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How to start a research paper: Step-by-Step Guide

21 Mar 2022

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7 steps on how to begin a research paper easily, what is a research paper introduction, introduction paragraph outline, introduction writing tips for students, research paper introduction example, concluding thoughts on starting your research paper.

Getting started on a research paper is arguably the most challenging part. Before you start, you have so many questions, thoughts, and doubts. This causes many students to delay their writing – not willfully, just because they simply don't know how to start a research paper. It might be due to experience (or lack thereof), writer's block, or simply not knowing which topic to choose.

Many students in this predicament seek support from professional writers, even if this is just for help with an introduction to a research paper to get them going. In this article at , we'll discuss how to begin a research paper and how to write a research paper introduction .

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Before we go over how to start writing a research paper, you need to know that it all begins before any writing is done. It starts with thoughts and ideas and moves on to outlines before the actual writing begins. Here are seven steps on how to begin:

  • Read through all of the paper guidelines. Professors and teachers are very clear about what they want and how they want it to look. They will usually provide you with guidelines. You will need to work hard on the style and content. They might, for example, say you need to write in APA format, but they won't tell you how to start a research paper in APA style .
  • Choose something that is interesting both to you and others
  • Make sure it's a feasible topic
  • Make sure it's not too broad so that you have lots of sources but are not overwhelmed with too much to write about
  • Seek approval from the professor once you've decided. Usually, professors will be more than happy to discuss your topic with you.
  • Carry out your research – find examples and facts. Finding reliable information is the most exhausting part of coming up with a thesis statement. You need to be clear that your thesis statement is relevant and that there are sources out there to support it. You don't have to have the wording right just yet.
  • Create an outline for your research paper . With the first steps done, it's time to do an outline. This is an essential step as it helps you get your ideas down without thinking of the language and style (this comes in the writing part). When you create an outline, you plan and organize your main ideas. You should include what you would reference and think about how the paragraphs flow from each other.
  • Finalize your thesis . Make this detailed and strong and something that will keep you on track when writing. Remember everything you write needs to be relevant to this statement. Before finalizing your thesis, formulate and brainstorm several different ones and make sure you have a clear hypothesis. Doing this is vital as it allows your audience to understand and evaluate your work.
  • Make your introduction brilliant. Writing your opening paragraph is often frustrating and time-consuming so much so that many people go back to it and re-write it after they've drafted their entire paper! However, if you have prepared well and written a decent outline, it will be much easier. You'll already have your thesis, background research, and research question , so you only need an attention-grabbing hook to draw in the readers and organize it into a great paragraph.
  • Write the research paper – it's surprising to many that our seventh (and final) step is to actually write the research paper. There are so many things to do before you write, but if you do them, the writing comes easier and quicker. Finally, be sure to use a research paper editor to review your work. This professional can help ensure that all sources are cited and referenced correctly and that the paper meets all of the style and format guidelines requirements. Writing the research paper may be the final step, but it is one of the most important.

The introduction is a key component of a research paper. It sets the scene, introduces your topic, and grabs your reader's attention so that they want to read the whole paper. The research paper writer will introduce their topic, the research purpose, and their thesis. Having a perfect introduction is crucial. The rest of the paper will follow suit when the opening lines are impressive.

A poorly written introduction could lose your readers if you do not include one. They wouldn't know why you're writing the paer, nor its purpose. When writing an academic paper, the order is valued. If everyone wrote in their own format, distinguishing excellence would be very difficult.

A research paper introduction has key elements to it. These form your research paper's backbone. You have the hypothesis, "hook," and thesis statement. Your hypothesis describes the idea you are trying to persuade your audience to believe or not. In your introduction, you can state the hypothesis and show that you support or oppose it. After such an introduction, the rest of your paper will explain the research findings, supported by your evidence.

A decent research paper introduction will follow a specific structure. You'll need to mention certain things, each with its own goal. In general, this is what you should include:

  • Start with a general sentence to introduce your topic and its background.
  • The next two sentences should talk about the related issue and focus on the exact question and research point of your research paper thesis.
  • The final sentences in the introduction should state your research paper's writing  purpose. It should summarize the entire paper in a single sentence.

The thesis needs to highlight the topic and the problem to be discussed. Your readers should be kept engaged with this thought in their minds as they're reading. It shouldn't be confusing or easy to forget.

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Given the importance of the introduction in a research paper, it's not surprising that many students worry about theirs. If you're struggling with it, here are some more writing tips.

  • Ensure the introduction is on point and doesn't contain any "fluff."
  • Choose your words and phrases carefully.
  • Use a catchy and relevant hook. Make this engaging. It could contain an interesting or surprising fact, significant and unique background information, an anecdote, or statistics. Ultimately, the hook has anything that entices your audience and grabs their attention.
  • In the main body, you will elaborate on the key points made in the introduction, where you will present and analyze research to support your thesis statement.

If you've never written a research paper, you might like to look for examples of a good introduction paragraph. Here is one on the topic of climate change that shows how to start a research paper intro well:

The Example "Hook"

In this example, the hook is the question, "Are cows the cause of global warming?" It's bold and somewhat radical, which means the reader is more likely to be drawn in to read more. This sort of hook is the best way to start a research paper introduction. There are other good ways to start a research paper, and the hook could also be a bold statement, an interesting statistic or fact, or a quick anecdote.

The Example Background information

After catching the reader's attention, the writer provides context and narrows down the topic. Here is only relevant background information without getting too deep:

This background information provides a great introduction paragraph for the research paper ; it is interesting but not too detailed.

The Example Research Problem

In this example, the research problem is clarified by the following sentences:

Though efforts are underway to mitigate such emissions, there is a reluctance amongst policymakers to deal with the large scale of this problem.

This clearly emphasizes the importance and originality of the paper's argument.

The Example Thesis Statement

As you can see, the thesis statement in this research paper is presented clearly in the sentence:

This essay argues the government in the Netherlands must subsidize and stimulate livestock farmers – particularly cattle farmers – so they can transition to the more sustainable activity of vegetable farming.

It states the writer's position directly and clearly but doesn't provide arguments for it yet.

Stuck with finding the right title?

Get plenty of fresh and catchy topic ideas and pick the perfect one with PapersOwl Title Generator.

The Example Paper Overview

The final part of this introduction is dedicated to a short overview of what the body of the paper will contain:

Firstly, it will establish how the current measures in place to mitigate the problem are inadequate. Then it will discuss the numerous advantages of the proposed results. Finally, it will address any potential objections in terms of economic grounds.

It is concise and direct so that the reader knows what to expect.

Now you know how to start an introduction to a research paper and what your introductory paragraph should look like, you're ready to begin crafting your paper. Follow the processes in this article, and you'll produce something certainly worth reading. If you lack the time or skills to complete your writing assignment, you can always buy research papers from PapersOwl. Good luck!

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how to start a research paper examples

how to start a research paper examples

How to Start a Research Paper

how to start a research paper examples

Beginning is always the hardest part of an assignment. The introduction should not be the first thing you begin to write when starting to work on an essay. First, tons of research should be conducted — in order for your paper to be good. Only then you will be able to extract the main points of your work, and introduce them to your readers. A good introduction will also include your personal opinion of the problem, and, therefore, will make the writing easier overall. Let's dive into the details with admission essay writing services .

What Is a Research Paper?

A research paper is a type of writing in which the author does an independent analysis of the topic and describes the findings from that investigation. Furthermore, one will have to identify the weaknesses and strengths of the subject and evaluate them accordingly.

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A good way to write an introduction for a research paper is to introduce your reader to the topic by telling them what you are writing about. Then, make sure you include an interesting fact, or some surprising statistical data, so that your reader will be hooked and will continue to read your research paper. Treat your essay introduction like an advertisement for a product you want to sell—if your advertisement is bad, the sales won’t be great. The same goes for a bad introduction; if it does not intrigue readers, they might lose interest in your paper.

The beginning is always the hardest part of an assignment. Regardless of if you are writing a small resume education section or a full-blown research paper - following the correct steps is very important . The introduction should not be the first thing you begin to write when starting to work on an essay.

how to start a research paper examples

Introduction Paragraph Outline

intro research paper

Present Your Essay Topic

The base of every essay is its topic. What you are writing about should always be a reflection of your topic. Simply start off your introduction by telling your readers, in a simple and accessible language, what it is you are writing your research paper about. Although, we suggest you include a “trigger” when introducing the topic of your paper. A personal reference, or a story that relates to the essay topic, are options for a good way to link plain text to people’s emotions. So, feel free to write sincerely, as if you were talking to a friend.

The best strategy to start your introduction is by writing a broad topic presentation, then gradually narrow it down to what you would like to focus on exactly. It will put your topic into perspective for readers’ general understanding. When writing your research paper, make sure to include your opinion on the issue in your introduction. This will make your topic sound more personal and it will likely become more important to your audience as well.

Provide Background Information and Context

The topic you begin writing about is likely very familiar to you, as it is expected that you have done plenty of research. But what about your readers? For the most part, the amount of context is determined by what your audience already knows—though, let’s focus on a bigger assortment of readers, to make sure everyone’s needs are met. Imagine that you are part of your audience. Read the information you provided in the introduction. Is this sufficient? Does it leave gaps and unanswered questions in your research? Your job as a writer is to provide the perfect background to your topic, which gives readers just enough information to be able to grasp your topic and enjoy your research paper to the fullest. Another extreme you should avoid is giving too much context—consequently making the audience feel bored right from the introduction. Write your essay as something that you would enjoy reading yourself, like a story, but not an academic research paper.

Explain the Importance of Your Research

There is no doubt that after plenty of research you are an expert in your field. But what about your readers? In the introduction you need to showcase the extent of your research and write about the work you have completed. This will also help your readers understand that your ideas are supported by other scholars, and you share their views in your paper.

Make sure to write about all the works you have studied in order to persuade readers of your expertise. For your introduction, simply use the names you are referencing, or their most important works, so that the audience does not feel overwhelmed. It is also necessary to cite all your sources—in order to avoid academic plagiarism.

Looking to Have Your Work Proofread or Interested in Our Service?

Simply chat with our academic writer to pay for essay .

Make Your Rationale Work

Rationale is the most important part of the beginning of your paper. Explain to readers the reasoning behind your research paper—the importance of this is a guarantee that they will keep reading and appreciate your topic. In the introduction, you need to write an explanation of how your paper fits into all the research that has already been done in that field; this shows your audience the importance of your essay and the role your research plays in the field overall.

Show the Significance of Your Research

You, and only you, understand how important your research is. The next step of your introduction is to prove to your audience how important it is. Include the basic, and the most important literature, you support your ideas with. This will show the readers your solid analytical skills, your writing capabilities, and your ability to sort out information to deliver the most important points for your paper. And the final part of the introduction is to simply explain why your research is important to the field, to society, to the whole world, and, most importantly, to the readers. When a person can relate to an idea, it is almost always a guarantee that your argument will be persuasive and have a positive outcome.

Make Sure Your Thesis Is Clear

A research paper introduction uses primary sources and data to support its thesis statement. A research paper’s thesis statement has a lot in common with a thesis for an essay, or other non-research assignment. The difference lies in the fact that in a research thesis, you gather evidence from valid sources to prove your perspective on a topic. Despite the fact that you support your thoughts by sources, the idea for your thesis in your introduction should be original and your own, as it reflects the way you think. ‍

how to start a research paper examples

Here is a quick checklist for writing a thesis statement:

  • Remember, the thesis is your argument. Make sure it sounds assertive.
  • Write two to three versions of your thesis and choose the best one.
  • Share your thesis with a neutral person—to get a different point of view.
  • Discuss your thesis with others; they might have good ideas as well.
  • It should appear in your introduction, and be restated in your conclusion.

Research Paper Title Page

Mla title page.

Here are some tips from our writing team on how to format your research paper MLA title page:

  • The title page is double spaced and the text needs to be centred.
  • Write the name of your university or college.
  • Skip about one-third of the page down and type your research paper title—include a subtitle if you have one.
  • Skip several lines down and type your name, your course name and number, your instructor’s name, and your paper’s due date.


APA Title Page

  • Place a running head in your page’s header:
  • Use the label “Running head:” then, put your shortened title (IN UPPERCASE LETTERS), and align it all to the left.
  • Place the page number in this same header, but align it to the right, and begin with page number 1.
  • The header should be 1 inch from the top. Some teachers say 1/2 inch is okay as well.
  • Place your paper’s title in the upper half of the page, centred. Capitalize the first letter of all of the important words in your title.
  • Place your University’s name below your name, double-spaced.


Read also our research proposal example APA .

Final Thoughts

Congratulations on finishing your research paper! Answer these questions to avoid careless mistakes.

  • Are all of your quotations, paraphrases, and summaries accurate?
  • Are all of your references accurate?
  • Is your format the proper format assigned by your instructor?
  • Are all the concepts defined and easily understood by an average reader?
  • Is your “hook” good enough for the reader to become interested?
  • Is there a structure to your introduction that is easy to navigate for the reader?
  • Does your introduction give a good idea of what your paper is about?

And here are several tips for your help:

tips research paper

If you need, you can hire a coursework, physics helper or other specialist at our service. All you need to do is just leave us a notice like ' write my paper for me ' or something else.

