When you are first faced with the task of writing a long essay or term paper it can be intimidating, but you make your job and the reader’s job much easier by following some basic rules of thumb. Of course, if your professors offer you any specific guidelines about writing be sure to follow those first. Otherwise, incorporate the advice that follows into your papers wherever appropriate.
Of course, papers should always be typed, double-spaced on 8-1/2 x 11 paper on one side of the page only, and letter-quality print or better is always expected. Often you are expected to supply a cover sheet giving the date, your name, the title of the paper, the class, and the professor’s name. Tables and figures should be numbered consecutively throughout the text, and if there are a good number of them, then separate lists of tables and figures at the beginning of the paper may be expected. Tables and figures should always have descriptive captions, and if they come directly from sources, the sources must be specifically credited in the captions with the same citation style that you use throughout the paper.
A paper’s title should be succinct and definitive, individual and informational. Clearly, the title "An Overview of the Hydraulic Fracturing of Methane-Bearing Coal Formations" is more complete, satisfying, and informative than "Hydraulic Fracturing." The title is important because it announces the paper’s specific content and typically serves as a pathway to the paper’s thesis.
Your introduction is your opportunity to be at your most individual. You should get your reader’s attention immediately by announcing the paper’s subject or by launching into a relevant scenario or narrative that informs or illustrates your overall argument. A paper illustrating the costly effects of poor mine design, for instance, might open with the scenario of how a poorly designed pillar at a salt mine in Louisiana once collapsed, fracturing the surface above and draining an entire lake into the mine. A paper on the supply and demand of nickel might begin by straightforwardly announcing that the paper will explain the uses of nickel, detail its market structure, and use data to forecast the future supply and demand of the metal.
In brief, a paper’s introduction should define and limit the paper’s scope and purpose, indicate some sense of organization, and, whenever possible, suggest an overall argument. Another important principle in technical writing is that the introduction should be problem-focused, giving the reader enough background so that the paper’s importance and relationship to key ideas are clear. A rule of thumb about the introduction’s length: about 5-10% of the entire paper.
As examples of how creative an introduction can be, here are the opening lines from a geography paper and a paper on optics, both of which use narrative technique to arouse our interest. Note how the first excerpt uses an "I" narrator comfortably while the second excerpt does not use "I" even though the writer is clearly reflective about the subject matter. The first excerpt is from a paper on the generic nature of America’s highway exit ramp services; the second is from a paper on shape constancy.
The observation struck me slowly, a growing sense of déjà vu. I was driving the endless miles of Interstate 70 crossing Kansas when I began to notice that the exits all looked the same. . . .
Our eyes often receive pictures of the world that are contrary to physical reality. A pencil in a glass of water miraculously bends; railroad tracks converge in the distance. . . .
Thesis Statement / Objective
Most papers have outright thesis statements or objectives. Normally you will not devote a separate section of the paper to this; in fact, often the thesis or objective is conveniently located either right at the beginning or right at the end of the Introduction. A good thesis statement fits only the paper in which it appears. Thesis statements usually forecast the paper’s content, present the paper’s fundamental hypothesis, or even suggest that the paper is an argument for a particular way of thinking about a topic. Avoid the purely mechanical act of writing statements like "The first topic covered in this paper is x. The second topic covered is y. The third topic is . . ." Instead, concretely announce the most important elements of your topic and suggest your fundamental approach—even point us toward the paper’s conclusion if you can.
Here are two carefully focused and thoughtfully worded thesis statements, both of which appeared at the ends of introductory paragraphs:
This paper reviews the problem of Pennsylvania’s dwindling landfill space, evaluates the success of recycling as a solution to this problem, and challenges the assumption that Pennsylvania will run out of landfill space by the year 2020.
As this paper will show, the fundamental problem behind the Arab-Israeli conflict is the lack of a workable solution to the third stage of partition, which greatly hinders the current negotiations for peace.
Body Paragraphs / Section Headings
Never simply label the middle bulk of the paper as "Body" and then lump a bunch of information into one big section. Instead, organize the body of your paper into sections by using an overarching principle that supports your thesis, even if that simply means presenting four different methods for solving some problem one method at a time. Normally you are allowed and encouraged to use section headings to help both yourself and the reader follow the flow of the paper. Always word your section headings clearly, and do not stray from the subject that you have identified within a section.
As examples, I offer two sets of section headings taken from essays. The first is from Dr. Craig Bohren’s "Understanding Colors in Nature" (1), which appeared in a 1990 edition of Earth & Mineral Sciences; the second is from a student’s paper on the supply and demand of asbestos.
