How to Write a Research Paper Introduction (with Examples)

How to Write a Research Paper Introduction (with Examples)

The research paper introduction section, along with the Title and Abstract, can be considered the face of any research paper. The following article is intended to guide you in organizing and writing the research paper introduction for a quality academic article or dissertation.

The research paper introduction aims to present the topic to the reader. A study will only be accepted for publishing if you can ascertain that the available literature cannot answer your research question. So it is important to ensure that you have read important studies on that particular topic, especially those within the last five to ten years, and that they are properly referenced in this section. 1 What should be included in the research paper introduction is decided by what you want to tell readers about the reason behind the research and how you plan to fill the knowledge gap. The best research paper introduction provides a systemic review of existing work and demonstrates additional work that needs to be done. It needs to be brief, captivating, and well-referenced; a well-drafted research paper introduction will help the researcher win half the battle.

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

  • Present your research topic
  • Capture reader interest
  • Summarize existing research
  • Position your own approach
  • Define your specific research problem and problem statement
  • Highlight the novelty and contributions of the study
  • Give an overview of the paper’s structure

The research paper introduction can vary in size and structure depending on whether your paper presents the results of original empirical research or is a review paper. Some research paper introduction examples are only half a page while others are a few pages long. In many cases, the introduction will be shorter than all of the other sections of your paper; its length depends on the size of your paper as a whole.

Table of Contents

What is the introduction for a research paper, why is the introduction important in a research paper, what are the parts of introduction in the research, 1. introduce the research topic:, 2. determine a research niche:, 3. place your research within the research niche:, frequently asked questions on research paper introduction, key points to remember.

The introduction in a research paper is placed at the beginning to guide the reader from a broad subject area to the specific topic that your research addresses. They present the following information to the reader

  • Scope: The topic covered in the research paper
  • Context: Background of your topic
  • Importance: Why your research matters in that particular area of research and the industry problem that can be targeted

The research paper introduction conveys a lot of information and can be considered an essential roadmap for the rest of your paper. A good introduction for a research paper is important for the following reasons:

  • It stimulates your reader’s interest: A good introduction section can make your readers want to read your paper by capturing their interest. It informs the reader what they are going to learn and helps determine if the topic is of interest to them.
  • It helps the reader understand the research background: Without a clear introduction, your readers may feel confused and even struggle when reading your paper. A good research paper introduction will prepare them for the in-depth research to come. It provides you the opportunity to engage with the readers and demonstrate your knowledge and authority on the specific topic.
  • It explains why your research paper is worth reading: Your introduction can convey a lot of information to your readers. It introduces the topic, why the topic is important, and how you plan to proceed with your research.
  • It helps guide the reader through the rest of the paper: The research paper introduction gives the reader a sense of the nature of the information that will support your arguments and the general organization of the paragraphs that will follow. It offers an overview of what to expect when reading the main body of your paper.

A good research paper introduction section should comprise three main elements: 2

  • What is known: This sets the stage for your research. It informs the readers of what is known on the subject.
  • What is lacking: This is aimed at justifying the reason for carrying out your research. This could involve investigating a new concept or method or building upon previous research.
  • What you aim to do: This part briefly states the objectives of your research and its major contributions. Your detailed hypothesis will also form a part of this section.

How to write a research paper introduction?

The first step in writing the research paper introduction is to inform the reader what your topic is and why it’s interesting or important. This is generally accomplished with a strong opening statement. The second step involves establishing the kinds of research that have been done and ending with limitations or gaps in the research that you intend to address. Finally, the research paper introduction clarifies how your own research fits in and what problem it addresses. If your research involved testing hypotheses, these should be stated along with your research question. The hypothesis should be presented in the past tense since it will have been tested by the time you are writing the research paper introduction.

The following key points, with examples, can guide you when writing the research paper introduction section:

  • Highlight the importance of the research field or topic
  • Describe the background of the topic
  • Present an overview of current research on the topic

Example: The inclusion of experiential and competency-based learning has benefitted electronics engineering education. Industry partnerships provide an excellent alternative for students wanting to engage in solving real-world challenges. Industry-academia participation has grown in recent years due to the need for skilled engineers with practical training and specialized expertise. However, from the educational perspective, many activities are needed to incorporate sustainable development goals into the university curricula and consolidate learning innovation in universities.

  • Reveal a gap in existing research or oppose an existing assumption
  • Formulate the research question

Example: There have been plausible efforts to integrate educational activities in higher education electronics engineering programs. However, very few studies have considered using educational research methods for performance evaluation of competency-based higher engineering education, with a focus on technical and or transversal skills. To remedy the current need for evaluating competencies in STEM fields and providing sustainable development goals in engineering education, in this study, a comparison was drawn between study groups without and with industry partners.

  • State the purpose of your study
  • Highlight the key characteristics of your study
  • Describe important results
  • Highlight the novelty of the study.
  • Offer a brief overview of the structure of the paper.

Example: The study evaluates the main competency needed in the applied electronics course, which is a fundamental core subject for many electronics engineering undergraduate programs. We compared two groups, without and with an industrial partner, that offered real-world projects to solve during the semester. This comparison can help determine significant differences in both groups in terms of developing subject competency and achieving sustainable development goals.

The purpose of the research paper introduction is to introduce the reader to the problem definition, justify the need for the study, and describe the main theme of the study. The aim is to gain the reader’s attention by providing them with necessary background information and establishing the main purpose and direction of the research.

The length of the research paper introduction can vary across journals and disciplines. While there are no strict word limits for writing the research paper introduction, an ideal length would be one page, with a maximum of 400 words over 1-4 paragraphs. Generally, it is one of the shorter sections of the paper as the reader is assumed to have at least a reasonable knowledge about the topic. 2 For example, for a study evaluating the role of building design in ensuring fire safety, there is no need to discuss definitions and nature of fire in the introduction; you could start by commenting upon the existing practices for fire safety and how your study will add to the existing knowledge and practice.

When deciding what to include in the research paper introduction, the rest of the paper should also be considered. The aim is to introduce the reader smoothly to the topic and facilitate an easy read without much dependency on external sources. 3 Below is a list of elements you can include to prepare a research paper introduction outline and follow it when you are writing the research paper introduction. Topic introduction: This can include key definitions and a brief history of the topic. Research context and background: Offer the readers some general information and then narrow it down to specific aspects. Details of the research you conducted: A brief literature review can be included to support your arguments or line of thought. Rationale for the study: This establishes the relevance of your study and establishes its importance. Importance of your research: The main contributions are highlighted to help establish the novelty of your study Research hypothesis: Introduce your research question and propose an expected outcome. Organization of the paper: Include a short paragraph of 3-4 sentences that highlights your plan for the entire paper

Cite only works that are most relevant to your topic; as a general rule, you can include one to three. Note that readers want to see evidence of original thinking. So it is better to avoid using too many references as it does not leave much room for your personal standpoint to shine through. Citations in your research paper introduction support the key points, and the number of citations depend on the subject matter and the point discussed. If the research paper introduction is too long or overflowing with citations, it is better to cite a few review articles rather than the individual articles summarized in the review. A good point to remember when citing research papers in the introduction section is to include at least one-third of the references in the introduction.

The literature review plays a significant role in the research paper introduction section. A good literature review accomplishes the following: Introduces the topic – Establishes the study’s significance – Provides an overview of the relevant literature – Provides context for the study using literature – Identifies knowledge gaps However, remember to avoid making the following mistakes when writing a research paper introduction: Do not use studies from the literature review to aggressively support your research Avoid direct quoting Do not allow literature review to be the focus of this section. Instead, the literature review should only aid in setting a foundation for the manuscript.

Remember the following key points for writing a good research paper introduction: 4

  • Avoid stuffing too much general information: Avoid including what an average reader would know and include only that information related to the problem being addressed in the research paper introduction. For example, when describing a comparative study of non-traditional methods for mechanical design optimization, information related to the traditional methods and differences between traditional and non-traditional methods would not be relevant. In this case, the introduction for the research paper should begin with the state-of-the-art non-traditional methods and methods to evaluate the efficiency of newly developed algorithms.
  • Avoid packing too many references: Cite only the required works in your research paper introduction. The other works can be included in the discussion section to strengthen your findings.
  • Avoid extensive criticism of previous studies: Avoid being overly critical of earlier studies while setting the rationale for your study. A better place for this would be the Discussion section, where you can highlight the advantages of your method.
  • Avoid describing conclusions of the study: When writing a research paper introduction remember not to include the findings of your study. The aim is to let the readers know what question is being answered. The actual answer should only be given in the Results and Discussion section.

To summarize, the research paper introduction section should be brief yet informative. It should convince the reader the need to conduct the study and motivate him to read further.

1. Jawaid, S. A., & Jawaid, M. (2019). How to write introduction and discussion. Saudi Journal of Anaesthesia, 13(Suppl 1), S18.

2. Dewan, P., & Gupta, P. (2016). Writing the title, abstract and introduction: Looks matter!. Indian pediatrics, 53, 235-241.

3. Cetin, S., & Hackam, D. J. (2005). An approach to the writing of a scientific Manuscript1. Journal of Surgical Research, 128(2), 165-167.

4. Bavdekar, S. B. (2015). Writing introduction: Laying the foundations of a research paper. Journal of the Association of Physicians of India, 63(7), 44-6.

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Starting Your Research Paper: Writing an Introductory Paragraph

  • Choosing Your Topic
  • Define Keywords
  • Planning Your Paper
  • Writing an Introductory Paragraph

The Dreaded Introductory Paragraph

Writing the introductory paragraph can be a frustrating and slow process -- but it doesn't have to be.  If you planned your paper out, then most of the introductory paragraph is already written.  Now you just need a beginning and an end.

Here's an introductory paragraph for a paper I wrote.  I started the paper with a factoid, then presented each main point of my paper and then ended with my thesis statement.

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How to Write a Research Paper Introduction Paragraph

04 Feb 2022

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âť“What Is an Introduction Paragraph for Research Paper?

✒️How to Write a Research Paper Introduction?

  • State Your Research Theme
  • Be Original
  • Explain Key Terms
  • Size Is Important
  • Refer to the Keywords
  • Follow the Rules of Logic

🚨Common Mistakes and How Not to Slip Up

đź“‘Research Paper Introduction Examples

Just like the alphabet begins with the letter “A,” any essay begins with an introduction. When you’re ready to write a research paper, you should start with an opening section. These are not common sentences but ones that form the entire thesis you will explore in the body paragraphs of a research project. You should guide the reader through the topic and present the importance of your university research and its results.

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What Is an Introduction Paragraph for Research Paper?

Writing a research paper is a mandatory task in almost any educational specialty. You will definitely have to face this kind of task at some point. We know how difficult it can be to collect your thoughts and start doing work by arranging an introduction. That is why we are ready to come to your aid and tell you in detail the rules and share some useful tips on writing the opening passage. 

The research paper introductions are pieces of information placed at the beginning of the paper. The size of this section depends on the general requirements for the work and usually is about 350-450 words. Moreover, everything you write in the introduction should attract the reader’s curiosity. This part of your work is designed to help the reader identify whether he or she wants to read the paper.

Check out the example of an abstract for a research paper . That is why it is incredibly important to approach this section's writing responsibly and ensure that you clearly and interestingly position your research topic. A well-written research paper introduction will make you more likely to get a high score.

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How to Write a Research Paper Introduction?

After writing your research paper, you will have a broad picture of your entire research and analysis. Being an expert in the research niche of your scientific paper , you will be able to come to valid conclusions and highlight your work's main points. This will help you to create an outline, identify the key notions, and include them in the introduction. You should also define a hook that can catch the reader to increase interest in reading your project.

However, the problem with writing the first section is the difficulty in determining the importance of information. While investigating, you will probably feel that all the data you provide is essential. But to write a good introduction, you need to be concise. Your general erudition of background information, combined with specific knowledge of the general subject area, will help you write a great introduction. There are a few simple guides that can help to make your research paper introduction shine:

1. State Your Research Theme

The first sentences should be common about the general topic, and then you should add some details about your topic. This is called the "inverted triangle" when you start a research paper with a broad theme and then narrow it down. Be concise in your presentation of the research problem to avoid any kind of ambiguity. Your study should be presented as a direct continuation of the introduction. It is crucial to keep the narrative logical.

2. Be Original

If you write a dissertation paper in humanities, you can start the introduction with a quotation or even an anecdote. If your academic area is science or medicine, you can write extremely interesting data or even shocking statistics. Such an approach will help you develop an attractive research paper introduction. However, be careful with fact-checking and sources. All the statistics you provide must correspond to reality. According to the methodology, shocking research should be done by you or reputable institutions.

3. Explain Key Terms

You should provide a list of the notions you used and the definitions that you based on to avoid reader confusion. In science, there is a phenomenon when one term can have different interpretations due to the background. Whenever you find yourself in trouble, ask us to write my research paper , and we’ll come to help. Moreover, the glossary will show your knowledge level in the scientific context and help expand the audience that your article may be useful to.

4. Size Is Important

It would help if you chose your ideal length for the introduction. It should be short enough to be readable and gain the reader's attention and long enough to explain all the main features of your essay. And, of course, remember that the size of the introduction should be directly proportional to the size of your study. You need to briefly describe the main sections that your subject includes to guide your reader.

5. Refer to the Keywords

The keywords should be used in the introduction to give a general overview of the research questions. These could be separate words or word combinations which describe your topic. This trick aims to write a research paper that is easier to find. In addition, they help the reader quickly understand the direction of your research, showing the problem and the subject of investigation.

6. Follow the Rules of Logic

You should be consistent in the writing process. As we mentioned in one of the other sections, your work must be holistic. Each new thought should be a continuation of the previous one. A well-elaborated outline may help in solving this research problem. The first passage should logically introduce the reader to the subject and also give a preview of what will be described next. Logical links between sentences will make your text coherent.

An introduction paragraph of a research paper is essential for readers to get an overall idea of the paper. It helps grab their interest and gives them an understanding of the content’s purpose. Writing an informative and catchy introduction can be difficult, but hiring professional nursing essay writers can help remove the burden. They can provide an excellent introduction that introduces the topic in a detailed and easy-to-understand manner.

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Common Mistakes and How Not to Slip Up

As you can already understand, writing a decent introduction is quite difficult. You should keep in mind the purpose of your university research to stay on the topic. We are going to see the most common research problem to be aware of when writing.

  • An extended introduction

When you conduct scientific research, each word you write carries a large amount of necessary information. However, working out a quality introduction, you find that the size is very limited, and you need to spend time filtering unnecessary information.

  • Lack of a hook

Good introductions are not limited to just a list of data you have received. It is this paragraph that presents the first impression. Try to make it informative and catchy. If you face some problems elaborating witty hooks for a paper, consult a  writing service that can provide you with professional advice.

