After the title and abstract, the introduction is the next thing your audience will read, so it's vital to begin strongly. The introduction is your opportunity to show readers and reviewers why your research topic is worth reading about and why your paper warrants their attention.
The introduction serves multiple purposes. It presents the background to your study, introduces your topic and aims, and gives an overview of the paper. A good introduction will provide a solid foundation and encourage readers to continue on to the main parts of your paper—the methods, results, and discussion.
In this article, we present 10 tips for writing an effective introduction. These tips apply primarily to full papers and letters reporting original research results. Although some tips will be more suited to papers in certain fields, the points are broadly applicable.
In the first paragraph, briefly describe the broad research area and then narrow down to your particular focus. This will help position your research topic within the broader field, making the work accessible to a broader audience, not just to specialists in your field.
Papers rejected for “not showing the importance of the topic” or “lacking clear motivation” usually neglect this point. Say what you want to achieve and why your reader should be interested in finding out whether you achieve it. The basic structure can be as simple as “We aim to do X, which is important because it will lead to Y.”
Instead of simply saying that the topic is important, show why the topic is important.
Once you've narrowed your focus to the specific topic of your study, you should thoroughly cover the most recent and most relevant literature pertaining to your study.
Your review of the literature should be complete, but not overly long—remember, you're not writing a review article.
If you find that your introduction is too long or overflowing with citations, one possible solution is to cite review articles, rather than all the individual articles that have already been summarized in the review.
Consider the following sentence: “Many studies have found a significant association between X and Y [4-15].” This sentence cites too many studies at once.
Although references [4-15] might provide a good overview of the topic, this sentence doesn't provide enough context or explanation for these past studies. If all of these references are worth citing, they should be discussed in greater specificity.
For example, “A significant association has been found between X and Y in men [4-7], women [8-11], and children [12-15].”
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For research in empirical sciences, stating a hypothesis can be an effective way of framing the research.
For example, instead of stating “In this study, we show that X is related to Y by method A,” you could say, “In this study, we hypothesize that X is related to Y, and we use method A to test this hypothesis.
” For research in formal sciences or exploratory research, you could consider stating a research question instead: “In this study, we examine the following research question: Is X related to Y?” Note that the research question doesn't always have to be stated in the interrogative form (with a question mark); instead, you can put the question into a declarative sentence: “In this study, we investigate whether X is related to Y.” Hypotheses and research questions are effective because they help give shape to the paper and serve as “signpost phrases” that guide readers through your paper smoothly.
Example structure of an introduction
- Give a general introduction to the topic for broad audience
- Narrow the focus to your particular topic
- State your research problem and aims
Literature review (usually several paragraphs):
- Summarize the relevant literature on your topic
- Describe the current state of the art
- Note any gaps in the literature that your study will address
Research targets (usually one paragraph):
- State your hypothesis or research question
- Briefly describe how you will accomplish your aims
- Give a preview of your main results and state the contribution of the work (optional)
Paper overview (optional; one paragraph):
- Give a section-by-section overview of the paper's contents
An organizational overview is more common in some fields than others. It is particularly common in technology, but less so in medicine. In the last paragraph of your introduction, consider giving a section-by-section overview of your paper if it is appropriate for your field.
For example, “In Section II, we describe our analysis methods and the datasets we used. In Section III we present the results. In Section IV, we discuss the results and compare our findings with those in the literature.
In Section V, we state our conclusions and suggest possible topics for future research.”
Try to avoid an overly long introduction. A good target is 500 to 1000 words, although checking the journal's guidelines and past issues will provide the clearest guidance.
One goal of the introduction is explaining why your research topic is worthy of study. One of the most common pitfalls is to simply say, “Subject X is important.” Instead of simply saying that the topic is important, show why the topic is important.
For example, instead of writing “The development of new materials is important for the automotive industry,” you could write, “The development of new materials is necessary for the automotive industry to produce stronger, lighter vehicles, which will improve safety and fuel economy.”
