How to Write a Research Introduction (with Sample …

“What” and “when” questions are only the starting point for writing researchpapers.

Butif you follow the commandments above, you will be well on your way to writinggood research papers—and hopefully learn something about an important politicalor social topic along the way.

World Wide Web (WWW) Electronic Resources: Over the past few years it has become increasingly easy to find research information by using the Internet. Until recently the Gopher system of data archives was the dominant form of Internet information access, but now most governmental and nongovernmental organizations, universities, and even many businesses have developed access to their research resources over the graphic environment on the World Wide Web. The following are a number of Web sites that will get you started in searching for information you may need in writing your research paper. Although some of the Uniform Resource Locators (URL) listed below are for specific information sources, most provide you with "hot-linked" lists that will get you to where you might want to look for information.

Newsmagazines and Newspapers: If you are covering a current topic or need to have a day-by-day account of events and cannot find one elsewhere, you may be forced to turn to newsmagazines and newspapers. Be sure, however, to check with your instructor to ensure that these are considered acceptable sources for your assignment. Mostly they are useful for facts or for contemporary quotes and are usually not good sources of analysis. Your library may have a computerized access system such as to assist you. The also helps access this material. Additionally, major newspapers like the and are indexed. Some are now available on CD-ROM, allowing you to use the computer to search by subject and then print out the relevant stories. For instance, is one CD-ROM-based system that among other things indexes the and The computer database will not only provide you with indexed citations of journalistic articles, but also with the text of the article in most instances. See the reference librarians for help with such resources. There are sources such as and that are compilations of weekly news events and are indexed.

In fact, consideration of counter-argumentsis often a good way to begin your paper.

The second and probably more important goal behind a paper-writing assignment extends beyond the specific content of the course. The object is to sharpen your analytic and writing skills in preparation for the professional career that you may wish to pursue after graduation. Do not underestimate the importance of such thinking and communications skills. Most professional positions that college graduates seek will eventually require that you find information, analyze it, and convey your conclusions and recommendations to others, including your boss. You will be judged by your product. A survey of ranking business executives a few years ago asked them what accounted for the rise of their most successful young subordinates compared to the failure or slow progress of other junior executives. Communications skills was one of the factors most mentioned by the top executives. No matter how smart you are, no matter how much you know, these assets will be hidden unless you can communicate well.

How to Write a Research Introduction

It is also important to realize that your report will be judged in part by such standards as neatness, grammar, and spelling, and other such technical criteria. It is not uncommon for university instructors to get papers that represent a good research and analytical effort but that are sloppy, contain numerous grammatical errors, are full of misspellings, or are burdened by other such technical deficiencies. Such shortcomings make you look bad. It is very difficult for an instructor (or, later on, your boss) to be dazzled by your intellectual acumen while being simultaneously appalled by your English usage. Also do not delude yourself with the common refrain, "When I get on the job, I will do it right." It takes practice to do things well. That is true for rollerblading, shooting baskets, and playing the guitar. It is also true for doing a research paper. Now, in college, is the time to practice and learn. Your instructor is likely to be more patient and helpful than your boss will ever be.

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The articles listed in the Literature Cited of relevant papers you find are a good starting point to move in a line of inquiry.

Also with regard to your main body, do not assume knowledge on the part of the reader. Include all important information, explain its significance, and detail your logic. Write your paper as though its reader will be a reasonably intelligent and informed person but not an expert on your topic. Your instructor wants to know what you know and will not "read into" the paper information that is not there.

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The is the largest part of the paper. It should have a logical organization. Especially if the paper is long, it is often a good idea to divide the main body into sections designated by headings and subheadings. Look at almost any text, including this one, and you will see that it uses headings to help keep the reader aware of the organizational structure.


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If you are writing an advanced, theoretical paper, your introduction might well also include a review of the existing scholarship on the subject, a section in which you identify how you collected your data and other information, and a discussion of the methodology you will use. Wolfinger (1993) is a guide for such advanced papers.

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Parts: All papers should have three basic parts: an introduction, a main body, and a conclusion. The is the key to letting your reader know where you are headed and what you will accomplish. Remember always that while the organization of your paper may be clear to you, it is not clear to your reader. Therefore, the introduction is something like a road map that acquaints the reader with the journey ahead. This will make it easier for the reader to understand what follows and will improve the reader's evaluation of your work. Tell the reader in concise terms (1) what the subject of the paper is, (2) what it is that you hope to find out, and (3) how you will go about it.

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Whatever approach you choose, bear in mind that a cardinal rule is, Summarizing your findings in the conclusion does not mean that this is the only place to put "you" in the paper. Your analysis should appear throughout the paper. A big error that many novice writers make is to use the main body of the paper to create a heap of facts and to wait until the conclusion to say what they mean. This approach is boring and will not impress your readers with your analytical ability. The best papers by far are those that draw data, events, and other material together and interpret them throughout.