Research Paper Introduction Example

Now that you have a solid idea about the introduction of a research paper, let’s take a look at some examples from our writers. They will help you see how all of the rules we presented above work in practice. ‍

Research Paper Introduction Example: Should Parents Be Held Accountable for the Criminal Acts of Their Children? Recently, youth gang connected attacks have been occurring in an increasing prevalence, with some even causing deaths, such as the killing of a college student at Suburbs East. Such occurrences have made a lot of people to wonder about the origin of those violent actions, with much of the extent of guilt being put on the parents of such adolescents. In any event, one has to question whether the parents should be penalized for the offenses of their kids. Some people believe that parents should be held responsible for the criminal acts of their offspring because parents are mostly accountable for the education and upbringing of their kids, and frequently impact the actions and behavior of their children until they become mature and independent. This is because they are almost always the ones that raise their kids after birth. As such, it is believed that parents start to influence the ethical range of their children from a young age, and one’s ethics are critically impacted by the way parents act and their personalities (Gratz, 169). This logic can make parents responsible for their children if they do wrong later on — because they are understood to not have raised their child in the right way. Furthermore, there is an argument that children are virtually completely controlled by their parents, as they are apt to want to make their parents happy, and they would, therefore, listen to whatever they are told to do or how they are told to behave (Michael, Andrew and Michael, 4). This, in turn, makes many people think that parents should always be the ones to be blamed for the criminal acts of their children, as they believe that they have the power to warn and control them.

Need Some Help with Your Research Paper?

A research paper is a very challenging task to complete. The introduction is a crucial piece of it: it ensures that the reader is interested and will enjoy your paper. We also recommend that you read the article on how to write a precis . If you are still struggling with any part of your paper, remember that you can always buy custom essay from our trusted writing service. We are always here to give you a helping hand to make your life easier.

Video on How to Write a Research Paper Fast

Here is a video on how to write a research paper in a weekend.

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How To Write A Research Paper

How To Start A Research Paper

Nova A.

How to Start a Research Paper - An Easy Guide

11 min read

Published on: Jun 18, 2021

Last updated on: Jul 21, 2023

how to start a research paper

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Are you about to write a research paper but don’t know where to start? 

Writing a research paper is the most challenging type of academic work. And you are not alone if you are stuck at the start. Indeed, starting a research paper is the most difficult step in the research process.

But don’t worry! This guide will make starting a research paper easy for you!

We will walk you through the essential steps to help start your research paper with confidence. You will also get some great tips and examples to make it even easier!

So let’s dive in! 

Steps for Starting a Research Paper 

Starting a research paper can be effective with a clear plan. Here are the steps you should follow to start a research paper successfully:

 Understand the Research Guidelines

First of all, try to understand the assignment requirements and guidelines. By taking the time to grasp what is expected of you, you'll be able to approach your research with clarity.

Here are the elements that you must be aware of:

  • Scope of the Research:

As a student and a researcher, you are expected to conduct research within your discipline of study. The scope of the research will be limited according to your field of mastery. 

  • Formatting and Citation Guidelines:

There are several formats for writing academic papers and citing sources. For instance, APA, MLA, Chicago, and Harvard are some of the most popular ones.

These styles specify the margins, font size and style, title page, heading formats, etc. However, the most important part of these guidelines are the citations.

Sources must be accurately and correctly cited in-text and at the end of your paper according to the specified style. So before you start writing, ask which citation style you are expected to use.

Another important thing to know beforehand is the deadline. Whether you are writing a research for your degree program or for a research journal, there are always deadlines involved.

You should know the last date of submission so you can plan and write your paper accordingly.

Finally, If any aspect of the guidelines or requirements is unclear, seek clarification. Ask your instructor early on to avoid misunderstandings or going off track in your research.

Once you know what is expected of you, you can move on to the next step.

Choose a Topic 

You need to select a specific and engaging topic for your research. Here’s what you should consider while deciding on a topic:

  • Consider Your Interests:

It is important to choose a topic that you find interesting. Your passion and motivation for the research topic will make the process meaningful for you and others. 

  • Consider its Feasibility:

When choosing a topic, make sure that it is not too broad or too ambitious. Prefer topics that are narrow and specific enough, so you can conduct and write the research within the deadline. 

  • Consider the Sources and Existing Literature

Before finalizing a topic, conduct preliminary research to gather background information. This will help you understand the existing knowledge and identify any gaps or areas for further exploration. 

The more you familiarize yourself with the topic, the easier it will be to refine and narrow it down.

  • Seek Feedback

Finally, seek feedback from your instructor, advisor, or peers, especially if you are unsure about your choices. They can provide valuable insights and help you determine which topic has the most potential for success. 

Wondering what topic to choose for your research? Check out this list of research paper topics to get your thoughts running.

Conduct Research

After choosing a topic for your research paper, it's time to gather information and conduct thorough research. Conducting thorough research will provide you with the necessary knowledge and evidence to develop and support your research. 

Here are some tips to conduct research effectively:

  • Make a Research Design

Once you know you main topic and research questions, you need to decide how you would conduct your research. It could be a quantitative or qualitative research design, depending on your research questions.

There are several ways to conduct research, wondering which one is for you? Learn about various types of research in our guide.

  • Find Credible Sources

Seek out credible sources such as scholarly articles, academic journals, books from reputable authors, and reliable websites. Ensure that the sources are relevant to your topic and provide reliable and up-to-date information.

  • Evaluate the Sources

Assess the credibility and quality of the sources you find. Consider the author's credentials, publication date, peer-review process, and relevance to your research. This step helps you ensure that the information you gather is reliable and supports your research paper effectively.

  • Take Notes and Organize the Information

While conducting research, take organized notes to capture key points, ideas, and supporting evidence. Additionally, organize your information according to themes or subtopics to make it easier to refer to during the writing process.

 Develop Your Thesis 

Now that you have your topic and conducted thorough research, you should develop the main thesis of your research. It presents the main argument or hypothesis that you will explore and support throughout your paper. 

These tips will help you develop your research thesis:

  • Fill the Research Gap

Your thesis should address a point that has not been covered in previous research. You could also propose or apply a new perspective, methodology, or theory to cover your topic in a new light.

  • Make a Debatable Claim 

A strong thesis statement presents a debatable claim or argument. 

Avoid stating facts or general statements that are widely accepted. Instead, take a position or offer a unique perspective on the topic. Your thesis should be thought-provoking and capable of sparking a discussion or generating interest among readers.

  • Be Clear and Concise 

Your thesis should be clear, concise, and easy to understand. Avoid using vague language or generalizations. Instead, focus on conveying your central idea and main variables clearly.

Draft an Outline 

Congratulations, you’ve reached the final step of your pre-writing stage. You need to create an outline for your research paper, and you’re all set! 

  • Know the Structure of a Research Paper

A research paper consists of the following parts:

  • Introduction
  • Literature review
  • Methodology 
  • Conclusion 
  • Bibliography
  • Identify the Main Sections

Create main sections or headings that correspond to the key ideas or sub-topics of your paper. These sections will form the backbone of your outline. 

Make sure your ideas flow logically and build upon each other. 

  • Arrange the Supporting Points:

Under each main section, list the supporting points or sub-arguments that contribute to the overall discussion. 

These can be specific pieces of evidence, examples, or analysis related to the main point. Arrange them in a logical order, ensuring a smooth transition from one point to another.

  • Add Details and References

Include brief descriptions or key phrases for each point in your outline. These descriptions act as reminders of what each section or point is about. 

Moreover, include references to the sources that you might want to include in your paper. 

Struggling to make an efficient outlince? Don’t worry! Learn how to write a research paper outline with our guide.

With these steps done, you have taken a great start. Now you have all you need to begin writing the actual research paper. 

How to Write a Research Paper Introduction?

A research paper introduction provides an overview of the topic, establishes the context, and presents the main thesis of the study. 

It grabs the readers’ attention and presents the context of what the research is about. Here are the steps involved in writing a good introduction for your research paper:

Introduce the Topic With a Hook 

Begin writing an introduction with a compelling hook that grabs the reader's attention. This can be an interesting fact, a quote, or a thought-provoking question related to your topic. 

For example, a paper exploring ways to prevent plastic pollution in the ocean could start with:

The beginning should be interesting and engaging But unlike a literary work or common essays, you don’t need to focus on the catchiness of your opening. 

Keep it academic, serious, and clearly related to your central thesis.

Discuss the Background and Context

The second part of the introduction includes the background information that gives context to your topic. This section helps the reader understand the broader context for your research. 

This section should also serve the following purpose:

  • Define Key Terms: 

If there are any technical terms or concepts that are crucial to understanding your research, provide clear definitions. 

  • Explain Historical or Theoretical Background: 

Present any relevant historical or theoretical context that relates to your research topic. This can include key events, theories, or trends that have influenced the development of the field. 

  • Discuss Previous Research 

You could also briefly summarize the existing body of research related to your topic. Highlight key studies, theories, or findings that are directly relevant to your research question. 

Establish Significance of the Research

Now that your readers are aware of the basic context, you need to address why your research contributes to the field.

Explain why your research topic is relevant and significant in the real world. Discuss any academic and practical implications, societal impact, or potential benefits that your research can offer. 

By establishing its significance, you engage the reader and emphasize the importance of your study.

State Your Thesis

Now the reader is prepared to get to the point. Start writing your thesis statement, research problem, and research questions. 

Clearly state the main point or argument that your research paper will focus on. Your claim should be debatable and require evidence and analysis to support it. 

Provide Roadmap for the Reader

Finally, provide an overview of the main points you are going to explore. This gives the reader an overview of the main ideas and structure of your paper. The preview should be concise and highlight the main aspects that will be addressed in the body paragraphs.

Use clear transitional phrases to guide the reader through the overview. 

For example, you can use phrases such as "In the first section, we will examine..." or "Following the results section, we will present the implications of our study." These transitions help the reader navigate through the various sections of your research paper.

You can read a research paper introduction example below:

Research Paper Introduction Example

Research Paper Title Page 

Your title page presents all the necessary information about your research paper, such as your name, its title, and yor institution. Here is how you make a title page in the two most common formatting styles.

Title Page in APA 

  • Write the Running head in the header.
  • Page number on the top-right corner
  • Write the title of your research, your name, and your institution in the center of the page
  • Also include the author note at the bottom, if required.

Title Page in MLA 

  • Write the name of your institution at the top
  • The title of your work appears in the middle of the page
  • Finally, write your name, the name of your supervisor, and the date at the bottom of the page

Tips for Starting a Research Paper 

The following are the tips that every writer should follow when start writing a research paper.

  • Take it step-by-step. Do not rush at the beginning, or it will become overwhelming.
  • Start working early. Break down the writing process into manageable tasks to avoid procrastination.
  • Plan your time. Develop a research schedule to ensure that you finish it within the deadline. 
  • Keep it simple and organized. Whether you are taking your notes or writing any part of your research paper, use direct and simple language so you don’t get lost in words.
  • Get feedback.You should take expert feedback during the starting phase of your research. Your professors and peers can help to refine your research questions, outline, etc, and help you make them better.

To Conclude,

Starting a research paper may seem difficult at first, but by following the right steps and strategies, you can have a great start. 

Remember to stay organized throughout the process, take notes, and seek feedback from others to refine your work. By using our AI essay writer , you will be able to produce a high-quality piece of academic writing.

Still unable to start due to time constraints or personal issues? Don’t worry, is here for you!

Our team of multi-disciplinary and qualified writers can help you write your research paper on any topic. We ensure it meets the highest standards of quality and academic integrity. 

So hire our research paper writing service today and get your paper before the deadline!

Nova A. (Literature, Marketing)

As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova Allison has eight years of experience in writing both technical and scientific content. With a focus on developing online content plans that engage audiences, Nova strives to write pieces that are not only informative but captivating as well.

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Microsoft 365 Life Hacks > Writing > How to write an introduction for a research paper

How to write an introduction for a research paper

Beginnings are hard. Beginning a research paper is no exception. Many students—and pros—struggle with how to write an introduction for a research paper.

This short guide will describe the purpose of a research paper introduction and how to create a good one.

a research paper being viewed on a Acer TravelMate B311 2-in-1 on desk with pad of paper.

What is an introduction for a research paper?

Introductions to research papers do a lot of work.

It may seem obvious, but introductions are always placed at the beginning of a paper. They guide your reader from a general subject area to the narrow topic that your paper covers. They also explain your paper’s:

  • Scope: The topic you’ll be covering
  • Context: The background of your topic
  • Importance: Why your research matters in the context of an industry or the world

Your introduction will cover a lot of ground. However, it will only be half of a page to a few pages long. The length depends on the size of your paper as a whole. In many cases, the introduction will be shorter than all of the other sections of your paper.

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Why is an introduction vital to a research paper?

The introduction to your research paper isn’t just important. It’s critical.

Your readers don’t know what your research paper is about from the title. That’s where your introduction comes in. A good introduction will:

  • Help your reader understand your topic’s background
  • Explain why your research paper is worth reading
  • Offer a guide for navigating the rest of the piece
  • Pique your reader’s interest

Without a clear introduction, your readers will struggle. They may feel confused when they start reading your paper. They might even give up entirely. Your introduction will ground them and prepare them for the in-depth research to come.

