If you’re a curious person who always wants to everything about anything, then you’ll love writing research papers. As a writer who constantly works on different forms of content and different niches, I spend most of my time researching. In fact, that’s my favorite part of the entire process. I love that feeling I get when I research, learn more, find what I need, and use it to create unique content. As you’ve already figured by its name, a research paper requires a lot of curiosity and “detective work” as I like to call it. You can easily picture yourself as a detective (or even a journalist) who’s working on same big case or story.
Writing research paper for the very first time can be overwhelming, you’re nervous because you don’t want to make mistakes. Or maybe you’ve already worked on this type of paper before, but you want to know how to improve. I am going to help writing papers you out, regardless of your experience, by providing useful info and tips for writing a high-quality work. Let’s see how to write introduction and outline for a research paper (it’s easier than you think).
Research paper introduction
Research papers usually discuss serious topic or ideas, or the ones that are subjected to numerous debates. A writer i.e. you, has to a thorough research, find out as much as possible and combine previous and current research data on the topic. The paper should, also, include conflicting ideas or attitudes.
Let’s say your research paper is about global warming, besides info (previous and current studies and such) about this topic, it’s useful to write about two opposing views or mention that some people believe it is a hoax. That way, you are covering both sides of the issue and show how unbiased you are.
The research paper does not deal with writer’s opinion, it is not your job to write what you think about the subject and support your claim with evidence. Instead, it deals with facts!
You have probably dealt with this problem before – you want to start writing, but you can’t think of anything, ideas vanished entirely, and you don’t know how to formulate the introduction. That is a common concern, even among those who believe that introductions aren’t important in the first place.
The high-quality paper is the one wherein all parts, from the introduction to a conclusion, are well-structured. There are no “less important” parts of the text. So, how to create an introduction for a research paper?
Elements of the introduction
In order to create a bulletproof introduction, you should stick to the basic formula that consists of the following:
- Hook – the very beginning of your introduction, which is why it should be interesting in order to grab a reader’s attention. This is, basically, where readers already make the very first impression of your work and as you know, first impressions are everything. The hook for a research paper is typically longer than in a basic essay. The typical research paper is longer than some essay, which is why it needs a longer intro. To create the hook, you can use anecdotes, statistics, questions, quotes, anything you see fit for your topic.
- Research question – in most cases you’ll get the research question i.e. what exactly to research and create your paper about, but in other instances, you’ll have to do it on your own. Generally, research question should be concise, on the point, and inform the reader what to expect throughout your work.
- Thesis statement – it accounts for the last sentence or two of the introduction. The thesis statement in a research paper is equally important to those in ordinary essays. Not only they provide additional information to the reader, but also help you stay focused and avoid straying away from your topic. The thesis statement is, actually, an answer to the research question, so make sure it’s a good, constructive one.
Example: The history of medieval times in Europe and the Middle East was primarily characterized by armed conflict between Christians and Muslims. Christians called these conflicts the Crusades because they were fighting under the sign of the cross to save the holy lands of the Bible from being desecrated by non-Christians. However, the true reason for fighting for these lands was less than holy. What was the real reason behind Crusades? The underlying cause for Crusades was mainly a desire for economic gain that prompted the Christian leaders to send soldiers to fight in the Holy Land and efforts from the Church to, still, remain the biggest and undisputable authority.
Purple – hook
Blue – research question
Red – thesis statement
Whenever having to write a research introduction, keep in mind the diagram you see below.
Tips for introduction
Here are some useful things to consider when writing a research paper introduction:
- Although introductions of research papers can be somewhat longer than in regular essays, you should still try to keep it short. Don’t drag the introduction and take up half of a page or something. Rambling, lengthy introductions will quickly lose your reader’s interest. Plus, they are a sign of an unorganized thought
- Introduction isn’t a summarized version of the entire paper, it briefly introduces your work
- Never choose a thesis statement you can’t support with evidence
- Based on your research, include points or subtopics that you will delve into in the body of the paper
- Subtopics should be associated with the main subject and work to strengthen the importance and value of your thesis statement
- When writing the first draft, you can save the introduction for last (if you find it easier that way). By the time you finish the body and conclusion, you’ll get inspired and know what to include in the introductory part of your paper.
