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Research paper writing guide: introduce and describe the topic

What makes a great research paper? Clarity!

Research papers are long undertakings, for both the writer and the reader. There is a lot of background research that must be summarized and existing theory that must be established. After that groundwork is laid down, the writer must convey their unique research idea, and justify it using both theory and empirical results. From there, the real work begins, as the writer outlines how their project was conducted, describes the results, and forms complex theoretical conclusions.

It is easy to lose the reader in this morass of information. A dry, super technical research paper can try a reader’s patience, and leave them confused about the research as a result. An excessively academic, jargon filled research paper can have the exact same effect. The best way to ensure that you and your readers are on the same page is by writing in clear, declarative language. Use spare, active sentences. Do not bog down your prose with unnecessary information. Eschew jargon, and avoid “five dollar words” when simpler words will do.

Of course, there is more you can do to ensure your paper is clear and easy to follow. You should begin with a strong descriptive introduction.

A strong introduction will guide readers through your whole paper.

Think of your introductory paragraphs as a guide or map to the rest of the paper. At first, you should use the introduction to orient the reader to your topic of choice. Explain what the topic or phenomenon is, describe some important research findings from the past, and give the reader a general understanding of what key issues are still up in the air regarding the topic. What is the current state of scientific knowledge? What do we still not know about this subject?

From there, your introduction section should outline your own research project. Provide your readers with a schema for the rest of the paper. Hint at the hypotheses, and say something that anticipates the methods and materials you used.

Make your introduction consistent with your results.

Believe it or not, you should not write your introduction until you know what your results and conclusions will be. If you know what your findings were, you can structure your introduction so that it comes as less as a surprise when the reader gets to it. Make a theoretical case for the results you found, not the results that you predicted beforehand. This will help make your paper coherent.