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How to write an introduction section of a scientific article?

An article primarily includes the following sections: introduction, materials and methods, results, discussion, and conclusion. Before writing the introduction, the main steps, the heading and the familiarity level of the readers should be considered. Writing should begin when the experimental system and the equipment are available. The introduction section comprises the first portion of the manuscript, and it should be written using the simple present tense. Additionally, abbreviations and explanations are included in this section. The main goal of the introduction is to convey basic information to the readers without obligating them to investigate previous publications and to provide clues as to the results of the present study. To do this, the subject of the article should be thoroughly reviewed, and the aim of the study should be clearly stated immediately after discussing the basic references. In this review, we aim to convey the principles of writing the introduction section of a manuscript to residents and young investigators who have just begun to write a manuscript.

Introduction

When entering a gate of a magnificent city we can make a prediction about the splendor, pomposity, history, and civilization we will encounter in the city. Occasionally, gates do not give even a glimpse of the city, and it can mislead the visitors about inner sections of the city. Introduction sections of the articles are like gates of a city. It is a presentation aiming at introducing itself to the readers, and attracting their attention. Attractiveness, clarity, piquancy, and analytical capacity of the presentation will urge the reader to read the subsequent sections of the article. On the other hand as is understood from the motto of antique Greek poet Euripides “a bad beginning makes a bad ending”, ‘Introduction’ section of a scientific article is important in that it can reveal the conclusion of the article. [ 1 ]

It is useful to analyze the issues to be considered in the ‘Introduction’ section under 3 headings. Firstly, information should be provided about the general topic of the article in the light of the current literature which paves the way for the disclosure of the objective of the manuscript. Then the specific subject matter, and the issue to be focused on should be dealt with, the problem should be brought forth, and fundamental references related to the topic should be discussed. Finally, our recommendations for solution should be described, in other words our aim should be communicated. When these steps are followed in that order, the reader can track the problem, and its solution from his/her own perspective under the light of current literature. Otherwise, even a perfect study presented in a non-systematized, confused design will lose the chance of reading. Indeed inadequate information, inability to clarify the problem, and sometimes concealing the solution will keep the reader who has a desire to attain new information away from reading the manuscript. [ 1 – 3 ]

First of all, explanation of the topic in the light of the current literature should be made in clear, and precise terms as if the reader is completely ignorant of the subject. In this section, establishment of a warm rapport between the reader, and the manuscript is aimed. Since frantic plunging into the problem or the solution will push the reader into the dilemma of either screening the literature about the subject matter or refraining from reading the article. Updated, and robust information should be presented in the ‘Introduction’ section.

Then main topic of our manuscript, and the encountered problem should be analyzed in the light of the current literature following a short instance of brain exercise. At this point the problems should be reduced to one issue as far as possible. Of course, there might be more than one problem, however this new issue, and its solution should be the subject matter of another article. Problems should be expressed clearly. If targets are more numerous, and complex, solutions will be more than one, and confusing.

Finally, the last paragraphs of the ‘Introduction’ section should include the solution in which we will describe the information we generated, and related data. Our sentences which arouse curiosity in the readers should not be left unanswered. The reader who thinks to obtain the most effective information in no time while reading a scientific article should not be smothered with mysterious sentences, and word plays, and the readers should not be left alone to arrive at a conclusion by themselves. If we have contrary expectations, then we might write an article which won’t have any reader. A clearly expressed or recommended solutions to an explicitly revealed problem is also very important for the integrity of the ‘Introduction’ section. [ 1 – 5 ]

We can summarize our arguments with the following example ( Figure 1 ). The introduction section of the exemplary article is written in simple present tense which includes abbreviations, acronyms, and their explanations. Based on our statements above we can divide the introduction section into 3 parts. In the first paragraph, miniaturization, and evolvement of pediatric endourological instruments, and competitions among PNL, ESWL, and URS in the treatment of urinary system stone disease are described, in other words the background is prepared. In the second paragraph, a newly defined system which facilitates intrarenal access in PNL procedure has been described. Besides basic references related to the subject matter have been given, and their outcomes have been indicated. In other words, fundamental references concerning main subject have been discussed. In the last paragraph the aim of the researchers to investigate the outcomes, and safety of the application of this new method in the light of current information has been indicated.