What should you include in an introduction for a research paper?

Research paper introductions are always unique. After all, research is original by definition. However, they often contain six essential items. These are:

  • An overview of the topic. Start with a general overview of your topic. Narrow the overview until you address your paper’s specific subject. Then, mention questions or concerns you had about the case. Note that you will address them in the publication.
  • Prior research. Your introduction is the place to review other conclusions on your topic. Include both older scholars and modern scholars. This background information shows that you are aware of prior research. It also introduces past findings to those who might not have that expertise.
  • A rationale for your paper. Explain why your topic needs to be addressed right now. If applicable, connect it to current issues. Additionally, you can show a problem with former theories or reveal a gap in current research. No matter how you do it, a good rationale will interest your readers and demonstrate why they must read the rest of your paper.
  • Describe the methodology you used. Recount your processes to make your paper more credible. Lay out your goal and the questions you will address. Reveal how you conducted research and describe how you measured results. Moreover, explain why you made key choices.
  • A thesis statement. Your main introduction should end with a thesis statement. This statement summarizes the ideas that will run through your entire research article. It should be straightforward and clear.
  • An outline. Introductions often conclude with an outline. Your layout should quickly review what you intend to cover in the following sections. Think of it as a roadmap, guiding your reader to the end of your paper.

These six items are emphasized more or less, depending on your field. For example, a physics research paper might emphasize methodology. An English journal article might highlight the overview.

Three tips for writing your introduction

We don’t just want you to learn how to write an introduction for a research paper. We want you to learn how to make it shine.

There are three things you can do that will make it easier to write a great introduction. You can:

  • Write your introduction last. An introduction summarizes all of the things you’ve learned from your research. While it can feel good to get your preface done quickly, you should write the rest of your paper first. Then, you’ll find it easy to create a clear overview.
  • Include a strong quotation or story upfront. You want your paper to be full of substance. But that doesn’t mean it should feel boring or flat. Add a relevant quotation or surprising anecdote to the beginning of your introduction. This technique will pique the interest of your reader and leave them wanting more.
  • Be concise. Research papers cover complex topics. To help your readers, try to write as clearly as possible. Use concise sentences. Check for confusing grammar or syntax . Read your introduction out loud to catch awkward phrases. Before you finish your paper, be sure to proofread, too. Mistakes can seem unprofessional.

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13.1 Formatting a Research Paper

Learning objectives.

  • Identify the major components of a research paper written using American Psychological Association (APA) style.
  • Apply general APA style and formatting conventions in a research paper.

In this chapter, you will learn how to use APA style , the documentation and formatting style followed by the American Psychological Association, as well as MLA style , from the Modern Language Association. There are a few major formatting styles used in academic texts, including AMA, Chicago, and Turabian:

  • AMA (American Medical Association) for medicine, health, and biological sciences
  • APA (American Psychological Association) for education, psychology, and the social sciences
  • Chicago—a common style used in everyday publications like magazines, newspapers, and books
  • MLA (Modern Language Association) for English, literature, arts, and humanities
  • Turabian—another common style designed for its universal application across all subjects and disciplines

While all the formatting and citation styles have their own use and applications, in this chapter we focus our attention on the two styles you are most likely to use in your academic studies: APA and MLA.

If you find that the rules of proper source documentation are difficult to keep straight, you are not alone. Writing a good research paper is, in and of itself, a major intellectual challenge. Having to follow detailed citation and formatting guidelines as well may seem like just one more task to add to an already-too-long list of requirements.

Following these guidelines, however, serves several important purposes. First, it signals to your readers that your paper should be taken seriously as a student’s contribution to a given academic or professional field; it is the literary equivalent of wearing a tailored suit to a job interview. Second, it shows that you respect other people’s work enough to give them proper credit for it. Finally, it helps your reader find additional materials if he or she wishes to learn more about your topic.

Furthermore, producing a letter-perfect APA-style paper need not be burdensome. Yes, it requires careful attention to detail. However, you can simplify the process if you keep these broad guidelines in mind:

  • Work ahead whenever you can. Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” includes tips for keeping track of your sources early in the research process, which will save time later on.
  • Get it right the first time. Apply APA guidelines as you write, so you will not have much to correct during the editing stage. Again, putting in a little extra time early on can save time later.
  • Use the resources available to you. In addition to the guidelines provided in this chapter, you may wish to consult the APA website at or the Purdue University Online Writing lab at , which regularly updates its online style guidelines.

General Formatting Guidelines

This chapter provides detailed guidelines for using the citation and formatting conventions developed by the American Psychological Association, or APA. Writers in disciplines as diverse as astrophysics, biology, psychology, and education follow APA style. The major components of a paper written in APA style are listed in the following box.

These are the major components of an APA-style paper:

Body, which includes the following:

  • Headings and, if necessary, subheadings to organize the content
  • In-text citations of research sources
  • References page

All these components must be saved in one document, not as separate documents.

The title page of your paper includes the following information:

  • Title of the paper
  • Author’s name
  • Name of the institution with which the author is affiliated
  • Header at the top of the page with the paper title (in capital letters) and the page number (If the title is lengthy, you may use a shortened form of it in the header.)

List the first three elements in the order given in the previous list, centered about one third of the way down from the top of the page. Use the headers and footers tool of your word-processing program to add the header, with the title text at the left and the page number in the upper-right corner. Your title page should look like the following example.

Beyond the Hype: Evaluating Low-Carb Diets cover page

The next page of your paper provides an abstract , or brief summary of your findings. An abstract does not need to be provided in every paper, but an abstract should be used in papers that include a hypothesis. A good abstract is concise—about one hundred fifty to two hundred fifty words—and is written in an objective, impersonal style. Your writing voice will not be as apparent here as in the body of your paper. When writing the abstract, take a just-the-facts approach, and summarize your research question and your findings in a few sentences.

In Chapter 12 “Writing a Research Paper” , you read a paper written by a student named Jorge, who researched the effectiveness of low-carbohydrate diets. Read Jorge’s abstract. Note how it sums up the major ideas in his paper without going into excessive detail.

Beyond the Hype: Abstract

Write an abstract summarizing your paper. Briefly introduce the topic, state your findings, and sum up what conclusions you can draw from your research. Use the word count feature of your word-processing program to make sure your abstract does not exceed one hundred fifty words.

Depending on your field of study, you may sometimes write research papers that present extensive primary research, such as your own experiment or survey. In your abstract, summarize your research question and your findings, and briefly indicate how your study relates to prior research in the field.

Margins, Pagination, and Headings

APA style requirements also address specific formatting concerns, such as margins, pagination, and heading styles, within the body of the paper. Review the following APA guidelines.

Use these general guidelines to format the paper:

  • Set the top, bottom, and side margins of your paper at 1 inch.
  • Use double-spaced text throughout your paper.
  • Use a standard font, such as Times New Roman or Arial, in a legible size (10- to 12-point).
  • Use continuous pagination throughout the paper, including the title page and the references section. Page numbers appear flush right within your header.
  • Section headings and subsection headings within the body of your paper use different types of formatting depending on the level of information you are presenting. Additional details from Jorge’s paper are provided.

Cover Page

Begin formatting the final draft of your paper according to APA guidelines. You may work with an existing document or set up a new document if you choose. Include the following:

  • Your title page
  • The abstract you created in Note 13.8 “Exercise 1”
  • Correct headers and page numbers for your title page and abstract

APA style uses section headings to organize information, making it easy for the reader to follow the writer’s train of thought and to know immediately what major topics are covered. Depending on the length and complexity of the paper, its major sections may also be divided into subsections, sub-subsections, and so on. These smaller sections, in turn, use different heading styles to indicate different levels of information. In essence, you are using headings to create a hierarchy of information.

The following heading styles used in APA formatting are listed in order of greatest to least importance:

  • Section headings use centered, boldface type. Headings use title case, with important words in the heading capitalized.
  • Subsection headings use left-aligned, boldface type. Headings use title case.
  • The third level uses left-aligned, indented, boldface type. Headings use a capital letter only for the first word, and they end in a period.
  • The fourth level follows the same style used for the previous level, but the headings are boldfaced and italicized.
  • The fifth level follows the same style used for the previous level, but the headings are italicized and not boldfaced.

Visually, the hierarchy of information is organized as indicated in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” .

Table 13.1 Section Headings

A college research paper may not use all the heading levels shown in Table 13.1 “Section Headings” , but you are likely to encounter them in academic journal articles that use APA style. For a brief paper, you may find that level 1 headings suffice. Longer or more complex papers may need level 2 headings or other lower-level headings to organize information clearly. Use your outline to craft your major section headings and determine whether any subtopics are substantial enough to require additional levels of headings.

Working with the document you developed in Note 13.11 “Exercise 2” , begin setting up the heading structure of the final draft of your research paper according to APA guidelines. Include your title and at least two to three major section headings, and follow the formatting guidelines provided above. If your major sections should be broken into subsections, add those headings as well. Use your outline to help you.

Because Jorge used only level 1 headings, his Exercise 3 would look like the following:

Citation Guidelines

In-text citations.

Throughout the body of your paper, include a citation whenever you quote or paraphrase material from your research sources. As you learned in Chapter 11 “Writing from Research: What Will I Learn?” , the purpose of citations is twofold: to give credit to others for their ideas and to allow your reader to follow up and learn more about the topic if desired. Your in-text citations provide basic information about your source; each source you cite will have a longer entry in the references section that provides more detailed information.

In-text citations must provide the name of the author or authors and the year the source was published. (When a given source does not list an individual author, you may provide the source title or the name of the organization that published the material instead.) When directly quoting a source, it is also required that you include the page number where the quote appears in your citation.

This information may be included within the sentence or in a parenthetical reference at the end of the sentence, as in these examples.

Epstein (2010) points out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).

Here, the writer names the source author when introducing the quote and provides the publication date in parentheses after the author’s name. The page number appears in parentheses after the closing quotation marks and before the period that ends the sentence.

Addiction researchers caution that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (Epstein, 2010, p. 137).

Here, the writer provides a parenthetical citation at the end of the sentence that includes the author’s name, the year of publication, and the page number separated by commas. Again, the parenthetical citation is placed after the closing quotation marks and before the period at the end of the sentence.

As noted in the book Junk Food, Junk Science (Epstein, 2010, p. 137), “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive.”

Here, the writer chose to mention the source title in the sentence (an optional piece of information to include) and followed the title with a parenthetical citation. Note that the parenthetical citation is placed before the comma that signals the end of the introductory phrase.

David Epstein’s book Junk Food, Junk Science (2010) pointed out that “junk food cannot be considered addictive in the same way that we think of psychoactive drugs as addictive” (p. 137).

Another variation is to introduce the author and the source title in your sentence and include the publication date and page number in parentheses within the sentence or at the end of the sentence. As long as you have included the essential information, you can choose the option that works best for that particular sentence and source.

Citing a book with a single author is usually a straightforward task. Of course, your research may require that you cite many other types of sources, such as books or articles with more than one author or sources with no individual author listed. You may also need to cite sources available in both print and online and nonprint sources, such as websites and personal interviews. Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.2 “Citing and Referencing Techniques” and Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provide extensive guidelines for citing a variety of source types.

Writing at Work

APA is just one of several different styles with its own guidelines for documentation, formatting, and language usage. Depending on your field of interest, you may be exposed to additional styles, such as the following:

  • MLA style. Determined by the Modern Languages Association and used for papers in literature, languages, and other disciplines in the humanities.
  • Chicago style. Outlined in the Chicago Manual of Style and sometimes used for papers in the humanities and the sciences; many professional organizations use this style for publications as well.
  • Associated Press (AP) style. Used by professional journalists.

References List

The brief citations included in the body of your paper correspond to the more detailed citations provided at the end of the paper in the references section. In-text citations provide basic information—the author’s name, the publication date, and the page number if necessary—while the references section provides more extensive bibliographical information. Again, this information allows your reader to follow up on the sources you cited and do additional reading about the topic if desired.

The specific format of entries in the list of references varies slightly for different source types, but the entries generally include the following information:

  • The name(s) of the author(s) or institution that wrote the source
  • The year of publication and, where applicable, the exact date of publication
  • The full title of the source
  • For books, the city of publication
  • For articles or essays, the name of the periodical or book in which the article or essay appears
  • For magazine and journal articles, the volume number, issue number, and pages where the article appears
  • For sources on the web, the URL where the source is located

The references page is double spaced and lists entries in alphabetical order by the author’s last name. If an entry continues for more than one line, the second line and each subsequent line are indented five spaces. Review the following example. ( Chapter 13 “APA and MLA Documentation and Formatting” , Section 13.3 “Creating a References Section” provides extensive guidelines for formatting reference entries for different types of sources.)

References Section

In APA style, book and article titles are formatted in sentence case, not title case. Sentence case means that only the first word is capitalized, along with any proper nouns.

Key Takeaways

  • Following proper citation and formatting guidelines helps writers ensure that their work will be taken seriously, give proper credit to other authors for their work, and provide valuable information to readers.
  • Working ahead and taking care to cite sources correctly the first time are ways writers can save time during the editing stage of writing a research paper.
  • APA papers usually include an abstract that concisely summarizes the paper.
  • APA papers use a specific headings structure to provide a clear hierarchy of information.
  • In APA papers, in-text citations usually include the name(s) of the author(s) and the year of publication.
  • In-text citations correspond to entries in the references section, which provide detailed bibliographical information about a source.

