Starting A Research Paper With A Question

The writer of the academic essay aims to persuade readers of an idea based on evidence. The beginning of the essay is a crucial first step in this process. In order to engage readers and establish your authority, the beginning of your essay has to accomplish certain business. Your beginning should introduce the essay, focus it, and orient readers.

Introduce the Essay.The beginning lets your readers know what the essay is about, the topic. The essay's topic does not exist in a vacuum, however; part of letting readers know what your essay is about means establishing the essay's context, the frame within which you will approach your topic. For instance, in an essay about the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech, the context may be a particular legal theory about the speech right; it may be historical information concerning the writing of the amendment; it may be a contemporary dispute over flag burning; or it may be a question raised by the text itself. The point here is that, in establishing the essay's context, you are also limiting your topic. That is, you are framing an approach to your topic that necessarily eliminates other approaches. Thus, when you determine your context, you simultaneously narrow your topic and take a big step toward focusing your essay. Here's an example.

When Kate Chopin's novel The Awakening was published in 1899, critics condemned the book as immoral. One typical critic, writing in the Providence Journal, feared that the novel might "fall into the hands of youth, leading them to dwell on things that only matured persons can understand, and promoting unholy imaginations and unclean desires" (150). A reviewer in the St. Louis Post- Dispatch wrote that "there is much that is very improper in it, not to say positively unseemly."

The paragraph goes on. But as you can see, Chopin's novel (the topic) is introduced in the context of the critical and moral controversy its publication engendered.

Focus the Essay. Beyond introducing your topic, your beginning must also let readers know what the central issue is. What question or problem will you be thinking about? You can pose a question that will lead to your idea (in which case, your idea will be the answer to your question), or you can make a thesis statement. Or you can do both: you can ask a question and immediately suggest the answer that your essay will argue. Here's an example from an essay about Memorial Hall.

Further analysis of Memorial Hall, and of the archival sources that describe the process of building it, suggests that the past may not be the central subject of the hall but only a medium. What message, then, does the building convey, and why are the fallen soldiers of such importance to the alumni who built it? Part of the answer, it seems, is that Memorial Hall is an educational tool, an attempt by the Harvard community of the 1870s to influence the future by shaping our memory of their times. The commemoration of those students and graduates who died for the Union during the Civil War is one aspect of this alumni message to the future, but it may not be the central idea.

The fullness of your idea will not emerge until your conclusion, but your beginning must clearly indicate the direction your idea will take, must set your essay on that road. And whether you focus your essay by posing a question, stating a thesis, or combining these approaches, by the end of your beginning, readers should know what you're writing about, and why—and why they might want to read on.

Orient Readers. Orienting readers, locating them in your discussion, means providing information and explanations wherever necessary for your readers' understanding. Orienting is important throughout your essay, but it is crucial in the beginning. Readers who don't have the information they need to follow your discussion will get lost and quit reading. (Your teachers, of course, will trudge on.) Supplying the necessary information to orient your readers may be as simple as answering the journalist's questions of who, what, where, when, how, and why. It may mean providing a brief overview of events or a summary of the text you'll be analyzing. If the source text is brief, such as the First Amendment, you might just quote it. If the text is well known, your summary, for most audiences, won't need to be more than an identifying phrase or two:

In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare's tragedy of `star-crossed lovers' destroyed by the blood feud between their two families, the minor characters . . .

Often, however, you will want to summarize your source more fully so that readers can follow your analysis of it.

Questions of Length and Order. How long should the beginning be? The length should be proportionate to the length and complexity of the whole essay. For instance, if you're writing a five-page essay analyzing a single text, your beginning should be brief, no more than one or two paragraphs. On the other hand, it may take a couple of pages to set up a ten-page essay.

Does the business of the beginning have to be addressed in a particular order? No, but the order should be logical. Usually, for instance, the question or statement that focuses the essay comes at the end of the beginning, where it serves as the jumping-off point for the middle, or main body, of the essay. Topic and context are often intertwined, but the context may be established before the particular topic is introduced. In other words, the order in which you accomplish the business of the beginning is flexible and should be determined by your purpose.

