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How to Write a Good Introduction for your Research Paper

Updated on May 12, 2020

The importance of writing an introduction

It is a common knowledge that the introduction of a research paper comes after the abstract and before the body. The introduction remains as important as the other constituents of the research. When we talk about the introduction this means we are still in the abstract level of a particular research paper. The main purpose of the introduction is to introduce the reader to your work. This is why; the introduction should include a clear statement of the main objectives of the research project. It could even include a brief summary of other previous and relevant research paper so that the present study can be seen in the context. It may also cover some definitions of the major concepts employed in the study. Generally speaking, the introduction acts like salads while talking about foods. In other words, it paves the way and make the reader hungry for what will come at the body, the heavy meal.

The introduction is not the abstract

There is an overlap between the introduction and the abstract to the extent that some researchers just copy and paste what they have written in the abstract to their introductions. This shows that they are very interrelated. Therefore, it is good to make a comparison to notice the difference between the two.

  • First, the abstract immediately tells the reader the specific topic to the reader. It also states the writer’s goal of writing the paper whereas the introduction put it in a broad and context. It extends and expands the main idea of the research.
  • Second, the abstract gives us no further background information but it only highlights what the writer has found in his/her research. This is why; the abstract comes sometimes at a later stage in the outline of the whole research paper. It appears at the bottom. Therefore, the abstract informs the reader whether to carry on or stop reading the whole research.
  • Third, if the abstract consist of 100 words, the introduction is approximately twice as long. That is to say, 200 words.

How should I begin my introduction

This is by no means the most frequent asked question while talking about the writing of an introduction. Indeed, how to start is not an easy task. Here are some suggestions of how to start your introduction.

  • Definition of the topic plus the background

In this section, you define your project to indicate to the reader that this is the background topic of the whole research paper. You also include some techniqual definitions and explanation of keywords.

  • The problem to be solved

Here you move from what is general to the specific area of your research. That is, the core idea of the study. This is the gap that your research tries to fill in and what your readers are highly interested in. therefore, it should be stated in a simple and clear language.

  • Survey of pertinent literature

This part draws attention to the problematic that still have not been solved in recent works by other researchers.

  • Aim of the present work

This statement is essential in any introduction. What is the aim behind writing your work? Maybe because you want to find solutions to the previous unsolved problematic by using a new different approach.

  • Outline of structure

Here you write a structural outline to the main points you want to deal with for instance, you write: the first chapter of the first part is about the concept of …

An example

The effects of Feedback and attribution Style on Task Persistence by Chris Rozek, a psychology student.

Persistence is an attribute valued by many. What makes some people persist longer than others? Are internal factors, such as personality traits, or external situational factors, such as feedback, responsible for persistence? Could the answer include a combination of both? These are the questions this experiment attempted to answer.

The general topic is mentioned in the very first word “Persistence”. This enable the reader to understand the context. Within this context, the writer outlines the issue in form of questions. In the second sentence, which addresses the main issue of the paper. The third sentence shows some contributions associated with persistence. The question of “could the answer include a combination of both” gives us hints about the possible findings of this paper. The last sentence suggests that the writer will cover all the aspects he has mentioned beforehand in the introduction.

What tenses should I use?

Concerning the tenses that can be employed in the introduction are the simple present and the present perfect for instance to state the main the idea of the research project:

Ex: Persistence is an attribute valued by many

In addition, we can also use the present perfect while dealing with the survey of pertinent literature, the works of previous researchers:

Ex: Persistence has most often been studied in terms of cultural differences.

How can assess my own introduction?

  • Does my introduction occupy a high proportion of the entire paper?
  • Is the background information are all related to the objective of the paper?
  • Does my introduction act as a clear map for understanding my paper?
  • Is it different from the abstract, without any copy and paste?
  • Have I been concise as possible?
  • Have I been used the tenses correctly?


Kendal, Simon. How to write a research paper. 2015.

Wallwork, Adrian. English for Writing Research Papers. 2016. Springer


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