Selecting the introductory material and organising its presentation are vital aspects of how to write an introduction for a research paper. The guidelines provided by a journal or instructor may offer advice on recommended contents for introductions, and in some cases these might be very specific indeed, but if such instructions are lacking, reading successful research papers in your field that have contents similar to or closely related to your topic should give you an idea of appropriate introductory material. Generally speaking, careful attention to the following kinds of information will prove essential for deciding how to write an introduction for a research paper:
• Context and background so that readers can understand the current situation and the research problem. Such material may be very short and to the point or extremely long and detailed, but anchoring your work in time and place as well as in your discipline is advisable.
• A clear explanation of exactly what the research problem is and why investigating it is a valuable and necessary task. Explicit articulation of the problem and its impact will interest readers and help clarify the value, objectives and implications of the research.
• A brief summary of the most relevant published scholarship. The goal is to reveal the current state of knowledge and any neglected areas, unproved assumptions, misconceptions, gaps or other weaknesses that necessitate the new research and its contributions to understanding and practice.
• Some indication of the methods that will be used and why. Like the summary of scholarship, this part should be very brief (with detailed discussion saved for the Methods section) and the primary point should be to offer a justifiable rationale for your research approaches.
• Questions and hypotheses developed from the research problem and your plan to examine it via specific methods. Research questions and hypotheses are not always necessary, but they can provide focus and are a common aspect of how to write an introduction for a research paper in the sciences.
• Definitions and explanations of any theories, concepts, terms and abbreviations with which your anticipated audience may not be familiar. Some guidelines on how to write an introduction for a research paper will want definitions listed separately and most will request that authors avoid jargon altogether.
• A summary or outline of the structure of the rest of the paper. This often appears as a few sentences or an entire paragraph at the end of the introduction, but information on what is to come can be offered to readers at any appropriate point in the introduction.