5 basic rules for writing a research paper introduction in the APA style


The APA style is the predominant style guide applied when writing for the social sciences, which ranging from psychology, to sociology, and covering others of the soft sciences. When faced with writing your introduction to your paper in this style, here are five basic rules to follow that will have you achieve the intention of the APA style.

Do it Last

We’re often told that our writing must have a beginning, middle, and end, and so we often “start at the beginning”. You’ll usually find, though, that writing an introduction to your research paper is actually much easier done once you’ve written most of the body and conclusion of your paper. It’s a chance to step back, survey the landscape, and draw out a “map” that will guide your reader to quickly and fully understand what you’ve done.

Include the Key Ingredients

Check that your introduction includes a brief statement of your thesis, your research and it methodology, your results, and your main conclusions, at a minimum. It’s really a terse statement of the entire body of your research, and signposts the journey for your reader.

Review for Clarity

The most important objective of the APA style is to achieve real clarity in writing. Arguably, this is even more important in the soft sciences that in the hard sciences (where quantifiable data dominate) because interpretation is an unavoidable element of the social sciences. Carefully read your introduction yourself and ask whether it is clear. Then get someone else to carefully read it and highlight any areas in which they are unsure or confused.

Review for Bias

Having achieved clarity, it is crucial to review your writing for bias, particularly for subtle biases. This is even harder to do yourself (because we tend not to see our own biases), and so it is critical to get review from a broad range of perspectives. Sometimes, you may also seek out very specific review. For example, if you are studying elements of gender, ask someone in a gender studies field to review for subtle signs of sexism.

Dot the I’s and Cross the T’s

The APS style guide includes very specific formatting rules for fonts, line spacing, header styles, and so forth. These little details are particularly important if you are submitting your work for formal evaluation, or to a leading academic journal. Once you’re satisfied with your message and your tone, do a last run-through with an APA formatting checklist to ensure that you’ve caught all of these little issues.

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