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Research Paper Introduction

After the title page and abstract, the reader’s first true interaction with your research paper is the introduction. Your introduction will establish the foundation upon which your readers approach your work. This video includes:

✔ Content you need to include in the Introduction

✔ The order of information and exposition

✔ Writing tips checklist for writing a stronger introduction

Video Outline: 1. What is the purpose of the Introduction? 2. How do I structure my introduction? 3. What content needs to be included? 4. When should I draft the Introduction? 5. Introduction writing dos and don’ts


After the title page and abstract, the reader's first true interaction with the research paper is the introduction. Your introduction will establish the foundation upon which your readers approach your work. And if you use the tips we discuss in this video, these readers should logically apply the rules set in your introduction to all parts of your paper, all the way through the conclusion.

What exactly is the purpose of the introduction? Think about your paper as the chronological story. It will begin at point A -- the introduction, and move in time to point B, the discussion and conclusion. Since your introduction includes content about the gaps in knowledge that your study aims to fill, the results you elaborate on in your discussion section should therefore be somewhat familiar to the reader, as you have already touched upon them in them in the introduction section.

The introduction must answer two main questions: why was this particular study needed to fill the gaps in knowledge? And why does this particular gap need filling?

Imagine our entire plain of knowledge as an incommplete puzzle. The pieces snap together are what is established or what is known. The missing piece is the gap in knowledge from what is currently unknown. This is what your study will be helping to explain. So the context you provide in the introduction must first identify that there is a knowledge gap in what it is, it must explain why it needs to be filled, and then briefly summarize how this study intends to fill that gap and why.

The introduction is one of the most compact parts of the research paper. Since it is not very long but needs to essentially give a complete overview of the context in what your study is taking place and your specific reasons for doing this study. Most tend to be around ten percent of the total length of your paper.

The introduction consists of background information about a topic being studied, the rationale for undertaking the study or for filling the gap with this particular information, key references to preliminary work or closely related papers appearing elsewhere, clarification of important terms, definitions or abbreviations to be used in the paper, and a review of related studies in which you give a brief but incisive analysis of work that heavily concerns your study. It could be a very similar study, or one that supports the findings of your new study.

So how should you structure your introduction? As you can see in this figure, your introduction should start broadly, then narrow until it reaches your hypothesis. The first thing you want to do is state your area of research and then immediately show what is already known. This is also known as background information. Then move onto what is unknown; the problem or gap you want to resolve. Finally, you should discuss how you would resolve this problem using a clear hypothesis.

In step 1, you will show what is already known. Start with a strong statement that reflects your research subject area and ask questions or pose statements to frame the problems your study explores. You can ask general questions here to guide your readers to the problem and show them what we already know. For instance, what do we know about breathing capability of bottlenose dolphins. Use keywords from your title, the exact language of your study that is, to zero in on the problem at hand and show the relevance of your work. Avoid stating background information that is too broad in nature. You don't need to state too many obvious facts that your readers would know. If you were writing about bottlenose dolphins for instance, you probably don't need to explain to them that mammals breathe oxygen.

At the beginning of the introduction you should also be sure to cite all of the sources that you used for background information and support. Only provide the necessary background information. Don't focus extensively on background, but use it to setup the context for doing the study. You should also review only relevant up-to-date primary literature that supports your explanation of our current face of knowledge.

In the second part of your introduction, you should answer the question, what is the knowledge gap? Here you highlight areas where too little information is available. Explain how and why we should fill in that gap. What does this missing information do to impede our understanding of a process or system. And you should identify what logical next steps can be developed based on existing research. By showing you have examined current data and defines the method to find new applications and make new inferences, you're showing your peers that you are aware of the direction your research is moving in. And you're showing confidence in your decision to pursue this paper's study.

In the last part of your introduction you will show how your study fills in the knowledge gap. This is where you state your purpose and give a clear hypothesis or objective of the study. A hypothesis is a very short, one to two sentence, supposition or explanation of what will happen in your study. This is quite often written in an if/then format. If X and Y are present, then Z will occur.

Here you should also try to answer the question, if we fill this gap, what useful information will the readers gain? Many researchers have difficulty when it comes to deciding when to write their introduction. It is important to consider the order you draft your research paper. For as you recall, everything else in the research paper must flow from the introduction.

Therefore, because it is one of the most difficult sections to nail down, consider writing the introduction second to last, after the materials and methods, results and discussion section, and just before the conclusion. This will ensure you have effectively lay a groundwork for the rest of your paper. And you can use the research you have already compiled to ensure that everything in your introduction is pertinent and accurate.

In addition to content and organization, writers of research papers should also be aware of grammar and style issues that directly affect the readability and strength of their printed work. Here are some guidelines for writing the introduction section.

Try to write in the active voice when possible. This will shorten your sentences and enhance the impact of your information. Always strive for concise sentences. This will allow you get in all of the necessary information in this compact introduction section. Use stronger verbs when possible. This also impacts sentence length and strength of writing. Be careful not to overuse first-person pronouns such as, I and we. And always organize your thoughts from the broad to the specific as we have seen in our model.

A strong introduction will encourage readers to read your entire research paper and help get your work published in scientific journals. For more information and tips on manuscript writing and journal submissions, visit the resources page and

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