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Object name is TJU-39-Supp-8-g01.jpg

An exemplary introduction section of an article

Apart from the abovementioned information about the introduction section of a scientific article we will summarize a few major issues in brief headings

Important points which one should take heed of:

  • Abbreviations should be given following their explanations in the ‘Introduction’ section (their explanations in the summary does not count)
  • Simple present tense should be used.
  • References should be selected from updated publication with a higher impact factor, and prestigous source books.
  • Avoid mysterious, and confounding expressions, construct clear sentences aiming at problematic issues, and their solutions.
  • The sentences should be attractive, tempting, and comjprehensible.
  • Firstly general, then subject-specific information should be given. Finally our aim should be clearly explained.

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How to Structure the Introduction Section of Your Manuscript

The Introduction section is an important part of a manuscript. This section serves two main purposes. The first is to pique your reader’s interest. To do this, you want your Introduction to be direct , specific, and clear . You also want the text to be readable and as short as possible .

The second purpose of the Introduction is to be informative. You want to prepare readers, regardless of their background, to understand the paper.

To write an informative Introduction, follow the structure and guidelines below.

The Introduction has a fairly standard structure that is shaped like a funnel. The content starts broad and progressively narrows down to a question and hypothesis.

Paragraph 1 – Context and significance

Start your Introduction by giving your reader some background and context. Open with a sentence that introduces your reader to your field and gives them a big picture perspective. For example, if you study a gene linked to Alzheimer’s disease, you might start by describing the prevalence of this disease and its devastating impact on patients and their families. Or, if you are testing a new treatment for patients with colon cancer, you may want to start by describing the lack of effective treatments for the disease.

Then you want to start pointing toward your specific area of research within the broader field. If we think about the examples above, you might mention the value of genetic research in finding treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, or the need to develop more effective treatments for colon cancer. This approach will indicate the larger problem you aim to address with your work—the significance.

Paragraph 2+ – Rationale and relevance

After pointing toward your area of research, progressively narrow down to your specific area of interest. For example, you might introduce the gene you study and how that gene is linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Or you might introduce the type of treatment that you are developing and how that treatment might effectively treat cancer.

As you draft this paragraph (or two), you want to set the stage for what you set out to accomplish in your study. Describe what is known in your field, citing references and distinguishing your previous work from the work of others. Then lead your reader to what is unknown or what problem needs to be addressed. This approach will highlight the rationale and relevance of your work.

In this paragraph, include a clear statement that implies or states the importance of the work. You do not always need to clearly indicate the big picture importance of the work. For example, in basic research, adding new knowledge to the field is important enough.

Paragraph 3 – Question and approach

In the last paragraph of your Introduction, state the question you set out to answer. This question often takes the form of a hypothesis, objective, aim, or purpose statement.

Note that this question is the single most important statement in the Introduction section. The entire paper depends on this statement.

In some cases, you may also want to briefly introduce readers to your overall approach to answer the question. This information is most helpful if your approach is new, unusual, or complicated. It can also be helpful if you need to identify your study as a specific type (eg, retrospective, in vitro).

If you wish to include a few words about your methodology , such as the model system or study type you used, keep the details to a minimum. Detailed methods belong in the Materials and Methods section. To help you keep this information concise, you can often combine the question and approach in a single statement: “to determine X, we used Y approach.”

In this final paragraph, resist the temptation to summarize your findings, state your conclusions, or describe the overall significance of your completed work. You don’t want to give away the conclusions of your study before telling the story of your experiments (methods) and findings (results). This summary would be best placed at the beginning of your Discussion section.

When to Write the Introduction

When writing a manuscript, many authors believe that they need to start with the abstract or Introduction section. They think that they need to write the manuscript in the same order that readers will read it. But drafting your manuscript in a different order is more efficient and effective.

I recommend waiting to draft the Introduction until after you have written your Discussion section. After drafting the Discussion , you will have a better idea of the key points you want to make. You will know what background the reader will need to understand your research, including its context within your field and what others have shown. This information will help you more easily and efficiently draft the Introduction section.

Want an outline to help you draft the Introduction section of your manuscript? Get access to our free writing toolkit!

section of introduction

Crystal is an editor, educator, coach, and speaker who helps scientists and clinicians communicate with clear, concise, and compelling writing. You can follow her on LinkedIn .

15 Helpful Keyboard Shortcuts that Save You Time While Writing

When to use methodology vs methods.

