines.
Step 3. Define key terms and concepts
It may be necessary to clarify important terms or concepts at the beginning of the work, within the introduction. You need to express yourself clearly throughout the article, so if you leave an unfamiliar term or concept unexplained, you risk not being well understood by your readers.
This caution is even more important if you are trying to develop a new conceptualization that uses language and terminology unknown to your readers
Step 4. Introduce the topic by telling an anecdote or quoting
If you're writing an article for the humanities, you can find more literary ways to begin the introduction and announce the topic of your text. It is common for articles in these particular areas to begin with an anecdote or quote that points to the topic of research. This is a variation on the "inverted triangle" technique and can generate interest in your work in a more creative way, as well as give rise to a more engaging writing style.
- If using an anecdote, prefer a short one that is highly relevant to your research. It has to work in the same way as an alternative opening, namely, announcing the topic of your article to readers.
- For example, if you are writing a sociology article about recidivism rates among young offenders, you might include a brief story of someone whose trajectory reflects and introduces the topic.
- This type of approach is generally not suitable for introducing papers in the natural or physical sciences, where writing conventions are different.
Part 2 of 3: Establishing the Context of Your Article
Step 1. Include a brief review of the bibliography
Depending on the general extent of your work, it will be necessary to include a review of the bibliography already published in the same area. This is an important element of the article, which shows that you are very knowledgeable and understand well the debates and studies developed in your field. Try to indicate that you have extensive knowledge but are engaging in the specific debates most relevant to your own research.
- It is important to be concise in the introduction, so provide an overview of the latest developments in primary research rather than a lengthy discussion.
- You can follow the "inverted triangle" principle to gradually move from the broader themes to those you will make a direct contribution to with your work.
- A solid review of the bibliography provides important background information for your own research and indicates the importance of that area.
Step 2. Use the bibliography to focus on your contribution
A concise but comprehensive bibliography review can be a very effective way to fit your own work. As you develop your introduction, you can move from the bibliography to your own article and highlight its position in relation to studies in this field.
- With this clear reference to existing research, you can explicitly demonstrate the specific contribution you are making to move the field forward.
- Identify a gap in existing studies and explain how you will address it and make knowledge develop.
Step 3. Give more information about the logic of your work
After putting your research into a broader context, talk in more detail about the logic applied to it, its strengths and its importance. Logic should clearly and concisely state the value of your work and its contribution to the field. Try to go beyond the idea that you are filling a gap in existing studies and highlight the positive contribution of your research.
- For example, if you are writing a scientific paper, emphasize the merits of the experimental approach or the models you used.
- Highlight what's new in your research and the importance of your new approach, but don't go into too much detail in the introduction.
- The rationale can be described as follows: "The study evaluates the hitherto unknown anti-inflammatory effects of a topical compound to analyze its possible clinical uses."
Part 3 of 3: Specifying Your Research Questions and Hypotheses
Step 1. State the questions that motivated your research
After indicating the position of your work in the field and the general logic used in it, specify the questions that motivated you and which the article seeks to answer. The logic and review of the bibliography frame your research and introduce your investigative questions. This question should have evolved organically from the beginning of the introduction so that it will not come as a surprise to the reader.
- These questions usually appear towards the end of the introduction and should be concise and very focused.
- The question may take up some of the keywords established in the first sentences and title of the article.
- An example of an investigative question is, "What were the consequences of the US free trade agreement on exports from Mexico?"
- This issue can be further improved by referring to a specific element of the free trade agreement and the impact on a specific sector in Mexico, such as textiles.
- A good research question should turn a problem into a testable hypothesis.
Step 2. State your hypothesis
After specifying your questions, you need to articulate your hypothesis, or thesis, clearly and concisely. This phrase indicates that your research will make a specific contribution and will have a clear result, rather than just covering a broader topic. Briefly clarify how you arrived at this hypothesis, so that it makes reference to the previous discussion of the existing bibliography.
- If possible, try to avoid using the word "hypothesis" and leave it implicit in your text. That way it will look less plastered.
- In a scientific paper, information will be clear and accessible if you provide an overview of the results and their relationship to the hypothesis in one sentence.
- An example hypothesis: "The rats deprived of food during the study were expected to become more lethargic than those that were fed normally."
Step 3. Describe the structure of your article
In some cases, the final part of the introduction is composed of a few lines that give an overview of the structure of the body of work. This part can only serve to describe how the text was organized and how it is divided into sections.
- It is not always necessary to include this part; pay attention to the writing conventions in your area.
- In natural science works, for example, the structure to be followed is quite rigid.
- When working in the humanities and social sciences, you are likely to have more freedom to vary the structure of the text.
- Use the outline of your work to help you decide what information to include in the introduction.
- Draft the introduction after finishing the rest of the work. Writing this part last can help ensure that you don't forget to include some main points.
- Avoid introductions that appeal to emotion, as they can make the reader suspicious.
- Try not to use personal pronouns such as "I", "we", "my", "our", and others, in the introduction.
- Don't overload the reader with too much information. Keep the introduction short and keep specific details for the body of work.