Writing the Introduction Section of a Research Grounded Paper
Timothy G. Weih, Ph.D.
University of Northern Iowa, USA
Research grounded papers in education are typically divided into main sections (sometimes these are also called chapters) that are further divided into subsections. Each main section usually begins on a new page. In the paper these sections are typically titled the Introduction, Literature Review, Method, Results, Discussion, and References. The main sections are further divided (with the exception of the Reference section) into subsections that help the reader to follow sequential information contained within each main section. The structure of the paper represents sequential steps of how everything was conducted for the research study or project. The writing is technical, formal, or informational writing in which you are seeking to explain your topic and what you did for the sake of the reader. Most technical papers in education follow the writing style and format of the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (APA).
Research grounded papers include the reporting of past research findings that are directly related to the main topic and subtopics of the paper.
The Introduction section begins with the explanation of the topic for the reader. It is grounded on doing a literature review covering the main topics and subtopics related to the study or project, or what you have previously learned about your topic from studying previous research connected to the topic. As you write statements, you are expected to cite the sources (means to label) from the Literature Review section of the paper, in addition, and you also report on and cite document sources that "introduce" the topic. All of the cited document sources need to be written as complete references in the Reference section of the paper.
Format of the Paper
The format of the paper is typically size 12, Times New Roman font, with 1.5 inch left margin, and all the others an inch. This will allow room for binding the completed paper if that is needed. The writing throughout the entire paper should all be evenly double-spaced text, and follow APA for all headings within the paper.
What to Include in the Introduction
Why did you choose this topic?
Explain all of the reasons for choosing this topic in several paragraphs. Give some background to the topic relative to what has been learned from studying past research. Remember that generalizations and facts need to be substantiated in the paper with citations (labeling) from past research, even when you paraphrase. Use as few quotes as possible.
What is your overall purpose?
• Explain your overall main purpose for writing about this topic. Tell the reader what you hope to achieve for the greater good of students, teachers, administrators, policy makers, or whoever the stake holders are in your paper.
Why is your topic important or significant?
• Explain to the reader why your topic is important, significant, or stand out in any way from what has previously been written about, or from what you have learned from your past studies of research or past professional experiences.
Since the Introduction section is usually the first part of a research grounded paper, (after the abstract) it does not need a heading, and subheadings are seldom used. Write in a non evaluative style, meaning, you are not inserting any of your personal
opinions, thoughts, or feelings in this part of the paper.
• Do not reveal any biases, predetermined expectations, or outcomes.
• Write using "newspaper language" meaning, use language that an eighth grader would understand.
• Use as few trade terms as possible, meaning words that only professional educators would know, and if you have to use a trade term, do so in an appositive.
• Use past tense.
• Use short, direct, and simple sentences.
• Use active rather than passive voice, and avoid using: I, me, we, you, our- as much as possible (see APA for Passive Voice).
• Do not use "this author" or refer to yourself in third person.
• Use only a quotation from a text if you absolutely have to.
• Make sure you are writing in an expository style, this is not a personal narrative.
Follow the APA manual for all of the writing style, grammar, and formatting in the paper. When you have a draft completed, read it at least several times for revisions and edits. Make sure all the citations have corresponding, complete references in the Reference section of the paper.
About Author / Additional Info:
Timothy G. Weih is an associate professor of education at the University of Northern Iowa, USA, and teaches qualitative research methodology.