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How to Write a Journal Article Introduction Section

section of introduction

Our journal manuscript series has covered the various sections of a scientific article according to the order in which we recommend you write them ( Figures ,  Methods section ,  Results section ,  Discussion section , and Conclusion section ). In this second-to-last installment, we’ll talk about the Introduction and how to draft it in a way that intrigues your readers and makes them want to continue reading. After all, the journal publications industry is a business, so editors won’t accept your article unless they’re confident their readership will be interested.

What is an Introduction in a research paper?

After the Abstract (the final section of the paper you should draft) and the visual aids, like figures,  a reader’s first true interaction with your work is the Introduction . Thus, like any other story, you must set a compelling stage that invites your readers into your research world. Essentially,  your Introduction will establish the foundation upon which your readers will approach your work . You lay down the rules of interpretation, and if your manuscript follows the tips we’ve given in this series, your readers should be able to logically apply those rules throughout all parts of your paper, including the conclusion in your Discussion section.

Before we examine what specifically belongs in this critical context-defining section of your manuscript, let’s explore a practical point about writing the Introduction.

When should I write the Introduction section?

You may recall that we recommended a particular order for drafting your manuscript—an order that suggests the Introduction should be written second to last. You may also remember we talked about how the Discussion (or the Conclusion section for journals that separate the Discussion and Conclusion) should answer the questions raised in the Introduction. So which is it? Write the Introduction first or the Discussion? Honestly, the Introduction should come second to last because it is one of the harder sections of the manuscript to nail correctly. Therefore,  we recommend writing the Introduction in two stages.

Start with a skeletal Introduction that clearly states the hypothesis (the question your research answers). Then proceed with fully drafting the remaining parts of your manuscript, including analyzing your results in the Discussion and drawing rough conclusions that you will later refine. Once you’ve finished the other parts, return to your Introduction and incorporate the information we outline further below under the heading “What should I include in the Introduction?” After, modify the Discussion’s conclusion accordingly and polish the entire piece once again.

What to Include in the Introduction Section

Your paper must read like a chronological story ; it will begin with point A (the Introduction) and advance in time toward point B (the Discussion/Conclusion). If you recall from our prior article,  the Discussion should answer the questions  “why  this  particular study was needed to fill the gap in scientific knowledge we currently have and why that gap needed filling in the first place.” The Introduction answers similar but distinct questions.  The context you establish in the Introduction must first identify that there is a knowledge gap and then explain how you intend to fill that gap and why .

Imagine that your paper is an hourglass figure, as in the infographic below. Your Introduction holds the sand of knowledge that we currently have (the top bulb), and as the sand trickles through the neck (your research), it builds up a new base of knowledge (the bottom bulb). Thus your paper traces that journey from the top of the hourglass to the bottom, answering the questions in the infographic along the way. As a part of that journey, your Introduction is the starting point that answers the first three questions concisely.

How to Write a Journal Introduction Section

As you can see from above, your Introduction should start broadly and narrow until it reaches your hypothesis. Now, let’s examine how we can achieve this flow of ideas more closely.

What is known about the current research topic?

  • Start the Introduction with a strong statement that reflects your research subject area.  Use keywords from your title to help you focus and avoid starting too broadly .
  • Avoid stating too many obvious facts that your target readers would know . You should be precise about the area of focus so that readers can properly orient themselves before diving into your paper.
  • As a trick to help you combat too broad a start, write down your hypothesis or purpose first .
  • Then work backward to think about what background information your reader needs to appreciate the significance of your study.
  • Stop going back when you reach the point where your readers would be comfortable understanding the statements you make but might not be fully confident to explain all the aspects of those facts.
  • Cite relevant, up-to-date primary literature to support your explanation of our current base of knowledge . Make sure to include any significant works that might contradict your argument and address the flaws with that opposing line of thought. You want your readers to conclude that your approach is more plausible than alternative theories.
  • Be sure to cite your sources . Plagiarism is a serious offense in the academic community that will hurt your credibility (not to mention it is a violation of many copyright laws). Direct copying or a closely matched language should be avoided. Instead, be sure to use your own words to rephrase what you read in the literature and include references.
  • Remember that  the Introduction is not meant to be a comprehensive literature review ! Don’t overwhelm your reader with a sea of citations. Instead, use key primary literature (i.e., journal articles) to quickly guide your reader from the general study area to more specific material covered by your hypothesis. In other words, the literature you cite should logically lead your reader to develop the same questions that prompted you to do your research project. Roughly a half page should suffice, but double-check with your target journal’s information for authors.