  • Inconsistent Data

The problem of inconsistency in the presentation of information appears when you first write the introduction and then the main body of the study. To avoid the error of lack of previous research, follow our advice. Study the background of the hypothesis you have chosen and then describe the results of your research.

Research Paper Introduction Examples

The theory is good, but the practice is quite different. Read our examples to get good ideas from other researchers about how to write an excellent structure and introduction.

Contemporary literary marketing has become digital because of the demands of the online era. Popular best-selling authors such as J. K. Rowling or Dan Brown profit from the internet and use it as a source for advertising to show the audience their creations. On the other hand, many writers find digital literature harmful and destructive for their livelihood because many users can get their books without paying for them. However, more studies reveal that the business side of the book industry is not far from the negative. This research paper will define whether the culture of digital book consumption has to be changed due to the creations of writers becoming worthless due to online piracy and because people have stopped valuing non-digitized books.

The second sample of the introduction paragraph is on the topic: “Behavioral Study of the Phenomenon of Obedience.”

Modern theories tend to associate misbehavior and intentional actions that harm others with personal characteristics. The psychologists and doctors in a survey predicted that only a small portion of people (about 1-3%) would intentionally harm someone after being told to do so. A good example of this phenomenon is a recent war trial with Adolph Eichmann, who claimed he was only following orders to carry out Nazi war crimes. Therefore, is it possible that people can harm others by only “following orders?” Are people capable of betraying their moral convictions if ordered to do so? During the experiment, we will see whether someone can continue administering painful electric shocks that harm another person simply because he or she is told to do so. It is expected that very few will continue and that most of the participants will not obey the order.

Writing an engaging introduction is equally important as conducting research papers or providing a high-quality context for your issue. In fact, a great intro is even more important for your success! An opening paragraph that attracts attention and keeps the reader engaged is the key to success with this academic work.

The intro is the first thing that a reader sees. It is exactly what helps them get the first impression of your work, which carries their opinion about the merits of your paper while they finish reading it. That’s why it’s so important to get it done right.

How do you create flawless intros for your research papers? These tips and examples in this article should help you deal with this assignment effortlessly while avoiding common mistakes. However, it also requires practice. We encourage students to practice writing as much as they can master these skills and never face difficulties with writing academic papers again!

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How to Write a Research Introduction

Last Updated: June 23, 2023 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Megan Morgan, PhD . Megan Morgan is a Graduate Program Academic Advisor in the School of Public & International Affairs at the University of Georgia. She earned her PhD in English from the University of Georgia in 2015. There are 7 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 2,642,028 times.

The introduction to a research paper can be the most challenging part of the paper to write. The length of the introduction will vary depending on the type of research paper you are writing. An introduction should announce your topic, provide context and a rationale for your work, before stating your research questions and hypothesis. Well-written introductions set the tone for the paper, catch the reader's interest, and communicate the hypothesis or thesis statement.

Introducing the Topic of the Paper

Step 1 Announce your research topic.

  • In scientific papers this is sometimes known as an "inverted triangle", where you start with the broadest material at the start, before zooming in on the specifics. [2] X Research source
  • The sentence "Throughout the 20th century, our views of life on other planets have drastically changed" introduces a topic, but does so in broad terms.
  • It provides the reader with an indication of the content of the essay and encourages them to read on.

Step 2 Consider referring to key words.

  • For example, if you were writing a paper about the behaviour of mice when exposed to a particular substance, you would include the word "mice", and the scientific name of the relevant compound in the first sentences.
  • If you were writing a history paper about the impact of the First World War on gender relations in Britain, you should mention those key words in your first few lines.

Step 3 Define any key terms or concepts.

  • This is especially important if you are attempting to develop a new conceptualization that uses language and terminology your readers may be unfamiliar with.

Step 4 Introduce the topic through an anecdote or quotation.

  • If you use an anecdote ensure that is short and highly relevant for your research. It has to function in the same way as an alternative opening, namely to announce the topic of your research paper to your reader.
  • For example, if you were writing a sociology paper about re-offending rates among young offenders, you could include a brief story of one person whose story reflects and introduces your topic.
  • This kind of approach is generally not appropriate for the introduction to a natural or physical sciences research paper where the writing conventions are different.

Establishing the Context for Your Paper

Step 1 Include a brief literature review.

  • It is important to be concise in the introduction, so provide an overview on recent developments in the primary research rather than a lengthy discussion.
  • You can follow the "inverted triangle" principle to focus in from the broader themes to those to which you are making a direct contribution with your paper.
  • A strong literature review presents important background information to your own research and indicates the importance of the field.

Step 2 Use the literature to focus in on your contribution.

  • By making clear reference to existing work you can demonstrate explicitly the specific contribution you are making to move the field forward.
  • You can identify a gap in the existing scholarship and explain how you are addressing it and moving understanding forward.

Step 3 Elaborate on the rationale of your paper.

  • For example, if you are writing a scientific paper you could stress the merits of the experimental approach or models you have used.
  • Stress what is novel in your research and the significance of your new approach, but don't give too much detail in the introduction.
  • A stated rationale could be something like: "the study evaluates the previously unknown anti-inflammatory effects of a topical compound in order to evaluate its potential clinical uses".

Specifying Your Research Questions and Hypothesis

Step 1 State your research questions.

  • The research question or questions generally come towards the end of the introduction, and should be concise and closely focused.
  • The research question might recall some of the key words established in the first few sentences and the title of your paper.
  • An example of a research question could be "what were the consequences of the North American Free Trade Agreement on the Mexican export economy?"
  • This could be honed further to be specific by referring to a particular element of the Free Trade Agreement and the impact on a particular industry in Mexico, such as clothing manufacture.
  • A good research question should shape a problem into a testable hypothesis.

Step 2 Indicate your hypothesis.

  • If possible try to avoid using the word "hypothesis" and rather make this implicit in your writing. This can make your writing appear less formulaic.
  • In a scientific paper, giving a clear one-sentence overview of your results and their relation to your hypothesis makes the information clear and accessible. [10] X Trustworthy Source PubMed Central Journal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of Health Go to source
  • An example of a hypothesis could be "mice deprived of food for the duration of the study were expected to become more lethargic than those fed normally".

Step 3 Outline the structure of your paper.

  • This is not always necessary and you should pay attention to the writing conventions in your discipline.
  • In a natural sciences paper, for example, there is a fairly rigid structure which you will be following.
  • A humanities or social science paper will most likely present more opportunities to deviate in how you structure your paper.

Research Introduction Help

research paper opening sentence

Community Q&A

Community Answer

  • Use your research papers' outline to help you decide what information to include when writing an introduction. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Consider drafting your introduction after you have already completed the rest of your research paper. Writing introductions last can help ensure that you don't leave out any major points. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0

research paper opening sentence

  • Avoid emotional or sensational introductions; these can create distrust in the reader. Thanks Helpful 50 Not Helpful 12
  • Generally avoid using personal pronouns in your introduction, such as "I," "me," "we," "us," "my," "mine," or "our." Thanks Helpful 31 Not Helpful 7
  • Don't overwhelm the reader with an over-abundance of information. Keep the introduction as concise as possible by saving specific details for the body of your paper. Thanks Helpful 24 Not Helpful 14

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Publish a Research Paper

  • ↑ https://library.sacredheart.edu/c.php?g=29803&p=185916
  • ↑ https://www.aresearchguide.com/inverted-pyramid-structure-in-writing.html
  • ↑ https://libguides.usc.edu/writingguide/introduction
  • ↑ https://writing.wisc.edu/Handbook/PlanResearchPaper.html
  • ↑ https://dept.writing.wisc.edu/wac/writing-an-introduction-for-a-scientific-paper/
  • ↑ https://writing.wisc.edu/handbook/assignments/planresearchpaper/
  • ↑ http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3178846/

About This Article

Megan Morgan, PhD

To introduce your research paper, use the first 1-2 sentences to describe your general topic, such as “women in World War I.” Include and define keywords, such as “gender relations,” to show your reader where you’re going. Mention previous research into the topic with a phrase like, “Others have studied…”, then transition into what your contribution will be and why it’s necessary. Finally, state the questions that your paper will address and propose your “answer” to them as your thesis statement. For more information from our English Ph.D. co-author about how to craft a strong hypothesis and thesis, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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12.1 Creating a Rough Draft for a Research Paper

Learning objectives.

  • Apply strategies for drafting an effective introduction and conclusion.
  • Identify when and how to summarize, paraphrase, and directly quote information from research sources.
  • Apply guidelines for citing sources within the body of the paper and the bibliography.
  • Use primary and secondary research to support ideas.
  • Identify the purposes for which writers use each type of research.

At last, you are ready to begin writing the rough draft of your research paper. Putting your thinking and research into words is exciting. It can also be challenging. In this section, you will learn strategies for handling the more challenging aspects of writing a research paper, such as integrating material from your sources, citing information correctly, and avoiding any misuse of your sources.

The Structure of a Research Paper

Research papers generally follow the same basic structure: an introduction that presents the writer’s thesis, a body section that develops the thesis with supporting points and evidence, and a conclusion that revisits the thesis and provides additional insights or suggestions for further research.

Your writing voice will come across most strongly in your introduction and conclusion, as you work to attract your readers’ interest and establish your thesis. These sections usually do not cite sources at length. They focus on the big picture, not specific details. In contrast, the body of your paper will cite sources extensively. As you present your ideas, you will support your points with details from your research.

Writing Your Introduction

There are several approaches to writing an introduction, each of which fulfills the same goals. The introduction should get readers’ attention, provide background information, and present the writer’s thesis. Many writers like to begin with one of the following catchy openers:

  • A surprising fact
  • A thought-provoking question
  • An attention-getting quote
  • A brief anecdote that illustrates a larger concept
  • A connection between your topic and your readers’ experiences

The next few sentences place the opening in context by presenting background information. From there, the writer builds toward a thesis, which is traditionally placed at the end of the introduction. Think of your thesis as a signpost that lets readers know in what direction the paper is headed.

Jorge decided to begin his research paper by connecting his topic to readers’ daily experiences. Read the first draft of his introduction. The thesis is underlined. Note how Jorge progresses from the opening sentences to background information to his thesis.

Beyond the Hype: Evaluating Low-Carb Diets

I. Introduction

Over the past decade, increasing numbers of Americans have jumped on the low-carb bandwagon. Some studies estimate that approximately 40 million Americans, or about 20 percent of the population, are attempting to restrict their intake of food high in carbohydrates (Sanders and Katz, 2004; Hirsch, 2004). Proponents of low-carb diets say they are not only the most effective way to lose weight, but they also yield health benefits such as lower blood pressure and improved cholesterol levels. Meanwhile, some doctors claim that low-carb diets are overrated and caution that their long-term effects are unknown. Although following a low-carbohydrate diet can benefit some people, these diets are not necessarily the best option for everyone who wants to lose weight or improve their health.

Write the introductory paragraph of your research paper. Try using one of the techniques listed in this section to write an engaging introduction. Be sure to include background information about the topic that leads to your thesis.

Writers often work out of sequence when writing a research paper. If you find yourself struggling to write an engaging introduction, you may wish to write the body of your paper first. Writing the body sections first will help you clarify your main points. Writing the introduction should then be easier. You may have a better sense of how to introduce the paper after you have drafted some or all of the body.

Writing Your Conclusion

In your introduction, you tell readers where they are headed. In your conclusion, you recap where they have been. For this reason, some writers prefer to write their conclusions soon after they have written their introduction. However, this method may not work for all writers. Other writers prefer to write their conclusion at the end of the paper, after writing the body paragraphs. No process is absolutely right or absolutely wrong; find the one that best suits you.

No matter when you compose the conclusion, it should sum up your main ideas and revisit your thesis. The conclusion should not simply echo the introduction or rely on bland summary statements, such as “In this paper, I have demonstrated that.…” In fact, avoid repeating your thesis verbatim from the introduction. Restate it in different words that reflect the new perspective gained through your research. That helps keep your ideas fresh for your readers. An effective writer might conclude a paper by asking a new question the research inspired, revisiting an anecdote presented earlier, or reminding readers of how the topic relates to their lives.

Writing at Work

If your job involves writing or reading scientific papers, it helps to understand how professional researchers use the structure described in this section. A scientific paper begins with an abstract that briefly summarizes the entire paper. The introduction explains the purpose of the research, briefly summarizes previous research, and presents the researchers’ hypothesis. The body provides details about the study, such as who participated in it, what the researchers measured, and what results they recorded. The conclusion presents the researchers’ interpretation of the data, or what they learned.

Using Source Material in Your Paper

One of the challenges of writing a research paper is successfully integrating your ideas with material from your sources. Your paper must explain what you think, or it will read like a disconnected string of facts and quotations. However, you also need to support your ideas with research, or they will seem insubstantial. How do you strike the right balance?

You have already taken a step in the right direction by writing your introduction. The introduction and conclusion function like the frame around a picture. They define and limit your topic and place your research in context.

In the body paragraphs of your paper, you will need to integrate ideas carefully at the paragraph level and at the sentence level. You will use topic sentences in your paragraphs to make sure readers understand the significance of any facts, details, or quotations you cite. You will also include sentences that transition between ideas from your research, either within a paragraph or between paragraphs. At the sentence level, you will need to think carefully about how you introduce paraphrased and quoted material.

Earlier you learned about summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting when taking notes. In the next few sections, you will learn how to use these techniques in the body of your paper to weave in source material to support your ideas.

Summarizing Sources

When you summarize material from a source, you zero in on the main points and restate them concisely in your own words. This technique is appropriate when only the major ideas are relevant to your paper or when you need to simplify complex information into a few key points for your readers.

Be sure to review the source material as you summarize it. Identify the main idea and restate it as concisely as you can—preferably in one sentence. Depending on your purpose, you may also add another sentence or two condensing any important details or examples. Check your summary to make sure it is accurate and complete.

In his draft, Jorge summarized research materials that presented scientists’ findings about low-carbohydrate diets. Read the following passage from a trade magazine article and Jorge’s summary of the article.

Assessing the Efficacy of Low-Carbohydrate Diets

Adrienne Howell, Ph.D.

Over the past few years, a number of clinical studies have explored whether high-protein, low-carbohydrate diets are more effective for weight loss than other frequently recommended diet plans, such as diets that drastically curtail fat intake (Pritikin) or that emphasize consuming lean meats, grains, vegetables, and a moderate amount of unsaturated fats (the Mediterranean diet). A 2009 study found that obese teenagers who followed a low-carbohydrate diet lost an average of 15.6 kilograms over a six-month period, whereas teenagers following a low-fat diet or a Mediterranean diet lost an average of 11.1 kilograms and 9.3 kilograms respectively. Two 2010 studies that measured weight loss for obese adults following these same three diet plans found similar results. Over three months, subjects on the low-carbohydrate diet plan lost anywhere from four to six kilograms more than subjects who followed other diet plans.

In three recent studies, researchers compared outcomes for obese subjects who followed either a low-carbohydrate diet, a low-fat diet, or a Mediterranean diet and found that subjects following a low-carbohydrate diet lost more weight in the same time (Howell, 2010).

A summary restates ideas in your own words—but for specialized or clinical terms, you may need to use terms that appear in the original source. For instance, Jorge used the term obese in his summary because related words such as heavy or overweight have a different clinical meaning.

On a separate sheet of paper, practice summarizing by writing a one-sentence summary of the same passage that Jorge already summarized.

Paraphrasing Sources

When you paraphrase material from a source, restate the information from an entire sentence or passage in your own words, using your own original sentence structure. A paraphrased source differs from a summarized source in that you focus on restating the ideas, not condensing them.

Again, it is important to check your paraphrase against the source material to make sure it is both accurate and original. Inexperienced writers sometimes use the thesaurus method of paraphrasing—that is, they simply rewrite the source material, replacing most of the words with synonyms. This constitutes a misuse of sources. A true paraphrase restates ideas using the writer’s own language and style.

In his draft, Jorge frequently paraphrased details from sources. At times, he needed to rewrite a sentence more than once to ensure he was paraphrasing ideas correctly. Read the passage from a website. Then read Jorge’s initial attempt at paraphrasing it, followed by the final version of his paraphrase.

Dieters nearly always get great results soon after they begin following a low-carbohydrate diet, but these results tend to taper off after the first few months, particularly because many dieters find it difficult to follow a low-carbohydrate diet plan consistently.

People usually see encouraging outcomes shortly after they go on a low-carbohydrate diet, but their progress slows down after a short while, especially because most discover that it is a challenge to adhere to the diet strictly (Heinz, 2009).

After reviewing the paraphrased sentence, Jorge realized he was following the original source too closely. He did not want to quote the full passage verbatim, so he again attempted to restate the idea in his own style.

Because it is hard for dieters to stick to a low-carbohydrate eating plan, the initial success of these diets is short-lived (Heinz, 2009).

On a separate sheet of paper, follow these steps to practice paraphrasing.

  • Choose an important idea or detail from your notes.
  • Without looking at the original source, restate the idea in your own words.
  • Check your paraphrase against the original text in the source. Make sure both your language and your sentence structure are original.
  • Revise your paraphrase if necessary.

Quoting Sources Directly

Most of the time, you will summarize or paraphrase source material instead of quoting directly. Doing so shows that you understand your research well enough to write about it confidently in your own words. However, direct quotes can be powerful when used sparingly and with purpose.

Quoting directly can sometimes help you make a point in a colorful way. If an author’s words are especially vivid, memorable, or well phrased, quoting them may help hold your reader’s interest. Direct quotations from an interviewee or an eyewitness may help you personalize an issue for readers. And when you analyze primary sources, such as a historical speech or a work of literature, quoting extensively is often necessary to illustrate your points. These are valid reasons to use quotations.

Less experienced writers, however, sometimes overuse direct quotations in a research paper because it seems easier than paraphrasing. At best, this reduces the effectiveness of the quotations. At worst, it results in a paper that seems haphazardly pasted together from outside sources. Use quotations sparingly for greater impact.

When you do choose to quote directly from a source, follow these guidelines:

  • Make sure you have transcribed the original statement accurately.
  • Represent the author’s ideas honestly. Quote enough of the original text to reflect the author’s point accurately.
  • Never use a stand-alone quotation. Always integrate the quoted material into your own sentence.
  • Use ellipses (…) if you need to omit a word or phrase. Use brackets [ ] if you need to replace a word or phrase.
  • Make sure any omissions or changed words do not alter the meaning of the original text. Omit or replace words only when absolutely necessary to shorten the text or to make it grammatically correct within your sentence.
  • Remember to include correctly formatted citations that follow the assigned style guide.

Jorge interviewed a dietician as part of his research, and he decided to quote her words in his paper. Read an excerpt from the interview and Jorge’s use of it, which follows.

Personally, I don’t really buy into all of the hype about low-carbohydrate miracle diets like Atkins and so on. Sure, for some people, they are great, but for most, any sensible eating and exercise plan would work just as well.

Registered dietician Dana Kwon (2010) admits, “Personally, I don’t really buy into all of the hype.…Sure, for some people, [low-carbohydrate diets] are great, but for most, any sensible eating and exercise plan would work just as well.”

Notice how Jorge smoothly integrated the quoted material by starting the sentence with an introductory phrase. His use of ellipses and brackets did not change the source’s meaning.

Documenting Source Material

Throughout the writing process, be scrupulous about documenting information taken from sources. The purpose of doing so is twofold:

  • To give credit to other writers or researchers for their ideas
  • To allow your reader to follow up and learn more about the topic if desired

You will cite sources within the body of your paper and at the end of the paper in your bibliography. For this assignment, you will use the citation format used by the American Psychological Association (also known as APA style). For information on the format used by the Modern Language Association (MLA style), see Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” .

Citing Sources in the Body of Your Paper

In-text citations document your sources within the body of your paper. These include two vital pieces of information: the author’s name and the year the source material was published. When quoting a print source, also include in the citation the page number where the quoted material originally appears. The page number will follow the year in the in-text citation. Page numbers are necessary only when content has been directly quoted, not when it has been summarized or paraphrased.

Within a paragraph, this information may appear as part of your introduction to the material or as a parenthetical citation at the end of a sentence. Read the examples that follow. For more information about in-text citations for other source types, see Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” .

Leibowitz (2008) found that low-carbohydrate diets often helped subjects with Type II diabetes maintain a healthy weight and control blood-sugar levels.

The introduction to the source material includes the author’s name followed by the year of publication in parentheses.

Low-carbohydrate diets often help subjects with Type II diabetes maintain a healthy weight and control blood-sugar levels (Leibowitz, 2008).

The parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence includes the author’s name, a comma, and the year the source was published. The period at the end of the sentence comes after the parentheses.

Creating a List of References

Each of the sources you cite in the body text will appear in a references list at the end of your paper. While in-text citations provide the most basic information about the source, your references section will include additional publication details. In general, you will include the following information:

  • The author’s last name followed by his or her first (and sometimes middle) initial
  • The year the source was published
  • The source title
  • For articles in periodicals, the full name of the periodical, along with the volume and issue number and the pages where the article appeared

Additional information may be included for different types of sources, such as online sources. For a detailed guide to APA or MLA citations, see Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” . A sample reference list is provided with the final draft of Jorge’s paper later in this chapter.

Using Primary and Secondary Research

As you write your draft, be mindful of how you are using primary and secondary source material to support your points. Recall that primary sources present firsthand information. Secondary sources are one step removed from primary sources. They present a writer’s analysis or interpretation of primary source materials. How you balance primary and secondary source material in your paper will depend on the topic and assignment.

Using Primary Sources Effectively

Some types of research papers must use primary sources extensively to achieve their purpose. Any paper that analyzes a primary text or presents the writer’s own experimental research falls in this category. Here are a few examples:

  • A paper for a literature course analyzing several poems by Emily Dickinson
  • A paper for a political science course comparing televised speeches delivered by two presidential candidates
  • A paper for a communications course discussing gender biases in television commercials
  • A paper for a business administration course that discusses the results of a survey the writer conducted with local businesses to gather information about their work-from-home and flextime policies
  • A paper for an elementary education course that discusses the results of an experiment the writer conducted to compare the effectiveness of two different methods of mathematics instruction

For these types of papers, primary research is the main focus. If you are writing about a work (including nonprint works, such as a movie or a painting), it is crucial to gather information and ideas from the original work, rather than relying solely on others’ interpretations. And, of course, if you take the time to design and conduct your own field research, such as a survey, a series of interviews, or an experiment, you will want to discuss it in detail. For example, the interviews may provide interesting responses that you want to share with your reader.

Using Secondary Sources Effectively

For some assignments, it makes sense to rely more on secondary sources than primary sources. If you are not analyzing a text or conducting your own field research, you will need to use secondary sources extensively.

As much as possible, use secondary sources that are closely linked to primary research, such as a journal article presenting the results of the authors’ scientific study or a book that cites interviews and case studies. These sources are more reliable and add more value to your paper than sources that are further removed from primary research. For instance, a popular magazine article on junk-food addiction might be several steps removed from the original scientific study on which it is loosely based. As a result, the article may distort, sensationalize, or misinterpret the scientists’ findings.

Even if your paper is largely based on primary sources, you may use secondary sources to develop your ideas. For instance, an analysis of Alfred Hitchcock’s films would focus on the films themselves as a primary source, but might also cite commentary from critics. A paper that presents an original experiment would include some discussion of similar prior research in the field.

Jorge knew he did not have the time, resources, or experience needed to conduct original experimental research for his paper. Because he was relying on secondary sources to support his ideas, he made a point of citing sources that were not far removed from primary research.

Some sources could be considered primary or secondary sources, depending on the writer’s purpose for using them. For instance, if a writer’s purpose is to inform readers about how the No Child Left Behind legislation has affected elementary education, a Time magazine article on the subject would be a secondary source. However, suppose the writer’s purpose is to analyze how the news media has portrayed the effects of the No Child Left Behind legislation. In that case, articles about the legislation in news magazines like Time , Newsweek , and US News & World Report would be primary sources. They provide firsthand examples of the media coverage the writer is analyzing.

Avoiding Plagiarism

Your research paper presents your thinking about a topic, supported and developed by other people’s ideas and information. It is crucial to always distinguish between the two—as you conduct research, as you plan your paper, and as you write. Failure to do so can lead to plagiarism.

Intentional and Accidental Plagiarism

Plagiarism is the act of misrepresenting someone else’s work as your own. Sometimes a writer plagiarizes work on purpose—for instance, by purchasing an essay from a website and submitting it as original course work. In other cases, a writer may commit accidental plagiarism due to carelessness, haste, or misunderstanding. To avoid unintentional plagiarism, follow these guidelines:

  • Understand what types of information must be cited.
  • Understand what constitutes fair use of a source.
  • Keep source materials and notes carefully organized.
  • Follow guidelines for summarizing, paraphrasing, and quoting sources.

When to Cite

Any idea or fact taken from an outside source must be cited, in both the body of your paper and the references list. The only exceptions are facts or general statements that are common knowledge. Common-knowledge facts or general statements are commonly supported by and found in multiple sources. For example, a writer would not need to cite the statement that most breads, pastas, and cereals are high in carbohydrates; this is well known and well documented. However, if a writer explained in detail the differences among the chemical structures of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats, a citation would be necessary. When in doubt, cite.

In recent years, issues related to the fair use of sources have been prevalent in popular culture. Recording artists, for example, may disagree about the extent to which one has the right to sample another’s music. For academic purposes, however, the guidelines for fair use are reasonably straightforward.

Writers may quote from or paraphrase material from previously published works without formally obtaining the copyright holder’s permission. Fair use means that the writer legitimately uses brief excerpts from source material to support and develop his or her own ideas. For instance, a columnist may excerpt a few sentences from a novel when writing a book review. However, quoting or paraphrasing another’s work at excessive length, to the extent that large sections of the writing are unoriginal, is not fair use.

As he worked on his draft, Jorge was careful to cite his sources correctly and not to rely excessively on any one source. Occasionally, however, he caught himself quoting a source at great length. In those instances, he highlighted the paragraph in question so that he could go back to it later and revise. Read the example, along with Jorge’s revision.

Heinz (2009) found that “subjects in the low-carbohydrate group (30% carbohydrates; 40% protein, 30% fat) had a mean weight loss of 10 kg (22 lbs) over a 4-month period.” These results were “noticeably better than results for subjects on a low-fat diet (45% carbohydrates, 35% protein, 20% fat)” whose average weight loss was only “7 kg (15.4 lbs) in the same period.” From this, it can be concluded that “low-carbohydrate diets obtain more rapid results.” Other researchers agree that “at least in the short term, patients following low-carbohydrate diets enjoy greater success” than those who follow alternative plans (Johnson & Crowe, 2010).

After reviewing the paragraph, Jorge realized that he had drifted into unoriginal writing. Most of the paragraph was taken verbatim from a single article. Although Jorge had enclosed the material in quotation marks, he knew it was not an appropriate way to use the research in his paper.

Low-carbohydrate diets may indeed be superior to other diet plans for short-term weight loss. In a study comparing low-carbohydrate diets and low-fat diets, Heinz (2009) found that subjects who followed a low-carbohydrate plan (30% of total calories) for 4 months lost, on average, about 3 kilograms more than subjects who followed a low-fat diet for the same time. Heinz concluded that these plans yield quick results, an idea supported by a similar study conducted by Johnson and Crowe (2010). What remains to be seen, however, is whether this initial success can be sustained for longer periods.

As Jorge revised the paragraph, he realized he did not need to quote these sources directly. Instead, he paraphrased their most important findings. He also made sure to include a topic sentence stating the main idea of the paragraph and a concluding sentence that transitioned to the next major topic in his essay.

Working with Sources Carefully

Disorganization and carelessness sometimes lead to plagiarism. For instance, a writer may be unable to provide a complete, accurate citation if he didn’t record bibliographical information. A writer may cut and paste a passage from a website into her paper and later forget where the material came from. A writer who procrastinates may rush through a draft, which easily leads to sloppy paraphrasing and inaccurate quotations. Any of these actions can create the appearance of plagiarism and lead to negative consequences.

Carefully organizing your time and notes is the best guard against these forms of plagiarism. Maintain a detailed working bibliography and thorough notes throughout the research process. Check original sources again to clear up any uncertainties. Allow plenty of time for writing your draft so there is no temptation to cut corners.

Citing other people’s work appropriately is just as important in the workplace as it is in school. If you need to consult outside sources to research a document you are creating, follow the general guidelines already discussed, as well as any industry-specific citation guidelines. For more extensive use of others’ work—for instance, requesting permission to link to another company’s website on your own corporate website—always follow your employer’s established procedures.

Academic Integrity

The concepts and strategies discussed in this section of Chapter 12 “Writing a Research Paper” connect to a larger issue—academic integrity. You maintain your integrity as a member of an academic community by representing your work and others’ work honestly and by using other people’s work only in legitimately accepted ways. It is a point of honor taken seriously in every academic discipline and career field.

Academic integrity violations have serious educational and professional consequences. Even when cheating and plagiarism go undetected, they still result in a student’s failure to learn necessary research and writing skills. Students who are found guilty of academic integrity violations face consequences ranging from a failing grade to expulsion from the university. Employees may be fired for plagiarism and do irreparable damage to their professional reputation. In short, it is never worth the risk.

Key Takeaways

  • An effective research paper focuses on the writer’s ideas. The introduction and conclusion present and revisit the writer’s thesis. The body of the paper develops the thesis and related points with information from research.
  • Ideas and information taken from outside sources must be cited in the body of the paper and in the references section.
  • Material taken from sources should be used to develop the writer’s ideas. Summarizing and paraphrasing are usually most effective for this purpose.
  • A summary concisely restates the main ideas of a source in the writer’s own words.
  • A paraphrase restates ideas from a source using the writer’s own words and sentence structures.
  • Direct quotations should be used sparingly. Ellipses and brackets must be used to indicate words that were omitted or changed for conciseness or grammatical correctness.
  • Always represent material from outside sources accurately.
  • Plagiarism has serious academic and professional consequences. To avoid accidental plagiarism, keep research materials organized, understand guidelines for fair use and appropriate citation of sources, and review the paper to make sure these guidelines are followed.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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  • Yale J Biol Med
  • v.84(3); 2011 Sep

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Focus: Education — Career Advice

How to write your first research paper.

Writing a research manuscript is an intimidating process for many novice writers in the sciences. One of the stumbling blocks is the beginning of the process and creating the first draft. This paper presents guidelines on how to initiate the writing process and draft each section of a research manuscript. The paper discusses seven rules that allow the writer to prepare a well-structured and comprehensive manuscript for a publication submission. In addition, the author lists different strategies for successful revision. Each of those strategies represents a step in the revision process and should help the writer improve the quality of the manuscript. The paper could be considered a brief manual for publication.

It is late at night. You have been struggling with your project for a year. You generated an enormous amount of interesting data. Your pipette feels like an extension of your hand, and running western blots has become part of your daily routine, similar to brushing your teeth. Your colleagues think you are ready to write a paper, and your lab mates tease you about your “slow” writing progress. Yet days pass, and you cannot force yourself to sit down to write. You have not written anything for a while (lab reports do not count), and you feel you have lost your stamina. How does the writing process work? How can you fit your writing into a daily schedule packed with experiments? What section should you start with? What distinguishes a good research paper from a bad one? How should you revise your paper? These and many other questions buzz in your head and keep you stressed. As a result, you procrastinate. In this paper, I will discuss the issues related to the writing process of a scientific paper. Specifically, I will focus on the best approaches to start a scientific paper, tips for writing each section, and the best revision strategies.

1. Schedule your writing time in Outlook

Whether you have written 100 papers or you are struggling with your first, starting the process is the most difficult part unless you have a rigid writing schedule. Writing is hard. It is a very difficult process of intense concentration and brain work. As stated in Hayes’ framework for the study of writing: “It is a generative activity requiring motivation, and it is an intellectual activity requiring cognitive processes and memory” [ 1 ]. In his book How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing , Paul Silvia says that for some, “it’s easier to embalm the dead than to write an article about it” [ 2 ]. Just as with any type of hard work, you will not succeed unless you practice regularly. If you have not done physical exercises for a year, only regular workouts can get you into good shape again. The same kind of regular exercises, or I call them “writing sessions,” are required to be a productive author. Choose from 1- to 2-hour blocks in your daily work schedule and consider them as non-cancellable appointments. When figuring out which blocks of time will be set for writing, you should select the time that works best for this type of work. For many people, mornings are more productive. One Yale University graduate student spent a semester writing from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. when her lab was empty. At the end of the semester, she was amazed at how much she accomplished without even interrupting her regular lab hours. In addition, doing the hardest task first thing in the morning contributes to the sense of accomplishment during the rest of the day. This positive feeling spills over into our work and life and has a very positive effect on our overall attitude.

Rule 1: Create regular time blocks for writing as appointments in your calendar and keep these appointments.

2. start with an outline.

Now that you have scheduled time, you need to decide how to start writing. The best strategy is to start with an outline. This will not be an outline that you are used to, with Roman numerals for each section and neat parallel listing of topic sentences and supporting points. This outline will be similar to a template for your paper. Initially, the outline will form a structure for your paper; it will help generate ideas and formulate hypotheses. Following the advice of George M. Whitesides, “. . . start with a blank piece of paper, and write down, in any order, all important ideas that occur to you concerning the paper” [ 3 ]. Use Table 1 as a starting point for your outline. Include your visuals (figures, tables, formulas, equations, and algorithms), and list your findings. These will constitute the first level of your outline, which will eventually expand as you elaborate.

The next stage is to add context and structure. Here you will group all your ideas into sections: Introduction, Methods, Results, and Discussion/Conclusion ( Table 2 ). This step will help add coherence to your work and sift your ideas.

Now that you have expanded your outline, you are ready for the next step: discussing the ideas for your paper with your colleagues and mentor. Many universities have a writing center where graduate students can schedule individual consultations and receive assistance with their paper drafts. Getting feedback during early stages of your draft can save a lot of time. Talking through ideas allows people to conceptualize and organize thoughts to find their direction without wasting time on unnecessary writing. Outlining is the most effective way of communicating your ideas and exchanging thoughts. Moreover, it is also the best stage to decide to which publication you will submit the paper. Many people come up with three choices and discuss them with their mentors and colleagues. Having a list of journal priorities can help you quickly resubmit your paper if your paper is rejected.

Rule 2: Create a detailed outline and discuss it with your mentor and peers.

3. continue with drafts.

After you get enough feedback and decide on the journal you will submit to, the process of real writing begins. Copy your outline into a separate file and expand on each of the points, adding data and elaborating on the details. When you create the first draft, do not succumb to the temptation of editing. Do not slow down to choose a better word or better phrase; do not halt to improve your sentence structure. Pour your ideas into the paper and leave revision and editing for later. As Paul Silvia explains, “Revising while you generate text is like drinking decaffeinated coffee in the early morning: noble idea, wrong time” [ 2 ].

Many students complain that they are not productive writers because they experience writer’s block. Staring at an empty screen is frustrating, but your screen is not really empty: You have a template of your article, and all you need to do is fill in the blanks. Indeed, writer’s block is a logical fallacy for a scientist ― it is just an excuse to procrastinate. When scientists start writing a research paper, they already have their files with data, lab notes with materials and experimental designs, some visuals, and tables with results. All they need to do is scrutinize these pieces and put them together into a comprehensive paper.

3.1. Starting with Materials and Methods

If you still struggle with starting a paper, then write the Materials and Methods section first. Since you have all your notes, it should not be problematic for you to describe the experimental design and procedures. Your most important goal in this section is to be as explicit as possible by providing enough detail and references. In the end, the purpose of this section is to allow other researchers to evaluate and repeat your work. So do not run into the same problems as the writers of the sentences in (1):

1a. Bacteria were pelleted by centrifugation. 1b. To isolate T cells, lymph nodes were collected.

As you can see, crucial pieces of information are missing: the speed of centrifuging your bacteria, the time, and the temperature in (1a); the source of lymph nodes for collection in (b). The sentences can be improved when information is added, as in (2a) and (2b), respectfully:

2a. Bacteria were pelleted by centrifugation at 3000g for 15 min at 25°C. 2b. To isolate T cells, mediastinal and mesenteric lymph nodes from Balb/c mice were collected at day 7 after immunization with ovabumin.

If your method has previously been published and is well-known, then you should provide only the literature reference, as in (3a). If your method is unpublished, then you need to make sure you provide all essential details, as in (3b).

3a. Stem cells were isolated, according to Johnson [23]. 3b. Stem cells were isolated using biotinylated carbon nanotubes coated with anti-CD34 antibodies.

Furthermore, cohesion and fluency are crucial in this section. One of the malpractices resulting in disrupted fluency is switching from passive voice to active and vice versa within the same paragraph, as shown in (4). This switching misleads and distracts the reader.

4. Behavioral computer-based experiments of Study 1 were programmed by using E-Prime. We took ratings of enjoyment, mood, and arousal as the patients listened to preferred pleasant music and unpreferred music by using Visual Analogue Scales (SI Methods). The preferred and unpreferred status of the music was operationalized along a continuum of pleasantness [ 4 ].

The problem with (4) is that the reader has to switch from the point of view of the experiment (passive voice) to the point of view of the experimenter (active voice). This switch causes confusion about the performer of the actions in the first and the third sentences. To improve the coherence and fluency of the paragraph above, you should be consistent in choosing the point of view: first person “we” or passive voice [ 5 ]. Let’s consider two revised examples in (5).

5a. We programmed behavioral computer-based experiments of Study 1 by using E-Prime. We took ratings of enjoyment, mood, and arousal by using Visual Analogue Scales (SI Methods) as the patients listened to preferred pleasant music and unpreferred music. We operationalized the preferred and unpreferred status of the music along a continuum of pleasantness. 5b. Behavioral computer-based experiments of Study 1 were programmed by using E-Prime. Ratings of enjoyment, mood, and arousal were taken as the patients listened to preferred pleasant music and unpreferred music by using Visual Analogue Scales (SI Methods). The preferred and unpreferred status of the music was operationalized along a continuum of pleasantness.

If you choose the point of view of the experimenter, then you may end up with repetitive “we did this” sentences. For many readers, paragraphs with sentences all beginning with “we” may also sound disruptive. So if you choose active sentences, you need to keep the number of “we” subjects to a minimum and vary the beginnings of the sentences [ 6 ].

Interestingly, recent studies have reported that the Materials and Methods section is the only section in research papers in which passive voice predominantly overrides the use of the active voice [ 5 , 7 , 8 , 9 ]. For example, Martínez shows a significant drop in active voice use in the Methods sections based on the corpus of 1 million words of experimental full text research articles in the biological sciences [ 7 ]. According to the author, the active voice patterned with “we” is used only as a tool to reveal personal responsibility for the procedural decisions in designing and performing experimental work. This means that while all other sections of the research paper use active voice, passive voice is still the most predominant in Materials and Methods sections.

Writing Materials and Methods sections is a meticulous and time consuming task requiring extreme accuracy and clarity. This is why when you complete your draft, you should ask for as much feedback from your colleagues as possible. Numerous readers of this section will help you identify the missing links and improve the technical style of this section.

Rule 3: Be meticulous and accurate in describing the Materials and Methods. Do not change the point of view within one paragraph.

3.2. writing results section.

For many authors, writing the Results section is more intimidating than writing the Materials and Methods section . If people are interested in your paper, they are interested in your results. That is why it is vital to use all your writing skills to objectively present your key findings in an orderly and logical sequence using illustrative materials and text.

Your Results should be organized into different segments or subsections where each one presents the purpose of the experiment, your experimental approach, data including text and visuals (tables, figures, schematics, algorithms, and formulas), and data commentary. For most journals, your data commentary will include a meaningful summary of the data presented in the visuals and an explanation of the most significant findings. This data presentation should not repeat the data in the visuals, but rather highlight the most important points. In the “standard” research paper approach, your Results section should exclude data interpretation, leaving it for the Discussion section. However, interpretations gradually and secretly creep into research papers: “Reducing the data, generalizing from the data, and highlighting scientific cases are all highly interpretive processes. It should be clear by now that we do not let the data speak for themselves in research reports; in summarizing our results, we interpret them for the reader” [ 10 ]. As a result, many journals including the Journal of Experimental Medicine and the Journal of Clinical Investigation use joint Results/Discussion sections, where results are immediately followed by interpretations.

Another important aspect of this section is to create a comprehensive and supported argument or a well-researched case. This means that you should be selective in presenting data and choose only those experimental details that are essential for your reader to understand your findings. You might have conducted an experiment 20 times and collected numerous records, but this does not mean that you should present all those records in your paper. You need to distinguish your results from your data and be able to discard excessive experimental details that could distract and confuse the reader. However, creating a picture or an argument should not be confused with data manipulation or falsification, which is a willful distortion of data and results. If some of your findings contradict your ideas, you have to mention this and find a plausible explanation for the contradiction.

In addition, your text should not include irrelevant and peripheral information, including overview sentences, as in (6).

6. To show our results, we first introduce all components of experimental system and then describe the outcome of infections.

Indeed, wordiness convolutes your sentences and conceals your ideas from readers. One common source of wordiness is unnecessary intensifiers. Adverbial intensifiers such as “clearly,” “essential,” “quite,” “basically,” “rather,” “fairly,” “really,” and “virtually” not only add verbosity to your sentences, but also lower your results’ credibility. They appeal to the reader’s emotions but lower objectivity, as in the common examples in (7):

7a. Table 3 clearly shows that … 7b. It is obvious from figure 4 that …

Another source of wordiness is nominalizations, i.e., nouns derived from verbs and adjectives paired with weak verbs including “be,” “have,” “do,” “make,” “cause,” “provide,” and “get” and constructions such as “there is/are.”

8a. We tested the hypothesis that there is a disruption of membrane asymmetry. 8b. In this paper we provide an argument that stem cells repopulate injured organs.

In the sentences above, the abstract nominalizations “disruption” and “argument” do not contribute to the clarity of the sentences, but rather clutter them with useless vocabulary that distracts from the meaning. To improve your sentences, avoid unnecessary nominalizations and change passive verbs and constructions into active and direct sentences.

9a. We tested the hypothesis that the membrane asymmetry is disrupted. 9b. In this paper we argue that stem cells repopulate injured organs.

Your Results section is the heart of your paper, representing a year or more of your daily research. So lead your reader through your story by writing direct, concise, and clear sentences.

Rule 4: Be clear, concise, and objective in describing your Results.

3.3. now it is time for your introduction.

Now that you are almost half through drafting your research paper, it is time to update your outline. While describing your Methods and Results, many of you diverged from the original outline and re-focused your ideas. So before you move on to create your Introduction, re-read your Methods and Results sections and change your outline to match your research focus. The updated outline will help you review the general picture of your paper, the topic, the main idea, and the purpose, which are all important for writing your introduction.

The best way to structure your introduction is to follow the three-move approach shown in Table 3 .

Adapted from Swales and Feak [ 11 ].

The moves and information from your outline can help to create your Introduction efficiently and without missing steps. These moves are traffic signs that lead the reader through the road of your ideas. Each move plays an important role in your paper and should be presented with deep thought and care. When you establish the territory, you place your research in context and highlight the importance of your research topic. By finding the niche, you outline the scope of your research problem and enter the scientific dialogue. The final move, “occupying the niche,” is where you explain your research in a nutshell and highlight your paper’s significance. The three moves allow your readers to evaluate their interest in your paper and play a significant role in the paper review process, determining your paper reviewers.

Some academic writers assume that the reader “should follow the paper” to find the answers about your methodology and your findings. As a result, many novice writers do not present their experimental approach and the major findings, wrongly believing that the reader will locate the necessary information later while reading the subsequent sections [ 5 ]. However, this “suspense” approach is not appropriate for scientific writing. To interest the reader, scientific authors should be direct and straightforward and present informative one-sentence summaries of the results and the approach.

Another problem is that writers understate the significance of the Introduction. Many new researchers mistakenly think that all their readers understand the importance of the research question and omit this part. However, this assumption is faulty because the purpose of the section is not to evaluate the importance of the research question in general. The goal is to present the importance of your research contribution and your findings. Therefore, you should be explicit and clear in describing the benefit of the paper.

