How To Write an Introduction

Writing an introduction
he introduction gives readers an overview of your subject and presents your hypothesis. Luc Beziat / Cultura Exclusive / Getty Images

The purpose of an introduction in a psychology paper is to justify the reasons for writing about your topic. Your goal in this section is to introduce the topic to the reader, provide an overview of previous research on the topic and identify your own hypothesis.

Before you even begin:

Stary by Researching Your Topic

Search a journal database, such as PsychInfo or ERIC, to find articles on your subject.

Once you have located an article, look at the reference section to locate other studies cited in the article. As you take notes from these articles, be sure to write down where you found the information. A simple note detailing the author's name, journal and date of publication can help you keep track of sources and avoid plagiarism.

Create a Detailed Outline

This is often one of the most boring and onerous steps, so students have a tendency to skip outlining and go straight to writing. Creating an outline of might seem tedious, but it can be an enormous time-saver down the road and will make the writing process much easier. Stary by looking over the notes you made during the research process and consider how you want to present all of your ideas and research.

Once you are ready to write your introduction:

Introduce the Topic

Your first task is to provide a brief description of the research question.

What is the experiment or study attempting to demonstrate? What phenomena are you studying? Provide a brief history of your topic and explain how it relates to your current research.

As you are introducing your topic, consider what makes it important? Why should it matter to your reader? The goal of your introduction is not only to let your reader know what your paper is about, but also to justify why it is important for them to learn more about.

If your paper tackles a controversial subject and is focused on resolving the issue, it is important to summarize both sides of the controversy in a fair and impartial way. Consider how your own paper fits in with the relevant research on the topic.

Summarize Previous Research

The second task of your introduction is to provide a well-rounded summary of previous research that is relevant to your topic. So, before you begin to write this summary, it is important to thoroughly research your topic. Finding appropriate sources amid thousands of journal articles can be a daunting task, but there are a number of steps you can take to simplify your research. If you have completed the initial steps of researching and keeping detailed notes, writing your introduction will come much easier.

It is important to give the reader a good overview of the historical context of the issue you are writing about, but do not feel like you have to give an exhaustive review of the subject. Focus on hitting the main points and try to include the most relevant studies.

You might describe the findings of previous research and then explain how the current study differs or expands upon earlier research.

Provide Your Hypothesis

Once you have summarized the previous research, explain areas where the research is lacking or potentially flawed. What is missing from previous studies on your topic? What research questions have yet to be answered? Your own hypothesis should lead from these questions. At the end of your introduction, offer your hypothesis and describe what you expected to find in your experiment or study.

Tips:

  1. Use 3x5" note cards to write down notes and sources.
  2. Look in professional psychology journals for examples of introductions.
  3. Remember to cite your sources.
  4. Maintain a working bibliography with all of the sources you might use in your final paper. This will make it much easier to prepare your reference section later on.
  5. Use a copy of the APA style manual to ensure that your introduction and references are in proper APA format.

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