How to Start a Research Paper: Definition, Introduction, Examples

posted by Andy Preisler 21 Oct 2016

Revised on 21 October 2021

Many students wonder how to start a research paper because even the most explicit instructions from your professor will cover the major requirements rather than tips on how to start the process itself. Undoubtedly, it’s the most difficult thing to do. But what should students do if the deadline is approaching and nothing is done yet? Convince your inner procrastinator that all you want to do is to complete cover page for research paper and do some brainstorming. Voilà! That’s a start already, even just a title. Major trick here is to focus on small parts, completing them one by one. 

Do You Really Know What is a Research Paper?

Once you have started the project, your mind follows the flow and you will get everything done eventually. Understanding the main idea of the task is the first step in achieving success. Many students received failing grades because they just started writing a first paragraph of a research paper without understanding what they are doing. Their problems were mainly generic content and excessive focus on background information. Precision and clarity are key success factors here, not a number of words. Writing of this paper presupposes not only specific organization and conducting truly impressive research work but also demonstrating writer’s critical thinking and analysis abilities. Effective paper that everyone studying at a university must be able to complete is always a combination of these three elements.

It isn’t a random, disorganized stream of consciousness without a specific structure. Absence of proper research and references to reputable sources turns paper into a subjective narrative. Lack of writer’s personal analysis as well as data interpretation makes the paper a compilation of quotes and paraphrased information. That’s okay for an encyclopedic article but absolutely not acceptable for a decent paper. Now when you know what are this task’s expected keystones, it is time to learn how to begin research paper. No, it isn’t writing an introduction. This part should be done almost in the end. At first, students must focus on their intentions, what exactly they want to write about, and finally choose their topic.

Find Proper Informational Sources and Collect Facts

Even the best topic in the entire world will be severely compromised if you use some questionable blogs or Wikipedia as sources for information. The first step to writing a research paper is using acceptable, reputable sources that are not subjective, controversial, or can be edited by anybody on the Internet anonymously.

Two major types of sources students should consider reviewing to collect all needed facts and data to back up their claims are primary and secondary sources. Difference is simple to understand but it’s essential as some research papers may require substantial focus on primary sources specifically. Failure to follow this requirement will result in poor grades. Avoiding this unfortunate outcome is easy, simply review what each type means:

  • Primary sources: These include first-hand information and original sources of data, such as interview transcripts, literature texts, original research report that is based on newly conducted experiments, raw statistical data, and so on. 
  • Secondary sources: These interpret the data provided by primary sources so that reviewing all these articles and books written by other researchers is actually answer to question “what is a good way to start a research report?” since you get access to synthesized data and reputable scholars’ points of view.

Once you know what topic you would like to research, start to collect your evidence. This may take hours because long papers usually require more than just a few articles. Obligatory sources’ number may be up to several dozen depending on your specific instructions. 

How Many Sources Are Needed?

Want to know how to start off a research paper? A good 10-page research paper should be based on approximately 10-20 credible sources. Imagine how many sources you need to skim through to determine whether they are relevant for your specific topic or not. To save time and gather only credible information, you should focus on these sources:

  • Scholarly peer-reviewed articles in academic journals.
  • Books and textbooks, preferably those published by universities.
  • Reputable websites on .gov, .edu, and .org domains.
  • Official companies’ reports even if they are located on .com websites.
  • Newspapers and magazines are acceptable as well. 

How To Start a Research Paper Intro? Make Research Paper Outline First!

“Can I proceed with completion of intro yet?” you might think. Our answer would be “not just yet”. But it’s time for the most important step in writing - preparing research paper’s framework. This is primary rule on how to begin a research paper correctly. Knowing what elements should be assembled and what is expected in any of them allows you to write each part separately, in small pieces, which is much easier in terms of organization and motivation. 

Noting down all major ideas shows whether you followed logical development as well as effective argumentation. Besides, you may even ask professional writing experts to help write my research paper for me at this stage as you already developed the major framework according to your liking or may even have it approved by your instructor. Online writing help will save you precious time needed to read gathered sources carefully and compose actual paper’s text based on specific outline. 

Ask for Professional Assistance

A totally different approach is possible as well since one can ask experts for assistance with developing outline and gathering sources, which is often the most time-consuming stage. It is easy to get stuck once you begin developing good argumentative topic and collecting enough facts to defend your position. Many students struggle with this major framework. Among good ways to start a research paper for them would be getting help with ideas and argument flow so that they could proceed with paper’s text themselves.

Come Up with an Effective Thesis Statement Before Designing Research Paper Title Page

This element is of dire importance for any research paper even though it is usually just one or two sentences in length. In fact, think about developing good thesis statement before starting looking for sources. The reason is simple: once you know your exact position, it is easier to apply relevant filters and keywords. For example, one wants to argue against capital punishment. They already know their topic and position regarding the main problem. It will be easy to find relevant sources that provide facts that prove negative aspects of capital punishment.

