Introduction: An Overview
An introduction is a key section of a research paper. It describes why your research topic is important and why you, the author, wanted to carry out the study. Referees, editors, and readers can find this information here. Additionally, a research paper’s introduction provides relevant background information and contextualizes the study, guiding the reader through the rest of the work and helping the authors describe the depth and challenges of the study.
Introductions serve to lead readers from a more general area of interest to a specific subject area. An introduction summarizes current understanding and background information for the topic, explains the purpose of the study as a hypothesis, question, or research problem, briefly explains the rationale, methods, highlights potential outcomes, and describes the paper structure.
What is the Importance of a Good Introduction?
The importance of a well-written introduction is evident because, quite simply, you never get a second chance to make a good first impression. Your paper’s opening paragraph will give readers an idea of your argument’s logic, your writing style, the quality of your research, and, finally, the validity of the conclusions you draw. When a reader reads a vague, disorganized, or error-filled introduction, he or she may not have a positive impression of your analytical skills, your writing style, and your research approach.
Introduction Guidelines for an Academic Paper
A paper introduction can be written following these tips which represent four sections of the introduction.
1. Provide a Contextual Presentation of Your Academic Paper
It is important to explain the background of your paper in the first section of your academic paper, particularly how it fits in with previous research in the field. Your paper could also include a narrative that presents the topic in an introductory way, highlighting the different points of view and providing a brief literature review. Don’t forget to include current publications as well as relevant references.
The context of the topic should be established with a brief and balanced overview of the relevant published literature. It is important to summarize for the reader what is known about the research problem before you conduct your analysis. Your introduction should not include an exhaustive review of the literature, but rather a review of the relevant and fundamental research literature (with citations) that lays the groundwork for understanding key elements of the research problem.
Do not feel obliged to include an exhaustive history of the topic but instead analyze various points of view from related literature. Develop the problem with enough breadth and clarity to be understood by as many professionals as possible.
Including references in the introduction of your academic paper can be done in several ways:
- In chronological order, if it facilitates the development of your research topic;
- Based on different perspectives/theories/models;
- Focusing initially on a general framework and then working on specific aspects of the topic
2. The Purpose and Significance of your Research Paper
In your introduction, explain why new research on the topic is necessary. Your hypothesis needs to be stated clearly. By explaining the purpose of the study and its importance, you can clarify the necessity of the study.
Your academic paper can aim to address one or more of the following:
- Introduce any issues related to your subject matter or the weaknesses of previous studies you would like to improve in your article.
- Establishing a research area that will be covered in your academic article.
- As you summarize your ideas, you should emphasize the importance of your academic paper. Ensure that your article adds to or improves previous research, or explores new directions for research.
3. Methodology and Research Questions
Once you have explained the purpose and significance of your academic paper, you should focus on presenting the key research questions you will explore.
It does not matter if your paper is theoretically oriented or empirically oriented, your paper will still be directed toward specific objectives and questions. You can use this context to relate your research question to the research methodology.
The Introduction is a good place to supply information about your methodology and findings. However, it is better if you avoid too many details because they will be discussed in the Methodology or Results sections.
4. Include Structure of the Paper
It is important to summarize your paper’s structure in the last paragraph of the Introduction.
Here is an example of how you can phrase this:
An outline of the article is presented as follows: “section two discusses literature review on [topic], section three describes the research methodology, section four presents empirical analysis and findings, and section five offers conclusion and discussion.“
In spite of the introduction being the first section of a research paper, it is often useful to finish the introduction very late in the writing process since your paper’s structure, your results report, and your conclusion will have been written, so your introduction matches the overall structure of the paper.