What is the gap in knowledge?

  • As you describe our understanding of the relevant subject matter,  highlight areas where too little information is available . However, don’t stop at saying “little is known about…” You must elaborate and tell your readers why we should care about unearthing additional information about this knowledge gap. See the subheading “How and why should we fill that gap?” for further details.
  • Alternatively, your Introduction should  identify what logical next steps can be developed based on existing research . After all, the purpose of sharing research is to prompt other researchers to develop new inquiries and improve our comprehension of a particular issue. By showing you have examined current data and devised a method to find new applications and make new inferences, you’re showing your peers that you are aware of the direction your field is moving in and confident in your decision to pursue the study contemplated by your paper.

How should we fill that knowledge gap?

  • State your purpose/hypothesis clearly . Surprisingly, many people actually forget to do so! If all else fails, a simple “The purpose of this study was to examine/study X” will suffice.
  • You are proposing a solution to a problem (the gap) you observed in our current knowledge base. As such,  your Introduction must convince your readers that this problem needs solving .
  • In particular, since we are  writing with a particular journal’s readership in mind  (or, at least, you should be!), make sure to address how pertinent your project would be to the reader’s interests.
  • In other words,  if we fill this gap, what useful information will the readers gain ? The answer to that question is the promise you are delivering to your readers, and in the conclusion part of your Discussion, you will give final confirmation of your findings and elaborate more on what your readers can now do with the information your project has contributed to the research community.
  • DON’T draw any conclusions or include any data from your study . Those aspects belong in other parts of your paper.
  • Similarly , DON’T talk about specific techniques in your Introduction  because your readers ought to be familiar with most of them. If you employed a novel technique in your study, and the development of that process is central to your study, then, by all means, include a brief overview.

How to Write the Introduction Section

To round out our guide to drafting the Introduction of your journal article, we provide some general tips about the technical aspects of writing the Introduction section below.

  • Use the active voice.
  • Be concise.
  • Avoid nominalizations (converting phrases, including adjectives and verbs, into nouns). Instead, use the verb form where practical. When you eliminate nominalizations, your sentences will shorten, you’ll maintain an active voice, and your sentences will flow more like natural speech.
  • Do you see those uber long sentences in your draft? Revise them. Anything longer than three to four lines is absurd, and even sentences of that length should be rare. Shorter sentences are clearer, making it easier for your readers to follow your arguments. With that said, don’t condense every sentence. Incorporate a variety of sentence structures and lengths.
  • Similarly, drop the extended sentences with semicolons and serial clauses connected by commas. Again, the purpose of your paper is to provide a CLEAR explanation of your findings.
  • Avoid overusing first-person pronouns. Use them rarely at the beginning of the section and sprinkle them toward the end when you discuss your hypothesis and the rationale behind your study.
  • Organize your thoughts from broad to specific (as described in the section “What should I include in the Introduction” above).
  • BONUS TIP #1: Like any other type of writing,  start your Introduction with an active hook . Writing a summary of your findings shouldn’t be boring. In fact, a dull start will make your readers stop long before they get to the good stuff—your results and discussion! So how do you make an exciting hook? Think about techniques in creative nonfiction like starting with a provoking anecdote, quote or striking piece of empirical data. You’re telling a story, after all, so make it enjoyable!
  • BONUS TIP #2: As one author, reviewer, and editor once stated ,  your Introduction should avoid using phrases like  “novel,” “first ever,” and “paradigm-changing.” Your project might not be paradigm-shifting (few studies truly are); however, if your idea isn’t novel in the first instance, then should you be writing the paper now? If you don’t feel like your research would make a meaningful contribution to current knowledge, then you might want to consider conducting further research before approaching the drafting table.

And keep in mind that receiving English proofreading and paper editing services for your manuscript before submission to journals greatly increases your chances of publication. Wordvice provides high-quality professional editing for all types of academic documents and includes a free certificate of editing .

You can also find these resources plus information about the journal submission process in our FREE downloadable e-book:  Research Writing and Journal Publication E-Book .

