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How To Write an Introduction

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Writing and introduction

The introduction gives readers an overview of your subject and presents your hypothesis.

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

Here's How:

  1. Introduce the Topic: Your first task is to provide a brief description of the research question. What is the experiment or study attempting to demonstrate? What phenomena are you studying? Provide a brief history of your topic and explain how it relates to your current research.
  2. Summarize Previous Research: The second task of your introduction is to provide a well-rounded summary of previous research that is relevant to your topic. So, before you begin to write this summary, it is important to thoroughly research your topic. Finding appropriate sources amid thousands of journal articles can be a daunting task, but there are a number of steps you can take to simplify your research.
  3. Researching Your Topic: Search a journal database, such as PsychInfo or ERIC, to find articles on your subject. Once you have located an article, look at the reference section to locate other studies cited in the article. As you take notes from these articles, be sure to write down where you found the information. A simple note detailing the author's name, journal and date of publication can help you keep track of sources and avoid plagiarism.
  4. Provide Your Hypothesis: Once you have summarized the previous research, explain areas where the research is lacking or potentially flawed. What is missing from previous studies on your topic? What research questions have yet to be answered? Your own hypothesis should lead from these questions. At the end of your introduction, offer your hypothesis and describe what you expected to find in your experiment or study.

Tips:

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

What You Need

  • Access to books, journal articles and online sources
  • Plenty of notebook paper or 3x5 notecards
  • A copy of the APA style guide
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