Opening Strategies.There is still the further question of how to start. What makes a good opening? You can start with specific facts and information, a keynote quotation, a question, an anecdote, or an image. But whatever sort of opening you choose, it should be directly related to your focus. A snappy quotation that doesn't help establish the context for your essay or that later plays no part in your thinking will only mislead readers and blur your focus. Be as direct and specific as you can be. This means you should avoid two types of openings:

  • The history-of-the-world (or long-distance) opening, which aims to establish a context for the essay by getting a long running start: "Ever since the dawn of civilized life, societies have struggled to reconcile the need for change with the need for order." What are we talking about here, political revolution or a new brand of soft drink? Get to it.
  • The funnel opening (a variation on the same theme), which starts with something broad and general and "funnels" its way down to a specific topic. If your essay is an argument about state-mandated prayer in public schools, don't start by generalizing about religion; start with the specific topic at hand.

Remember. After working your way through the whole draft, testing your thinking against the evidence, perhaps changing direction or modifying the idea you started with, go back to your beginning and make sure it still provides a clear focus for the essay. Then clarify and sharpen your focus as needed. Clear, direct beginnings rarely present themselves ready-made; they must be written, and rewritten, into the sort of sharp-eyed clarity that engages readers and establishes your authority.

Copyright 1999, Patricia Kain, for the Writing Center at Harvard University

How to write introductory paragraph for research paper

The writing of the research paper is a multi-aspect process. Because this type of academic assignment consists of several parts. If you fail to complete one of the levels, you will fail the whole paper.

Introduction is not a literal beginning

As you know, the hardest part is just to begin the paper. And what should do student at the beginning? Not writing an outline. And not working on the introduction. He should make a massive research on his topic. You cannot start writing an introduction without having a personal view on the issue that you are going to study. You have to prepare for introduction writing though analyzing facts available online and making notes. If it's hard to do it yourself, the online essay help service will solve this problem instantly!

Why do we need an introduction?

The key aim of introduction is to introduce to the reader the purpose of your research. Just imagine any academic writing starting from the main body section. You cannot pour on the reader your evidence, ideas, arguments without explanation of what are you writing about. In the introduction, you must clearly indicate the hypothesis you want to prove or deny. You must explain the necessity of your research, its urgency and significance for your study and, finally, hook readers to continue reading it!

What information can I get from my search for the introduction?  

It depends on the discipline you are writing the research paper on. If your field of studies is Humanities, it is likely that you can find a relevant quote, aphorism, anecdote to introduce your topic to the reader. In case you study tech, social, medical sciences quotes are irrelevant. More precise and specific facts will fit such introduction. There is a general rule for all specialties too. You must find a fact that will intrigue a reader. You must hook him.

Attract the reader in any case

Imagine that your research paper is a product that you want to sell and be paid for it. Figuratively, it is truth because your aim is to be rewarded with high mark. The first thing salesmen do to sell their product is a promotion of it. They put efforts and use various methods to hook clients. So, what should writers do to attract a reader? Even if you write a research paper, and the style of writing is formal, it is still necessary and possible to draw his attention.

For example, your research paper topic is “How has the music industry been affected by the internet and digital downloading?”. After a hasty internet search, you can find out that there are many legendary musicians like Radiohead that gave up being dependant on music labels and started to issue their LP by themselves, online. Also, there is a site Pledge Music that is a popular crowdfunding platform for modern musicians. Such popular synth-pop band as IAMX raises money there  to record and promote their albums.

This two facts prove that digital downloading somehow effect music industry, and it is urgent to research this topic to learn the character of this effect.

Writing a thesis statement

What do you feel what you watch a good teaser for the movie? You feel hooked, intrigued and eager to watch the story till the end. The same result you must achieve with the thesis statement in research paper. You must indicate the highlights of your essay, and leave an opened question, a mystery, which the reader will want to learn for sure.

To provide a worthy example of research paper thesis statement lets return to the discussed above topic “How has the music industry been affected by the internet and digital downloading?”.

A thesis statement is a point that you will have to defend. It mandatorily must not be general. For example, if you declare this statement during the conversation, it will surely provoke a conflict and make all people differ in their attitude and take a side.

Wrong way: “Downloading music from internet is bad and we must fight it."

It leaves too many questions to answer. And this statement is a way too objective, it does not reflect the controversy of your topic. The truth is that there are no absolutely good or totally bad phenomenon. And your thesis statement must show the reality.

Right way: “The culture of digital music consumption must be changed because the creations of musicians become worthless due to activity of web pirates and people stop valuing music according to its merit .”