In the introduction, if your paper is in a field that commonly summarizes the study's main results before starting the methods, you should avoid stating too many detailed results because these results need the development in the other sections of your paper to be properly understood.
Instead of saying “We find that our algorithm requires 55% of the memory and 45% of the computation time of the conventional algorithm,” it is usually better to give a general overview of the findings in the introduction: “Here we compare the proposed algorithm with a conventional algorithm in terms of memory use and computational speed, showing that the proposed algorithm is both smaller and faster.” Some older style guides suggest holding back the main result to build suspense, but now journals in many fields—medicine being a notable exception—encourage giving a preview of your main results in the introduction.
Removing extra text results in easier-to-read introductions. Here, all the green text can be removed without altering the fundamental meaning of the sentence.
Many journals have specific requirements for the introduction in their guidelines for authors. For example, there might be a maximum word count stated or the guidelines might require specific content, such as a hypothesis statement or a summary of your main results.
A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing a Compelling Article Introduction
- Wouldn’t it be great if every single person who clicked on one of your articles read it from start to finish, unable to pull their eyes away from the screen?
- I think we both know the answer to that question.
- To achieve this goal, however, you must master the art of writing intriguing introductions.
Wait a second, you’re thinking. Writing introductions? Isn’t that kind of a small detail of a 2,000-word article?
Your article intro is not a small detail.
The introduction to your article is often the difference between engaging readers and having a bounce rate high enough to make a click-baiter cringe.
Think about it. If you don’t grab your readers right away, you’ll lose them.
You went through all that work of writing a killer article, right? You worked hard at it. You spent a lot of time on it. You did a ton of research.
- But if your introduction sucks, your efforts will be all for nothing.
- You lost before you even got started!
- If you want to write great content, improve the success of your marketing campaigns, and increase the loyalty of your fans, you must master writing introductions.
- Let me show you how.
1. Master the opening line
To have a strong introduction, you need to open with a strong first sentence.
How to Write a Compelling Research Paper Introduction
After the title page and abstract, the reader’s first true interaction with your research paper is the Introduction.
Your Introduction will establish the foundation upon which your readers approach your work, and if you use the tips we discuss in this video and article, these readers should be able to logically apply the rules set in your Introduction to all parts of your paper, all the way through the conclusion.
What is the purpose of the research paper Introduction?
Think about your paper as a chronological story: it begins with point A (the introduction) and move in time towards point B (the discussions/conclusions).
Since your introduction includes content about the gaps in knowledge that your study aims to fill, the results you will elaborate on in your Discussion section should therefore be somewhat familiar to the reader, as you have already touched up them in the introduction section.
In the Introduction you must answer two main questions:
- “Why was this particular study needed to fill the gap in scientific knowledge that currently exists?
- “Why does that gap need filling?”
Imagine our entire plane of knowledge as an incomplete puzzle—the pieces snapped together are what is established, or what is known.
The missing piece is the “gap” in knowledge, or what is currently unknown. This is what your study will be helping to explain.
Therefore, the context you provide in the Introduction must first show that there is a knowledge gap and identify where it is, explain why it needs to be filled, and then briefly summarize how this study intends to fill that gap and why.
What needs to be included in the introduction?
The introduction consists of background information about the topic being studied; the rationale for undertaking this study (for “filling a gap” with this particular information); key references (to preliminary work or closely related papers appearing elsewhere); a clarification of important terms, definitions, or abbreviations to be used in the paper; and a review of related studies in which you give a brief but incisive analysis of work that heavily concerns your study. It could be a very similar study or one that supports the findings of your study.
Tips for structuring your Introduction
As you can see in this figure, your introduction should start broadly and narrow until it reaches your hypothesis. The first thing you want to do is to state your area of research and then immediately show what is already known. This is also known as “background information”.
Start with a strong statement that reflects your research subject area and ask questions or pose statements to frame the problems your study explores.
