Writing an Introductory Paragraph
Every research paper needs to have a well-crafted introductory paragraph. Because this paragraph is the reader's doorway into your paper, it needs to be strong and inviting. You want readers to be intrigued by both your topic and your stance on that topic, so make the wording clear and concise.
Your introductory paragraph should talk about concepts in the same order in which they are discussed in the body of the paper. If you introduce ideas in one order but later discuss them in a different order, your paper will be disjointed and potentially confusing. This is one reason why it is often easiest to write the introduction after you write the body of your paper.
Avoid beginning your paper with statements such as “This paper is about …” or “In this paper I will prove …” These sound awkward and do nothing to add to the flow of the paper. You can tell what your paper is about without announcing that you are telling what it is about.
Grab the Reader's Attention
The introductory paragraph should grab the reader's attention and make him or her want to read the rest of the paper. It can begin with a question that you will answer in your paper, a statement that you will either support or dispute, or even a shocking declaration that you might confirm. Research papers should begin in much the same way as a speech. If you start with something that immediately captures the attention and imagination of the audience, you have hooked them into reading more or listening to more.
State the Idea Clearly
As important as it is to grab the reader's attention, it is even more important to state the main idea, or thesis, of the research paper clearly and early. Work this main idea into the introductory paragraph.
Along with the thesis statement, the opening paragraph should contain enough related information to start the paper moving forward. This could include little-known facts, historical information, or a related story. Carefully connect this information with the thesis statement so that it doesn't slow down the paper with too much detail. Make sure that any information you include in the introductory paragraph is directly related to the main idea. In other words, you should have a clear purpose for stating information in the introductory paragraph.
You do not have to write the introductory paragraph first and the concluding paragraph last. Sometimes it is easiest to write the body of the report first, and then figure out what to say in the introduction and conclusion. The only rule is that the final draft must be in the correct order.
For example, consider the following opening paragraph for a research paper about the benefits of adding fluoride to drinking water:
“There was a time when people didn't pay much attention to dental care until they had a toothache, so it may surprise you to know that cavities were fairly unusual. A closer look at the diets of these previous generations, however, offers some insight into the reasons for their healthy teeth: They didn't suck on mints, grab a quick cappuccino, or munch on doughnuts. In short, they ate a mainly healthy diet of whole foods. Now, most of us eat too many over-processed, sugary foods and pay the price for it with our dental health. There is hope, however, and it comes in the form of fluoride in our drinking water. Adding fluoride to our drinking water improves our dental health while posing no risk to our overall health.”
The thesis statement here is the last sentence of the paragraph, but the previous information drew the reader into the topic.