- Take a notebook and write down different ideas to make an interesting, yet professional introduction. Separate good ideas from the bad ones, think of your research question and thesis statement. Now, connect those ideas with sentences
- Be precise, your introductions should be precise and specific and discuss only the idea you’ve researched and plan to elaborate further, don’t stray away from the topic and write about stuff that you won’t even mention in the body.
Research paper outline
Now that you know how to start your research paper, you’re probably wondering how to keep going. Be sure that you have found a worthy research paper topic before passing to the next level. Just like with essays, the outline is everything. It’s a formula you use to write about any topic and still get a well-structured paper that your professor will love.
The general outline for research paper consists of the following:
- Introduction (explained above)
- Body – the central part of the paper and includes context or general information about the subject, existing arguments, detailed research. Here you can also include your argument, but only if a professor specifies it when sending out assignments. As mentioned above, research papers are usually concerned with facts, not opinions
- Conclusion – summary of main points, why the subject matters
Example: Here’s how the general outline would look if were writing about Shakespeare:
- Body – Shakespeare’s early life, marriage, works, later years
- Early life, family, marriage to Anne Hathaway, references to his marriage in poems he wrote
- Shakespeare’s works: tragedies, comedies, histories, sonnets, other poems
- Later years: last two plays, retired to Stratford, death, burial, epitaph on this tombstone
It is important to bear in mind that every new idea, in this case, an aspect of Shakespeare’s life and work, requires a separate paragraph.
To simplify, use the following diagram when you have to work on a research paper.
The purpose of a research paper outline is to help you think through your topic carefully and organize it logically before the writing process commences. Since I’ve already shown how to write the introduction, it’s time to give a few pointers for the body and conclusion of your work. So, here we go:
- Assume that your reader isn’t familiar with the topic and start with basic info first. Imagine you’re reading a paper for a five-year-old. Give background, historical context, etc. You don’t have to go into the tiniest details, mentioning something useful, memorable will do the trick too
- It’s useful to research and include opinions of other, respected historical figures about your topic. For example, what other authors had to say about Shakespeare
- Don’t forget about conflicting views e.g. some people didn’t like Shakespeare and thought he was a fraud, it’s useful to mention that as well. Regardless of the topic, there are always pro- and anti- opinions, mention both sides
- Only include information you can support with reliable and trustworthy evidence. Don’t use Wikipedia, blogs and such, go for journals, books, respected websites, it all depends on the topic of course
- Give credit where credit is due, don’t forget to cite your sources
- The overall tone of your paper should be formal, don’t be scared to demonstrate your vast vocabulary skills
- Avoid wordiness, sentences should be concise. Every word you use should only contribute to the overall meaning of a sentence. Don’t use “fluff” just meet the word count
- When writing conclusions, briefly mention the most important arguments or research, explain the importance of the subject and what we can learn from it.
Writing a research paper may seem like a mission impossible if you’ve never had the opportunity to work on such an assignment. But, it doesn’t have to be stressful. Always make sure you follow an outline and you’ll stay on the right track. Picture yourself as a detective or journalist who’s in the search for the truth. Why don’t you try writing your own paper about Shakespeare, now? Good luck!
An outline is a tool used to organize written ideas about a topic or thesis into a logical order. Outlines arrange major topics, subtopics, and supporting details. Writers use outlines when writing their papers in order to know which topic to cover in what order. Outlines for papers can be very general or very detailed. Check with your instructor to know which is expected of you. Here are some examples of different outlines. You can also learn more by watching the short video below.
The most common type of outline is an alphanumeric outline, or an outline that uses letters and numbers in the following order:
I. Roman Numerals
A. I, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, etc.
B. Represent main ideas to be covered in the paper in the order they will be presented
II. Uppercase Letters
A. A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, etc.
B. Represent subtopics within each main idea
III. Arabic Numbers
A. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, etc.