The Introduction should not be long. Indeed, for most journals, this is a very brief section of about 250 to 600 words, but it might be the most difficult section due to its importance.

Rule 5: Interest your reader in the Introduction section by signalling all its elements and stating the novelty of the work.

3.4. discussion of the results.

For many scientists, writing a Discussion section is as scary as starting a paper. Most of the fear comes from the variation in the section. Since every paper has its unique results and findings, the Discussion section differs in its length, shape, and structure. However, some general principles of writing this section still exist. Knowing these rules, or “moves,” can change your attitude about this section and help you create a comprehensive interpretation of your results.

The purpose of the Discussion section is to place your findings in the research context and “to explain the meaning of the findings and why they are important, without appearing arrogant, condescending, or patronizing” [ 11 ]. The structure of the first two moves is almost a mirror reflection of the one in the Introduction. In the Introduction, you zoom in from general to specific and from the background to your research question; in the Discussion section, you zoom out from the summary of your findings to the research context, as shown in Table 4 .

Adapted from Swales and Feak and Hess [ 11 , 12 ].

The biggest challenge for many writers is the opening paragraph of the Discussion section. Following the moves in Table 1 , the best choice is to start with the study’s major findings that provide the answer to the research question in your Introduction. The most common starting phrases are “Our findings demonstrate . . .,” or “In this study, we have shown that . . .,” or “Our results suggest . . .” In some cases, however, reminding the reader about the research question or even providing a brief context and then stating the answer would make more sense. This is important in those cases where the researcher presents a number of findings or where more than one research question was presented. Your summary of the study’s major findings should be followed by your presentation of the importance of these findings. One of the most frequent mistakes of the novice writer is to assume the importance of his findings. Even if the importance is clear to you, it may not be obvious to your reader. Digesting the findings and their importance to your reader is as crucial as stating your research question.

Another useful strategy is to be proactive in the first move by predicting and commenting on the alternative explanations of the results. Addressing potential doubts will save you from painful comments about the wrong interpretation of your results and will present you as a thoughtful and considerate researcher. Moreover, the evaluation of the alternative explanations might help you create a logical step to the next move of the discussion section: the research context.

The goal of the research context move is to show how your findings fit into the general picture of the current research and how you contribute to the existing knowledge on the topic. This is also the place to discuss any discrepancies and unexpected findings that may otherwise distort the general picture of your paper. Moreover, outlining the scope of your research by showing the limitations, weaknesses, and assumptions is essential and adds modesty to your image as a scientist. However, make sure that you do not end your paper with the problems that override your findings. Try to suggest feasible explanations and solutions.

If your submission does not require a separate Conclusion section, then adding another paragraph about the “take-home message” is a must. This should be a general statement reiterating your answer to the research question and adding its scientific implications, practical application, or advice.

Just as in all other sections of your paper, the clear and precise language and concise comprehensive sentences are vital. However, in addition to that, your writing should convey confidence and authority. The easiest way to illustrate your tone is to use the active voice and the first person pronouns. Accompanied by clarity and succinctness, these tools are the best to convince your readers of your point and your ideas.

Rule 6: Present the principles, relationships, and generalizations in a concise and convincing tone.

4. choosing the best working revision strategies.

Now that you have created the first draft, your attitude toward your writing should have improved. Moreover, you should feel more confident that you are able to accomplish your project and submit your paper within a reasonable timeframe. You also have worked out your writing schedule and followed it precisely. Do not stop ― you are only at the midpoint from your destination. Just as the best and most precious diamond is no more than an unattractive stone recognized only by trained professionals, your ideas and your results may go unnoticed if they are not polished and brushed. Despite your attempts to present your ideas in a logical and comprehensive way, first drafts are frequently a mess. Use the advice of Paul Silvia: “Your first drafts should sound like they were hastily translated from Icelandic by a non-native speaker” [ 2 ]. The degree of your success will depend on how you are able to revise and edit your paper.

The revision can be done at the macrostructure and the microstructure levels [ 13 ]. The macrostructure revision includes the revision of the organization, content, and flow. The microstructure level includes individual words, sentence structure, grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

The best way to approach the macrostructure revision is through the outline of the ideas in your paper. The last time you updated your outline was before writing the Introduction and the Discussion. Now that you have the beginning and the conclusion, you can take a bird’s-eye view of the whole paper. The outline will allow you to see if the ideas of your paper are coherently structured, if your results are logically built, and if the discussion is linked to the research question in the Introduction. You will be able to see if something is missing in any of the sections or if you need to rearrange your information to make your point.

The next step is to revise each of the sections starting from the beginning. Ideally, you should limit yourself to working on small sections of about five pages at a time [ 14 ]. After these short sections, your eyes get used to your writing and your efficiency in spotting problems decreases. When reading for content and organization, you should control your urge to edit your paper for sentence structure and grammar and focus only on the flow of your ideas and logic of your presentation. Experienced researchers tend to make almost three times the number of changes to meaning than novice writers [ 15 , 16 ]. Revising is a difficult but useful skill, which academic writers obtain with years of practice.

In contrast to the macrostructure revision, which is a linear process and is done usually through a detailed outline and by sections, microstructure revision is a non-linear process. While the goal of the macrostructure revision is to analyze your ideas and their logic, the goal of the microstructure editing is to scrutinize the form of your ideas: your paragraphs, sentences, and words. You do not need and are not recommended to follow the order of the paper to perform this type of revision. You can start from the end or from different sections. You can even revise by reading sentences backward, sentence by sentence and word by word.

One of the microstructure revision strategies frequently used during writing center consultations is to read the paper aloud [ 17 ]. You may read aloud to yourself, to a tape recorder, or to a colleague or friend. When reading and listening to your paper, you are more likely to notice the places where the fluency is disrupted and where you stumble because of a very long and unclear sentence or a wrong connector.

Another revision strategy is to learn your common errors and to do a targeted search for them [ 13 ]. All writers have a set of problems that are specific to them, i.e., their writing idiosyncrasies. Remembering these problems is as important for an academic writer as remembering your friends’ birthdays. Create a list of these idiosyncrasies and run a search for these problems using your word processor. If your problem is demonstrative pronouns without summary words, then search for “this/these/those” in your text and check if you used the word appropriately. If you have a problem with intensifiers, then search for “really” or “very” and delete them from the text. The same targeted search can be done to eliminate wordiness. Searching for “there is/are” or “and” can help you avoid the bulky sentences.

The final strategy is working with a hard copy and a pencil. Print a double space copy with font size 14 and re-read your paper in several steps. Try reading your paper line by line with the rest of the text covered with a piece of paper. When you are forced to see only a small portion of your writing, you are less likely to get distracted and are more likely to notice problems. You will end up spotting more unnecessary words, wrongly worded phrases, or unparallel constructions.

After you apply all these strategies, you are ready to share your writing with your friends, colleagues, and a writing advisor in the writing center. Get as much feedback as you can, especially from non-specialists in your field. Patiently listen to what others say to you ― you are not expected to defend your writing or explain what you wanted to say. You may decide what you want to change and how after you receive the feedback and sort it in your head. Even though some researchers make the revision an endless process and can hardly stop after a 14th draft; having from five to seven drafts of your paper is a norm in the sciences. If you can’t stop revising, then set a deadline for yourself and stick to it. Deadlines always help.

Rule 7: Revise your paper at the macrostructure and the microstructure level using different strategies and techniques. Receive feedback and revise again.

5. it is time to submit.

It is late at night again. You are still in your lab finishing revisions and getting ready to submit your paper. You feel happy ― you have finally finished a year’s worth of work. You will submit your paper tomorrow, and regardless of the outcome, you know that you can do it. If one journal does not take your paper, you will take advantage of the feedback and resubmit again. You will have a publication, and this is the most important achievement.

What is even more important is that you have your scheduled writing time that you are going to keep for your future publications, for reading and taking notes, for writing grants, and for reviewing papers. You are not going to lose stamina this time, and you will become a productive scientist. But for now, let’s celebrate the end of the paper.

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The Introductory Paragraph: Start Your Paper Off Right

Begin with a great first sentence

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The introductory paragraph of any paper, long or short, should start with a sentence that piques the interest of your readers . 

In a well-constructed first paragraph, that first sentence leads into three or four sentences that provide details about the subject you address in the body of your essay. These sentences should also set the stage for your thesis statement .

Writing a good thesis statement is the subject of much instruction and training, as it's the driver of your research and the subject of your paper. The entirety of your paper hangs on that sentence, which is generally the last sentence of your introductory paragraph and is refined throughout your research and drafting phases.

Writing an Intro Paragraph

It's often easier to write the introductory paragraph after you've written the first draft of the main part of the paper (or at least sketched out a detailed outline, section by section or paragraph by paragraph). After the drafting stage, your research and main points are fresh in your mind, and your thesis statement has been polished to gleaming. It's typically honed during the drafting stage, as research may have necessitated its adjustment.

At the start of a large writing project, it can also be intimidating to put those first words down, so it's often easier to begin composing in the middle of the paper and work on the introduction and conclusion after the meat of the report has been organized, compiled, and drafted.

Construct your introductory paragraph with the following:

  • An attention-grabbing first sentence
  • Informative sentences that build to your thesis
  • The thesis statement, which makes a claim or states a view that you will support or build upon

Your First Sentence

As you researched your topic, you probably discovered some interesting anecdotes, quotes, or trivial facts. This is exactly the sort of thing you should use for an engaging introduction.

Consider these ideas for creating a strong beginning.

Surprising fact: The Pentagon has twice as many bathrooms as are necessary. The famous government building was constructed in the 1940s when segregation laws required that separate bathrooms be installed for people of African descent. This building isn’t the only American icon that harkens back to this embarrassing and hurtful time in our history. Across the United States, there are many examples of leftover laws and customs that reflect the racism that once permeated American society.

Humor: When my older brother substituted fresh eggs for our hard-boiled Easter eggs, he didn’t realize our father would take the first crack at hiding them. My brother’s holiday ended early that particular day in 1991, but the rest of the family enjoyed the warm April weather, outside on the lawn, until late into the evening. Perhaps it was the warmth of the day and the joy of eating Easter roast while Tommy contemplated his actions that make my memories of Easter so sweet. Whatever the true reason, the fact remains that my favorite holiday of the year is Easter Sunday.

Quotation: Hillary Rodham Clinton once said, “There cannot be true democracy unless women's voices are heard.” In 2006, when Nancy Pelosi became the nation’s first female Speaker of the House, one woman’s voice rang out clearly. With this development, democracy grew to its truest level ever in terms of women’s equality. The historical event also paved the way for Senator Clinton as she warmed her own vocal cords in preparation for a presidential race.

Finding the Hook

In each example, the first sentence draws the reader in to find out how the interesting fact leads to a point. You can use many methods to capture your reader’s interest.

Curiosity: A duck’s quack doesn’t echo. Some people might find a deep and mysterious meaning in this fact…

Definition: A homograph is a word with two or more pronunciations. Produce is one example…

Anecdote: Yesterday morning I watched as my older sister left for school with a bright white glob of toothpaste gleaming on her chin. I felt no regret at all until she stepped onto the bus …

Supporting Sentences

The body of your introductory paragraph should fulfill two functions: It should explain your first sentence and should build up to your thesis statement. You'll find that this is much easier than it sounds. Just follow the pattern you see in the above examples.

During the revision stage for the paper as a whole, you can make further refinements to the introduction as needed.

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6 Examples of Research Paper Introductions to Hook Your Readers

Welcome to our guide on research paper introductions!

As you may already know, the introduction is a critical component of any research paper, as it sets the tone for the rest of the paper and establishes the reader’s expectations.

The introductory paragraph in a research paper should give an overview of what the reader can expect from the rest of the paper.

It should also establish a context for readers who are new to this topic. More importantly, when writing a research paper introduction, it’s best to focus on two key points: the problem being addressed and how this particular study (or studies) addresses it.

If those two points are clear then readers should be able to follow along as they read more into your paper.

In the following sections, we’ll provide you with examples of different types of research paper introductions to help you get started.

Types of Research Paper Introductions

General introductions.

A general introduction is suitable when you’re discussing a range of different topics or subjects within one paper. It provides the reader with an idea of where you stand in regard to the topic at hand and can be followed up with a sentence or two explaining your specific angle.

Topic: The Effect of Social Media on Mental Health

Social media has become an integral part of our daily lives, and its impact on mental health has become a subject of increasing concern in recent years. While social media platforms have provided a new means of communication and access to information, they have also been linked to negative mental health outcomes such as depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. This research paper aims to explore the relationship between social media use and mental health outcomes. Specifically, we will investigate how social media affects individuals’ perceptions of themselves and their social relationships, as well as the potential impact on their emotional well-being. Through a thorough literature review and original research, we hope to shed light on the complex relationship between social media and mental health and provide insights into effective interventions for those who may be negatively impacted by social media use.

Topic: Formal Presentations at University

Most universities require their graduate-level courses to have some form of formal presentation such as a dissertation, master’s thesis, or doctoral dissertation. These presentations often take the form of an oral defense. Formal presentations provide both teachers and students with feedback in order to make future projects better. Teachers also use these projects to gauge student performance and provide guidance during group discussions throughout the course. What makes these oral defenses different than others is that they must adhere to strict guidelines set forth by the institution overseeing them. Failure to comply with these guidelines may result in expulsion from the university. Oral defenses typically contain three major parts: an opening statement, main body, and closing statement. However, some institutions may offer variations of this format. For instance, many institutions now require a written version of the presentation that includes all major aspects required by the institution.

Quote-Based Research Paper Introduction

This type of introduction is ideal for research papers that rely heavily on quotes to establish their point.

In these cases, quoting the most relevant piece of information is usually necessary because doing so will allow the reader to better understand what your discussion entails.

With that said, remember that every quote you include needs to add something significant and/or novel which hasn’t been covered before – otherwise it won’t be worth including in your paper!

Topic: International Student Success at the University Level

Shakespeare once said that “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” This line from Romeo and Juliet suggests that names don’t matter. Similarly, the fact that someone goes to school in a certain country does not affect the quality of education. Yet research has shown that international students perform worse academically than domestic ones in American colleges and universities. So, the question becomes: How do we foster success among international students? It is possible that differences in culture and socialization contribute to the observed gaps in academic achievement. Given that, our next step should be to examine the challenges faced by international students in an effort to find effective ways of addressing these challenges.

Topic: The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health

As Mark Twain once said, “Comparison is the death of joy.” In today’s world, social media platforms provide us with countless opportunities to compare our lives to those of others, often leading to feelings of inadequacy, anxiety, and depression. Research has shown that excessive social media use can have a negative impact on mental health, particularly among young adults. Given the increasing prevalence of social media in our daily lives, it’s important to explore this topic in more depth and understand the ways in which social media use can impact mental health outcomes.