Wordvice Resources

  • How to Write a Research Paper Introduction 
  • Which Verb Tenses to Use in a Research Paper
  • How to Write an Abstract for a Research Paper
  • How to Write a Research Paper Title
  • Useful Phrases for Academic Writing
  • Common Transition Terms in Academic Papers
  • Active and Passive Voice in Research Papers
  • 100+ Verbs That Will Make Your Research Writing Amazing
  • Tips for Paraphrasing in R esearch Papers

Additional Resources

  •   Guide for Authors.  (Elsevier)
  •  How to Write the Results Section of a Research Paper.  (Bates College)
  •   Structure of a Research Paper.  (University of Minnesota Biomedical Library)
  •   How to Choose a Target Journal  (Springer)
  •   How to Write Figures and Tables  (UNC Writing Center)

Orsuamaeze Blessings, Adebayo Alaba Joseph and Oguntimehin Ilemobayo Ifedayo, 2018. Deleterious effects of cadmium solutions on onion (Allium cepa)  growth and the plant’s potential as bioindicator of Cd exposure. Res. J. Environ. Sci., 12: 114-120. Online:  http://docsdrive.com/pdfs/academicjournals/rjes/2018/114-120.pdf

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Writing a Research Paper Introduction | Step-by-Step Guide

Published on September 24, 2022 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on March 27, 2023.

Writing a Research Paper Introduction

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

  • Present your topic and get the reader interested
  • Provide background or summarize existing research
  • Position your own approach
  • Detail your specific research problem and problem statement
  • Give an overview of the paper’s structure

The introduction looks slightly different depending on whether your paper presents the results of original empirical research or constructs an argument by engaging with a variety of sources.

Table of contents

Step 1: introduce your topic, step 2: describe the background, step 3: establish your research problem, step 4: specify your objective(s), step 5: map out your paper, research paper introduction examples, frequently asked questions about the research paper introduction.

The first job of the introduction is to tell the reader what your topic is and why it’s interesting or important. This is generally accomplished with a strong opening hook.

The hook is a striking opening sentence that clearly conveys the relevance of your topic. Think of an interesting fact or statistic, a strong statement, a question, or a brief anecdote that will get the reader wondering about your topic.

For example, the following could be an effective hook for an argumentative paper about the environmental impact of cattle farming:

A more empirical paper investigating the relationship of Instagram use with body image issues in adolescent girls might use the following hook:

Don’t feel that your hook necessarily has to be deeply impressive or creative. Clarity and relevance are still more important than catchiness. The key thing is to guide the reader into your topic and situate your ideas.

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This part of the introduction differs depending on what approach your paper is taking.

In a more argumentative paper, you’ll explore some general background here. In a more empirical paper, this is the place to review previous research and establish how yours fits in.

Argumentative paper: Background information

After you’ve caught your reader’s attention, specify a bit more, providing context and narrowing down your topic.

Provide only the most relevant background information. The introduction isn’t the place to get too in-depth; if more background is essential to your paper, it can appear in the body .

Empirical paper: Describing previous research

For a paper describing original research, you’ll instead provide an overview of the most relevant research that has already been conducted. This is a sort of miniature literature review —a sketch of the current state of research into your topic, boiled down to a few sentences.

This should be informed by genuine engagement with the literature. Your search can be less extensive than in a full literature review, but a clear sense of the relevant research is crucial to inform your own work.

Begin by establishing the kinds of research that have been done, and end with limitations or gaps in the research that you intend to respond to.

The next step is to clarify how your own research fits in and what problem it addresses.

Argumentative paper: Emphasize importance

In an argumentative research paper, you can simply state the problem you intend to discuss, and what is original or important about your argument.

Empirical paper: Relate to the literature

In an empirical research paper, try to lead into the problem on the basis of your discussion of the literature. Think in terms of these questions:

  • What research gap is your work intended to fill?
  • What limitations in previous work does it address?
  • What contribution to knowledge does it make?

You can make the connection between your problem and the existing research using phrases like the following.

Now you’ll get into the specifics of what you intend to find out or express in your research paper.

The way you frame your research objectives varies. An argumentative paper presents a thesis statement, while an empirical paper generally poses a research question (sometimes with a hypothesis as to the answer).

Argumentative paper: Thesis statement

The thesis statement expresses the position that the rest of the paper will present evidence and arguments for. It can be presented in one or two sentences, and should state your position clearly and directly, without providing specific arguments for it at this point.

Empirical paper: Research question and hypothesis

The research question is the question you want to answer in an empirical research paper.

