How to Start a Research Paper Strong: A Comprehensive Guide

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By: Marie Fincher

October 02, 2023

Knowing how to start a research paper is essential to every high school, college, and university student. Every work has its beginning; if it is boring, most readers will lose interest before they even get to the most exciting parts of your research. Learning helpful writing tips is the only way to awaken and hold their interest. However, these tips will only work if you understand the purpose of research papers, so let’s start with that.

What Is a Research Paper: Discovering Definition

A research paper is an extensive piece of academic writing that explores, analyzes, and presents factual information about a particular subject. While you have to choose your perspective on the issue, it has to be rooted in objective facts. The goal is to study, test, and prove something, not to argue with someone, and the more attractive you make your essay, the more readers will enjoy it. For this, your research paper introduction must be catchy and memorable. No worries, we’ll show you how to craft it!

15 Steps to Create a Strong Introduction for Your Essay

Is there such a thing as a universal paper introduction? Many students worry about it, so we want to reassure you immediately. While the types and topics of essays differ wildly, the introduction always follows a similar structure. The only difference is its complexity: if you’re a high school student, you’ll need to include just essential elements, but if you’ve entered university, your first section must be extensive and nuanced. We will outline steps for the most complex variant of introduction and underline those that aren’t always mandatory.

Step 1: Choose an Interesting Topic for Your Academic Research Paper. This rule concerns everyone. If your professor allowed you to pick your topic, this is great because now you can research something you feel genuinely interested in. Is there a topic you wish to know more about? Perhaps there is a subject you consider fascinating enough to share insights about it with other people? Check your search history to refresh your memory, look around, or discuss ideas with a friend if your professor assigned you specific thesis statements to follow; tough luck! Still, don’t give up. Try to make the topic interesting. Learn more about it — who knows, something might strike you as curious. Consider if you could link it to a subject you like. For instance, if you’re interested in romance and were told to research human psychology, focus on studying marriage.
Remember: the more interested you feel, the more your paper will be lively.

Step 2: Slice Your Chosen Topic into More Specific Parts. The best research papers are never general. Say you choose to explore marriage: you cannot describe all aspects of it sufficiently. Picking one, on the other hand, would let you concentrate on something specific, dissecting it fact by fact. Narrow your choice until you arrive at a more unique topic: this will also help you with research, as most studies focus on specific themes. In our case, we could zero in on the key factors that lead people to dissolve their marriages.

Step 3: Perform the Initial Surface Research. You'll need some sources to write a practical research paper introduction. You cannot introduce your topic until you know everything about it: there might be gaps in your knowledge that you haven’t considered, and the sources will point them out, which can change the direction of your initial plan. Besides, sources make your points stronger, so start gathering them early. Use Google Scholar, your college library, or other credible databases. Read abstracts only — this should help you quickly sort between suitable and irrelevant articles.

Step 4: Come Up with the Main Research Question. Not all academic research papers require this step: follow it only if you’re doing a full-fledged study that demands you to perform your personal experiment. To conduct it, you must have a central question guiding you. Formulate it early to help you focus on your end goal. What is it that you’re planning to achieve? Make your question even more specific than your topic is. Considering our divorce idea, our research question could be this: “What are the common reasons that have pushed people to dissolve their marriage in the last five years?” Adding a time period helped make our research more relevant and unique.

Step 5: Develop an Outline for Your Research Paper. Now, you need to make a research paper outline. It shouldn’t cover just the introduction, not yet: organize your ideas and decide what key topics you’d explore in each paragraph. This outline could be short — just mark down the intro, body paragraphs, and conclusion, and make quick notes about the ideas that’ll go in them. This will help you stay on track when working on your essay.

Step 6: Decide the Sources You’ll Be Using in Your Research. You already did preliminary research, but now it is time to go deeper. Sort through your selected sources and pick the most important ones. These could be books from academic publishing houses, articles with DOI, and other credible publications that fit your chosen topic.

Step 7: Consult Professionals If You Feel Like You’re Stuck. Some students think, “I wish I could pay someone to write my paper for me.” What many of them don’t realize is that it’s entirely possible. You might need help with the entire paper, or you could want assistance with finding good sources; some students look for an expert who’d write a strong thesis statement for them, while others want a helper to proofread everything once they’re done. Whatever issue you have, don’t be afraid to contact professionals. Tell us, “Please write my research paper by my deadline,” and we’ll find your personal writer immediately. We stay online 24/7, so you’ll always get an instant reply.

