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        How to Start a Research Paper | Step-by-step Guide

        • calenderOct 19, 2023
        • calender 5 min read

        Learning how to start a research paper is the first checklist item of your academic writing journey. A compelling research paper introduction sets the stage for everything that follows. It clearly defines your argument and gives readers a roadmap for what’s in store.

        But why is a strong introduction to a research paper so important? Simple. It grabs attention and lays the foundation stone of your argument. Through this practical guide, we’ll explore the various elements to include in your introduction for a research paper. We’ll try to shed light through practical tips and examples. So let’s dive in! 

        How to write a research paper introduction?

        First impressions always matter, and this is why adding a strong introduction to a research paper is so important. But what does it constitute? There are 3 main parts broadly – The hook, the background information, and the thesis statement. 

        Let’s look at each one in detail:

        The hook

        The first sentence is your hook, designed to capture the reader’s attention. It can be a provocative question, a surprising fact, or a bold statement. The aim is to pique interest and pose the overarching question that your research seeks to answer. A well-crafted hook is like a magnet—it draws the reader into your intellectual arena.

        Example: Did you know chocolate was once used as currency in ancient civilizations?

        Background information

        When it comes to writing a research paper introduction, your reader needs context but not information overload. Here, you set the stage by providing just enough background information on the topic at hand.

        It can include previous studies on the same topic, the scope, and some context. Consider this your chance to orient your audience before delving into the complexities of your argument. 

        Example: “There has been a significant increase in the incidence of diabetes in recent years. This has led to an increased demand for effective diabetes management strategies. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the effectiveness of a new diabetes management program in improving patient outcomes.”

        The thesis statement

        This is the core of your research paper introduction paragraph. It succinctly outlines the aim and focus of your paper. This is usually the first sentence in the introductory paragraph of a research paper.

        Example: This paper reviews the recent research in cultural psychology and how culture is the byproduct of interpersonal relations and evolution. 

        Some practical tips:

        • Keep your thesis statement specific.
        • Express a single main idea in your statement.
        • Make your thesis statement invite the main discussion.

        In Summary:

        • A compelling hook grabs attention.
        • Just enough background sets the stage and orients the reader.
        • A clear thesis statement should warrant discussion and take some sort of a stand.

        Armed with these three pillars, you’re well on your way to crafting an introduction paragraph of a research paper that captivates and informs.

        In the following sections, we’ll dive deeper into how to start a research paper, offering tailored advice for various types of research undertakings.

        How to Start A Research Paper: Actionable Tips

        So you’re staring at that blinking cursor, feeling the weight of a thousand academic journals on your shoulders. The task: figure out how to start a research paper. Let’s ditch the anxiety and get right to the point!

        Understand your audience

        First and foremost, know who you’re talking to. Is your audience a group of academics or a more general readership? Understanding your audience is like knowing your stage and adjusting your tone and language accordingly.

        To define your audience, try to create a persona – age, sex, economic level, social status, and so on. You can do this by:

        1. Conducting an online survey
        2. Organizing focus groups
        3. Talking to your audience directly via phone calls

        Research beforehand

        Before you even type the first word, dig deep into your topic. Consult sources, both primary and secondary, to have a well-rounded understanding of the issue.

        Check the following aspects before moving to the next step:

        1. Identify Keywords: Find relevant keywords that are related to your topic.
        2. Database Diving: Utilize academic databases like PubMed for medical research or JSTOR for humanities.
        3. Cross-Reference: Always double-check facts from multiple sources.

        You can rely on two kinds of sources for your research, as mentioned below:

        Primary Sources: These are your firsthand accounts or direct evidence. If you’re tackling a historical topic, primary sources could be letters, diaries, or newspaper articles from the time. In scientific research, it might be the raw data from experiments.

        Secondary Sources: These are interpretations or analyses of primary sources. Academic articles, reviews, and most books fall under this category. 

        Craft a strong thesis statement

        A thesis statement focuses on a specific topic. So make your thesis statement is clear and concise.

        Follow the steps mentioned below to craft a strong thesis statement:

        • Be specific: Aim for specificity. Instead of saying, “Social media affects mental health,” say, “Excessive use of social media contributes to increased levels of anxiety among teenagers.”
        • Keep an arguable point: Your thesis should make a claim that can be debated. If it’s a universally accepted fact, there’s no point in arguing.
        • Be focused: Keep it tight and focused. Your thesis statement should be one to two sentences max. It’s the tagline of your paper; it should be concise and to the point.
        • Position it well: Generally, your thesis should appear towards the end of your introduction. It’s like the crescendo in a musical piece, building up to the main event.
        • Revise: Don’t be afraid to go back and tweak it as your paper evolves.

        Example: An analysis of the college admission process reveals one challenge facing counselors: accepting students with high test scores or students with strong extracurricular backgrounds.

        Outline your points

        Before diving into the writing, sketch out an outline. This serves as your roadmap, outlining the key points and sub-points you’ll tackle. In essence, it’s the blueprint of your academic paper.