Present your research question clearly and directly, with a minimum of discussion at this point. The rest of the paper will be taken up with discussing and investigating this question; here you just need to express it.

A research question can be framed either directly or indirectly.

  • This study set out to answer the following question: What effects does daily use of Instagram have on the prevalence of body image issues among adolescent girls?
  • We investigated the effects of daily Instagram use on the prevalence of body image issues among adolescent girls.

If your research involved testing hypotheses , these should be stated along with your research question. They are usually presented in the past tense, since the hypothesis will already have been tested by the time you are writing up your paper.

For example, the following hypothesis might respond to the research question above:

The final part of the introduction is often dedicated to a brief overview of the rest of the paper.

In a paper structured using the standard scientific “introduction, methods, results, discussion” format, this isn’t always necessary. But if your paper is structured in a less predictable way, it’s important to describe the shape of it for the reader.

If included, the overview should be concise, direct, and written in the present tense.

  • This paper will first discuss several examples of survey-based research into adolescent social media use, then will go on to …
  • This paper first discusses several examples of survey-based research into adolescent social media use, then goes on to …

Full examples of research paper introductions are shown in the tabs below: one for an argumentative paper, the other for an empirical paper.

  • Argumentative paper
  • Empirical paper

Are cows responsible for climate change? A recent study (RIVM, 2019) shows that cattle farmers account for two thirds of agricultural nitrogen emissions in the Netherlands. These emissions result from nitrogen in manure, which can degrade into ammonia and enter the atmosphere. The study’s calculations show that agriculture is the main source of nitrogen pollution, accounting for 46% of the country’s total emissions. By comparison, road traffic and households are responsible for 6.1% each, the industrial sector for 1%. While efforts are being made to mitigate these emissions, policymakers are reluctant to reckon with the scale of the problem. The approach presented here is a radical one, but commensurate with the issue. This paper argues that the Dutch government must stimulate and subsidize livestock farmers, especially cattle farmers, to transition to sustainable vegetable farming. It first establishes the inadequacy of current mitigation measures, then discusses the various advantages of the results proposed, and finally addresses potential objections to the plan on economic grounds.

The rise of social media has been accompanied by a sharp increase in the prevalence of body image issues among women and girls. This correlation has received significant academic attention: Various empirical studies have been conducted into Facebook usage among adolescent girls (Tiggermann & Slater, 2013; Meier & Gray, 2014). These studies have consistently found that the visual and interactive aspects of the platform have the greatest influence on body image issues. Despite this, highly visual social media (HVSM) such as Instagram have yet to be robustly researched. This paper sets out to address this research gap. We investigated the effects of daily Instagram use on the prevalence of body image issues among adolescent girls. It was hypothesized that daily Instagram use would be associated with an increase in body image concerns and a decrease in self-esteem ratings.

The introduction of a research paper includes several key elements:

  • A hook to catch the reader’s interest
  • Relevant background on the topic
  • Details of your research problem

and your problem statement

  • A thesis statement or research question
  • Sometimes an overview of the paper

Don’t feel that you have to write the introduction first. The introduction is often one of the last parts of the research paper you’ll write, along with the conclusion.

This is because it can be easier to introduce your paper once you’ve already written the body ; you may not have the clearest idea of your arguments until you’ve written them, and things can change during the writing process .

The way you present your research problem in your introduction varies depending on the nature of your research paper . A research paper that presents a sustained argument will usually encapsulate this argument in a thesis statement .

A research paper designed to present the results of empirical research tends to present a research question that it seeks to answer. It may also include a hypothesis —a prediction that will be confirmed or disproved by your research.

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How to Write an Effective Introduction Section of a Scientific Article

An effective introduction section of a scientific article will form a good first impression by the readers or reviewers. This introduction section contains background information about your research.

Tips for writing your scientific introduction section in this free manuscript writing handbook

For many journals with the IMRAD (introduction, methods, results, and discussion) structure, the purpose of the introduction is to answer these questions:

  • What is the study about?
  • Why is this study important for the scientific community?

If the reviewers don’t understand your study and the significant contribution of the research, they are more likely to reject it (Ahlstrom, 2017).

The IMRAD structuring of a scientific manuscript commonly frames the introduction this way (Nadim, 2005):

  • The background information of the study
  • The reasoning that leads to experimental hypothesis (gap analysis)
  • The goal of the study and research hypothesis
  • The results and the significance of the findings

Familiarize yourself with the introduction of other published works within your journal of interest before you start writing your introduction section.