One may also think that such an important statement must be the first sentence of a research paper. It isn’t correct idea because introduction should start with an eye-catching hook, then present the general background, and narrow down the discussion to specific paper’s focus, which is presented by your thesis statement. This is the simplest and standard way to start an introduction. Simplified thesis statement’s structure in the above-mentioned example would look like an author’s claim: “I consider capital punishment redundant because of reason one, reason two, and reason three”.

Work on Literature Review

Proceed to the next step after you learn how to start an introduction paragraph properly. This step is among the most resource-intensive because one needs to carefully read available pieces of research on their topic and synthesize the previous knowledge. Why is this step so important? Answer is simple: conducting literature review allows them to find potential gaps in existing knowledge and justify their own research.

Consider hiring research paper writing services at this stage in case you don’t intend to work on the entire project alone. This will allow you to dedicate more hours to the next stages or other college tasks while someone else reviews all previously conducted studies and synthesizes ideas and gathered knowledge to create an effective background for your own research. Basic paragraph structure in this section of your paper isn’t applicable. Even though every paragraph here should still have topic sentences related to main thesis statement, literature review means multiple references to different sources that discuss the issue under review from different perspectives. Gathering and analyzing this information properly is complicated and tedious task that cannot be done overnight. Make sure you dedicate enough effort to this stage.  

What About the Research Question(s)?

In case one is conducting the primary research, paying close attention to this element of a prospective paper is a must. Precise and correct research questions show how to start of a research paper as they serve as the primary starting point and guide for future research. Depending on chosen research questions, students define applicable methodology, come up with the hypothesis, and can actually proceed to all next stages.

When finding it difficult to come up with this question on their own, students must turn for help from their professors. Another idea is hiring an experienced writer who’ll easily create several questions for you to choose from. Asking for help is totally fine, especially if you’re overwhelmed with assignments and deadlines.

Applicable Research Methodology

There’s nothing strange that many students are hesitant or reluctant to start working on assignments. They don’t know what is a good way to start a research paper and also what category should be chosen. Let us make things simple so that you can easily determine what methodology is appropriate for your specific topic.

Research methods can be grouped into three major categories: quantitative, qualitative, and mixed. The former is dealing with statistical data or numerical analysis while the latter is focused on textual data analysis. So, if you need to analyze and interpret interviews related to a certain event you need to choose qualitative method. Finding out relationship between two specific variables that are based on statistical data is better done using quantitative approach. Each methodology has appropriate methods of data collection. One may obtain required information using quantitative methods such as surveys, experiments, reviewing existing bulk of knowledge, or qualitative approach such as interviews or observation.

The next step is determining required data analysis method and that’s all. Then you may proceed to learn how to start an introduction to a research paper. Author may analyze gathered data using content, thematic, or discourse analysis for qualitative approach and descriptive or inferential statistics in case quantitative methodology is applied.

Writing Important Sections: Following Standard Structure

Since you already know good ways to start a research paper, it is time to pay some attention to other important sections that are equally important for an excellent final grade. 

  • Results. Just present your findings in this section, test or experiment’s results, and other data you collected.
  • Analysis. Interpretation of presented data should be done at this stage.
  • Discussion. This section is extremely important because here you should discuss your study’s significance. This should be a long part as you should discuss how obtained results address your topic or issues under review. Implications, limitations, and potential for future studies should be included as well.
  • Conclusion. Summarize your study from hypothesis to results in precise and short form. Make sure new information isn’t presented here.

Write Your First Draft

You worked hard while writing an outline for a research paper and subsequent steps so that now it is time to compose the first draft based on sections that were composed so far. You now know how to open a research paper effectively because the entire research and data analysis were completed, so that the most effective introduction can be composed based on the conducted literature review and obtained results.

This stage is important because it allows gathering all sections together and detects missing elements or drawbacks in argument’s development. You should not focus on ways to start a research paper in the most flawless manner alone. Writing a research paper presupposes multiple revisions, and it’s okay if it takes three or more attempts before the final draft is submitted, and you get a well-deserved grade on its cover page.

Research Paper Introduction Example

If you still need an example research paper introduction, we can provide a sample of how it can be done, implementing moving from general to specific and including a thesis statement in the end:

Fairy tales are the source of multiple possible interpretations that reflect the values of contemporary society. At the same time, they need to convey universal human values and concepts, therefore, the original fairy tales are nice and simple as they teach the structure of the world to children. Modern interpretations can serve as the embodiment of the changing values of society. The villain character in Walt Disney’s version of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale and a 2014 movie Maleficent provides the opportunity to trace the influence of the second-wave feminist perspective, critique men’s treatment of women much better than the main heroine, and emphasize the shift from objectification to subjectification.

Everything From How to Start an Introduction to The Final Steps

Writing a new research paper from scratch can be a challenging task that some students may not have enough time to complete. It’s perfectly reasonable to hire a professional research paper writing help on any stage described above. That’s a solution designed for people who found themselves stuck and unable to proceed with their research further. Observing how a professionally written research paper should be completed is beneficial for your future studies, as now you know major tricks and won’t omit important parts. Practice is all that remains to achieve mastery and even then, you always have a chance to consult with experts.

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