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Write the Introduction and Literature Review Section of a Research Paper

The introduction and literature review to an empirical research study set the stage for the reader. The sections are often considered the most difficult to write. This article provides steps to writing the introduction and literature review sections of an academic research paper.

Describe the problem you are researching

Describe the problem you are researching. Use the first few sentences or paragraph to describe the problem, issue or question your research project is focusing on.

Begin the literature review

Begin the literature review by describing the current research on your topic. The literature review usually starts general and gradually progresses into published research most related to your specific project's emphasis.

Describe the general themes

Describe the general themes in the research related to your topic. Also be sure to note any gaps in the published research, particularly if your project addresses the gaps.

Indicate the specific hypotheses or questions

Indicate the specific hypotheses or questions your project is focusing on. The literature review should move from what is currently published and known about the topic to what your project is going to add to the topic.

Include your particular project's

Include why your particular project's focus is important and how it differs from previous research on the topic.

Revise and rewrite several times

Revise and rewrite several times. This section of the project should take at least as long as the remaining sections of the paper combined. Have other intelligent people proofread the paper, and indicate what sections do not flow well or make sense to them.


  • The introduction can start with an attention grabbing statement, but be sure to keep this statement objective and within the scope of current research on the topic. Larger research projects or theses can use a paragraph or two describing the layout of the introduction and literature review. Larger projects also tend to separate the literature review from the introduction, but most smaller projects combine the two sections. If you are stuck on how to organize your concepts, note how the publications most related to your project handled the literature review. Write the literature review in an essay format. Use the literature citations to backup your review of the theories, definitions, and research leading up to your specific project's emphasis.


  • Stay on topic. Papers that include irrelevant theories or opinions confuse the reader and detract from the theme.