        Follow these points to create an outline of the research:

        • Identify the main points: These are the arguments or topics that are crucial to your research. List them in the order you plan to address them.
        • Keep solid sub-points and supporting evidence: For each main point, jot down sub-points or examples that support it.
        • Maintain a logical flow: Make sure your points follow a logical sequence. Your arguments should build upon each other.
        • Use transitional phrases: Consider how you’ll transition from one point to the next.
        • Maintain flexibility: Your outline isn’t set in stone. As you dig deeper into your research, you may discover new points that fit better.

        Start writing

        Once you outline your points, it’s time to venture forth. A strong start incorporates the hook, background, and thesis statement, as we’ve discussed. But don’t get stuck striving for perfection; you can always revisit and refine.

        Key Takeaways:

        • Know your audience.
        • Pre-research is your scouting phase.
        • Your thesis is your anchor.
        • Outlining sets the stage.
        • Just start—perfection comes later.

        By following these tips, you’ll be well-equipped to begin your research paper. In the sections that follow, we’ll explore how to write an introduction for a research paper, focusing on specific types for a more targeted approach.

        How to Write a Research Paper Introduction for Different Types of Papers?

        Research papers come in various types – argumentative, empirical, and review papers. Writing an introduction for a research paper of each type comes with its own specific nuances. 

        Below are distinctive elements for crafting introductions across various research paper types:

        Argumentative paper

        An argumentative paper aims to persuade. Your introduction here should not only present your thesis but also hint at the counterarguments you’ll dismantle. Think of it as a debate stage; you’re not just stating your case but also preempting the opposing views.

        Example: “School uniforms: they’re a subject of constant debate in the field of education. Supporters argue they create a sense of unity and reduce distractions, leading to better academic performance. Critics claim they stifle individuality and have no real impact on learning. This paper will argue that implementing school uniforms in public schools leads to improved academic performance by fostering a focused learning environment.”

        Empirical paper

        Here, you’re the scientist, the explorer. Your introduction should outline the research question and the methods you’ll use to answer it. If a specific hypothesis needs testing, it should be mentioned in the research question. 

        Topic – Empirical Studies on Product-Service Systems – A Systematic Literature Review

        Introduction Example – The rising global population, accelerating technological development, increasing resource usage, and intensifying environmental impacts make sustainability the key issue for the entire society. This has resulted in the growing importance of product-service systems (PSS) in academics and industrial fields. 

        As an ‘integrated bundle of products and services which aims at creating customer utility and generating value’ [1], PSS is one of the most effective instruments that move society towards sustainability [2]. According to its evolution, the classical categorization of PSS includes product-oriented PSS, user-oriented PSS, and result-oriented PSS [3]

        Want to elevate the quality of your research paper?

        Review paper

        In a review paper, you summarize existing studies on a topic. Your introduction should highlight the main findings so far and where your paper fits into the dialogue.

        Example: “Over the past decade, remote work has transitioned from a corporate perk to a standard practice, especially in tech industries. While some argue that remote work increases productivity and employee satisfaction, others point to challenges like communication breakdowns and feelings of isolation. This paper will review existing literature on the effectiveness of remote work, examining its impact on employee productivity, mental health, and organizational cohesion.”

        Remember the following points:

        • Argumentative papers need a persuasive touch.
        • Empirical papers require a hint of methodology.
        • Review papers demand an overview of existing research.

        Tips for All Types:

        1. Be concise: Whether you’re persuading, exploring, or reviewing, get to the point.
        2. Be focused: Keep your thesis statement tight and direct.
        3. Be engaging: Use your hook to draw readers in, no matter the type of paper.

        By tailoring your introduction to the type of paper you’re writing, you’ll align your research with the expectations of your audience. Each type has its nuances, but the core principles of how to write an introduction for a research paper across these diverse types—capturing attention, providing context, and stating your thesis—remain constant. In the end, it’s all about setting the stage for the research that follows.

        Research paper introduction example

        Imagine you’re crafting an empirical research paper on the impact of social media on mental health. How would a compelling introduction of a research paper look?

        Let’s break it down via a concrete research paper introduction example:

        “In today’s digital age, social media platforms have become ubiquitous, shaping our interactions and emotional landscapes. While these platforms promise connectivity, emerging research suggests a darker narrative: a potential link between social media usage and declining mental health. This study aims to explore this complex relationship through a comprehensive analysis of survey data and psychological assessments. Employing both qualitative and quantitative methods, we endeavor to answer the pressing question: Does social media negatively impact mental health?”

        In this example, the hook points out how common social media use is. The background information provides context by acknowledging both the positive and negative aspects of social media. Finally, the thesis statement outlines the research question and the methodology.

        Key Elements:

        • A relatable hook draws the reader in.
        • Contextual background sets the stage.
        • A clear thesis statement outlines the research aim and method.

        In a nutshell, the introduction of a research paper serves as a mini-blueprint for the paper. It sets the stage, intrigues the reader, and outlines the research scope—all in a concise manner.

        This guide should serve as a useful starting point in understanding how to start an introduction for a research paper. Explore research paper editing services to structure and articulate your ideas in a polished manner effectively. This can ensure you write your research paper with no typos and in refined academic language.

        Keep reading to further enhance your knowledge of writing research papers! 

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        Prasanna Linkedin

        Prasanna is on a little break from academia and spends his time compiling fiction writing tips. He enjoys poetry, mythology, and drawing lotuses on any surface he can find.

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