Research paper introduction

Surprising Fact-based Introductions

A surprising fact-based introduction works well with scientific or medical topics where there is surprising new evidence that directly impacts how people view a certain issue. In such cases, it’s often necessary to give some background on what exactly is at stake in order to highlight why it’s important and relevant. Following that, you can introduce the key findings and what they mean.

Topic: The relationship between caffeine and weight loss

Caffeine is a well-known stimulant, which is consumed by millions of people on a daily basis in the form of coffee, tea, energy drinks, or pills. Although it’s unclear how much caffeine is too much for an individual to consume each day, it’s commonly believed that the positive effects of caffeine are canceled out by the increased appetite that results from drinking caffeinated beverages. But did you know that caffeine might actually help you lose weight?! Recent research conducted by a team of investigators from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health found that the more caffeine an individual consumes, the lower their risk for obesity. That’s right: while it may sound counterintuitive, having one or two cups of coffee per day could actually decrease your chances of becoming overweight or obese.

Topic: The Benefits of Napping on Memory Retention

Did you know that a short nap can help boost your memory retention by up to 30%? Most people think of napping as something reserved for children or lazy adults, but recent research has shown that a short nap can actually be beneficial for cognitive function, particularly in regard to memory. In today’s fast-paced world, we often prioritize productivity over rest, but the science behind napping suggests that we should be doing the opposite. In this paper, we will explore the benefits of napping on memory retention and discuss how individuals and organizations can incorporate napping into their daily routines for optimal cognitive performance.

Explanatory research paper introductions

These types of research paper introductions are used when you’re introducing a new concept or idea that requires the audience to have knowledge of basic facts in order to follow along.

In this case, it’s critical that you provide the necessary background information and then follow up with a statement about why the rest of the research is interesting and/or relevant.

For example, you might say that the paper discusses a recent study on mindfulness and meditation.

In order to fully grasp the research and the claims being made, it’s necessary to first understand what mindfulness is and why it’s relevant. The following paragraphs would therefore serve as an introduction to both topics.

Topic: Mindfulness

Mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Regular practice of mindfulness can be highly beneficial to both mental and physical health. There are many different techniques for practicing mindfulness: Mindful walking, sitting with an open mind, eating without distractions, listening deeply to others, or simply noticing what you see in your environment. What’s most important is that you develop the ability to pay attention in a way that helps you connect with yourself and the world around you. And just like anything else, mindfulness takes practice. The best way to get started is by taking part in a course or program offered at your local community center, hospital, or online.

Topic: The Effectiveness of Online Learning in Higher Education

As more and more students turn to online learning to pursue their higher education, questions have arisen regarding the effectiveness of this type of education. While online learning offers a number of benefits, such as flexibility and convenience, it also presents unique challenges, including the lack of face-to-face interaction with instructors and classmates. This research paper aims to examine the effectiveness of online learning in higher education and compare it to traditional classroom-based learning. By conducting a literature review and analyzing data from surveys and interviews with students and instructors, this paper seeks to identify the advantages and disadvantages of online learning and provide recommendations for improving its effectiveness.

Narration-based paper introductions

This type of research paper introduction is used when you’re discussing a topic or event in detail.

You could talk about why it’s important, explain what happened and how it relates to your larger point, summarize what happened (as with a timeline), or present an example to prove your thesis.

Whatever you choose, it’s imperative that you make your readers want to keep reading.

This is done by telling a compelling story, using storytelling elements such as tension and conflict, or painting a vivid picture of the scene with sensory details.

Topic: The impact of stress on memory and learning

It’s well known that stress can impair our ability to learn new things, but it also has an impact on our memories. Well, I have first-hand experience with this. The night before my midterm, I had a major fight with my partner. This was one of the worst arguments we’ve ever had and it went on for hours. Needless to say, it stressed me out and there’s no doubt that it hurt my performance on the test. The funny thing is that in the days following the argument, my partner and I were able to clear everything up, so now we’re good again. But this experience taught me one very important lesson: the impact of stress on memory and learning might seem negligible but it can actually have a long-term impact on academic performance.

Topic: The Effects of Social Media on Mental Health

As I sit here scrolling through my Instagram feed, I can’t help but feel a sense of envy and inadequacy wash over me. The seemingly perfect lives of influencers and friends alike are on full display, leaving me to question why I don’t have the same level of success and happiness. It’s no secret that social media has become a ubiquitous part of our daily lives, with billions of people using platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter to connect with others and share their lives. But what are the effects of this constant exposure to other people’s carefully curated images and narratives? Are we putting ourselves at risk for developing mental health issues like anxiety and depression? In this paper, I will explore the research that has been done on the topic of social media and mental health, examining both the positive and negative effects that social media can have on our psychological well-being. By the end of this paper, you will have a better understanding of how social media impacts mental health and what steps we can take to mitigate its negative effects.

Teaser-based research paper introductions

The most common types of research paper introductions are teasers.

This simply means that your first sentence is a hook: something to grab your reader’s attention and make them want to read more.

One way to create a compelling teaser is by addressing an interesting question or controversial topic, such as “Why do some people succeed and others fail?”

Another approach is to pose a problem that you plan to solve.

Here are examples of a teaser-based research paper introduction.

Topic: Why do some people succeed and others fail?

Failure is a part of life. We all fail at one time or another, it’s just something that happens. But why do some people fail more than others? And what about people who never seem to fail? You see them every day, they are in your office and everywhere else you go. These people always seem to be successful and highly driven. How do they do it? This is a question that has puzzled psychologists and other social scientists for years. In the past, a lot of psychologists believed that success was due to differences in abilities and intelligence. Others said it depended on luck. Still, others believed that family background determined whether someone succeeded or not. As you can imagine, these explanations led to considerable debate and disagreement among scholars.

Topic: The Future of Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare

Are we on the cusp of a revolution in healthcare? With the rise of artificial intelligence (AI), the answer might just be yes. From machine learning algorithms that can identify diseases faster and more accurately than humans to chatbots that can answer patient questions 24/7, AI is poised to transform every aspect of healthcare. But as with any technology, there are risks and challenges that must be addressed. In this paper, we’ll explore the ways in which AI is being used in healthcare today and the potential implications for patients, doctors, and the healthcare industry as a whole. Buckle up, because the future is here, and it’s powered by AI.

Final Remarks

Crafting an effective research paper introduction can be challenging, but with the right approach and attention to detail, you can create an introduction that captures the reader’s attention and sets the stage for the rest of the paper.

Whether you choose a general introduction, a quote-based introduction, a surprising fact-based introduction, or an anecdotal introduction, be sure to clearly state your topic and thesis, provide background information, and engage your readers in meaning.

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  • How to Write Topic Sentences | 4 Steps, Examples & Purpose

How to Write Topic Sentences | 4 Steps, Examples & Purpose

Published on July 21, 2022 by Shona McCombes . Revised on June 5, 2023.

How to Write Topic Sentences

Every paragraph in your paper needs a topic sentence . The topic sentence expresses what the paragraph is about. It should include two key things:

  • The  topic of the paragraph
  • The central point of the paragraph.

After the topic sentence, you expand on the point zwith evidence and examples.

To build a well-structured argument, you can also use your topic sentences to transition smoothly between paragraphs and show the connections between your points.

Table of contents

Writing strong topic sentences, topic sentences as transitions between paragraphs, topic sentences that introduce more than one paragraph, where does the topic sentence go, frequently asked questions about topic sentences.

Topic sentences aren’t the first or the last thing you write—you’ll develop them throughout the writing process. To make sure every topic sentence and paragraph serves your argument, follow these steps.

Step 1: Write a thesis statement

The first step to developing your topic sentences is to make sure you have a strong thesis statement . The thesis statement sums up the purpose and argument of the whole paper.

Thesis statement example

Food is an increasingly urgent environmental issue, and to reduce humans’ impact on the planet, it is necessary to change global patterns of food production and consumption.

Step 2: Make an essay outline and draft topic sentences

Next, you should make an outline of your essay’s structure , planning what you want to say in each paragraph and what evidence you’ll use.

At this stage, you can draft a topic sentence that sums up the main point you want to make in each paragraph. The topic sentences should be more specific than the thesis statement, but always clearly related to it.

Topic sentence example

Research has consistently shown that the meat industry has a significant environmental impact .

Step 3: Expand with evidence

The rest of the paragraph should flow logically from the topic sentence, expanding on the point with evidence, examples, or argumentation. This helps keep your paragraphs focused: everything you write should relate to the central idea expressed in the topic sentence.

In our example, you might mention specific research studies and statistics that support your point about the overall impact of the meat industry.

Step 4: Refine your topic sentences

Topic sentences usually start out as simple statements. But it’s important to revise them as you write, making sure they match the content of each paragraph.

A good topic sentence is specific enough to give a clear sense of what to expect from the paragraph, but general enough that it doesn’t give everything away. You can think of it like a signpost: it should tell the reader which direction your argument is going in.

To make your writing stronger and ensure the connections between your paragraphs are clear and logical, you can also use topic sentences to create smooth transitions. To improve sentence flow even more, you can also utilize the paraphrase tool .

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As you write each topic sentence, ask yourself: how does this point relate to what you wrote in the preceding paragraph? It’s often helpful to use transition words in your topic sentences to show the connections between your ideas.

Emphasize and expand

If the paragraph goes into more detail or gives another example to make the same point, the topic sentence can use words that imply emphasis or similarity (for example, furthermore , indeed , in fact , also ).

Indeed , cattle farming alone is responsible for a large proportion of greenhouse gas emissions.

Summarize and anticipate

If the paragraph turns to a different aspect of the same subject, the topic sentence can briefly sum up the previous paragraph and anticipate the new information that will appear in this one.

While beef clearly has the most dramatic footprint, other animal products also have serious impacts in terms of emissions, water and land use.

Compare and contrast

If the paragraph makes a comparison or introduces contrasting information, the topic sentence can use words that highlight difference or conflict (for example, in contrast , however , yet , on the other hand ).

However , the environmental costs of dietary choices are not always clear-cut; in some cases, small-scale livestock farming is more sustainable than plant-based food production.

You can also imply contrast or complicate your argument by formulating the topic sentence as a question.

Is veganism the only solution, or are there more sustainable ways of producing meat and dairy?

Sometimes you can use a topic sentence to introduce several paragraphs at once.

All of the examples above address the environmental impact of meat-eating versus veganism. Together, they make up one coherent part of a larger argument, so the first paragraph could use a topic sentence to introduce the whole section.

In countries with high levels of meat consumption, a move towards plant-based diets is the most obvious route to making food more sustainable. Research has consistently shown that the meat industry has significant environmental impacts.

The topic sentence usually goes at the very start of a paragraph, but sometimes it can come later to indicate a change of direction in the paragraph’s argument.

Given this evidence of the meat industry’s impact on the planet, veganism seems like the only environmentally responsible option for consumers. However, the environmental costs of dietary choices are not always clear-cut; in some cases, small-scale livestock farming is more sustainable than plant-based food production.

In this example, the first sentence summarizes the main point that has been made so far. Then the topic sentence indicates that this paragraph will address evidence that complicates or contradicts that point.

In more advanced or creative forms of academic writing , you can play with the placement of topic sentences to build suspense and give your arguments more force. But if in doubt, to keep your research paper clear and focused, the easiest method is to place the topic sentence at the start of the paragraph.

View topic sentences in an example essay

A topic sentence is a sentence that expresses the main point of a paragraph . Everything else in the paragraph should relate to the topic sentence.

Topic sentences help keep your writing focused and guide the reader through your argument.

In an essay or paper , each paragraph should focus on a single idea. By stating the main idea in the topic sentence, you clarify what the paragraph is about for both yourself and your reader.

The topic sentence usually comes at the very start of the paragraph .

However, sometimes you might start with a transition sentence to summarize what was discussed in previous paragraphs, followed by the topic sentence that expresses the focus of the current paragraph.

Let’s say you’re writing a five-paragraph  essay about the environmental impacts of dietary choices. Here are three examples of topic sentences you could use for each of the three body paragraphs :

  • Research has shown that the meat industry has severe environmental impacts.
  • However, many plant-based foods are also produced in environmentally damaging ways.
  • It’s important to consider not only what type of diet we eat, but where our food comes from and how it is produced.

Each of these sentences expresses one main idea – by listing them in order, we can see the overall structure of the essay at a glance. Each paragraph will expand on the topic sentence with relevant detail, evidence, and arguments.

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Useful Phrases and Sentences for Academic & Research Paper Writing

Overview |   Abstract   | Introduction | Literature Review | Materials & Methods | Results & Discussion | Conclusion & Future Work | Acknowledgements & Appendix

1. Abstract

An abstract is a self-contained and short synopsis that describes a larger work. The abstract is the only part of the paper that is published online and in most conference proceedings. Hence abstract constitutes a very important section of your paper.  Also, when you submit your paper to a journal, potential reviewers only see the abstract when invited by an editor to review a manuscript. The abstract should include one or two lines briefly describing the topic, scope, purpose, results, and conclusion of your work. The abstract is indexed by search engines, so make sure that it has all the right words that a fellow researcher in the same field will be using while searching for articles online. Also, make sure it is rich with data and numbers to demonstrate the scientific rigor of your article. Be very clear and confident about your findings. Keep it punchy and straight to the point.

The abstract section of your research paper should include the following:

Click here for the academic phrases and vocabulary for the abstract section of the research paper…

2. Introduction

Introduction section comes after the abstract. Introduction section should provide the reader with a brief overview of your topic and the reasons for conducting research. The introduction is a perfect place to set the scene and make a good first impression. Regarding word count, introduction typically occupies 10-15% of your paper, for example, if the total word count of your paper is 3000, then you should aim for an introduction of around 600 words. It is often recommended that the introduction section of the paper is written after finishing the other sections of the paper. This is because it is difficult to figure out what exactly to put in the introduction section of the paper until you have seen the big picture. Sound very confident about your chosen subject area and back up your arguments with appropriate references. After reading the introduction, the reader must have a clear idea of what to expect from the rest of your research paper.

The introduction section of your research paper should include the following:

  • General introduction
  • Problem definition
  • Gaps in the literature
  • Problems solution
  • Study motivation
  • Aims & objectives
  • Significance and advantages of your work

Click here for the academic phrases and vocabulary for the introduction section of the research paper…

3. Literature review

The literature review should clearly demonstrate that the author has a good knowledge of the research area. Literature review typically occupies one or two passages in the introduction section. A well-written literature review should provide a critical appraisal of previous studies related to the current research area rather than a simple summary of prior works. The author shouldn’t shy away from pointing out the shortcomings of previous works. However, criticising other’s work without any basis can weaken your paper. This is a perfect place to coin your research question and justify the need for such a study. It is also worth pointing out towards the end of the review that your study is unique and there is no direct literature addressing this issue. Add a few sentences about the significance of your research and how this will add value to the body of knowledge.