Writing for Success Copyright © 2015 by University of Minnesota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

How to Start a Research Paper: Guide with Examples

How to Start a Research Paper: Guide with Examples

What is a good way to start a research paper? Many students ask that question every single time they are assigned this homework. Such a thing happens for a good reason. Sometimes, starting the writing process is the hardest part of the entire work. How do you start a research paper? Where should you start? What comes first? How to approach the task you were given? It can be really hard to approach an assignment when you are unsure how you should make your first steps. 

Luckily, you are not the first who’s wondering about all these questions. The journey from your research paper cover page to the reference page is a tough one. Thousands of students have been there before. It means that someone has already discovered the answers to these questions. If you want to learn how to start a research paper, you are in the right place. Here’s the guide on how you can start a paper with these simple few steps. 

Plan on How to Start a Research Paper

Starting off a research paper can be a challenging (if not intimidating) task on its own. You have to think of so many things, like searching for materials and picking the interesting theme for writing. It can be confusing to think about how to make the first move. Here is the right order of steps that you need to do to start a research paper:

  • Read the instructions carefully.
  • Ask for a consultation with an instructor in case of any questions.
  • Choose a topic.
  • Start reading information on the theme of your writing.
  • Pick interesting and valuable sources.
  • Think of the purpose of your work. 
  • Start developing a scope of your work.
  • Decide on the thesis statement.
  • Start with an outline.

Once you have your outline ready, feel free to write the whole essay. Afterward, all that is left for you is to read and edit your work until it’s perfect. However, before you can move on to this part, you should still complete a lot of steps. So, let’s take a closer look at the elements of the work you must complete. 

Read the Instructions

Any plan on how to start a research essay should begin with getting to know your instructor's requirements and how you can meet them. You have to make sure that you understand the given assignment. Don’t start any further work until you are certain that you know what you are doing. Read the requirements and start your plan from there. See how many sources you are allowed to use and what kind of them are expected. Make sure you understand the type of your paper and the general writing requirements you need to follow. The given instructions can often ease your future work as they give you a solid starting point, stating what you should do. 

Choose a Topic

When it comes to picking a topic, you can go with several methods. First, you can ask your instructor for help. Often, instructors would give you a theme for your work, which you can further elaborate on in the essay. Sometimes, they are very specific about what you should be writing. However, if this is not the case here, you should start choosing a topic on your own. Hence, here you can start by analyzing your interests. See what topics will be interesting for you to work on and still relevant to your classes’ theme. 

Next, see what topics can give you more space for interpretation, research, and creativity. You need to pick something interesting, original, yet common enough that you can find plenty of sources to work with. Don’t pick a theme that doesn’t have much work written on it. You will overcomplicate your task and make it much harder for yourself. 

Overall, you should dedicate enough time to choosing a good topic. You can’t even have a title page for a research paper without a topic, right? So it’s definitely a crucial starting point for you. 

There is no other way of how to start research other than by just reading everything you can on the chosen topic. In general, it’s best if you try to learn as much as possible on the topic of your work before you move on to choosing final sources for your work. This way, you get to educate yourself on the theme of your writing. Hence, you will feel more confident about picking the most relevant and appropriate articles. 

When it comes to choosing the right sources for your essay, you should also see your requirements one more time. Often, instructors don’t allow non-academic sources in papers. Sometimes, they will mention very specific requirements such as particular libraries, authors, textbooks, etc. Of course, you have to comply with those requirements. 

Form an Angle and a Statement

As you have learned enough information on the topic, you can decide on the scope of your future work. You have to narrow down your search and choose a particular angle in your future discussion. Pick a topic that is too broad, and you will struggle to define a thesis statement and limit your arguments. A too narrow theme will leave you hanging for more information on the topic. Hence, at this stage, you can make adjustments to your topic, if necessary. For instance, the title page of a research paper should hint at the scope of your text. It should suggest what theme and topic you have chosen and how you have approached it. 

Next, see what areas of this topic have not been covered enough. See where you can add something new and interesting to the discussion. Choosing an angle for the paper can be a challenge. However, once you form a vision of your future work, you will feel much more confident writing it. The thing is, as soon as you have formed a scope for your future work, you know what sources and ideas will help you deliver your message. Hence, you can speed up your search for references and limit your arguments to the necessary minimum. 

Lastly, think about your thesis statement. This element can be the most important one to get right. A thesis should offer your readers a premise of your work. it should state what you are planning to research and why. It will also serve you as the glue that will bring your arguments together. They all should strive to answer the thesis statement you set at the beginning of your work. 

Once again, it’s time to check out your instructions to learn how to do a title page for a research paper. Before starting with the writing, you should see what format you need to use in the given essay. Formatting tells you how to do a cover page for a research paper, cite references, and do the layout on a page. Overall, it is responsible for the layout and overall look of your work. For instance, title pages for research papers will look very different in MLA and APA formatting styles. Hence, you have to pay attention to the formatting from the very beginning. 

There can be multiple ways of how to open a research paper. You should pick one to your taste and the general tone of your work. Overall, often, students start their introductions with a hook. A hook is a sentence that should interest and engage your audience. Hence, they are willing to read your text further. You can start with anything from interesting data, facts, quotations of famous authors, or else. Sometimes, you can even start with a thesis statement. Overall, you should figure out how to start a research paper introduction based on the nature of your research and the general theme of writing. 

At last, once you have completed all the previous steps, you can move on to writing an essay outline. An outline is the last stage of your preparations. Here, you should decide on how to place all your main ideas, arguments, and evidence. You should see how many sections and paragraphs you will have and in what order to put them. Additionally, you should just organize your flow of thought in an orderly and efficient manner. Thus, based on your outline, you decide how to start a research paper intro, what main arguments should follow next, and how to transition from one idea to the next one. 

When you start writing, an outline will help you stay focused and organized. It will guide you through all the ideas and arguments that you should use in your work. What’s more, it will also help you see the plan of your work, so you will always know how much is still left for you to do. 

The Bottom Line

Starting an essay should not be as scary as one may think. All you need is to stay open-minded and have some fun with the ideas, topics, and arguments you can present to the readers. It’s okay if you move slowly here. However, be sure to follow each step of this guide as they make the foundation of your future work. 

Also, don’t ever be afraid to make adjustments in your work. You should feel free to change anything that doesn’t serve you at the early stages of your work. You will soon learn that it’s better to listen to your guts and make changes when you feel like it than struggle for the rest of your paper. The further you go from the starting point, the harder it gets to adjust your text and the nature of the work. Hence, it’s always best to show flexibility at the early stages and stay open for changes up until you actually start writing your text.

Research Paper Guide

Research Paper Example

Nova A.

Research Paper Example - APA and MLA Format

12 min read

Published on: Nov 27, 2017

Last updated on: May 26, 2023

Research Paper Example

On This Page On This Page

Do you spend time staring at the screen and thinking about how to approach a monstrous  research paper ?

If yes, you are not alone.

Research papers are no less than a curse for high school and college students.

It takes time, effort, and expertise to craft a striking research paper.

Every other person craves to master the magic of producing impressive research papers.

Continue with the guide to investigate the mysterious nature of different types of research through examples.

Research Paper Example for Different Formats

An academic paper doesn't have to be boring. You can use an anecdote, a provocative question, or a quote to begin the introduction.

Learning from introductions written in professional college papers is the best strategy.

Have a look at the expertise of the writer in the following example.

Social Media and Social Media Marketing: A Literature Review

APA Research Paper Example

While writing research papers, you must pay attention to the required format.

Follow the example when the instructor mentions the  APA format .

Effects of Food Deprivation of Concentration and Preserverance

Research Paper Example APA 7th Edition

Research Paper Example MLA

Once you are done with APA format, let’s practice the art of writing quality MLA papers.

Found Voices: Carl Sagan

We have provided you with a top-notch research paper example in  MLA format  here.

Research Paper Example Chicago

Chicago style  is not very common, but it is important to learn. Few institutions require this style for research papers, but it is essential to learn. The content and citations in the research paper are formatted like this example.

Chicago Research Paper Sample

Research Paper Example Harvard

To learn how a research paper is written using the  Harvard citation style , carefully examine this example. Note the structure of the cover page and other pages.

Harvard Research Paper Sample

Examples for Different Research Paper Parts

A research paper has different parts. Each part is important for the overall success of the paper. Chapters in a research paper must be written correctly, using a certain format and structure.

The following are examples of how different sections of the research paper can be written.

Example of Research Proposal

What is the first step to starting a research paper?

Submitting the research proposal!

It involves several sections that take a toll on beginners.

Here is a detailed guide to help you  write a research proposal .

Are you a beginner or do you lack experience? Don’t worry.

The following example of a research paper is the perfect place to get started.

View Research Proposal Example Here

Research Paper Example Abstract

After submitting the research proposal, prepare to write a seasoned  abstract  section.

The abstract delivers the bigger picture by revealing the purpose of the research.

A common mistake students make is writing it the same way a summary is written.

It is not merely a summary but an analysis of the whole research project. Still confused?

Read the abstract mentioned in the following research to get a better idea.

Affirmative Action: What Do We Know? - Abstract Example

Literature Review Research Paper Example

What if a novice person reads your research paper?

He will never understand the critical elements involved in the research paper.

To enlighten him, focus on the  literature review  section. This section offers an extensive analysis of the past research conducted on the paper topics.

It is relatively easier than other sections of the paper.

Take a closer look at the paper below to find out.

Methods Section of Research Paper Example

While writing research papers, excellent papers focus a great deal on the methodology.

Yes, the research sample and methodology define the fate of the papers.

Are you facing trouble going through the methodology section?

Relax and let comprehensive sample research papers clear your doubts.

View Methods Section of Research Paper Here

Research Paper Conclusion Example

The conclusion leaves the last impression on the reader.

“Who cares for the last impression? It’s always the first.”

Don’t be fooled!

The conclusion sets the tone of the whole research paper properly.

A key list of elements must be present in conclusion to make it crisp and remarkable.

The Conclusion: Your Paper's Final Impression

View the sample paper and identify the points you thought were never a part of the conclusion.


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Research Paper Examples for Different Fields

Research papers can be about any subject that needs a detailed study. The following examples show how research papers are written for different subjects.

History Research Paper Sample

Many Faces of Generalisimo Fransisco Franco

Sociology Research Paper Sample

A Descriptive Statistical Analysis within the State of Virginia

Science Fair Research Paper Sample

What Do I Need To Do For The Science Fair?

Psychology Research Paper Sample

The Effects of Food Deprivation on Concentration and Preserverance

Art History Research Paper Sample

European Art History: A Primer

Scientific Research Paper Example

We have discussed several elements of research papers through examples.

Research Proposal!

Introduction in Research Paper!

Read on to move towards advanced versions of information.

Scientific research paper

Let's have a look at the template and an example to elaborate on concepts.

It includes:

  • Introduction
  • Related Work
  • Research Methodology
  • Experiments
  • Results and Discussion
  • Conclusion & Future Work
  • Acknowledgment

The name itself sounds terrifying to many students. Make no mistake; it sure is dangerous when touched without practice.

Students become afraid and hence aspire to locate an outstanding essay paper writer to get their papers done.

Detailed, high-quality, and credible sources and samples are a must to be shared here.

Science Fair Paper Format

Example of Methodology in Research Paper

The words methodology, procedure, and approach are the same. They indicate the approach pursued by the researcher while conducting research to accomplish the goal through research.

The methodology is the bloodline of the research paper.

A practical or assumed procedure is used to conduct the methodology.

The Effects of Immediate Feedback Devices in High School Chemistry Classes

See the way the researcher has shared participants and limits in the methodology section of the example.

Research Paper Example for Different Levels

The process of writing a research paper is based on a set of steps. The process will seem daunting if you are unaware of the basic steps. Start writing your research paper by taking the following steps:

  • Choose a Topic
  • Create a thesis statement
  • Do in-depth research for the research study
  • Create an outline

You will find writing a research paper much easier once you have a plan.

No matter which level you are writing at, your research paper needs to be well structured.

Research Paper Example Outline

Before you plan on writing a well-researched paper, make a rough draft.

Brainstorm again and again!

Pour all of your ideas into the basket of the outline.

What will it include?

A standard is not set but follow the  research paper outline  example below:

View Research Paper Outline Example Here

This example outlines the following elements:

  • Thesis Statement
  • Methodology

Utilize this standard of outline in your research papers to polish your paper. Here is a step-by-step guide that will help you write a research paper according to this format.

Good Research Paper Examples for Students

Theoretically, good research paper examples will meet the objectives of the research.

Always remember! The first goal of the research paper is to explain ideas, goals, and theory as clearly as water.

Yes, leave no room for confusion of any sort.

Fiscal Research Center - Action Plan

Qualitative Research Paper Example

Research Paper Example Introduction

How to Write a Research Paper Example?

Research Paper Example for High School

When the professor reads such a professional research paper, he will be delighted.

High scores!

Grant of funds for the project!

Appreciation in Class!

You'll surely be highly rewarded.

Research Paper Conclusion

“Who cares for the last impression? It's always the first.”

Don't be fooled!

A key list of elements must be present in the conclusion to make it crisp and remarkable.

Critical Research Paper

To write a research paper remarkably, include the following ingredients in it:

  • Justification of the Experimental Design
  • Analysis of Results
  • Validation of the Study

How to Write the Methods Section of a Research Paper

Theoretical Framework Examples

The theoretical framework is the key to establish credibility in research papers.

Read the purpose of the theoretical framework before following it in the research paper.

The researcher offers a guide through a theoretical framework.

  • Philosophical view
  • Conceptual Analysis
  • Benefits of the Research

An in-depth analysis of theoretical framework examples research paper is underlined in the sample below.

View Theoretical Framework Example Here

Now that you have explored the research paper examples, you can start working on your research project.

Hopefully, these examples will help you understand the writing process for a research paper. You can hire an essay writer online. If you still require help writing your paper, you can buy well-written yet cheap research papers by contacting our expert and professional writers.

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Writing an Abstract for Your Research Paper

Definition and Purpose of Abstracts

An abstract is a short summary of your (published or unpublished) research paper, usually about a paragraph (c. 6-7 sentences, 150-250 words) long. A well-written abstract serves multiple purposes:

  • an abstract lets readers get the gist or essence of your paper or article quickly, in order to decide whether to read the full paper;
  • an abstract prepares readers to follow the detailed information, analyses, and arguments in your full paper;
  • and, later, an abstract helps readers remember key points from your paper.

It’s also worth remembering that search engines and bibliographic databases use abstracts, as well as the title, to identify key terms for indexing your published paper. So what you include in your abstract and in your title are crucial for helping other researchers find your paper or article.

If you are writing an abstract for a course paper, your professor may give you specific guidelines for what to include and how to organize your abstract. Similarly, academic journals often have specific requirements for abstracts. So in addition to following the advice on this page, you should be sure to look for and follow any guidelines from the course or journal you’re writing for.

The Contents of an Abstract

Abstracts contain most of the following kinds of information in brief form. The body of your paper will, of course, develop and explain these ideas much more fully. As you will see in the samples below, the proportion of your abstract that you devote to each kind of information—and the sequence of that information—will vary, depending on the nature and genre of the paper that you are summarizing in your abstract. And in some cases, some of this information is implied, rather than stated explicitly. The Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association , which is widely used in the social sciences, gives specific guidelines for what to include in the abstract for different kinds of papers—for empirical studies, literature reviews or meta-analyses, theoretical papers, methodological papers, and case studies.

Here are the typical kinds of information found in most abstracts:

  • the context or background information for your research; the general topic under study; the specific topic of your research
  • the central questions or statement of the problem your research addresses
  • what’s already known about this question, what previous research has done or shown
  • the main reason(s) , the exigency, the rationale , the goals for your research—Why is it important to address these questions? Are you, for example, examining a new topic? Why is that topic worth examining? Are you filling a gap in previous research? Applying new methods to take a fresh look at existing ideas or data? Resolving a dispute within the literature in your field? . . .
  • your research and/or analytical methods
  • your main findings , results , or arguments
  • the significance or implications of your findings or arguments.

Your abstract should be intelligible on its own, without a reader’s having to read your entire paper. And in an abstract, you usually do not cite references—most of your abstract will describe what you have studied in your research and what you have found and what you argue in your paper. In the body of your paper, you will cite the specific literature that informs your research.

When to Write Your Abstract

Although you might be tempted to write your abstract first because it will appear as the very first part of your paper, it’s a good idea to wait to write your abstract until after you’ve drafted your full paper, so that you know what you’re summarizing.

What follows are some sample abstracts in published papers or articles, all written by faculty at UW-Madison who come from a variety of disciplines. We have annotated these samples to help you see the work that these authors are doing within their abstracts.

Choosing Verb Tenses within Your Abstract

The social science sample (Sample 1) below uses the present tense to describe general facts and interpretations that have been and are currently true, including the prevailing explanation for the social phenomenon under study. That abstract also uses the present tense to describe the methods, the findings, the arguments, and the implications of the findings from their new research study. The authors use the past tense to describe previous research.

The humanities sample (Sample 2) below uses the past tense to describe completed events in the past (the texts created in the pulp fiction industry in the 1970s and 80s) and uses the present tense to describe what is happening in those texts, to explain the significance or meaning of those texts, and to describe the arguments presented in the article.

The science samples (Samples 3 and 4) below use the past tense to describe what previous research studies have done and the research the authors have conducted, the methods they have followed, and what they have found. In their rationale or justification for their research (what remains to be done), they use the present tense. They also use the present tense to introduce their study (in Sample 3, “Here we report . . .”) and to explain the significance of their study (In Sample 3, This reprogramming . . . “provides a scalable cell source for. . .”).

Sample Abstract 1

From the social sciences.

Reporting new findings about the reasons for increasing economic homogamy among spouses

Gonalons-Pons, Pilar, and Christine R. Schwartz. “Trends in Economic Homogamy: Changes in Assortative Mating or the Division of Labor in Marriage?” Demography , vol. 54, no. 3, 2017, pp. 985-1005.

“The growing economic resemblance of spouses has contributed to rising inequality by increasing the number of couples in which there are two high- or two low-earning partners. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence introduces the topic under study (the “economic resemblance of spouses”). This sentence also implies the question underlying this research study: what are the various causes—and the interrelationships among them—for this trend?] The dominant explanation for this trend is increased assortative mating. Previous research has primarily relied on cross-sectional data and thus has been unable to disentangle changes in assortative mating from changes in the division of spouses’ paid labor—a potentially key mechanism given the dramatic rise in wives’ labor supply. [Annotation for the previous two sentences: These next two sentences explain what previous research has demonstrated. By pointing out the limitations in the methods that were used in previous studies, they also provide a rationale for new research.] We use data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) to decompose the increase in the correlation between spouses’ earnings and its contribution to inequality between 1970 and 2013 into parts due to (a) changes in assortative mating, and (b) changes in the division of paid labor. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The data, research and analytical methods used in this new study.] Contrary to what has often been assumed, the rise of economic homogamy and its contribution to inequality is largely attributable to changes in the division of paid labor rather than changes in sorting on earnings or earnings potential. Our findings indicate that the rise of economic homogamy cannot be explained by hypotheses centered on meeting and matching opportunities, and they show where in this process inequality is generated and where it is not.” (p. 985) [Annotation for the previous two sentences: The major findings from and implications and significance of this study.]

Sample Abstract 2

From the humanities.

Analyzing underground pulp fiction publications in Tanzania, this article makes an argument about the cultural significance of those publications

Emily Callaci. “Street Textuality: Socialism, Masculinity, and Urban Belonging in Tanzania’s Pulp Fiction Publishing Industry, 1975-1985.” Comparative Studies in Society and History , vol. 59, no. 1, 2017, pp. 183-210.

“From the mid-1970s through the mid-1980s, a network of young urban migrant men created an underground pulp fiction publishing industry in the city of Dar es Salaam. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence introduces the context for this research and announces the topic under study.] As texts that were produced in the underground economy of a city whose trajectory was increasingly charted outside of formalized planning and investment, these novellas reveal more than their narrative content alone. These texts were active components in the urban social worlds of the young men who produced them. They reveal a mode of urbanism otherwise obscured by narratives of decolonization, in which urban belonging was constituted less by national citizenship than by the construction of social networks, economic connections, and the crafting of reputations. This article argues that pulp fiction novellas of socialist era Dar es Salaam are artifacts of emergent forms of male sociability and mobility. In printing fictional stories about urban life on pilfered paper and ink, and distributing their texts through informal channels, these writers not only described urban communities, reputations, and networks, but also actually created them.” (p. 210) [Annotation for the previous sentences: The remaining sentences in this abstract interweave other essential information for an abstract for this article. The implied research questions: What do these texts mean? What is their historical and cultural significance, produced at this time, in this location, by these authors? The argument and the significance of this analysis in microcosm: these texts “reveal a mode or urbanism otherwise obscured . . .”; and “This article argues that pulp fiction novellas. . . .” This section also implies what previous historical research has obscured. And through the details in its argumentative claims, this section of the abstract implies the kinds of methods the author has used to interpret the novellas and the concepts under study (e.g., male sociability and mobility, urban communities, reputations, network. . . ).]

Sample Abstract/Summary 3

From the sciences.

Reporting a new method for reprogramming adult mouse fibroblasts into induced cardiac progenitor cells

Lalit, Pratik A., Max R. Salick, Daryl O. Nelson, Jayne M. Squirrell, Christina M. Shafer, Neel G. Patel, Imaan Saeed, Eric G. Schmuck, Yogananda S. Markandeya, Rachel Wong, Martin R. Lea, Kevin W. Eliceiri, Timothy A. Hacker, Wendy C. Crone, Michael Kyba, Daniel J. Garry, Ron Stewart, James A. Thomson, Karen M. Downs, Gary E. Lyons, and Timothy J. Kamp. “Lineage Reprogramming of Fibroblasts into Proliferative Induced Cardiac Progenitor Cells by Defined Factors.” Cell Stem Cell , vol. 18, 2016, pp. 354-367.

“Several studies have reported reprogramming of fibroblasts into induced cardiomyocytes; however, reprogramming into proliferative induced cardiac progenitor cells (iCPCs) remains to be accomplished. [Annotation for the previous sentence: The first sentence announces the topic under study, summarizes what’s already known or been accomplished in previous research, and signals the rationale and goals are for the new research and the problem that the new research solves: How can researchers reprogram fibroblasts into iCPCs?] Here we report that a combination of 11 or 5 cardiac factors along with canonical Wnt and JAK/STAT signaling reprogrammed adult mouse cardiac, lung, and tail tip fibroblasts into iCPCs. The iCPCs were cardiac mesoderm-restricted progenitors that could be expanded extensively while maintaining multipo-tency to differentiate into cardiomyocytes, smooth muscle cells, and endothelial cells in vitro. Moreover, iCPCs injected into the cardiac crescent of mouse embryos differentiated into cardiomyocytes. iCPCs transplanted into the post-myocardial infarction mouse heart improved survival and differentiated into cardiomyocytes, smooth muscle cells, and endothelial cells. [Annotation for the previous four sentences: The methods the researchers developed to achieve their goal and a description of the results.] Lineage reprogramming of adult somatic cells into iCPCs provides a scalable cell source for drug discovery, disease modeling, and cardiac regenerative therapy.” (p. 354) [Annotation for the previous sentence: The significance or implications—for drug discovery, disease modeling, and therapy—of this reprogramming of adult somatic cells into iCPCs.]

Sample Abstract 4, a Structured Abstract

Reporting results about the effectiveness of antibiotic therapy in managing acute bacterial sinusitis, from a rigorously controlled study

Note: This journal requires authors to organize their abstract into four specific sections, with strict word limits. Because the headings for this structured abstract are self-explanatory, we have chosen not to add annotations to this sample abstract.

Wald, Ellen R., David Nash, and Jens Eickhoff. “Effectiveness of Amoxicillin/Clavulanate Potassium in the Treatment of Acute Bacterial Sinusitis in Children.” Pediatrics , vol. 124, no. 1, 2009, pp. 9-15.

“OBJECTIVE: The role of antibiotic therapy in managing acute bacterial sinusitis (ABS) in children is controversial. The purpose of this study was to determine the effectiveness of high-dose amoxicillin/potassium clavulanate in the treatment of children diagnosed with ABS.

METHODS : This was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Children 1 to 10 years of age with a clinical presentation compatible with ABS were eligible for participation. Patients were stratified according to age (<6 or ≥6 years) and clinical severity and randomly assigned to receive either amoxicillin (90 mg/kg) with potassium clavulanate (6.4 mg/kg) or placebo. A symptom survey was performed on days 0, 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 20, and 30. Patients were examined on day 14. Children’s conditions were rated as cured, improved, or failed according to scoring rules.

RESULTS: Two thousand one hundred thirty-five children with respiratory complaints were screened for enrollment; 139 (6.5%) had ABS. Fifty-eight patients were enrolled, and 56 were randomly assigned. The mean age was 6630 months. Fifty (89%) patients presented with persistent symptoms, and 6 (11%) presented with nonpersistent symptoms. In 24 (43%) children, the illness was classified as mild, whereas in the remaining 32 (57%) children it was severe. Of the 28 children who received the antibiotic, 14 (50%) were cured, 4 (14%) were improved, 4(14%) experienced treatment failure, and 6 (21%) withdrew. Of the 28children who received placebo, 4 (14%) were cured, 5 (18%) improved, and 19 (68%) experienced treatment failure. Children receiving the antibiotic were more likely to be cured (50% vs 14%) and less likely to have treatment failure (14% vs 68%) than children receiving the placebo.

CONCLUSIONS : ABS is a common complication of viral upper respiratory infections. Amoxicillin/potassium clavulanate results in significantly more cures and fewer failures than placebo, according to parental report of time to resolution.” (9)

Some Excellent Advice about Writing Abstracts for Basic Science Research Papers, by Professor Adriano Aguzzi from the Institute of Neuropathology at the University of Zurich:

how to start a research paper examples

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  • How to Write an Abstract | Steps & Examples

How to Write an Abstract | Steps & Examples

Published on February 28, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 18, 2023 by Eoghan Ryan.

How to Write an Abstract

An abstract is a short summary of a longer work (such as a thesis ,  dissertation or research paper ). The abstract concisely reports the aims and outcomes of your research, so that readers know exactly what your paper is about.

Although the structure may vary slightly depending on your discipline, your abstract should describe the purpose of your work, the methods you’ve used, and the conclusions you’ve drawn.

One common way to structure your abstract is to use the IMRaD structure. This stands for:

  • Introduction

Abstracts are usually around 100–300 words, but there’s often a strict word limit, so make sure to check the relevant requirements.

In a dissertation or thesis , include the abstract on a separate page, after the title page and acknowledgements but before the table of contents .

Table of contents

Abstract example, when to write an abstract, step 1: introduction, step 2: methods, step 3: results, step 4: discussion, tips for writing an abstract, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about abstracts.

Hover over the different parts of the abstract to see how it is constructed.

This paper examines the role of silent movies as a mode of shared experience in the US during the early twentieth century. At this time, high immigration rates resulted in a significant percentage of non-English-speaking citizens. These immigrants faced numerous economic and social obstacles, including exclusion from public entertainment and modes of discourse (newspapers, theater, radio).

Incorporating evidence from reviews, personal correspondence, and diaries, this study demonstrates that silent films were an affordable and inclusive source of entertainment. It argues for the accessible economic and representational nature of early cinema. These concerns are particularly evident in the low price of admission and in the democratic nature of the actors’ exaggerated gestures, which allowed the plots and action to be easily grasped by a diverse audience despite language barriers.

Keywords: silent movies, immigration, public discourse, entertainment, early cinema, language barriers.

Receive feedback on language, structure, and formatting

Professional editors proofread and edit your paper by focusing on:

  • Academic style
  • Vague sentences
  • Style consistency

See an example

how to start a research paper examples

You will almost always have to include an abstract when:

  • Completing a thesis or dissertation
  • Submitting a research paper to an academic journal
  • Writing a book or research proposal
  • Applying for research grants

It’s easiest to write your abstract last, right before the proofreading stage, because it’s a summary of the work you’ve already done. Your abstract should:

  • Be a self-contained text, not an excerpt from your paper
  • Be fully understandable on its own
  • Reflect the structure of your larger work

Start by clearly defining the purpose of your research. What practical or theoretical problem does the research respond to, or what research question did you aim to answer?

You can include some brief context on the social or academic relevance of your dissertation topic , but don’t go into detailed background information. If your abstract uses specialized terms that would be unfamiliar to the average academic reader or that have various different meanings, give a concise definition.

After identifying the problem, state the objective of your research. Use verbs like “investigate,” “test,” “analyze,” or “evaluate” to describe exactly what you set out to do.

This part of the abstract can be written in the present or past simple tense  but should never refer to the future, as the research is already complete.

  • This study will investigate the relationship between coffee consumption and productivity.
  • This study investigates the relationship between coffee consumption and productivity.

Next, indicate the research methods that you used to answer your question. This part should be a straightforward description of what you did in one or two sentences. It is usually written in the past simple tense, as it refers to completed actions.

  • Structured interviews will be conducted with 25 participants.
  • Structured interviews were conducted with 25 participants.

Don’t evaluate validity or obstacles here — the goal is not to give an account of the methodology’s strengths and weaknesses, but to give the reader a quick insight into the overall approach and procedures you used.

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

Next, summarize the main research results . This part of the abstract can be in the present or past simple tense.

  • Our analysis has shown a strong correlation between coffee consumption and productivity.
  • Our analysis shows a strong correlation between coffee consumption and productivity.
  • Our analysis showed a strong correlation between coffee consumption and productivity.

Depending on how long and complex your research is, you may not be able to include all results here. Try to highlight only the most important findings that will allow the reader to understand your conclusions.

Finally, you should discuss the main conclusions of your research : what is your answer to the problem or question? The reader should finish with a clear understanding of the central point that your research has proved or argued. Conclusions are usually written in the present simple tense.

  • We concluded that coffee consumption increases productivity.
  • We conclude that coffee consumption increases productivity.

If there are important limitations to your research (for example, related to your sample size or methods), you should mention them briefly in the abstract. This allows the reader to accurately assess the credibility and generalizability of your research.

If your aim was to solve a practical problem, your discussion might include recommendations for implementation. If relevant, you can briefly make suggestions for further research.

If your paper will be published, you might have to add a list of keywords at the end of the abstract. These keywords should reference the most important elements of the research to help potential readers find your paper during their own literature searches.

Be aware that some publication manuals, such as APA Style , have specific formatting requirements for these keywords.

It can be a real challenge to condense your whole work into just a couple of hundred words, but the abstract will be the first (and sometimes only) part that people read, so it’s important to get it right. These strategies can help you get started.

Read other abstracts

The best way to learn the conventions of writing an abstract in your discipline is to read other people’s. You probably already read lots of journal article abstracts while conducting your literature review —try using them as a framework for structure and style.

You can also find lots of dissertation abstract examples in thesis and dissertation databases .

Reverse outline

Not all abstracts will contain precisely the same elements. For longer works, you can write your abstract through a process of reverse outlining.

For each chapter or section, list keywords and draft one to two sentences that summarize the central point or argument. This will give you a framework of your abstract’s structure. Next, revise the sentences to make connections and show how the argument develops.

Write clearly and concisely

A good abstract is short but impactful, so make sure every word counts. Each sentence should clearly communicate one main point.

To keep your abstract or summary short and clear:

  • Avoid passive sentences: Passive constructions are often unnecessarily long. You can easily make them shorter and clearer by using the active voice.
  • Avoid long sentences: Substitute longer expressions for concise expressions or single words (e.g., “In order to” for “To”).
  • Avoid obscure jargon: The abstract should be understandable to readers who are not familiar with your topic.
  • Avoid repetition and filler words: Replace nouns with pronouns when possible and eliminate unnecessary words.
  • Avoid detailed descriptions: An abstract is not expected to provide detailed definitions, background information, or discussions of other scholars’ work. Instead, include this information in the body of your thesis or paper.

If you’re struggling to edit down to the required length, you can get help from expert editors with Scribbr’s professional proofreading services or use the paraphrasing tool .

Check your formatting

If you are writing a thesis or dissertation or submitting to a journal, there are often specific formatting requirements for the abstract—make sure to check the guidelines and format your work correctly. For APA research papers you can follow the APA abstract format .

Checklist: Abstract

The word count is within the required length, or a maximum of one page.

The abstract appears after the title page and acknowledgements and before the table of contents .

I have clearly stated my research problem and objectives.

I have briefly described my methodology .

I have summarized the most important results .

I have stated my main conclusions .

I have mentioned any important limitations and recommendations.

The abstract can be understood by someone without prior knowledge of the topic.

You've written a great abstract! Use the other checklists to continue improving your thesis or dissertation.

If you want to know more about AI for academic writing, AI tools, or research bias, make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

Research bias

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An abstract is a concise summary of an academic text (such as a journal article or dissertation ). It serves two main purposes:

  • To help potential readers determine the relevance of your paper for their own research.
  • To communicate your key findings to those who don’t have time to read the whole paper.

Abstracts are often indexed along with keywords on academic databases, so they make your work more easily findable. Since the abstract is the first thing any reader sees, it’s important that it clearly and accurately summarizes the contents of your paper.

An abstract for a thesis or dissertation is usually around 200–300 words. There’s often a strict word limit, so make sure to check your university’s requirements.

The abstract is the very last thing you write. You should only write it after your research is complete, so that you can accurately summarize the entirety of your thesis , dissertation or research paper .

Avoid citing sources in your abstract . There are two reasons for this:

  • The abstract should focus on your original research, not on the work of others.
  • The abstract should be self-contained and fully understandable without reference to other sources.

There are some circumstances where you might need to mention other sources in an abstract: for example, if your research responds directly to another study or focuses on the work of a single theorist. In general, though, don’t include citations unless absolutely necessary.

The abstract appears on its own page in the thesis or dissertation , after the title page and acknowledgements but before the table of contents .

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McCombes, S. (2023, July 18). How to Write an Abstract | Steps & Examples. Scribbr. Retrieved August 28, 2023, from

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Shona McCombes

How to successfully implement population health management: a scoping review

  • A. F. T. M. van Ede   ORCID: 1 ,
  • R. N. Minderhout   ORCID: 1 ,
  • K. V. Stein   ORCID: 1 &
  • M. A. Bruijnzeels   ORCID: 1  

BMC Health Services Research volume  23 , Article number:  910 ( 2023 ) Cite this article

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Metrics details

Despite international examples, it is unclear for multisector initiatives which want to sustainably improve the health of a population how to implement Population Health Management (PHM) and where to start. Hence, the main purpose of this research is to explore current literature about the implementation of PHM and organising existing knowledge to better understand what needs to happen on which level to achieve which outcome.

A scoping review was performed within scientific literature. The data was structured using Context-Mechanism-Outcome, the Rainbow model of integrated care and six elements of PHM as theoretical concepts.

The literature search generated 531 articles, of which 11 were included. Structuring the data according to these three concepts provided a framework that shows the skewed distribution of items that influence the implementation of PHM. It highlights that there is a clear focus on normative integration on the organisational level in ‘accountable regional organisation’. There is less focus on the normative integration of ‘cross domain business model’, ‘integrated data infrastructure’, and ‘population health data analytics’, and overall the perspective of citizen and professionals, indicating possible gaps of consideration.


A first step is taken towards a practical guide to implement PHM by illustrating the depth of the complexity and showing the partial interrelatedness of the items. Comparing the results with existing literature, the analysis showed certain gaps that are not addressed in practice, but should be according to other frameworks. If initiators follow the current path in literature, they may be missing out on some important components to achieve proper implementation of PHM.

Peer Review reports

The Netherlands, like many countries, faces challenges in healthcare provision to its population and in the healthcare system. The healthcare system aims to provide care for all inhabitants, assure a high quality of care, keep care affordable and ensure people remain in good health and therefore prevent the need for care. Factors like increasing healthcare expenditures, an ageing population with increasing multimorbidity, and the burden of a shrinking workforce make achieving these goals challenging [ 1 ]. As a result, the long-term sustainability of the system is under pressure. To summarise what the main aims of a health system should be, Berwick introduced the Triple Aim approach, which later evolved into the Quadruple Aim [ 2 , 3 ]. This is described as a simultaneous pursuit of improving the experience of care, improving the health of populations, reducing per capita costs of healthcare, and improving the work life of healthcare professionals [ 4 ]. In recent years, Population Health Management (PHM) has emerged as an approach to achieve the Quadruple Aim and foster the necessary systemwide changes [ 5 ]. PHM can be summarized as the proactive management of a total population at risk through a variety of individual, organisational and cultural interventions to improve health and financial outcomes [ 6 , 7 ]. Successful implementation of PHM is seen in examples all around the world, like the Accountable Care Organisations in the US and regional initiatives like Greater Manchester in the UK and Gesundes Kinzigtal in Germany [ 8 , 9 ]. In the Netherlands, the non-governmental organisation HealthKIC has started to implement PHM using the so-called ‘PLOTmodel’ (Kavelmodel in Dutch), referring to regions as plots. Despite many international examples and case studies into the “what” of PHM implementation, the “how” remains elusive. While there are many frameworks defining the different items of health system transformation, so far no guide exists on how to prioritise the many different changes necessary and indeed where to start. Hence, the main purpose of this research is to explore current literature about the implementation of PHM by organising this existing knowledge to better understand what needs to happen on which level to achieve which outcome.

In current literature, more and more studies describe the implementation of whole system transformation initiatives [ 10 , 11 , 12 , 13 ]. However, different perspectives and methods are used to order the themes that influence implementation. For instance, Suter et. al. described ten key principles for health system integration: comprehensive services across the care continuum, patient focus, geographic coverage and rostering, standardized care delivery through interprofessional teams, performance management, information systems, organisational culture and leadership, physician integration, governance structure, and financial management [ 11 ]. The World Health Organization (WHO), in their framework on integrated people-centred health services, proposed five strategies that should be adopted: empowering and engaging people and communities, strengthening governance and accountability, reorienting the model of care, coordinating services within and across sectors and creating an enabling environment [ 12 ]. And in addition, the latest scoping review on this topic from Steenkamer et. al. described eight components of reorganizing and integrating the health system: social forces, resources, finance, relations, regulations, market, leadership, and accountability [ 13 ]. However, this ambiguous classification of themes that influence the implementation of a new health system approach does not support the implementation of PHM in practice as these are mostly lists of activities of what to do, with no specification as to how and when to address them, and on what level within the system.

Acknowledging health systems as complex adaptive systems, the difficulty of providing a predictable blueprint or framework becomes apparent. Complex adaptive systems are characterized by a high degree of interrelatedness, the decomposability of components, and the occurrence of unintended outcomes [ 14 ]. Supporting people in the transformation thereof thus requires more than a themed list of items that are important. Using other frameworks to break down the complexity of practice might add to our understanding. One of the frameworks that could contribute is the Context, Mechanism, and Outcome (CMO) framework [ 13 ]. The CMO is often used in process evaluations of complex interventions to describe what works for whom under what circumstances [ 15 ]. This distinction makes it easier to translate lessons learned into a different context [ 16 ]. Another framework that is often used in integrated care research is the Rainbow Model of Integrated Care (RMIC). According to the RMIC, there are four different levels of integrated care: clinical, professional, organisational, and system integration and two types of integration: normative and functional [ 17 ]. Using this framework helps assessing which actions need to take place at the different levels of the health system. Furthermore, the PLOTmodel uses six elements of PHM to guide its strategy: accountable regional organisation, cross domain business model, integrated data infrastructure, co-designing workforce and community, population health data analysis, and emergent implementation strategy [ 18 ].

To conclude, it remains unclear how new initiators that want to start with the implementation of PHM, such as the PLOTmodel, should be supported with knowledge about what to do when [ 10 , 19 ]. Unravelling the complexity of implementing PHM by ordering the numerous items into different theoretical concepts may contribute to close this knowledge gap and may simultaneously increase the practical applicability of this knowledge for new and existing PHM initiators in their whole system transformation challenge. For this reason, this research attempts to answer the following questions: What guidance can literature give us on the implementation of PHM? Does using the CMO, the RMIC, and the six elements of PHM help our understanding about the implementation of PHM in practice?

Study design

To address the research questions, a scoping review was performed using the six-stage methodological framework from Arksey and O’Malley [ 20 ]. Since the focus of the research is on the current state of evidence in the field, the scoping review was considered most fitting. The use of this type of review allowed for a quick examination of the current scientific literature, without comprehensively having to evaluate the quality of the included articles [ 21 ].

Inclusion criteria

To search for relevant articles, a search string was built together with a librarian. The search string contained the following keywords: population health management, integrated care, accountable healthcare, healthcare system, transformation. Specific diseases that were frequently found in the search results were excluded to improve the search string (see additional file 1 ). The electronic databases Embase, PubMed, and Academic Search Premier were searched for papers published between January 2016 and January 2021. The focus on the literature of the last 5 years was deemed appropriate as PHM is quite a recent development in health system transformation and the field is very dynamic and fast-paced.

The reference details and abstracts retrieved from the literature search were downloaded to Endnote X9, a bibliographic management software program. The articles were screened by title and abstract independently by two researchers (AE and NM) to identify their relevance. Articles were considered relevant if they described at least two themes that influence a transformation in healthcare within a multisector initiative, with at least three disciplines involved. When considered relevant by both researchers, the full text of the paper was retrieved and screened independently by two researchers (AE and NM). Within the selection process, relevance was discussed after screening the first set of articles on title and abstract, before retrieving full articles, and after full text screening to reach consensus between the researchers. If no agreement was reached, a third researcher was consulted. As part of the consultation phase, a scientific expert was consulted whether key studies were missed out on.

Data analysis

Data analysis was done based on three frameworks:

CMO was adopted to consider what works for whom under what circumstances to achieve a certain outcome [ 15 ]. The context was defined as anything that acted as either a facilitator or barrier to the implementation of the described intervention. Mechanisms were defined as how the delivered intervention produced the matched outcome [ 16 , 22 ].

The levels and types of integration of the RMIC (system, organisational, professional, and clinical level, and normative or functional) were used to arrange the items into the level on which it takes place in the transformation of the healthcare system [ 17 ]. The clinical level was interpreted as person-centredness at the individual level of citizens.

The Framework Method was used to categorize the data into themes [ 23 ]. To enable further thematic clustering, the six elements of PHM were chosen because of the Dutch context. The six elements of PHM consist of the following:

◦ The ‘accountable regional organisation’ is accountable for the Quadruple Aim and often this is a group of stakeholders that takes the form of a legal entity that can have financial arrangements with payers of health and social care.

◦ The ‘cross domain business model’ is built for health and social care in the region, so that the costs and revenues resulting across different financial streams are aligned and consequences for all regional stakeholders are transparent.

◦ In an ‘integrated data infrastructure’ routinely registered data in health and social care are to be connected in such a way that a regional comprehensive overview of health, costs and experiences are available.

◦ ‘Co-designing workforce and community’ represents an effective structure to co-design the program and interventions with citizens and local healthcare providers ensuring direct participation and a substantial role in the final decision-making process.

◦ ‘Population health data analytics’ is the use of data-driven insights to drive PHM interventions and monitor the Quadruple Aim outcomes regularly.

◦ Lastly, ‘emergent implementation strategies’ are used to form a continuous process of testing and learning in the region [ 18 ].

The included articles were analysed by two researchers (AE and NM) using a standardized Excel form. To reach consensus on the classification of the data, several discussion rounds were held among the research team. During this process, the original articles were re-examined when categorisation was unclear or when there was a disagreement between the researchers. Extracting and structuring of the data was done in four steps:

First, data were charted from the included articles as CMO combinations. These combinations were often narratives of what was done or happened (M) in which situation (C) to cause a certain effect (O) or included lessons learned of what should have been done to reach a certain outcome. This led to a list of CMO combinations retrieved from the included articles. From here on in this article, each C, M, or O is referred to as item.

Second, with the help of the Framework Method all CMO item-combinations were grouped into themes.

Third, all items were ordered into the RMIC. This was done for each item separately, as different levels of the RMIC played a part within a CMO combination. This also led to duplication of certain items as an outcome on one level sometimes also was a context on another level [ 22 ]. Criteria for duplication were how the items were described in the original literature or based on discussion among the research team. Consensus about the labels of the items and the assignment to the levels of the RMIC was reached through written feedback among the research team, going back to the original articles, and a final discussion within the research team.

Finally, the thematic clustering was refined by ordering all items into the six elements of PHM. Again, some items were duplicated as they fitted in two or more PHM-elements. One researcher (AE) categorized the items into the six PHM-elements. A second researcher (VS) checked the categorisation and answered the questions. A third researcher (MB) was consulted when there was no agreement reached between the first two researchers.

Following this process led to an overview of all items that influence the implementation of PHM ordered by CMO, RMIC and the 6 elements of PHM.

Based on the preliminary results the outline for the consultation phase was discussed [ 20 ]. To complement the literature findings with experience from practice, a full study with an adjusted Delhi design was proposed. This study will be reported on separately.

Literature search results

The literature search generated 531 articles from the three databases. Based on the title, 272 were selected to read the abstract. After reading the abstract, the full text was retrieved from 35 articles for in-depth screening. Despite reaching out to the author and searching by a librarian, one article was not available in full text. The screening process resulted in ten original scientific articles that described the implementation of population health management within multisector initiatives. After further discussion amongst the authors, one more article was identified as missing and added. The exclusion criteria are included in Fig. 1 .

figure 1

The identification of studies reported by PRISMA standards [ 24 ]

The key characteristics of the 11 included studies are described in detail in additional file 2 . Most of the described interventions were implemented in the USA, the others were from Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, Singapore, and the UK [ 9 ,  25 , 26 , 27 , 28 , 29 , 30 , 31 , 32 , 33 , 34 ]. The most used methodologies were qualitative case study designs, in which interviews, focus groups, and/or document analysis were used for data collection.

Thematic analysis of the findings

The focus in this section is on the final results after full analysis. Content analysis of the 11 articles resulted in 192 unique items that influence the transformation of a health system. After labelling and duplication using the CMO, RMIC, and PHM concepts as described above 242 items resulted from the analysis. Additional file 3 shows all items and their structuring. The following example is a quotation out of one of the included articles and the structuring of an item that was retrieved from it : “Sustaining health transformation over the long term requires many staffing and capacity supports to set overall direction and integrate purpose and actions across stakeholders” [ 32 ].

Integrate purpose and actions across stakeholders - Accountable regional organisation (six elements of PHM) – Mechanism (CMO) – System – Normative (RMIC).

Figure 2 displays a summary of the analysis by showing the distribution of the items using all three theoretical concepts. What this table demonstrates is that almost half of the reported items in the analysis, 124 items, concern the organisational level, with half of these items attributed to the PHM-element ‘accountable regional organisation’. Other high numbers, >10 items, in the table are in ‘cross domain business model’ and ‘emergent implementation strategy’, both on system and organisational level in functional integration. In contrast to that, items on the clinical level were overall underreported. In addition, only a small number of items pertained to normative integration of the PHM-elements ‘cross domain business model’, ‘integrated data infrastructure’, and ‘population health data analysis’. Thus, structuring the items according to the RMIC levels shows that all levels of the health system contribute, at least to some degree, to the implementation of PHM, but that not all items are reported on equally in the scientific literature. Whether there is an inherent bias in the literature, whether this is due to the relative importance of some items over others, or whether there are other reasons for this distribution remains unclear.

figure 2

The number of items that are assigned to the different categories

Analysis according to the six elements of PHM and the RMIC

In Fig. 3 , the results are presented differently. The table displays a summary of the most reported items per PHM-element and the classification into the RMIC, hereby presenting not only the distribution, but also showing which items were mentioned most. To give an example, ‘data availability’ in the PHM-element ‘population health data analytics’ is discussed by five out of the eleven articles taking mainly place on the system level [ 25 , 26 , 29 , 33 , 34 ]. This reveals that, although there are not as many different items mentioned within this PHM-element, some of the items were described in several articles. Therefore, this table illustrates the main focus of the initiatives found in the literature. What stands out is that there is a lot mentioned about collaboration, leadership, trust and shared ownership in ‘accountable regional organisation’, but this is not connected specifically to funding, data integration or the use of data in other PHM-elements. Another trend in this table is that the perspective of citizens and professionals is hardly visible, illustrated by the lack of P’s and C’s in the table. This table also helps breaking down the complexity of the implementation of PHM by looking at the levels of the RMIC within a PHM-element. Some items, for example ‘flexibility based on learning cycles’ in ‘emergent implementation strategy’, are mentioned on all levels [ 9 ,  28 , 31 , 34 ]. Other items, for example ‘multi-stakeholder governance structure across continuum of care’ in ‘accountable regional organisation’ and ‘financial incentives aligned with system goals’ in ‘cross domain business model’, apply mostly to one level [ 25 , 26 , 28 , 30 , 32 , 33 , 34 ]. This illustrates that within each PHM-element there is a focus on different aspects within different levels of the RMIC.

figure 3

The most reported items per PHM-element. Items are only reported in this table if they were mentioned by three or more articles. The number of articles that mentioned the item is added behind each term. Terms with a * are a summary of multiple items. The items are depicted on the most relevant level of the RMIC. A= all levels, S= system, O= organisation, P= professionals, C= clinical

Analysis according to CMO

The third concept applied to analyse the items was that of CMO. The analysis showed the interrelatedness of the items and the difficulty to classify an item as either C(ontext), M(echanism), or O(utcome). Often, the items could be all, depending on the connection to other items. This is illustrated by the following examples. Some CMO combinations are structured in the same PHM-element on the same level making it easier to order, for example in ‘accountable regional organisation’ on organisational level: within a regional organisation it is a contextual factor that ‘organisations have same motives, priorities and philosophies’ (C). This starting position supports the organisations to ‘create shared interest and aim’ (M) in order to reach a ‘position of agreement’ (O) [ 27 , 30 ]. However, other items are less clear and for instance can be a C, M and O, such as ‘additional funding/monetary resources’ in ‘cross domain business model’. As context, ‘monetary resources’ (C) are a prerequisite to reach ‘investment in health system change’ (O). In another article was described that if ‘private investors within convening organisations’ (C) are present, they can provide ‘additional funding’ (O) [ 27 , 28 , 31 , 32 ]. Another possibility that was observed, was that the CMO cuts across RMIC levels and PHM-elements. This occurs for instance in the following example: having a ‘learning environment’ (C) within the whole initiative in ‘emergent implementation strategy’, ‘secures initiatives credibility’ (O) in ‘accountable regional organisation’ by ‘supporting management and practice level by continuous improvement cycles’ (M) [ 9 ]. This displays the partial interrelatedness between levels and PHM-elements and therefore makes the complexity of implementing PHM explicit.

To summarize, by using the three models to analyse the data found in scientific literature a specific focus in the distribution of items that influence the implementation of PHM into PHM-elements, RMIC and CMO becomes apparent. The normative integration on the organisational level in ‘accountable regional organisation’ incurs the most interest both in number of items and in most frequently mentioned items. However, in the same PHM-element there are no items mentioned frequently on professional and clinical level which suggest that there is less focus on those. The lack of focus for these two levels is seen across al PHM-elements, indicating a possible gap of consideration in scientific literature at this point.

This study demonstrates that with the help of different theoretical concepts a further break-down can add to our understanding about what is needed on which level with what kind of mechanism to achieve a certain outcome in the implementation of PHM. Furthermore, this review shows that literature may be biased in the guidance of what matters most in the implementation of PHM. Using the six elements of PHM, the RMIC, and CMO adds to our understanding in showing this specific focus in the distribution of mentioned items. This indicates the need of further exploration of the various areas that receive little to no attention. By using the three theoretical concepts to differentiate the items that influence the implementation of PHM, a first step was taken towards a practical guide to support the implementation of PHM in practice by illustrating the depth of the complexity. Accepting that this is a complex problem in a complex adaptive system with an abundance of interrelatedness, a blueprint framework or themed list will probably not suffice [ 35 ]. As a result, this research is a first step moving away from a static to a more dynamic understanding of the implementation of PHM, and from a linear, rational process towards a learning process with continuous learning cycles.

Looking into the distribution of the items in the analysis, this review reveals several trends in the scientific literature such as the tendency for multisector initiatives to commonly report on system and organisational level activities and less on the clinical and professional levels of integration. More specifically, we encountered a focus on the normative side of the ‘accountable regional organisation’ and an absence of interest on the normative side of ‘cross domain business model’, ‘integrated data infrastructure’ and ‘population health data analysis’. These last three PHM-elements are almost exclusively reported as instruments to achieve PHM without proper normative considerations. This contrasts the perspectives of Kodner et. al. and Bengoa et. al. as they emphasize to focus also on the cultural normative aspects of these elements [ 36 , 37 ]. Secondly, the importance of a combined top-down and bottom-up approach in a broader initiative as mentioned by both is also not represented in the analysis [ 36 , 37 ]. To do so, more emphasis on the professional and clinical levels would be expected. This also underlines the continued lack of involvement of citizens and providers in the scientific reports of these initiatives on all levels, as has been stressed by many scholars already [ 11 , 38 ]. Comparing these trends to existing frameworks, the lack of attention to these aforementioned components can be considered as gaps in design and implementation. One of the key elements of the SCIROCCO tool is ‘patient empowerment’ and the WHO frameworks starts with ‘empowering and engaging people and communities’ [ 12 , 39 ]. Therefore, it seems that in multisector initiatives practice remains stuck in organising a regional governance structure on the system and organisational levels and fails to adopt a more comprehensive approach embracing the citizen’s perspective. Another explanation may be that the citizen’s perspective is present, but is not reported on in the selected articles.

A reason that the analysis is not complete, are the limitations of the chosen method. Using the scoping method made it possible to analyse and reinterpret the available literature of initiatives in Canada, the Netherlands and the USA among others. However, not all lessons learned from other health system transformation initiatives were included. This is because a lot of initiatives happening in practice are not (yet) reported in the scientific literature or are only available as conference abstracts, or are only published in reports in the local language(s), like the Belgian initiative [ 40 ]. An example of grey literature that is accessible is a report on the initiative of Gesundes Kinzigtal [ 41 ]. Additionally, articles that indeed were published were not available in the used databases, such as the initiative from the Basque Country, [ 42 ] or used other terminology to describe their initiative, such as the Vanguards programme in England [ 43 ]. These findings indicate that the multi-disciplinarity of the field of research may complicate connecting different initiatives and research to achieve knowledge synthesis. So, we urge initiators and implementors to publish all of their findings in accessible scientific literature to diminish the possibility of publication bias. Using similar terminology could be a first step to ensure reliable comparison of research findings. The encountered focus on system and organizational levels of integration in the scientific literature may be illustrative of an actual focus in implementation on these levels, or an under reporting of other levels, e.g. due to failures or encountered barriers. We challenge initiators to publish all of their findings scientifically, including the failures and barriers, to address these issues and help answer the question of whether the focus is merited or represents a bias in the literature.

This scoping review supports research in disentangling and breaking down the complexity of the PHM implementation process. While previous research only explained complexity [ 14 ] and difficulty of implementation by the interrelatedness of all items [ 37 ], this analysis attempts to disentangle the complexity with the combination of three theoretical concepts. It displays how different levels require different CMO-items depending on the six elements of PHM. However, for practice the guidance that literature can provide at the moment is insufficient on how to implement PHM. A next step could be introducing time dependency in our search of understanding the implementation of PHM. As Shaw describes, there is a connection between mechanisms and context, so that mechanisms can become a context over time or vice versa [ 22 ]. This can evolve over different levels of the RMIC or over different PHM-elements, also reflecting the dynamic character of the implementation of PHM in regional initiatives. Due to this dynamic character of the items, the phase of development may affect which items should be primarily focused on at that time. What comes first? Which items need continuous attention? And what items have a causal relation with each other? Adding this aspect of the implementation of PHM may inform practice further in their next steps of their implementation efforts. Therefore, we need accessible scientific case studies that focus on the dynamic character and the complexity of the implementation of PHM in order to get more grip on how to execute PHM in practice. For that reason, including time dependency in research can strengthen the journey in unravelling the complexity of health system transformation.

This research supports initiators by adding to our understanding about the implementation of PHM and taking steps towards a dynamic tool for analysis and assessment. Using the three different theoretical concepts provided insights into the different aspects of using a PHM approach. Main lessons for practice are that, although all levels of integration are needed, there persists a specific focus per level and PHM-element. Using the separate items per level and PHM-element may guide different stakeholders or organisations in taking their next step. Next to that, initiators must be aware of the knowledge gaps in literature and take into account the normative integration and citizen’s perspective. Also, the observed interrelatedness shows that the overall implementation of PHM probably requires a collaborative effort and interconnection across levels and disciplines in order to reach health system transformation. Using the CMO concept as exercise in the local context could provide insight into the sequence and correlation of existing items. Case analysis of multisector initiatives using the three theoretical concepts can provide more insights into this complexity and sequence and guide others in the how of implementing PHM.

Availability of data and materials

All data generated or analysed during this study are included in this published article and its supplementary information files.


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van Ede, A.F.T.M., Minderhout, R.N., Stein, K.V. et al. How to successfully implement population health management: a scoping review. BMC Health Serv Res 23 , 910 (2023).

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how to start a research paper examples

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How to Start a Research Paper

Last Updated: December 23, 2022 References

This article was co-authored by Matthew Snipp, PhD . C. Matthew Snipp is the Burnet C. and Mildred Finley Wohlford Professor of Humanities and Sciences in the Department of Sociology at Stanford University. He is also the Director for the Institute for Research in the Social Science’s Secure Data Center. He has been a Research Fellow at the U.S. Bureau of the Census and a Fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. He has published 3 books and over 70 articles and book chapters on demography, economic development, poverty and unemployment. He is also currently serving on the National Institute of Child Health and Development’s Population Science Subcommittee. He holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin—Madison. There are 19 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 312,114 times.

A research paper employs primary sources/data to support a thesis statement. It is a type of persuasive essay used frequently in science, literature, and history curricula. Regardless of your level of education and chosen field, you'll need to follow a few simple steps to get your research paper off the ground. You'll need to decide on a topic, formulate a thesis statement, conduct research, organize your findings, and then set pen to paper or fingers to keyboard.

Sample Research Papers

how to start a research paper examples

Deciding on a Topic

Image titled Start a Research Paper Step 1

  • For example, if you are writing a research paper for a college course, you should know how long it should be, what sources can be used, the topics you can choose from, and the deadline to turn it in. Once you understand the parameters, you can set out a schedule to complete the paper on time. [2] X Research source

Image titled Start a Research Paper Step 3

  • For example, if you are taking an American history course and you want to write a research paper on the origins of the American Revolution, you'd probably want to begin by reading other books on the subject. You'll soon realize that historians have discussed the Revolution's origins primarily in political and economic terms, but have given less attention to the social dimensions of the revolutionary experience. So you decide to focus — broadly — on the social origins of the American Revolution.

Image titled Start a Research Paper Step 4

  • Let's return to the social origins of the American Revolution. You might be able to cover this topic in 500 pages, but if you are writing a 20-page research paper for a class, you'll need to focus your topic further. What social group or groups will you focus on in order to address the social origins of the American Revolution? Break down the "social" into categories — women, racial minorities, farmers, city-dwellers, writers, travelers, businessmen, or children. There are numerous different angles you can take. See what hasn't been written before and then write on that subject.

Image titled Start a Research Paper Step 5

  • Let's say that you've decided to focus on the role of farmers and the American Revolution. Try to formulate a question based on your narrowed field such as: What role did farmers play in the origins of the American Revolution?

Constructing a Thesis

Image titled Start a Research Paper Step 6

  • For example, you could answer the above question (i.e., What role did farmers play in the origins of the American Revolution?) in several ways. Farmers directly participated in public riots against British officers. Farmers refused to sell their crops to British contingents. Farmers refused to quarter British soldiers in their homes. Farmers refused to pay taxes on their goods.
  • It is a good idea to start with several hypothetical thesis statements. If one proves to be false or isn't supported by enough evidence, you can start in a new direction quickly.

Image titled Start a Research Paper Step 7

  • For example: The quartering of British soldiers in the homes of poor farmers caused them to protest British taxes and to attack British troops.
  • This is a single sentence thesis statement that addresses both why the farmers chose to revolt and how they did so.

Image titled Start a Research Paper Step 8

  • If your professor wanted to you to focus on the political causes of the American Revolution, she might stop you from researching farmers. This would save you time in the long run.

Performing Research

Image titled Start a Research Paper Step 9

  • For our paper on the role of farmers and the American Revolution, we might need to visit local archives and the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration to get the necessary documents.
  • If you're feeling overwhelmed by the volume of research, see if your library has appointments with a research librarian. Librarians stay up to date with current trends in scholarship and can help guide your search. [11] X Research source

Image titled Start a Research Paper Step 10

  • Include author, title, and publication information in your notes, so that you can type up a reference list at the end of your research paper. You can also use a program such as EndNote, RefWorks, or LaTEX to help you manage your citations.
  • Create a note sheet of quotations that you may want to use in your research paper. It is better to gather more than you need at this point, since you will need evidence from reputable sources to support your thesis. [13] X Research source

Image titled Start a Research Paper Step 11

  • For web sources, use sources from peer-reviewed journals, government institutions and organizations, and public archives first. Blogs and other non-authoritative web sources are usually inappropriate for a research paper.
  • Organize your notes. Put your notes/data in a logical order that backs up your thesis statement. Organize them so they flow from one to the next. For our imaginary project, it would be best to put your notes on quartered British troops before notes on farmer's revolutionary actions. Since our argument is that quartered troops angered farmers into action, we need to discuss them in that order. [15] X Research source

Image titled Start a Research Paper Step 12

  • For example, if you discovered that farmers were primarily unhappy quartering British soldiers because they ate all their food, you'd want to include that information in your thesis statement.
  • Quartered British troops consumed large quantities of food while housed with poor farmers. Because they couldn't feed themselves and quarter troops, these farmers chose to protest British taxes and to attack British troops. As such, farmers played a significant role in the origins of the American Revolution.

Starting Your Research Paper

Image titled Start a Research Paper Step 13

  • Consider composing an outline as a list of questions you would like to answer. Start with your thesis at the beginning, then break it down into sections that back up your argument. Write questions like "Why is this research important?" and "What studies support my thesis?" Then insert information you found while researching into your outline that answers these questions.
  • You can also write a prose outline, instead of a question-based outline. Place headers that are the subjects of each paragraph or section of your research paper. Add quotes and other notes in bullets below the subject. You can begin your composition directly from a prose-based outline.
  • Continue researching if you need to fill holes in your outline. Be sure to gather bibliographic information as you go.

Image titled Start a Research Paper Step 14

  • This is how most people begin their research papers. They don't want to make their subject seem too obscure, so they write about larger points before jumping head first into their topic. [18] X Research source
  • Just make sure that your broad statement is related to your thesis statement. And make sure that everyone can agree with your broad statement. You don't want to have your readership criticizing your argument from the beginning. You need to build a certain degree of trust.
  • By all means, avoid the "Throughout history" or "In modern society" types of opening lines. These are so overused that they have become hackneyed, and they will damage your credibility as a writer before your reader has looked at another word. [19] X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source

Image titled Start a Research Paper Step 15

  • For example, if you want to write a research paper on philately (stamp collecting), you should probably begin by defining your key term. But don't go for the standard "Webster's Dictionary defines philately as..." opening. See if you can make your opening line attention-grabbing or intriguing. [21] X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source

Image titled Start a Research Paper Step 17

  • By setting up this story at the beginning, you'd be able to return to it periodically over the course of your paper to illustrate points and to re-assert your thesis statement. [22] X Research source
  • Interesting anecdotes or surprising facts can be a good way to hook your readers and lead in to your thesis statement. [23] X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source

Image titled Start a Research Paper Step 18

  • If you aren't sure about how to start your essay, have a look at some published works in your subject. They'll be a lot fancier than your paper needs to be, but they can give you a sense of that subject's conventions.

Drafting Your Research Paper

Image titled Start a Research Paper Step 19

  • Some writers find it helpful to write the body of the text and then return and write the introduction and conclusion. This gives them a better sense of what exactly they want to argue.

Image titled Start a Research Paper Step 20

  • Be sure to give the author credit. You don't want to be accused of plagiarism. [24] X Research source

Image titled Start a Research Paper Step 22

  • In general, bibliographies should be organized by type of source and by alphabetical order. [25] X Research source

Image titled Start a Research Paper Step 23

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About This Article

Matthew Snipp, PhD

To start a research paper, start by crafting a broad, factual statement about your subject to pull readers in before introducing your thesis. For example, if you’re writing about the role of famers in the American Revolution, make a blanket statement about the complex causes of the revolutionary movement. Alternatively, begin with a true story, such as an attack by a family on a British soldier quartered with them for eating all their bread. Then, return to the story periodically throughout your paper to illustrate the key points of your thesis. For more tips from our English co-author, including how to decide on a topic and formulate a thesis, scroll down! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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  1. 43+ Research Paper Examples

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