Section Headings From "Understanding Colors In Nature"
- Color By Scattering: The Role of Particle Size
- Color By Scattering: The Positions of Source and Observer
- The Blue Sky: The Role of Multiple Scattering
- Color By Absorption in Multiple-Scattering Media
- Color by Absorption: Microscopic Mechanisms are Sometimes Elusive
Section Headings From "Asbestos: Supply and Demand"
- Industry Structure
- The Mining and Properties of Asbestos
- World Resources and Reserves
- Byproducts and Co-products
- Economic Factors and Supply and Demand Problems
- Uses of and Substitutes for Asbestos
- The Issue of Health on Supply and Demand
Just by considering the section headings in the above examples, we can begin to see the fundamental structures and directions of the essays, because both sets of headings break the paper topic into its natural parts and suggest some sort of a movement forward through a topic. Note how these headings—as all section headings should—tell us the story of the paper and are worded just as carefully as any title should be.
Most importantly, then, you must use your section headings in the same way that you use topic sentences or thesis statements: to control, limit, and organize your thinking for your reader’s sake.
Most papers use "Conclusion" as a heading for the final section of the text, although there are times when headings such as "Future Trends" will serve equally well for a paper’s closing section. When you are stuck for a conclusion, look back at your introduction; see if you can freshly reemphasize your objectives by outlining how they were met, or even revisit an opening scenario from the introduction in a new light to illustrate how the paper has brought about change. Your conclusion should not be a summary of the paper or a simple tacked-on ending, but a significant and logical realization of the paper’s goals.
Beware of the temptation to open your final paragraph with "In conclusion," or "In summary," and then summarize the paper. Instead, let your entire conclusion stand as a graceful termination of an argument. As you write your conclusion, concentrate on presenting the bottom line, and think of the word’s definition: a conclusion is an articulated conviction arrived at on the basis of the evidence you have presented.
What follows is an excerpt from a conclusion to a paper entitled "Exercise in the Prevention and Treatment of Osteoporosis in Women." Note how the conclusion reflects directly on the paper’s hypothesis and spells out the bottom line, gracefully bringing closure to the paper’s argument:
The majority of evidence presented in this paper supports the hypothesis that exercise positively affects bone mineral density in both premenopausal and postmenopausal women. Significantly, exercise has been shown to increase bone mineral density in premenopausal women even after the teenage years, and it helps preserve the bone mass achieved in the following decades. There is also evidence that exercise adds a modest, yet significant amount of bone mass to the postmenopausal skeleton. As these findings demonstrate, women of all ages can benefit by regular weight-bearing exercise, an increased intake of calcium-rich foods, and—for postmenopausal women—the maintenance of adequate estrogen levels. For all women, it is never too late to prevent osteoporosis or lessen its severity by making appropriate lifestyle choices.
Any sources cited must be correctly listed on a References page using the Author-Year or Number system (see Chapter 5 of this handbook).
How to write introductory paragraph for research paper
The writing of the research paper is a multi-aspect process. Because this type of academic assignment consists of several parts. If you fail to complete one of the levels, you will fail the whole paper.
Introduction is not a literal beginning
As you know, the hardest part is just to begin the paper. And what should do student at the beginning? Not writing an outline. And not working on the introduction. He should make a massive research on his topic. You cannot start writing an introduction without having a personal view on the issue that you are going to study. You have to prepare for introduction writing though analyzing facts available online and making notes. If it's hard to do it yourself, the online essay help service will solve this problem instantly!
Why do we need an introduction?
The key aim of introduction is to introduce to the reader the purpose of your research. Just imagine any academic writing starting from the main body section. You cannot pour on the reader your evidence, ideas, arguments without explanation of what are you writing about. In the introduction, you must clearly indicate the hypothesis you want to prove or deny. You must explain the necessity of your research, its urgency and significance for your study and, finally, hook readers to continue reading it!
What information can I get from my search for the introduction?
It depends on the discipline you are writing the research paper on. If your field of studies is Humanities, it is likely that you can find a relevant quote, aphorism, anecdote to introduce your topic to the reader. In case you study tech, social, medical sciences quotes are irrelevant. More precise and specific facts will fit such introduction. There is a general rule for all specialties too. You must find a fact that will intrigue a reader. You must hook him.
Attract the reader in any case
Imagine that your research paper is a product that you want to sell and be paid for it. Figuratively, it is truth because your aim is to be rewarded with high mark. The first thing salesmen do to sell their product is a promotion of it. They put efforts and use various methods to hook clients. So, what should writers do to attract a reader? Even if you write a research paper, and the style of writing is formal, it is still necessary and possible to draw his attention.
For example, your research paper topic is “How has the music industry been affected by the internet and digital downloading?”. After a hasty internet search, you can find out that there are many legendary musicians like Radiohead that gave up being dependant on music labels and started to issue their LP by themselves, online. Also, there is a site Pledge Music that is a popular crowdfunding platform for modern musicians. Such popular synth-pop band as IAMX raises money there to record and promote their albums.
This two facts prove that digital downloading somehow effect music industry, and it is urgent to research this topic to learn the character of this effect.
Writing a thesis statement
What do you feel what you watch a good teaser for the movie? You feel hooked, intrigued and eager to watch the story till the end. The same result you must achieve with the thesis statement in research paper. You must indicate the highlights of your essay, and leave an opened question, a mystery, which the reader will want to learn for sure.
