Need help starting your research paper? Writing the first few sentences can be tough. How will you grab your audience’s attention? How can you ensure that your readers will want to continue? The following seven techniques will give you ideas on how to craft your opening sentences for your research paper.
Starting a Research Paper Technique 1: Quote
Sometimes using a quote can be as hackneyed as beginning your research paper with a dictionary definition. To use a quote effectively, make sure (1) your quote supports or illustrates your topic and (2) you subsequently explain how it connects. Don’t just tack on a quote at the beginning without explanation.
Starting a Research Paper Technique 2: Question
Look at the question I began my article with. This question would actually be a weak way to introduce a research paper (but not a bad way to start a web article where every keyword counts). Devise questions that will get readers to stop and think rather than completely disregard it. Instead of “Need help starting your research paper?”, I could have asked, “How many minutes do you waste wondering how to begin your paper?”
Starting a Research Paper Technique 3: Statistic
While reading your research, did any of the results surprise you? Would it shock your readers as well? Statistics can be a powerful mechanism for grabbing your readers’ attention. Be sure to explain how this statistic connects to your topic. The statistic can even contradict your thesis, so long as you explain how the statistic is flawed.
Starting a Research Paper Technique 4: Anecdote
People like reading about other people; therefore, brief stories about people is a powerful way to capture a reader’s interest. If you’re writing a research paper on a historical figure, describe a defining moment in that person’s life. For other types of essays, pick a person (whether that be a scientist, a patient, a social worker, a celebrity, or even you) and briefly describe one of their relevant experiences to your topic that can lead into your thesis.
Keep in mind that since it’s a research paper, anecdotes should be short (about 3-4 sentences seems good). More importantly, never use an anecdote as stand-alone evidence; it’s just an entertaining method to grab people’s interest.
Starting a Research Paper Technique 5: Contrast
Using a contrast technique typically entails describing a “before” and an “after” scenario or comparing the “the way things should be” and “the way things are.” For example: “Physical anthropologists considered Piltdown Man as the missing evolutionary link between humans and ape-until it was discovered to be a hoax.”
Starting a Research Paper Technique 6: Staccato
Staccato refers to short bursts of text. Its purpose is to create flashing images in readers’ minds or to pique interest with a vague, yet intriguing statement. For example: “Stars. Moons. Comets. Celestial objects have long captured our imaginations….”
Starting a Research Paper Technique 7: Direct Address
Direct address involves openly referring to the reader. Direct addresses oftentimes begin by asking the reader “Imagine you’re _” or “Think about _” or “Consider _.” Other times, you’ll use the reader as a character in a scenario (“You’re walking down the stairs when you realize something is wrong-very wrong”).
Of course, this technique is much more common in feature articles than in academic writing (where using “you” can be a huge no-no). In essays or research papers, direct address can still be an effective way to grab attention depending on your professor’s guidelines.