You can ask general questions here to guide your readers to the problem and show them what we already know: For instance “What do we know about the lung capacity of bottle-nosed dolphins?” Use keywords from your title (the exact language of your study, that is) to zero in on the problem at hand and show the relevance of your work.
The beginning of your Introduction: “What do we already know?”
- Avoid stating background information that is TOO broad in nature. You don’t need to state too many obvious facts that your readers would know. If you are writing about bottle-nosed dolphins, you probably don’t need to explain that mammals breathe oxygen.
- Be sure to cite all of the sources that you use for background information and support.
- Only provide the necessary background information and use it to set up the context for undertaking this study.
- Only review relevant, up-to-date primary literature that supports your explanation of the current base of knowledge.
The Second Part of the Introduction: “Where is the knowledge gap?”
- After you have provided background information, you will begin to highlight areas where too little information is available.
How to Write Juicy Short-Story Introductions
It should give the reader enough incentive to go on. Oftentimes, the reader asks herself “What is in it for me?”
It is your job, as the writer, to answer that question. Whether or not she will proceed with reading your story depends on how well you answer that question.
The awful truth is that no matter how fabulous your story is, if your introduction is lame, your readers won’t go further than the first few paragraphs. So it is definitely something you should not overlook.
A juicy introduction is one that…
- captivates the mind of the reader.
- promises a lot of good things.
- witty, yes, but not too complex.
Check out the following introductory paragraph of a story:
Once upon a time, there lived a little boy whose name was Bill. He lived in a town called Happy Town. The town was full of happy people. His family was also a happy one. Their home was warm, cosy and happy. The school he went to was called Happy Days Primary School.
After reading this paragraph, how much enthusiasm do you have to go on reading? The very first sentence almost bored me to tears. “Once upon a time” used to be a very cool phrase in the past, but let’s get real-it has become a mere cliche nowadays, and hardly anyone uses it anymore, unless, of course, you are into writing stories for very young children…
The phrase “Once upon a time” also suggests that what follows is extremely fictitious and quite off from reality. Modern short story writing has become more and more about realism and about the oft unresolved problems that face humanity. So if you write about issues that affect people-day to day issues that they wrestle with, I reckon that they will be more inclined to read…
True, fairy tales have their own allure, but life is anything but a fairy tale nowadays and unless someone is in the mood, they will just yawn and close the book. But if you promise something that is a bit more realistic, someone may read a few more paragraphs, or sentences.
A juicy introduction screams “read more!!!” and it is so subtly alluring that the reader will find herself reading more without even realizing it. If someone has to labour on to read your story, it is not good. They have all the reason to toss it aside and pick up their TV remotes.
In today’s hectic world, people are usually busy or tired, so why make it harder for them by using unnecessarily big words or complex language? Furthermore, with time becoming ever so precious, you must convince your readers that your story is worth reading and won’t be a waste of their time.
And you must do that in your first few sentences.
By all means, lay off the cliches and trite phrases. They will not win the reader’s interest. Try witty expressions that leave readers hungering for more. Cleverly constructed sentences and phrases are hypnotizing and people easily fall in love with them. How easy is it to hypnotize the reader with “Once upon a time?” unless you use real magic, maybe…
So let us juice things up a bit on our paragraph. Let’s kick out the proverbial “Once upon a time.”(Sorry if you have fallen in love with it, but it has to go…):
Bill Happy was a happy kid-a very happy kid indeed….
The question that is ringing in your head is probably: “What the heck was he so happy about?” So your automatic reaction will be to read the next sentence and find out.
You get the secret now, don’t you? Leave the reader hungering and thirsting for more; don’t give out everything at once.
Consider the introduction as the desert-whets people’s appetite for the main meal, which in this case is the body of the story.
Now the paragraph get’s even more interesting:
He had everything a kid his age would want-a wonderful, loving family; good friends; and he went to a happy little school called Happy Days Primary School. He lived in a happy town full of happy people. The neighbourhood he lived in was happy and peaceful. But above all, his home was happy and cosy.
At this point the reader is exclaiming: “Come on, there is no place on earth were people are so happy!” Ah, she is probably right, but hey, you aroused her interest. She really wants to know why these guys are so happy and so she reads on. And, wait for it…
Bingo! Your story is read!
- Remember your most powerful weapon-the first sentence. Notice the following introductory sentences in LJ Kundananji’s stories:
- “She was everything that I dreamt of-everything.” -Lost Dream
- “Esnart and I had decided to rendezvous at the end of the corridor-the high way.” -She stood waiting
“When he left, he left without saying goodbye-or at least not in the manner he should have.”-Forgotten.
“There were five girls crowded in the little room.”- Girl Power
“Lewis hurled a stone into the Gomer Lakes.”- Can’t Live Without you
To read these and more of LJ Kundananji’s stories, visit http://www.writing-lovers.com
All the above introductory sentences have one thing in common: they arouse curiosity. Who was she that was everything he dreamt of? For what purpose had they agreed to rendezvous? Why is this guy regretting not having said goodbye? Why are these five girls crowded in the little room? For what reason is Lewis hurling a stone into the Gomer lakes?
The only way that the reader can find out is to read more. By all means arouse curiosity, and more curiosity…
Do you see how powerful an introduction is? Do you? Good…then you are on your way to writing juicy introductions. If you do that, more people will read your stories, no matter how boring they are!!!
Write a Strong Essay Introduction in 4 Steps | Interactive Example
A good introduction paragraph is both engaging and informative. The main goals of your introduction are to:
- Catch your reader’s attention and interest.
- Give context and background on your topic.
- Set up the focus and purpose of your essay.
This introduction example is taken from our interactive essay example on the history of Braille.
Essay introduction example
The invention of Braille marked a major turning point in the history of disability. The writing system of raised dots, widely used by blind and visually impaired people, was developed by Louis Braille in nineteenth-century France.
Although it initially met with resistance from sighted people, Braille eventually became central to blind people’s education and autonomy, giving them unprecedented access to cultural activities and social participation.
The idea of tactile reading was not entirely new; Braille adapted and simplified existing methods to create the first writing system specifically for blind people.
But its success depended on acceptance among sighted people before the social status of blindness could truly be transformed, and this process was shaped by broader debates about disabled people’s place in society.
Step 1: Hook your reader
Your first sentence sets the tone for the whole essay, so spend some time on writing an effective hook. Avoid long, dense sentences — start with something clear, concise and catchy, and make sure it’s directly relevant to what follows. Some strategies to write a hook include:
- A surprising fact or statistic
- A question
- A quotation
- A brief anecdote
- A broad summary
Always avoid cliches and generalizations:
- Dictionary definitions
6 Proven Tips for Writing Compelling Article Introductions
Article introductions are the first point of contact readers begin to engage with your copy. Like a first date, your article introductions need to captivate at first sight and give a good first impression.
So, how do you write captivating article introductions that hook readers each time and compel them to read your whole story?
Tips to Write Captivating Introductions that Hook Readers
Here are top tips to write compelling introductions that captivate and hook readers immediately and persuade them to read your article through to the end.
1. Craft a powerful lede
Craft a sharp, concise, catchy and highly targeted opening sentence to grab readers' attention instantly and hook them to your piece. In journalism this initial catchy and highly targeted opening sentence is called a lede. A lede summarizes the essence of a story in one or two sentences.
Cite a credible source to inject authority in your lede. Mention the stakes involved in your topic or subject to heighten interest. You may also point out little known facts or the most newsworthy facts of your story to pique reader's curiosity and heighten their interest.
Example of a lede sentence: Emergency preparedness can make the difference between life and death.
Reason: This sentence immediately identifies the stakes involved – life and death. The reader will want to read further to learn why emergency preparedness is a matter of life and death.
2. State the value-proposition
Tell the reader why he should care about what you have to say in at least one of your introductory sentences. Inform him why the subject is relevant in his everyday life. Provide the “What” and “So what?” of the topic.
If you cannot explain why the reader should care about your topic, the topic is probably not relevant, valuable or compelling enough to warrant reading. Work on making your introduction as relevant to the reader as possible.
Example of a sentence with a strong value-proposition: When gambling becomes a problem – namely, leads you into extreme debt and causes you to straggle to pay the bills – it is high time to take proactive measures to tame the habit.
Reason: The sentence immediately makes the reader understand when gambling becomes a problem and promises a solution to the problem. The reader will want to read further to learn the proactive measures needed to tame gambling.
3. Answer the topic of the title
Give the reader the bigger picture of the topic hinted in the title and explain how your article will answer the title's subject. Tell the reader the angle you have used to address the title and justify your criteria for taking that angle. In journalism this is called a nut graf.
Nut graf provides a wide-angled view or foreshadows information that will come in the body of the text. It determines your credibility in the eyes of the reader as well as the credibility of the information you offer from the outset. Put in your best work to ensure you are in good standing with your audience.
Example of a powerful nut graf: Nepal is a breathtaking country renowned for its magnificent mountain scenery and some of the highest peaks in the world.
The country presents prime trekking regions, exciting, winding trails, picturesque landscapes and crystal clear mountain streams and lakes.
One of the best ways to explore Nepal's rich heritage is to walk through its streets and villages.
Reason: The sentence immediately provides a wide-angled view of the subject – scenic, mountainous Nepal. It tells the reader from where the article will explore the subject – from its streets and villages. This wide-angled view of the topic helps readers align their expectations with what the article will offer and helps prevent reader disappointments.
4. Avoid generic observations
Avoid strings of generic observations in your introductions. Provide observations that are unique to your topic and that provide as much context as possible.
This whets the reader’s appetite for what you have to say next.
If you can substitute the subject in a sentence with another subject and the sentence still makes sense, then the sentence is probably too generic to offer any real value or be of interest to the reader.
Example of a generic opening sentence: London is big city known for its museums, friendly people and rich culture.
Reason: You can substitute “London” in the sentence with any other big city in Europe and the observations of what the city is will remain true.
5. Use clear, meaningful adjectives
Use clear and meaningful adjectives throughout your text, especially in your introduction, to ensure your readers stick around and continue reading your text.
Choose adjectives that create vivid mental pictures/images and that lead to a clear call to action. Avoid empty adjectives that don’t provide context or help in understanding the text.
Clear and meaningful adjectives make your introduction easy to understand, visualize and act upon.
Examples of empty adjectives: great, unique, fun, interesting
6. Be concise
The introductory is a snapshot of the rest of the article. Make your introductory paragraph brief. Do not pack too much information in it. Just put enough information to entice the reader to read on. Ideally, make the introduction paragraph no more than 75 words. Move any extra facts or points to the body of the text.
Remember it is your job as a writer to produce interesting, relevant and informative introductions. So, take your time. Plan and organize your introductions carefully to produce truly compelling introductions.
What Makes a Great Introductory Paragraph?
An introductory paragraph, as the opening of a conventional essay, composition, or report, is designed to grab people's attention. It informs readers about the topic and why they should care about it but also adds enough intrigue to get them to continue to read. In short, the opening paragraph is your chance to make a great first impression.
The primary purpose of an introductory paragraph is to pique the interest of your reader and identify the topic and purpose of the essay. It often ends with a thesis statement.
You can engage your readers right from the start through a number of tried-and-true ways.
Posing a question, defining the key term, giving a brief anecdote, using a playful joke or emotional appeal, or pulling out an interesting fact are just a few approaches you can take.
Use imagery, details, and sensory information to connect with the reader if you can. The key is to add intrigue along with just enough information so your readers want to find out more.
One way to do this is to come up with a brilliant opening line. Even the most mundane topics have aspects interesting enough to write about; otherwise, you wouldn't be writing about them, right?
When you begin writing a new piece, think about what your readers want or need to know. Use your knowledge of the topic to craft an opening line that will satisfy that need. You don't want to fall into the trap of what writers call “chasers” that bore your readers (such as “The dictionary defines….”). The introduction should make sense and hook the reader right from the start.
Make your introductory paragraph brief. Typically, just three or four sentences are enough to set the stage for both long and short essays. You can go into supporting information in the body of your essay, so don't tell the audience everything all at once.
You can always adjust your introductory paragraph later. Sometimes you just have to start writing. You can start at the beginning or dive right into the heart of your essay.
Your first draft may not have the best opening, but as you continue to write, new ideas will come to you, and your thoughts will develop a clearer focus. Take note of these and, as you work through revisions, refine and edit your opening.
If you're struggling with the opening, follow the lead of other writers and skip it for the moment. Many writers begin with the body and conclusion and come back to the introduction later. It's a useful, time-efficient approach if you find yourself stuck in those first few words.
Start where it's easiest to start. You can always go back to the beginning or rearrange later, especially if you have an outline completed or general framework informally mapped out. If you don't have an outline, even just starting to sketch one can help organize your thoughts and “prime the pump” as it were.
You can read all the advice you want about writing a compelling opening, but it's often easier to learn by example. Take a look at how some writers approached their essays and analyze why they work so well.
“As a lifelong crabber (that is, one who catches crabs, not a chronic complainer), I can tell you that anyone who has patience and a great love for the river is qualified to join the ranks of crabbers. However, if you want your first crabbing experience to be a successful one, you must come prepared.”
– (Mary Zeigler, “How to Catch River Crabs”)
What did Zeigler do in her introduction? First, she wrote in a little joke, but it serves a dual purpose. Not only does it set the stage for her slightly more humorous approach to crabbing, but it also clarifies what type of “crabber” she's writing about. This is important if your subject has more than one meaning.
The other thing that makes this a successful introduction is the fact that Zeigler leaves us wondering. What do we have to be prepared for? Will the crabs jump up and latch onto you? Is it a messy job? What tools and gear do I need? She leaves us with questions, and that draws us in because now we want answers.
“Working part-time as a cashier at the Piggly Wiggly has given me a great opportunity to observe human behavior. Sometimes I think of the shoppers as white rats in a lab experiment, and the aisles as a maze designed by a psychologist. Most of the rats—customers, I mean—follow a routine pattern, strolling up and down the aisles, checking through my chute, and then escaping through the exit hatch. But not everyone is so dependable. My research has revealed three distinct types of abnormal customer: the amnesiac, the super shopper, and the dawdler.”
This revised classification essay begins by painting a picture of an ordinary scenario: the grocery store. But when used as an opportunity to observe human nature, as this writer does, it turns from ordinary to fascinating.
Who is the amnesiac? Would I be classified as the dawdler by this cashier? The descriptive language and the analogy to rats in a maze add to the intrigue, and readers are left wanting more. For this reason, even though it's lengthy, this is an effective opening.
“In March 2006, I found myself, at 38, divorced, no kids, no home, and alone in a tiny rowing boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. I hadn’t eaten a hot meal in two months. I’d had no human contact for weeks because my satellite phone had stopped working. All four of my oars were broken, patched up with duct tape and splints. I had tendinitis in my shoulders and saltwater sores on my backside.
“I couldn’t have been happier….”
– Roz Savage, “My Transoceanic Midlife Crisis.” Newsweek, March 20, 2011
Here is an example of reversing expectations. The introductory paragraph is filled with doom and gloom. We feel sorry for the writer but are left wondering whether the article will be a classic sob story. It is in the second paragraph where we find out that it's quite the opposite.
Those first few words of the second paragraph—which we cannot help but skim—surprise us and thus draw us in. How can the narrator be happy after all that sorrow? This reversal compels us to find out what happened.
Most people have had streaks where nothing seems to go right. Yet, it is the possibility of a turn of fortunes that compels us to keep going. This writer appealed to our emotions and a sense of shared experience to craft an effective read.