How to write an introduction to a research paper

The Introduction is one of the most important parts of any writing and it’s no different in the case of a research paper. It sets the overall tone for the paper and can be presented in many ways. It can be kept small and simple with only a small description of the introductory contents or it can be long and elaborative. Whether short or long, the introduction should be easy to understand and devoid of complex language or vocabulary. Note that some technical terms should be an exception to this language use prescription and should be used whenever and wherever necessary. Being the first part of the paper, the introduction must be crafted in such a way as to attract and keep the reader.

Making a good first impression

As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression. Hence, your introductory passage and most importantly the opening line should be such that captures the reader’s attention. It should make the reader want to continue reading. So, writing strong statements like eye-catching hook lines or posing interesting questions will be helpful. There is no one rigid method or style to follow on how to structure the introduction as long as it does its job which is to lay a foundation for the entire paper as well as establish the relevance of the topic being researched.

Though there are no static rules on how to write a research paper’s introduction, there are certain essential components that should not be missing in your introduction. For example, a brief exploratory discussion of the topic, the research problem, a short literary overview, identifying knowledge gap and how to fill it, the aim or objectives of your research paper, the methods or techniques you’ve selected to try to answer your research questions/hypothesis (and hence solve the problem), and the value that your research is expected to add to society. The introduction (and the other sections) should emphasize the research work rather than the writer or the reader. Hence, avoid using personal pronouns like “I,” “me” and “you.” The use of personal pronouns in research papers is a bit of a contentious topic, although many still consider it a faux pas or improper, many others use it and see no issue with it. Perhaps the best answer is to tailor it to the audience that will read your work, if it is submitted to a journal where personal pronouns are discouraged to describe yourself in your article, then refrain from it.

Setting the context

The introduction must start by setting the context for your research. You can do this by providing the necessary background for your paper.  Briefly explain your key variables or the central idea that inspired the research. Find a way to integrate the research problem into the discussion and try to convince the reader of the need to research the topic and what you hope it will achieve.

Break down the topic by discussing its key components and logical connotation. You can then elaborate by describing the significance of the topic and why it is of particular interest to you. Extend the topic and the research problem to the education industry in particular and the wider society as a whole so as to further rationalize the need to study it. But do not discuss the research problem exhaustively in the introduction since it usually has a separate section dedicated to it. 

Literary overview

It is necessary to briefly overview and cite previous work and other contextual literature related to your topic. This gives the reader an idea as to where the said topic stands in terms of current research. Apart from being informative, it also strengthens your introduction and portrays you as a serious researcher with in-depth knowledge of the topic under investigation.

Finding and filling information/knowledge gaps

The need for research arises because there is room for development, for further study. This implies that there will inevitably be an information or knowledge gap in previous studies that gives rise to your study. Your research should be centered around this gap, Identify this knowledge gap and talk about it briefly in your introduction as well as why it is important to fill it.

Objectives of the research

Though this may also have a separate section, it may be proper to highlight it briefly in your introduction, especially in relation to the research problem and knowledge gap. If cleverly presented, this will help strengthen the case for the necessity of your paper at an early stage and set the tone for a more detailed explanation of the objectives later in the paper.


Your introduction should find some space for a brief overview of the methods you used to conduct the research. Highlight a few key techniques in your research design and the rationale behind their selection. You can then discuss all the techniques in greater detail in the research methodology section.

Blow your trumpet

It is necessary to let the readers know what value your research is going to add to your field of knowledge and or society as a whole. Emphasize the importance of your research work, why you think it is necessary. Talk about your expectations of the uses of the likely results and how it is going to impact or help both now and in the future.

Presentation matters

Although the introduction is a very small part of the overall paper, its importance cannot be overemphasized. It is vital to present it as perfectly as possible to make a good first impression. An efficient presentation of the introduction should keep the reader hooked to the paper till the end. Like noted earlier, the introduction sets the tone for the whole paper and gives the reader an idea about how the rest of the paper will look like. Thus, the introduction is not a section to be shabbily constructed but one that should be logically organized and brilliantly presented. 

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