In this example of thesis, I’ve narrowed my argument to consequences of digital music download on culture of music consumption. I’ve also focused on the fact that main harm for music industry present web pirates.  It induces readers to assume that I will argue against them in the main body.

To check if you have created a debatable thesis statement for the research paper, you must figure out whether it is debatable. It means that you must make reader argue either for or against this statement.

Wrong way: “The music industry has changed because of era of the internet.”

It is a statement, but not a thesis statement. It is a general truth. There is no point to argue with that fact. You can narrate about that, but not argue and make research to provide proper evidence to prove your point.

Right way: “Free music download sites must become commercial because recording a music is a full-time job of musicians and every work must be rewarded.”

Now it is debatable. Opponents can argue that product that music product is not principal way to earn money for musicians, and internet is a the most effective way to promote their creation and lure audience to visit their concerts, what is a real way to earn money.

Avoid puzzlement. It means that you must not overdo with previous two thesis statement tips. It must be focused and debatable and should also show your side. In the latter example we can easily see that the writer is against free music download because it affects negatively on the work of music industry and he is going to prove why in the main body.

Research paper introduction writing tips

Research paper introduction is essential part of your writing and it must be created according to certain rules. It is true that when you write any kind of text you can push yourself too hard and cross borders of norms. Because academic styles of writing are referred to creative writing as well. You look for information, then analyze it, come up with thoughts, ideas, and reflect it in a coherent text. Next tips will show you how to fulfill the purpose of research paper introduction and get rid of the creative mess.

  • Size matters. Before a tutor starts reading the article, he reviews it visually. If the size of introduction is too large, it will make a bad impression on your paper. Just remember, all you have to present in the introduction is: definition of the topic idea and its urgency, explanation of the aim of the research, facts to hook the reader and thesis statement.

  • Be logical. Your introduction will be really strong if it contains key ideas only in few sentences. To reach such result it is important to satisfy logical connection of the thoughts. Your goal is to make reader understand in the end of the introduction what exactly you attempted to achieve in research paper and why this problem worth profound research.

  • Make it the last part. Many successful students firstly work on the whole outline, write the body of the paper and only then form the introduction. That’s because a person becomes more sure in what direction his research goes only after at least shallow search and analysis of sources.

  • Review previous studies of your topic. Every person can study the same topic in a different way. Before you start your own research, you must become aware of the discoveries other scholars made on this issue. Any result will be a reliable background for the future work. Note that it is better to indicate recent developments in the primary research rather than a lengthy report.

Research paper introduction example

Finally, when we have analyzed all highlights of introduction writing we can gather all parts of it in one, ultimate part of a paper. Lets refresh the exemplary topic of it:  “How has the music industry been affected by the internet and digital downloading?”. Now, have a look at research paper introduction example:

“The musical marketing turns to be digital according to demands of current online epoche. Such underground, but worldwide famous bands like Radiohead and IAMX gain profit from the internet and use it as a primary source to show the audience their creation. On the other hand, many artists find digital era harmful and destructive for their creativity because there are many sites that offer their product for free, giving no profit to the creator. Currently, there are more and more studies that reveal the business side of music industry far from a positive side. This research paper will define whether the culture of digital music consumption must be changed because the creations of musicians become worthless due to an activity of web pirates and because people have stopped valuing music according to its merit.”

As you see, all main components are preserved in the example above. First sentences hook readers, the mid part of the introduction prove the reason of the research and thesis statement puts debatable argument that needs further analysis and right solution.

Integrity is a key

After you created the final paper, be decisive to make necessary changes and correction especially before the submission. It usually happens that in the end of the research a writer can face with inconsistencies in all sections of his writing. If the whole paper does not sound a cohesive text, make improvements. If your main part does not the answer the question raised in the introduction nothing obstructs you from adjusting its sense to the ideas from the main body. A paper with a cohesive text deserve high mark, so rule your writing!

Now you’re a winner

I suppose that before you came across this article you underestimated the value of worthy introductive paragraph. In fact, I have not introduced you another meaningful feature of it. You know that all academic essay must end with a conclusive paragraph. There is an assumption that this is the hardest part of research paper completion. In fact, if you have succeeded in making of impressive introduction, you will significantly facilitate the process of conclusion writing.

0 thoughts on “Starting A Research Paper With A Question”

    -->

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *