How to Write a Scientific Introduction for a Research Paper?

What is an introduction of a research paper?

The introduction in a research article is the first section which is seen by readers. It sets the tone for the whole article. This section should effectively communicate the relevance and significance of your research. Concise, engaging and clear introduction will indicate key points covered in the paper and provide an outline for the readers. The section is usually brief. The recommended length is approximately 500-1000 words or 10 per cent from the whole manuscript planned to be published in Scopus and Web of Science journals.

 

Why is this section important?

Introduction grabs an attention of your potential reader and captures their interest. It answers the question: Is this article worth reading? Effective introduction of the article for Scopus and Web of Science provides background information, highlights the gaps and clearly specifies research objectives.

This section helps you demonstrate your profound knowledge and high level of expertise in a certain scientific area. Clear introduction will let your readers smoothly follow the rest parts of your article without being confused and understand its general structure.

 

Structure of the introduction section.

Any effective introduction of the research paper consists of the following parts:

 

Structure of the introduction section for a Research Paper

 

  • Research background (a brief description of existing knowledge)
  • Literature review (optional) (a comprehensive overview of bibliography related to the research topic; please refer to the journal guidelines regarding the formatting of the in-text citation and bibliography)
  • Identified gaps in the current knowledge (missing knowledge you are going to introduce)
  • Determined aims, tasks and objects (primary goals you are going to achieve, materials you use, and steps to follow)
  • Hypotheses or research questions (optional) (something you are going to test in your article)
  • Overview of the paper’s structure (optional) (structure of your article for guidance; refer to the journal guidelines as many do not require the structure overview)

*Journal guidelines sometimes do not have separate introduction and literature review sections. Therefore, if not indicated by journal requirements, you may make a more in-depth literature investigation in the introduction section.

 

What should you do before writing (a preparatory step)?

When preparing for writing an introduction, do not be afraid of a blank page. It is always hard to start. That is why we highly recommend you to familiarize yourself with the current literature. This will help you understand what is known and what is only yet to know. The latter point is what you need. You are going to show that there is a gap and you can cover it with your study. Answer the questions: what am I going to write about? What is my main topic? What is the main idea I wish to convey? Then, you may sketch a short plan of your introduction section and go further to the main steps to compose the section worthy of publication in Scopus and Web of Science.

 

A step-by-step guide on writing a strong scientific introduction (with examples).

Here we would like to highlight the main steps you can follow to write an effective introduction to your research.

A step by step guide on writing a strong scientific introduction for a Research Paper

  

STEP 1. Start with a capturing idea.

Begin with a statement that grabs the reader’s attention and makes them want to read more about the indicated problem. This could be a question related to the topic or a thoughtful fact. Start broadly and then narrow down.

Ex. 1: In line with the UNFCCC and the Paris Climate Agreement, the European Union (EU) has committed itself to significantly reducing its human-induced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and other greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions influenced in order to mitigate global climate change. This is expected to lead to an increase in the price of CO2 through, inter alia, the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and the tightening of carbon/energy taxation. A pivotal question, both for the climate and for the economy, is, do rising prices lead to carbon leakage, i.e., the transfer of polluting production to countries that are not committed to strong mitigation measures?…

Ex. 2: The building sector is one of the cornerstones of achieving the European Union’s energy and environmental goals. Between 2008 and 2018, household electricity consumption rose by 1.3% in the EU, and in 2019, buildings accounted for nearly 40% of EU energy consumption (Eurostat, 2023) … However, despite these numerous measures, the energy-saving targets are still far below the objectives: in 2018, European GHG emissions had only fallen by 23% since 1990, while the target is a 40% reduction by 2030…

STEP 2. Provide background information.

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Introduce the topic and provide some context and background information to help the reader understand the problem you’re addressing. Despite the fact that you should cite literature sources and show the current state of knowledge, try to be brief because you have a separate section for an in-depth analysis of references (if required by a journal). Please refer to the journal guidelines regarding the formatting of the in-text citation and bibliography.

Ex. 1: Tsunami waveforms in nearshore areas have been occasionally observed using tide gauges (tide gauge data) since the late 1800s (e.g., Kusumoto et al. 2020). Satake (1987) used tide gauge data rather than offshore observational data for linear inversion. When using tide gauge data for linear inversion, two factors require careful consideration: tide gauge response and nonlinear tsunami effects. Following Satake (1987), subsequent studies were conducted to investigate the effects of tide gauge responses and correct tsunami waveforms observed by tide gauges (e.g., Satake et al. 1988 and 2010; Namegaya et al. 2009). Furthermore, …

Ex. 2: A radiographic radiolucency indicating apical periodontitis is a common feature, seen with a frequency of 39% in root- filled teeth (Tibúrcio- Machado et al., 2021). However, only a fraction (approximately 5%) of the root- filled teeth are symptomatic (Jonsson Sjögren et al., 2019). Longitudinal studies based on repeated radiological examinations suggest that a majority of root- filled teeth, also those with radiological periapical radiolucency, do not receive any additional treatment over time (Kirkevang et al., 2006, 2014; Petersson et al., 2016). Nevertheless, the presence of a periapical radiolucency increases the risk of extraction over time (Razdan et al., 2023). The clinical management of asymptomatic root- filled teeth with persistent disease has been studied in case- scenario studies, showing low inter- individual agreement among clinicians (Aryanpour et al., 2000; Hülsmann, 1994; Kvist et al., 2004; Reit & Gröndahl, 1988) probably due to uncertainty and complexity involved in the decision- making process (Kvist & Hofmann, 2023) …

STEP 3. Briefly review the literature.

Once the focus of your study is narrowed to the specific topic, you should cover the most recent and relevant literature (over the last 3-5 years) related to your research.

Ex. 1: Another important factor in inflation expectations is the oil price, which substantially impacts energy costs and wages, raising inflation (Baba and Lee, 2022). The effect of energy shocks on the United States has recently been discussed in the academic literature on finance and economics (e.g., Kilian and Zhou, 2022; Oloko et al., 2021; Pham et al., 2020).

Ex. 2: The main reason behind lack of using any latest technology in any organization is the backward mindedness of the leadership (Asif et al., 2021a) at the same time technological turbulence also influence the impact of factors that promotes adoption of blockchain technology (Hammami et al., 2021; Ullah, et al., 2021a, 2021b). Therefore, ignoring the use of these technologies, Islamic banks are lagging far behind in real competition with traditional banks (Hasan et al., 2020).

STEP 4. Highlight the gaps.

Identify areas where existing studies have not fully addressed the research methodology, variables, samples, or other factors. It will help you emphasize the need for your own study and contribute to filling in these missing pieces of knowledge.

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Ex. 1: However, there is currently a lack of studies that allow us to compare the effectiveness of the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy responses to energy crises before and after the adoption of an explicit ITR.

Ex. 2: However, the pre-eruptive thermal precursors have not yet been thoroughly investigated at Aso volcano… The use of multiple methods to monitor long-term thermal activity (i.e. on the scale of years) has not yet been fully addressed

STEP 5. Specify the objectives and significance.

Omission of research aims and importance can be strong reasons for paper rejection. Therefore, clearly state them in the introduction. Now, you are aware of the previous and current state of the studied topic. It’s time to determine the objectives and significance of your research. You may use the following phrases: The main aim of the present research is to … . It is of high importance as it will lead to… .

Ex. 1: Previous research has highlighted the importance of vocabulary knowledge to reading comprehension and also the importance of reading experience to building this vocabulary knowledge. The key aims of the current study were to create a corpus of a sample of the texts used in the new exams to (1) identify vocabulary that is typical of the exam texts and (2) identify in which types of reading this vocabulary is most likely to be found.

Ex. 2: To address these limitations in the current literature, using a 15-year prospective longitudinal design, the present study had two broad objectives: (1) Examine the stability of ADHD symptomatology across a 15-year period from emerging adulthood (i.e., 18–25 years old) to early middle adulthood (i.e., 33–40 years old); and (2) evaluate the relative importance of inattention and hyperactivity-impulsivity symptoms as predictors of various life outcomes (e.g., relationship quality, employment outcomes, and mental health outcomes). Both of these objectives were examined with particular attention to potential gender differences.

STEP (optional). Clearly state your hypotheses or research questions

This part is optional to the introduction section. You are likely to meet it after the careful literature review. If the section about the theoretical background is absent or the structure of your paper allows, you should indicate your hypotheses / research questions here. These are central components of a study which provide an accurate direction for your investigation. This helps establish the rationale for your study, clearly frame your paper for the reader and make your research well-conceived.

Ex. 1: …we uncover varying impacts of homeownership on SWB by location, age and income. We set out four hypotheses below

Ex. 2: SAS was delivered either through surface electrical stimulation of the DGN, or through electrodes implanted on the sacral afferent nerves. We hypothesise that SAS can suppress acute spasm of the lower limbs and reduce muscle stiffness in people with SCI.

STEP 6. Finish with a strong conclusion

Summarize the key points of your introduction. Besides, you might also consider giving a section-by-section overview of the paper (if it does not contradict the journal requirements).

Ex. 1: Here, we explore this particular refiner pattern and its family of related constructions by drawing analogies with two paradigmatic features of linguistic structure: distance dependencies and anaphora. We will first describe the constructs involved with these sequences, then show across three experiments that constraints operating on visual narrative sequencing share architectural and neurocognitive analogous to those in structures of language.

Ex. 2: The remainder of this paper is structured into six core sections. The second section provides a brief literature review, while the third section offers an outline of our econometric modeling strategy and provides insights into the employed dataset. Subsequently, the fourth section dissects the obtained results, while the fifth section provides a discussion of the results. The final segment offers a conclusive summary of key findings, discussing the policy implications of the study’s outcomes. …

Ex. 3: The paper is organized as follows. Section 2 presents the model. Sections 3 and 4 characterize equilibrium and its welfare properties. Sections 5–8 analyze trade policy, competition policy, subsidies to storage, and long term contracts. Section 9 concludes. Proofs are collected in Appendix A. A list of all symbols used is in Appendix B.

 

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What should be avoided?

There are some typical mistakes which should be avoided while writing the introduction section.

 

Typical mistakes which should be avoided while writing the introduction section of a Research Paper

 

  • Wordiness –> avoid adding too much general information despite the fact that firstly, you should introduce the broad context and then make your data more specific.
  • Bulky text –> the text you are composing should be readable and easy to understand by any reader. However, it doesn’t mean that you have to simplify your research. This involves inclusion of relevant information, clear and understandable language.
  • Overciting -> use no more than 3 references per a piece of text. Overciting is often discouraged by the journal.
  • Absence of identified gaps and clear aims –> without clearly shown gaps it would be impossible to understand the obvious: what your research is written for; what novel ideas it contributes.
  • Figures and tables –> introduction section does not imply showing results or methods and materials. Try not to put any visual materials unless it is approved by the editorial office.
  • Numerous subsections –> an introduction should not be similar to a long-read. Instead, it should be quite brief and concise that is why avoid subsections. If you feel that this section can be much easier to perceive if divided into several parts, then format your text with sub-headings.

 

Closing remarks.

Writing a strong scientific introduction of the article for Scopus and Web of Science is a tough but realistic task. Our step-by-step guide on how to write a scientific introduction for a research paper will definitely help you to create an effective lead-in to your study. Writing of this section may be time-consuming, therefore, we recommend you to have “coffee breaks” or maybe even write it after all essential sections are ready and you have a comprehensive and consistent view of your article. A well-written introduction can increase the chances of getting your paper published in a reputable journal.

 

FAQs.

  • What is the difference between the introduction and literature review sections?

An introduction is a beginning to the study which demonstrates that the author is aware of the previous published works and, thus, sets the scene of their research and overview what the reader is going to learn from the article. A literature review section implies the scrutinized analysis of the previous studies to provide a theoretical context for the research topic.

  • What is the length of the introduction?

The length of the article introduction can vary across journals and research areas. Please refer to the guidelines. Typically, a good introduction should not be long (approximately 500-1000 words or 10 per cent from the whole manuscript length, i.e. if you have a 6000-word paper, your introduction (preferably) should be no more than 600 words).

  • What should be included in the section?

To sum up, this section should include the introduced topic, problem statement and research background; identified gaps you are going to cover; your goals and research significance; hypotheses or research questions and paper structure (optional).

  • May I include sub-headings in my introduction?

Yes, you may if there are no restrictions from the journal. However, try to avoid using them. This section should be brief. If you feel that your introduction can be much easier to perceive if divided into several parts, then format your text with sub-headings.

  • Should I write about the findings and conclusions in the section?

You should not describe the results you obtained during your research (you have another section for it). You may just hypothetically suggest what can you find after conducting your research.