Some Helpful Steps to Write the Introduction Section of your Scientific Article

1. complete a rough draft of your other sections of the manuscript..

Make sure you have a rough draft of your manuscript with your methods, results and discussions. This draft will guide you when you organize the entire content of your introduction.

2. Perform your literature review. Search by focusing on specific questions.

Your literature search will help shape a foundation for your introduction. The references that you use in your background information should be relevant to your research topic and up to date. This background information contains all information you need to know about your study.

When searching supplemental literature, try to answer these specific questions:

  • What is the background of my study?
  • What are published works related to my study?
  • Why are those studies relevant to my study?
  • What is the background information for my methods?

3. Search more literature to answer questions that are more extensive.

After you search relevant literature to provide basic information that you need to know about your own research, search more literature to answer broader questions.

For this step, your literature search should be focused on collecting additional background information that your readers need to know. This information will help your readers to understand more about your research.

For this part, try to answer these questions:

  • What are the gaps in our present understanding of my field of study?
  • Why is it important for researchers in my field of study to fill in the gaps?
  • What did other published studies find and what did I discover?
  • How would my findings fill in those gaps?

4. Start to write an outline of your introduction section.

The goal on this step is to organize your introduction section by using an outline. Before you start, make sure you check and include commonly used structures of the introduction section for the journal of interest. Use information from your literature reviews to create the background portion of your outline.

Introduction section, Outline

5. Begin writing a list of important keywords for your first paragraph.

To start, list keywords that will be relevant to your first paragraph(s). Keywords are words that represent your research topic and the content of your manuscript. They act like a code, helping readers connect context to commonly used terms.

For example: the name of the human disease and the virus in your study are keywords.

This approach will grab the attention of the readers and help you to focus on your topic. In addition, these keywords will help your paper get entered into various research databases (including Google Scholar).

Introduction section, keywords for scientific article

6. Write the background information of your study using your keywords and important, relevant articles as references.

The purpose of this step is to provide guidance for your readers who are not familiar with your study. Use information gathered from your literature reviews in step 3 and step 2 in the first three sentences of your first paragraph. Also include relevant keywords from step 5.

Readers generally have an expectation that information presented will move from broadly presented to narrowly presented. Consider a funnel as you being writing - broad at the top, and very narrow at the bottom (A. Hofmann, 2013).

Common structures of Introduction Section of a Scientific Article

7. Purge irrelevant sentences and references from your introduction’s background.

Include only important articles related to your research topic in the background. For example, if your study is about a human virus, you may include references about other viruses from the same family that cause human diseases as long as it’s pertinent to your research.

8. Present your gap analysis and a brief review of your research goal or working hypothesis.

Discuss the earlier research/theoretical framework and how it leads you to your research goal or hypothesis (gap analysis).

section of introduction

For example, mention the limitations of previously published works. Then write about your research goal, explain why your research is the next logical step to fill the gaps in those studies, and briefly state your research hypothesis and methods.

9. Mention a summary of your findings or results.

Now you begin your transition from background to your research questions, your methods, justification of your findings and then to the impact of your research.

The purpose of this step is to convince the reviewers that your research is worth publishing by explaining the need, methodology and impact. It also helps readers understand how your work relates to their own or will answer their questions.

This summary should show what you discovered from your results and the significance of your findings. If possible, you may also mention the possible future impact of your research.

10. Start putting it all together.

Evaluate your entire introduction section. Make sure it follows ‘the funneling of information’. Your paragraphs should start with broader issues then narrow down, and from background information to the impact of your study.

11. Refine the paragraphs, check off your outline, and polish your introduction section.

Make sure your introduction section has all the four common components:

1. The background information of the study

2. The reasoning that leads to experimental hypothesis (gap analysis)

3. The goal of the study and research hypothesis

4. The results and the significance of the findings

In addition, read your introduction section again to make sure it is clear and logical.