To provide a worthy example of research paper thesis statement lets return to the discussed above topic “How has the music industry been affected by the internet and digital downloading?”.
A thesis statement is a point that you will have to defend. It mandatorily must not be general. For example, if you declare this statement during the conversation, it will surely provoke a conflict and make all people differ in their attitude and take a side.
Wrong way: “Downloading music from internet is bad and we must fight it."
It leaves too many questions to answer. And this statement is a way too objective, it does not reflect the controversy of your topic. The truth is that there are no absolutely good or totally bad phenomenon. And your thesis statement must show the reality.
Right way: “The culture of digital music consumption must be changed because the creations of musicians become worthless due to activity of web pirates and people stop valuing music according to its merit .”
In this example of thesis, I’ve narrowed my argument to consequences of digital music download on culture of music consumption. I’ve also focused on the fact that main harm for music industry present web pirates. It induces readers to assume that I will argue against them in the main body.
To check if you have created a debatable thesis statement for the research paper, you must figure out whether it is debatable. It means that you must make reader argue either for or against this statement.
Wrong way: “The music industry has changed because of era of the internet.”
It is a statement, but not a thesis statement. It is a general truth. There is no point to argue with that fact. You can narrate about that, but not argue and make research to provide proper evidence to prove your point.
Right way: “Free music download sites must become commercial because recording a music is a full-time job of musicians and every work must be rewarded.”
Now it is debatable. Opponents can argue that product that music product is not principal way to earn money for musicians, and internet is a the most effective way to promote their creation and lure audience to visit their concerts, what is a real way to earn money.
Avoid puzzlement. It means that you must not overdo with previous two thesis statement tips. It must be focused and debatable and should also show your side. In the latter example we can easily see that the writer is against free music download because it affects negatively on the work of music industry and he is going to prove why in the main body.
Research paper introduction writing tips
Research paper introduction is essential part of your writing and it must be created according to certain rules. It is true that when you write any kind of text you can push yourself too hard and cross borders of norms. Because academic styles of writing are referred to creative writing as well. You look for information, then analyze it, come up with thoughts, ideas, and reflect it in a coherent text. Next tips will show you how to fulfill the purpose of research paper introduction and get rid of the creative mess.
Size matters. Before a tutor starts reading the article, he reviews it visually. If the size of introduction is too large, it will make a bad impression on your paper. Just remember, all you have to present in the introduction is: definition of the topic idea and its urgency, explanation of the aim of the research, facts to hook the reader and thesis statement.
Be logical. Your introduction will be really strong if it contains key ideas only in few sentences. To reach such result it is important to satisfy logical connection of the thoughts. Your goal is to make reader understand in the end of the introduction what exactly you attempted to achieve in research paper and why this problem worth profound research.
Make it the last part. Many successful students firstly work on the whole outline, write the body of the paper and only then form the introduction. That’s because a person becomes more sure in what direction his research goes only after at least shallow search and analysis of sources.
Review previous studies of your topic. Every person can study the same topic in a different way. Before you start your own research, you must become aware of the discoveries other scholars made on this issue. Any result will be a reliable background for the future work. Note that it is better to indicate recent developments in the primary research rather than a lengthy report.
Research paper introduction example
Finally, when we have analyzed all highlights of introduction writing we can gather all parts of it in one, ultimate part of a paper. Lets refresh the exemplary topic of it: “How has the music industry been affected by the internet and digital downloading?”. Now, have a look at research paper introduction example:
“The musical marketing turns to be digital according to demands of current online epoche. Such underground, but worldwide famous bands like Radiohead and IAMX gain profit from the internet and use it as a primary source to show the audience their creation. On the other hand, many artists find digital era harmful and destructive for their creativity because there are many sites that offer their product for free, giving no profit to the creator. Currently, there are more and more studies that reveal the business side of music industry far from a positive side. This research paper will define whether the culture of digital music consumption must be changed because the creations of musicians become worthless due to an activity of web pirates and because people have stopped valuing music according to its merit.”
As you see, all main components are preserved in the example above. First sentences hook readers, the mid part of the introduction prove the reason of the research and thesis statement puts debatable argument that needs further analysis and right solution.
Integrity is a key
After you created the final paper, be decisive to make necessary changes and correction especially before the submission. It usually happens that in the end of the research a writer can face with inconsistencies in all sections of his writing. If the whole paper does not sound a cohesive text, make improvements. If your main part does not the answer the question raised in the introduction nothing obstructs you from adjusting its sense to the ideas from the main body. A paper with a cohesive text deserve high mark, so rule your writing!
Now you’re a winner
I suppose that before you came across this article you underestimated the value of worthy introductive paragraph. In fact, I have not introduced you another meaningful feature of it. You know that all academic essay must end with a conclusive paragraph. There is an assumption that this is the hardest part of research paper completion. In fact, if you have succeeded in making of impressive introduction, you will significantly facilitate the process of conclusion writing.