The literature review section of your research paper should include the following:

  • Previous literature
  • Limitations of previous research
  • Research questions
  • Research to be explored

Click here for the academic phrases and vocabulary for the literature review section of the research paper…

4. Materials and Methods

The methods section that follows the introduction section should provide a clear description of the experimental procedure, and the reasons behind the choice of specific experimental methods. The methods section should be elaborate enough so that the readers can repeat the experimental procedure and reproduce the results. The scientific rigor of the paper is judged by your materials and methods section, so make sure you elaborate on all the fine details of your experiment. Explain the procedures step-by-step by splitting the main section into multiple sub-sections. Order procedures chronologically with subheadings. Use past tense to describe what you did since you are reporting on a completed experiment. The methods section should describe how the research question was answered and explain how the results were analyzed. Clearly explain various statistical methods used for significance testing and the reasons behind the choice.

The methods section of your research paper should include the following:

  • Experimental setup
  • Data collection
  • Data analysis
  • Statistical testing
  • Assumptions
  • Remit of the experiment

Click here for the academic phrases and vocabulary for the methods section of the research paper…

5. Results and Discussion

The results and discussion sections are one of the challenging sections to write. It is important to plan this section carefully as it may contain a large amount of scientific data that needs to be presented in a clear and concise fashion. The purpose of a Results section is to present the key results of your research. Results and discussions can either be combined into one section or organized as separate sections depending on the requirements of the journal to which you are submitting your research paper. Use subsections and subheadings to improve readability and clarity. Number all tables and figures with descriptive titles. Present your results as figures and tables and point the reader to relevant items while discussing the results. This section should highlight significant or interesting findings along with P values for statistical tests. Be sure to include negative results and highlight potential limitations of the paper. You will be criticized by the reviewers if you don’t discuss the shortcomings of your research. This often makes up for a great discussion section, so do not be afraid to highlight them.

The results and discussion section of your research paper should include the following:

  • Comparison with prior studies
  • Limitations of your work
  • Casual arguments
  • Speculations
  • Deductive arguments

Click here for the academic phrases and vocabulary for the results and discussion section of the research paper…

6. Conclusion and Future Work

A research paper should end with a well-constructed conclusion. The conclusion is somewhat similar to the introduction. You restate your aims and objectives and summarize your main findings and evidence for the reader. You can usually do this in one paragraph with three main key points, and one strong take-home message. You should not present any new arguments in your conclusion. You can raise some open questions and set the scene for the next study. This is a good place to register your thoughts about possible future work. Try to explain to your readers what more could be done? What do you think are the next steps to take? What other questions warrant further investigation? Remember, the conclusion is the last part of the essay that your reader will see, so spend some time writing the conclusion so that you can end on a high note.

The conclusion section of your research paper should include the following:

  • Overall summary
  • Further research

Click here for the academic phrases and vocabulary for the conclusions and future work sections of the research paper…

7. Acknowledgements and Appendix

There is no standard way to write acknowledgements. This section allows you to thank all the people who helped you with the project. You can take either formal or informal tone; you won’t be penalized.  You can place supplementary materials in the appendix and refer to them in the main text. There is no limit on what you can place in the appendix section. This can include figures, tables, costs, budget, maps, etc. Anything that is essential for the paper but might potentially interrupt the flow of the paper goes in the appendix.

Click here for the academic phrases and vocabulary for the acknowledgements and appendix sections of the research paper…

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if you can also add on verbs used for each section would be good further

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research paper opening sentence

The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Thesis Statement

Matt Ellis

A thesis statement is a sentence in a paper or essay (in the opening paragraph) that introduces the main topic to the reader. As one of the first things your reader sees, your thesis statement is one of the most important sentences in your entire paper—but also one of the hardest to write! 

In this article, we explain how to write a thesis statement in the best way possible. We look at what to include and the steps to take for writing your own, along with plenty of thesis statement examples to guide you. 

Here’s a tip: Want to make sure your writing shines? Grammarly can check your spelling and save you from grammar and punctuation mistakes. It even proofreads your text, so your work is polished wherever you write.

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What is a thesis statement?

The goal of a thesis statement is to let your reader know what your paper or essay is about. It helps your reader understand the greater context and scope of your topic, plus it lets your readers know what to expect from the rest of the work. 

A secondary benefit of a thesis statement is that it makes it easier to search for papers on a particular topic, especially in the realm of academic writing like research papers and thesis papers (which are sometimes known as dissertations when written for doctoral degrees). For example, if you’re writing a paper of your own, you’ll want to look up other papers to use as evidence and sources . You can simply scan the thesis statements of several papers to see which match your topic and could be worthwhile sources to cite. 

How to write a thesis statement: Basics

Before we get into details, here are the basic steps for how to write a thesis statement: 

  • Develop the best topic to cover in your paper
  • Phrase your topic as a question-and-answer
  • Add some polish

We ’ ll describe each of those steps in more detail below, but we wanted to share a quick guide. Also, we ’ ll provide some thesis statement examples and talk about how to write a thesis statement for different kinds of essays: persuasive, compare-and-contrast, expository, and argumentative essays.

The thesis statement is located at the beginning of a paper, in the opening paragraph, making it an essential way to start an essay . A thesis statement isn’t necessarily the first sentence in an essay; typically you’ll want to hook the reader in an engaging way in the opening sentence before inserting your central idea or argument later in the first paragraph. A thesis statement is often confused with a topic sentence , the first sentence in a paragraph, because they both introduce the central idea of what follows. You can think of thesis statements as the topic sentence of your entire paper.  

What to include in a thesis statement (with examples)

Thesis statements are a necessary part of paper and essay writing , but different formats have different rules and best practices. Below, we break down how to write a thesis statement for the most common types of papers. 

How to write a thesis statement for expository and argumentative essays

Expository and argumentative essays are some of the most common types of academic papers. Because they don’t have a formal abstract like research papers, they rely on their thesis statements to provide an overview of what’s discussed. 

Thesis statements for argumentative and expository essays should use strong and decisive language; don’t be wishy-washy or uncertain. You want to take a stand right in the opening so that your readers understand what your paper is trying to show. 

Moreover, thesis statements for these essays should be specific, with some minor details to hint at the rest of the paper. It’s not enough to merely make your point; you also want to provide some basic evidence or background context to paint a full picture. 

If your paper dives into different subtopics or categories, try to fit them into the thesis statement if you can. You don’t have to get into details here, but it’s nice to mention the different sections at the top so that the reader knows what to expect. 

Thesis statement examples

Despite the taboo, insects make an excellent food source and could stem humanity’s looming food shortage, based on both their protein output and the sustainability of farming them. 

The backlash to rock ’n’ roll music in the ’50s by religious groups and traditionalists actually boosted the genre’s popularity instead of diminishing it as intended.

How to write a thesis statement for persuasive essays

Similar to argumentative essays, persuasive essays follow many of the same guidelines for their thesis statements: decisive language, specific details, and mentions of subtopics. 

However, the main difference is that, while the thesis statements for argumentative and expository essays state facts, the thesis statements for persuasive essays state clear opinions . Still, the format is the same, and the opinions are often treated like facts, including conclusive language and citing evidence to support your claims. 

Furthermore, unlike with other essays, it’s appropriate to make emotional connections in a thesis statement in persuasive essays. This can actually be a clever strategy to start your essay off on a more personal, impactful note. 

Advertising should not be allowed in public schools because it’s a distraction from studies and may lead to misguided priorities among the school board, to say nothing of the materialist culture it promotes. 

Exotic pets provide the same love and companionship as conventional pets, so the laws regulating which animals can and cannot be kept as pets should be more relaxed.

How to write a thesis statement for compare-and-contrast essays

Thesis statements for compare-and-contrast essays are tricky because you have at least two topics to touch on instead of just one. The same general guidelines apply (decisive language, details, etc.), but you need to give equal attention to both your topics—otherwise, your essay will seem biased from the start. 

As always, your thesis statement should reflect what’s written in the rest of your essay. If your essay spends more time comparing than contrasting, your thesis statement should focus more on similarities than differences. 

It sometimes helps to give specific examples as well, but keep them simple and brief. Save the finer details for the body of your essay. 

Sean Connery and Daniel Craig are the two most popular actors to portray James Bond, but both have their own distinct and at times contradictory interpretations of the character. 

How to write a thesis statement in 3 steps

Now that you know what you’re aiming for, it’s time to sit down and write your own thesis statement. To keep you on track, here are three easy steps to guide you. 

1 Brainstorm the best topic for your essay

You can’t write a thesis statement until you know what your paper is about, so your first step is choosing a topic. 

If the topic is already assigned, great ! That’s all for this step. If not, consider the tips below for choosing the topic that’s best for you:

  • Pick a topic that you’re passionate about. Even if you don’t know much about it, it’ll be easier to learn about it while writing if you’re genuinely interested. 
  • Narrow down your topic to something specific; otherwise, your paper will be too broad and perhaps too long. Just make sure it’s not too specific, or you won’t have enough to write about. Try to find a happy medium. 
  • Check beforehand that there are enough strong, credible sources to use for research. You don’t want to run out of referential material halfway through. 

Once you’ve chosen a topic—and the angle or stance you want to take—then it’s time to put the idea for your thesis sentence into words. 

2 Phrase your topic as a question and then answer it

It’s not always easy to fit your entire thesis into just one sentence, let alone one that’s written clearly and eloquently. Here’s a quick technique to help you get started. 

First, phrase your topic as a question. For example, if you want to write about Mahatma Gandhi’s legacy, ask yourself, “What influences did Gandhi have on society after his death?” 

If you already know the answer, write it down—that’s a good start for your thesis statement. If you don’t know the answer, do some preliminary research to find out; you can certainly use what you discover as evidence and sources in your essay’s body paragraphs . 

3 Add some polish

Chances are, your first attempt at a thesis statement won’t be perfect. To get it to its best, try revising , editing , and adding what’s missing. 

Remember the core traits for thesis statements we mentioned above: decisive language, a happy medium of specific but not too specific details, and mention of subtopics. If you’re struggling to contain everything in a single sentence, feel free to move the secondary information to the following sentence. The thesis statement itself should only have what’s most necessary. 

If you’re in doubt, read your thesis statement to a friend and ask them what they think your paper is about. If they answer correctly, your thesis statement does its job. 

Next comes the hard part—writing the rest! While the bulk of the writing lies ahead, at least you’ve nailed down your central idea. To plot out your supporting argument, follow our advice on essay structure and let your ideas flow. 

research paper opening sentence

The first sentence of a research paper: Definition & Tips

Photo of Mohammad

W riting a research paper’s first line is a lot like preparing for the first act of a spectacular play. Amazingly, something can captivate, intrigue us, and set the stage for what’s coming.

But people often forget about it when they’re in a hurry to dive into the intricacies of the research. This simple sentence opens the door for your readers to step into your study world.

It’s important because it helps them connect and understand your work better. This article explains why a research paper’s first sentence is so important.

It talks about how it grabs your attention, gives you some context, and sets the tone for the whole paper.

Pretty interesting stuff! We want to dive into the art of creating a captivating opening sentence that gets readers excited and curious about what’s to come in our scholarly journey.

So, if you are ready, let’s learn about the  first sentence of a research paper .

Table of Contents

A quick look at the first sentence of a research paper

Known as the “opening sentence” or the “introduction,” the first line of a research report usually discusses the subject and places the study in perspective.

Even though it may seem simple, introductions are usually written first in a paper. They help your reader transition from a broad subject area to the specific topic that your paper focuses on.

They also explain your paper’s:

1.      Define the range of your investigation.

2.      The history of the subject you’re discussing.

3.      Explain the significance of your study to a certain field or the global community.

All the data we discuss show that this part of the research is critical. So, in reality, why is the first sentence of a research important?

Do not worry at all; just follow us to continue. We explain all in detail:

First sentence of a research paper

Why is the first sentence of a research important? (8 Important Reasons)

Just wanted to mention that sometimes readers might not get a clear idea of what your research paper is all about just by reading the title.

It’s always a good idea to ensure your title gives them a hint or a glimpse into the topic you’re covering. That way, they’ll better understand what to expect when they dive into your paper.

So, let’s see what does  the first sentence of a research paper  give to the readers:

1.       The initial impression a reader has of your work is called engagement. An attractive first sentence of a research paper is super important because it grabs the reader’s attention and makes them want to keep reading and get into your research.

2.       To give you some background information, the first sentence in a research paper is really important for our study. The introduction lets the reader know what the paper is about, and understanding the significance of your research relies heavily on this context.

3.       When it comes to writing a thesis, it’s pretty common for the first sentence to give a little preview of what the main argument or research question is going to be. It’s like a little sneak peek to grab the reader’s attention. This helps the reader by giving them a clear idea of what the paper is all about.

4.       The opening sentence of a research paper is super important because it sets the tone for the whole paper. It helps determine whether the paper is formal, informal, serious, lighthearted, scholarly, or easy to understand.

5.       When readers start reading a paper, they often decide whether to continue based on the first sentence in a research paper. If your opening is engaging and relevant, it encourages people to dive deeper into your research. On the other hand, if the opening is weak or uninspiring, it might discourage them from continuing.

6.       The reader’s interest is piqued when the opening line of the research paper raises questions that can only be addressed by continuing the text. This curiosity might serve as a potent incentive to keep on reading.

7.       It directs the reader on the right path by stating the goals and parameters of your study. Readers will find this information helpful as they go through the paper.

8.       Credibility as a writer is increased when the first line in research shows that you have put time and effort into your study.

Read More: How to calculate plagiarism percentage

First sentence of a research paper

It is impossible to overestimate the significance of a research paper’s first phrase. It’s the first impression readers will have of your research, and it should entice them to go more.

The first line heavily influences your research’s reception because of its ability to pique interest, offer necessary background information, establish a tone, and lead the reader through the rest of the paper.

Authors and researchers who appreciate the value of a strong first impression can better design introductions that pique readers’ interest and motivate them to go on and learn more.

So, we tried to collect important and practical data for you, and we hope they will be helpful for your articles and research.

research paper opening sentence

Finally, we want you to talk about your experiences in a research paper’s first sentence and add more data if you know.

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Table of Contents

How to Write a Great Opening Sentence

Examples of great first sentences (and how they did it), how to write a strong opening sentence & engage readers (with examples).

research paper opening sentence

“I’ve never met you, but I’m gonna read your mind.”

That’s the opening line to The Scribe Method . It does what great opening sentences should: it immediately captures the reader’s attention. It makes them want to read more.

The purpose of a good opening line is to engage the reader and get them to start reading the book. That’s it.

It’s a fairly simple idea, and it works very well—but there are still a lot of misconceptions about book openings .

Many first-time Authors think they have to shock the reader to make them take note.

That’s not true. There are many ways to hook a reader that don’t require shocking them.

I also see Authors who think the purpose of the first paragraph is to explain what they’ll talk about in the book.

Not only is that wrong, it’s boring.