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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
  • Academic Writing Style
  • Choosing a Title
  • Making an Outline
  • Paragraph Development
  • Executive Summary
  • Background Information
  • The Research Problem/Question
  • Theoretical Framework
  • Citation Tracking
  • Content Alert Services
  • Evaluating Sources
  • Primary Sources
  • Secondary Sources
  • Tertiary Sources
  • What Is Scholarly vs. Popular?
  • Qualitative Methods
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Using Non-Textual Elements
  • Limitations of the Study
  • Common Grammar Mistakes
  • Avoiding Plagiarism
  • Footnotes or Endnotes?
  • Further Readings
  • Annotated Bibliography
  • Dealing with Nervousness
  • Using Visual Aids
  • Grading Someone Else's Paper
  • How to Manage Group Projects
  • Multiple Book Review Essay
  • Reviewing Collected Essays
  • About Informed Consent
  • Writing Field Notes
  • Writing a Policy Memo
  • Writing a Research Proposal
  • Acknowledgements

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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Top Three Tips for Writing a Good Introduction

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The introduction is one of the main sections of a research article. In this section, referees, editors, and readers can find out what the study is about, what motivated the author to carry out the study, and why the topic of the research is important. The introduction also provides relevant background information and puts the study into context, guiding the readers through the rest of the manuscript and helping the authors describe the depth and challenges of the study.

Writing a good introduction can be a tricky task, authors usually prefer to write this part of the manuscript at the end of the drafting process —once they know what the article will contain and how it will be structured— to ensure that they do not miss anything. These three tips could help authors write a strong introduction:

Tip 1: Set the Context and Explain the Need for Your Work

To start with, authors should provide general information about their study. Authors should state why the work is important and which advances it provides with respect to current knowledge. The goal is to create a compelling and clear article that will win the interest of referees, editors, and readers.

Using phrases such as “recently” , “during the past 10 years” , or “since the discovery of…” can help anchor the context in time. Authors can also place their work within a given research field (e.g. “in the biomedical field,…” or “conducting polymers have received much attention because…” )

Authors must ensure to describe the problem as clearly as possible . Authors should start by discussing the current situation and then state what they would like to achieve, change, or study. Using words such as “but” , “however” , or “unfortunately” can help emphasize the contrast between the current and desired situations .

An effective way to express the objectives of the study is to combine the problem with what has been done to solve it and present it in a single sentence. There are many verbs that can be used to describe the study (investigate, study, measure, design, analyze, develop, model, etc.) and many ways to emphasize the authors’ contribution. For example:

“Material A has received much attention in recent years because of its optical properties . However , its low stability has limited its widespread use. To tackle this problem , we designed a …”

A good introduction should also prepare the readers for the structure of the paper and set up their expectations regarding its content. Here are a few examples:

“This article discusses the importance of…”

  “This manuscript summarizes our results on…”

  “This communication describes the mechanism by which…”

  “This paper reports on…”

Tip 2: Use the Right Tone and Tense

When writing the introduction, authors should use a formal, impersonal tone . While stating accepted facts or truths —or describing a permanent situation— authors can use the present simple tense; for example:

“Gold is a noble metal…”

  However, while describing a particular result or a temporary situation, it is preferable to use the past simple tense and provide the appropriate reference:

“In that study, [1] gold catalyzed the reaction…”

  In some cases, it might be convenient to use the present perfect tense while addressing a problem that has not been solved or looked at before; for example:

“Although the properties of the material are well known, little attention has been paid to…”

  “The exact mechanism has not been reported before…”

  Tip 3: Be Organized

In general, one to four paragraphs should be enough for the introduction, but in order to explain concepts or recent developments in more detail, it might be a good idea to add an additional section —called “State of the Art”, “Background Information”, or something similar— where these terms and/or advances can be discussed better.

A good text must be arranged logically. Thus, the references included in the introduction should be presented in a way that the reader understands why the authors were interested in the study objective. This may be achieved by discussing the studies chronologically; by grouping approaches, theories, or models; or by going from general to specific descriptions.

To make the introduction more understandable, authors can divide it in four parts:

  • Establish the importance of the topic.
  • Discuss previous and/or current research in the field.
  • Identify the problem and explain the approach taken to address it.
  • Briefly describe the present paper.

How often have you got confused between the content of an abstract and an introduction of a research paper ? Learn the difference between abstract and introduction to draft an effective research paper.

You can also visit our  Q&A forum  for frequently asked questions related to different aspects of research writing and publishing answered by our team that comprises subject-matter experts, eminent researchers, and publication experts.

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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
  • Choosing a Title
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  • Tiertiary Sources
  • Scholarly vs. Popular Publications
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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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