B. Represent details or subdivisions within subtopics
IV. Lowercase Letters
A. a, b, c, d, e, f, g, h, i, j, l, m, etc.
B. Represent details within subdivisions
Outline with main ideas, subtopics, subdivisions and details:
Thesis: Drugs should be legalized.
I. Legalization of drugs would reduce crime rates
1. Before Prohibition, crime rate related to alcohol were low-to-medium
2. During Prohibition, crime rates related to alcohol were high
a. Arrests for drunkenness and disorderly conduct increase 41%
b. Federal prison population increased 366%
3. After Prohibition, crime rates related to alcohol were very low
1. Before Amsterdam had legalized marijuana, drug-related crime rates were high
2. After Amsterdam had legalized marijuana, drug-related crime rates dropped
II. Legalization of drugs would benefit the economy
1. Local taxes
2. State taxes
3. Federal taxes
B. Business Owners
1. Drug production
2. Drug quality testing
3. Drug sales
III. Legalization of drugs would benefit public health
A. Quality of drugs would increase
1. Fake/dangerous drugs eliminated
2. Fake/placebo drugs eliminated
3. Amount of active ingredient standardized and stabilized
B. Drug users with addiction issues would get more help
3. Public health clinics
C. Your people would be less likely to start drugs
- Each roman numeral (I, II, III, IV…) indicates the start of a new paragraph. So I. is the first sentence of the introduction, II. is the first sentence of the first paragraph of the body, III. is the first sentence of the second paragraph of the body, and so on.
- Each capital letter (A, B, C, D…) indicates a main point within the structure of the paragraph. So in our introduction, A. is the attention getter, B. is another attention getter, C. describes a point that makes the topic personal, and D. is the thesis statement.
- Each Arabic numeral (1, 2, 3, 4…) indicates a sentence or piece of supporting evidence for each main point. So in the first body paragraph (II.), point A. is a general statement that needs some additional support, so 1. provides a supporting statement of fact and the citation of where that information came from. 2. provides another sentence with supporting evidence, as does 3.
Example of a full-sentence outline:
Warming Our World and Chilling Our Future
Thesis Statement: Today I want to share what I have learned about global warming and its causes.
I. Global warming is alive and well and thriving in Antarctica.
A. In winter 1995, an iceberg the size of Rhode Island broke off.
B. In October 1998, an iceberg the size of Delaware broke off.
C. All of us have a lot at stake.
1. Now, I am what you call a “country mouse.”
2. I love the outdoors.
3. You can be a “city mouse,” and like clean air, good water, and not having to worry about sun.
D. Today I want to share what I have learned about global warming and its causes.
II. Global warming is a gradual warming of the Earth from human activities (citation).
A. It is characterized by a high concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
1. Each year five tons of CO2 are pumped into the atmosphere (citation).
2. The carbon dioxide traps heat.
3. 1998 set temperature records (citation).
B. Carbon pollutants also eat a hole in the ozone layer (citation).
1. In 1998 this hole set a size record.
2. This allows more ultraviolet radiation to reach Earth.
C. If this problem is not corrected; we may see disastrous results (citation).
1. There could be dramatic climate changes.
a. There could be drought in the middle of continents.
b. There could be many severe storms.
c. There could be rising sea levels that would destroy coastal areas.
2. There could be serious health problems.
a. There could be an increase in skin cancer.
b. There could be an increase in cataracts.
c. There could be damaged immune systems.
D. Now that you understand what global warming is and why it is important, let’s examine its major causes.
III. The loss of woodlands adds to global warming (citation).
IV. Industrial emissions accelerate global warming (citation).
V. Personal energy consumption magnifies global warming (citation).
VI. In conclusion, if you want to know why we have global warming, listen for the falling trees, watch the industrial smokestacks darkening the sky, and smell the exhaust fumes we are pumping into the air.
A. Gore told a story on how global warming can sneak up on us.
B. Addressing the National Academy of Sciences, the vice president said, “If dropped into a pot of boiling water….”
C. The more we know about global warming, the more likely we are to jump and the less likely we are to be cooked.