Readers can sense bullshit a mile away, so don’t try to beat them over the head with shock. Don’t give them a tedious summary. Don’t tell your life story. Don’t go into too much detail.

Use your first sentence to connect to the reader and make them want to keep reading.

This guide will help you write a great opening line so you can establish that authenticity and connection quickly.

Everyone knows some of the great opening lines from fiction novels:

  • “Call me Ishmael.” – Herman Melville, Moby Dick​​​​
  • “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” – Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
  • “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano BuendĂ­a was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” – Gabriel GarcĂ­a Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude
  • “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way—in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.” – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

The common thread between these opening lines is that they create a vivid first impression. They make the reader want to know more.

They’re punchy, intriguing, and unexpected.

The first words of a nonfiction book work the same way. You want to create an emotional connection with the reader so they can’t put the book down.

In some ways, nonfiction Authors even have an advantage. They’re writing about themselves and their knowledge while having a conversation with the reader.

They can establish the connection even more immediately because they don’t have to set a fictional scene. They can jump right in and use the first person “I.”

Let’s go back to The Scribe Method ‘s opening paragraph:

I’ve never met you, but I’m gonna read your mind. Not literally, of course. I’m going to make an educated guess about why you want to write a book.

When you read that, at a minimum, you’re going to think, “All right, dude, let’s see if you really know why I want to write a book .” And you’re going to keep reading.

At best, you’re going to think, “Wow. He’s inside my head right now.” And you’re going to keep reading.

In both cases, I’ve managed to create an emotional connection with the reader. Even if that emotion is skepticism, it’s enough to hook someone.

So where do you start when you’re writing your book? How do you form that connection?

The best hooks usually start in the middle of the highest intensity.

In other words, lead with the most emotional part of the story.

If you’re starting your book with a story about how you got chased by the police, don’t begin with what you had for breakfast that day. Start with the chase.

A good hook might also be a question or a claim—anything that will elicit an emotional response from a reader.

Think about it this way: a good opening sentence is the thing you don’t think you can say, but you still want to say.

Like, “This book will change your life.”

Or, “I’ve come up with the most brilliant way anyone’s ever found for handling this problem.”

Your opening sentence isn’t the time for modesty (as long as you can back it up!).

You want to publish a book for a reason . Now’s your chance to show a reader why they should want to read it.

That doesn’t mean you have to be cocky. You just have to be honest and engaging.

When you’re trying to come up with a great opening line, ask yourself these 3 things:

  • What will the audience care about, be interested in, or be surprised by?
  • What is the most interesting story or inflammatory statement in your book?
  • What do you have to say that breaks the rules?

The best opening lines are gut punches.

They summarize the book, at least in an oblique way. But they’re not dry facts. They’re genuine, behind-the-scenes glimpses into a human life. They establish who you are and what you’re about, right from the beginning.

Human beings respond to genuine connection. That means being vulnerable. You have to break down any barriers that you might usually keep around you.

That’s one of the hardest things to do as an Author, but it makes for a great book.

Reading about perfection is boring, especially because we all know there’s no such thing.

In the next section, I’ll go through examples of great first sentences and explain why they work.

Every one of these strategies helps create an instant, authentic connection with readers. You just have to pick the one that makes the most sense for your book.

1. Revealing Personal Information

When most people think about comedian Tiffany Haddish, they think of a glamorous celebrity.

They don’t think about a kid who had trouble in school because she had an unstable home life, reeked of onions, and struggled with bullying.

From the first line of her book, Tiffany reveals that you’re going to learn things about her that you don’t know—personal things.

I mean, really personal.

The book’s opening story concludes with her trying to cut a wart off her face because she was teased so much about it (that’s where the “unicorn” nickname came from).

That level of personal connection immediately invites the reader in. It promises that the Author is going to be honest and vulnerable, no holds barred.

This isn’t going to be some picture-perfect memoir. It’s going to be real, and it’s going to teach you something.

And that’s what forms a connection.

2. Mirroring the Reader’s Pain

Geoffrey and I chose this opening sentence because it let readers know right away that we know their pain.

Not only that, we knew how to fix it .

If a reader picked up the book and didn’t connect to that opening line, they probably weren’t our target audience.

But if someone picked it up and said, “This is exactly what I want to know!” we already had them hooked.

They would trust us immediately because we proved in the first sentence that we understood them.

In this sentence, Geoffrey and I are positioned as the experts. People are coming to us for help.

But you can also mirror your reader’s pain more directly. Check out this example from Jennifer Luzzato’s book, Inheriting Chaos with Compassion :

That’s a gut punch for anyone. But it’s an even bigger one for Jennifer’s target audience: people who unexpectedly lose a loved one and are left dealing with financial chaos.

Jennifer isn’t just giving the reader advice.

She’s showing that she’s been through the pain. She understands it. And she’s the right person to help the reader solve it.

3. Asking the Reader a Question

Readers come to nonfiction books because they want help solving a problem.

If you picked up a book about team-building, culture, and leadership, you likely want answers to some questions.

Daniel Coyle’s book shows the reader, right off the bat, that he’s going to give you answers.

His question also isn’t a boring, how-do-organizations-work type of question.

It’s compelling enough to make you keep reading, at least for a few more sentences. And then ideally, a few sentences, pages, and chapters after that.

Starting with a question is often a variation on tactic number 2.

If the reader picked up your book hoping to solve a certain problem or learn how to do something, asking them that compelling question can immediately show them that you understand their pain.

It can set the stage for the whole book.

You can also pique the reader’s interest by asking them a question they’ve never thought about.

Nicholas Kusmich ‘s book Give starts with the question,

It’s a unique question that hooks a reader.

But the answer still cuts straight to the heart of his book: “Both entrepreneurs and superheroes want to use their skills to serve people and make the world a better place.”

The unexpected framing gives readers a fresh perspective on a topic they’ve probably already thought a lot about.

4. Shock the Reader

I said in the intro to this post that you don’t have to shock the reader to get their attention.

I never said you couldn’t .

If you’re going to do it, though, you have to do it well.

This is the best opening to a book I’ve ever read. I’m actually a dog person, so this shocked the hell out of me. It was gripping.

As you read, the sentence starts making more sense, but it stays just as shocking. And you can’t help but finish the page and the chapter to understand why. But my God, what a way to hook a reader (in case you are wondering, the dogs were licking up blood from dead bodies and giving away the soldiers’ positions to insurgents. They had to kill the dogs or risk being discovered).

I read this opening sentence as part of an excerpt from the book on Business Insider .

I plowed through the excerpt, bought the book on Kindle, canceled two meetings, and read the whole book.

5. Intrigue the Reader

If you don’t read that and immediately want to know what the realization was, you’re a force to be reckoned with.

People love reading about drama, screw-ups, and revelations. By leading with one, Will immediately intrigues his readers.

research paper opening sentence

They’ll want to keep reading so they can solve the mystery. What was the big deal?

I’m not going to tell you and spoil the fun. You’ll have to check out Will’s book to find out.

There are other ways to be intriguing, too. For example, see the opening line to Lorenzo Gomez’ Cilantro Diaries :

Again, the Author is setting up a mystery.

He wants the reader to rack his brain and say, “Well, if it’s not the famous stuff, what is it?”

And then, when Lorenzo gets to the unexpected answer—the H-E-B grocery store—they’re even more intrigued.

Why would a grocery store make someone’s top-ten list, much less be the thing they’d miss most?

That kind of unexpected storytelling is perfect for keeping readers engaged.

The more intrigue you can create, the more they’ll keep turning the pages.

6. Lead with a Bold Claim

There are thousands of books about marketing. So, how does an Author cut through the noise?

If you’re David Allison, you cut right to the chase and lead with a bold claim.

You tell people you’re going to change the world. And then you tell them you have the data to back it up.

If your reader is sympathetic, they’re going to jump on board. If they’re skeptical, they’re still going to want to see if David’s claim holds up.

Here’s the thing, though: only start bold if you can back it up.

Don’t tell someone you’re going to transform their whole life and only offer a minor life hack. They’ll feel cheated.

But if you’re really changing the way that people think about something, do something, or feel about something, then lead with it.

Start big. And then prove it.

7. Be Empathetic and Honest

One Last Talk is one of the best books we’ve ever done at Scribe. And it shows right from the first sentence.

Philip starts with a bold claim: “If you let it, this book will change your life.”

But then he gives a caveat: it’s not going to be fun.

That’s the moment when he forms an immediate connection with the reader.

Many Authors will tell their readers, “This book will change your life. It’s going to be incredible! Just follow these steps and be on your way!”

Not many Authors will lead with, “It’s going to be worth it, but it’s going to be miserable.”

By being this upfront about the emotional work the book involves, Philip immediately proves to his readers that he’s honest and empathetic.

He understands what they’re going to go through. And he can see them through it, even if it sucks.

One piece of advice we give at Scribe is to talk to your reader like you’re talking to a friend.

Philip does that. And it shows the reader they’re dealing with someone authentic.

8. Invite the Reader In

Joey starts the book by speaking directly to the reader.

He immediately creates a connection and invites the reader in. This makes the book feel more like a conversation between two people than something written by a nameless, faceless Author.

The reason this tactic works so well is because Joey’s whole book is about never losing a customer.

He immediately puts the book’s principles into action.

From the first sentence, Joey’s demonstrating exactly what the reader is there to learn.

The Scribe Crew

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COMMENTS

  1. How to Write a Research Paper Introduction (with Examples)

    Key points to remember What is the introduction for a research paper? The introduction in a research paper is placed at the beginning to guide the reader from a broad subject area to the specific topic that your research addresses. They present the following information to the reader

  2. Starting Your Research Paper: Writing an Introductory Paragraph

    1st Sentence : I lead with a quick factoid about comics. 2nd & 3rd: These sentences define graphic novels and gives a brief history. This is also how the body of my paper starts. 4rd Sentence: This sentence introduces the current issue. See how I gave the history first and now give the current issue? That's flow. 5th Sentence

  3. Writing a Research Paper Introduction

    The five steps in this article will help you put together an introduction for either type of research paper. Table of contents. Step 4: Specify your objective (s) Step 5: Map out your paper. Frequently asked questions about the research paper introduction. Step 1: Introduce your topic. The first job of the introduction is to tell the reader ...

  4. PDF Research Writing: Starter Phrases

    To do this, look at some sentences in various sections of a research journal in your discipline and remove all the content, leaving a sentence skeleton. This should give you some ideas for phrases that are often used. Perhaps you could set up your own writing group or wiki site and share phrases with colleagues in your discipline.

  5. How to Write a Research Paper Introduction Paragraph

    04 Feb 2022 Quick Navigation What Is an Introduction Paragraph for Research Paper? ️How to Write a Research Paper Introduction? State Your Research Theme Be Original Explain Key Terms Size Is Important Refer to the Keywords Follow the Rules of Logic 🚨Common Mistakes and How Not to Slip Up 📑Research Paper Introduction Examples

  6. How to Write a Research Paper

    Write a first draft of the research paper. Your first draft won't be perfect — you can polish later on. Your priorities at this stage are as follows: Maintaining forward momentum — write now, perfect later. Paying attention to clear organization and logical ordering of paragraphs and sentences, which will help when you come to the second ...

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  8. How to Write a Research Introduction: 10 Steps (with Pictures)

    Download Article. 1. Announce your research topic. You can start your introduction with a few sentences which announce the topic of your paper and give an indication of the kind of research questions you will be asking. This is a good way to introduce your readers to your topic and pique their interest.

  9. 12.1 Creating a Rough Draft for a Research Paper

    Research papers generally follow the same basic structure: an introduction that presents the writer's thesis, a body section that develops the thesis with supporting points and evidence, and a conclusion that revisits the thesis and provides additional insights or suggestions for further research. ... The next few sentences place the opening ...

  10. How to Write Your First Research Paper

    Copy your outline into a separate file and expand on each of the points, adding data and elaborating on the details. When you create the first draft, do not succumb to the temptation of editing. Do not slow down to choose a better word or better phrase; do not halt to improve your sentence structure.

  11. How to Write an Introduction, With Examples

    Every good introduction needs a thesis statement, a sentence that plainly and concisely explains the main topic. Thesis statements are often just a brief summary of your entire paper, including your argument or point of view for personal essays. For example, if your paper is about whether viewing violent cartoons impacts real-life violence ...

  12. Write a Great First Sentence and Introductory Paragraph

    Writing an Intro Paragraph . It's often easier to write the introductory paragraph after you've written the first draft of the main part of the paper (or at least sketched out a detailed outline, section by section or paragraph by paragraph). After the drafting stage, your research and main points are fresh in your mind, and your thesis statement has been polished to gleaming.

  13. 6 Examples of Research Paper Introductions to Hook Your Readers

    Teaser-based research paper introductions. The most common types of research paper introductions are teasers. This simply means that your first sentence is a hook: something to grab your reader's attention and make them want to read more.

  14. How to Write Topic Sentences

    Step 2: Make an essay outline and draft topic sentences. Next, you should make an outline of your essay's structure, planning what you want to say in each paragraph and what evidence you'll use. At this stage, you can draft a topic sentence that sums up the main point you want to make in each paragraph. The topic sentences should be more ...

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  17. Academic Phrases for Writing Introduction Section of a Research Paper

    In this blog, we discuss phrases related to introduction section such as opening statement, problem definition and research aims. Introduction section should provide the reader with a brief overview of your topic and the reasons for conducting research. The introduction is a perfect place to set the scene and make a good first impression. Regarding word count, introduction typically occupies ...

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    Sound very confident about your chosen subject area and back up your arguments with appropriate references. After reading the introduction, the reader must have a clear idea of what to expect from the rest of your research paper. The introduction section of your research paper should include the following: General introduction; Problem definition

  19. What Are Good Sentence Starters for Essays?

    Sentence starters are the words or phrases that introduce the rest of the sentence, typically set apart by commas. The words that start a sentence are some of the most important in writing: They introduce what the sentence is about so the reader knows what to expect. texts, sentence starters are essential for unifying the entire work.

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  21. The first sentence of a research paper: Definition & Tips

    An attractive first sentence of a research paper is super important because it grabs the reader's attention and makes them want to keep reading and get into your research. 2. To give you some background information, the first sentence in a research paper is really important for our study.

  22. How to Write a Strong Opening Sentence [With Examples]

    "I've never met you, but I'm gonna read your mind." That's the opening line to The Scribe Method. It does what great opening sentences should: it immediately captures the reader's attention. It makes them want to read more. The purpose of a good opening line is to engage the reader and get them to start reading the book. That's it.

  23. Examples of "Research-paper" in a Sentence

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    CRediT author statement. CRediT (Contributor Roles Taxonomy) was introduced with the intention of recognizing individual author contributions, reducing authorship disputes and facilitating collaboration. The idea came about following a 2012 collaborative workshop led by Harvard University and the Wellcome Trust, with input from researchers, the ...