Step 8: Make One Final Assessment of Sources You Picked. You must present reliable background information only in your paper, so double-check everything again. Yes, we understand that you might feel sick from doing research at this point, but we promise it will be worth it. Ensure you don’t have non-academic sources like Wikipedia or .com sites in your list, or it’ll bite you later.

Step 9: Develop a Powerful Thesis Statement. A thesis is the last sentence of the introduction. It has to be powerful and direct, with no redundant phrases distracting your readers from understanding it. The thesis reflects the point of your work: if the research hypothesis is a question, then the thesis is an answer to it. Look at this example: “In the last 5 years, the majority of people who chose to end their marriages did it because of the belief that their feelings faded, over fundamental political disagreements, and due to abuse.” This concise thesis statement summarizes all key points from our planned research: it mentions the time period we’d be exploring, the main subject (people who get a divorce), and three primary reasons that cause divorces. Create your thesis before you start working on the introduction.

Step 10: Decide Which Research Methods You’re Going to Use. Once again, this part is for complex essays. If your entire research paper is based on an investigation into a specific topic, decide which methods to use to perform it. It could be online surveys, quizzes, physical interviews, personal experiments, or secondary data analysis. Mention a design, too: it could be qualitative (dealing with data you collected personally), quantitative (gathering numerical data from other people’s research), or mixed (combining the two).

Step 11: Begin Your Research Paper Introduction. Add a Hook and Background. We’ve finally approached the writing stage! Start your intro with a hook. This is the first sentence, and it must stand out. Your readers should feel, well, hooked. Interest them with startling statistics, appeal to emotions, and present a shocking claim that few people considered. Make them want to keep on reading. After that, introduce your topic and write some background information about it. Don’t go overboard here: choose and include the most relevant facts. Remember that you’re only teasing your audience at this stage, whetting their appetite. The main course will come later when you reach the body.

Step 12: Make the Relevance of Your Project Known. As the next stage in your introduction, underline the importance of your research paper topic. Make it clear why you decided to explore it and what makes it unique. This rule applies to everyone writing a research essay — the only difference between complexity levels concerns the length of info you’re presenting. For more advanced and layered papers, take your time. Your readers have to see why your work has meaning.

Step 13: Prepare Readers for Your Literature Review by Listing Key Sources. Introduce the sources you will use in the body of your research. Like at the previous stage, you must do it regardless of how complex your paper is, but for a higher level, be more detailed. Mention which researchers support your views by presenting their names, the date of their study, and the basic outline of its essence. You’ll explore the rest of the body.      

Step 14: Specify Which Methods Will Help You. As we mentioned at the planning stage of research paper introductions, you must decide on the methods and design you’ll use. At this point, you must know the answer already, so write it down. Explain how you’ll collect information and what type of info it will be. Remember that you must include this only if your research deals with an experiment you’ll be conducting. There is no need to pick methods when working on a simple research article that explores a topic without analyzing anything new.  

Step 15: Finish Your Introduction with a Thesis and/or Research Question. We’ve come to the end of your writing process. We explained what the thesis and research question is above. If you've reached step 15, you must already have a model of them. Put them at the end of your introductory paragraph. Usually, the thesis goes into simpler essays, while the research question is at the end of a serious research paper. Sometimes, you need them both: we suggest discussing this with your professor in advance. Otherwise, stick with the order we proposed.

Don’t Take the Introduction for Granted

According to academic rules, the introduction must be shorter than the body of the paper, so most students consider it less relevant. Still, it plays a huge role that you should never underestimate. Use this first section to attract your readers’ attention to your work: to succeed, develop an introduction paragraph outline, find solid sources, and create a thesis or a research question. Consult experts if you need help, and enjoy preparing the ground for your research!


Marie Fincher

While being committed to a number of charitable causes, like volunteering at special events or giving free art lessons to children, Marie doesn’t forget her vocation – writing. She can write about almost anything but has focused on time management, motivation, academic and business writing.