Free and Informative Example of an Introduction in a Research Paper
Before I present the example of an introduction in a research paper, it is worth emphasising that the introduction constitutes an extremely important part of a research paper and must be written with great care. The introduction to an academic or scientific paper should explain the author’s research problem, provide relevant background information, offer a brief summary of pertinent scholarship, introduce the research methods, clarify the importance of the work and outline the structure and contents of the rest of the paper. Easy to list, these essential elements can be notoriously difficult to wrestle into a pleasing shape that engages the readers an author anticipates and meets publisher or instructor guidelines. It is necessary to prioritise the needs of those readers and the specific requirements of those guidelines as you write, but a more general example of an introduction in a research paper can also be a helpful tool. It is in that spirit that I offer the following example of an introduction in a research paper.
The contents of this example of an introduction in a research paper are completely fictional and have been kept relatively simple so that researchers working in all disciplines and fields can readily understand the material. The situation and approach are valid, however, and the formal style and scholarly tone of the writing are appropriate for a peer-reviewed journal or upper-level university course. Introductions for research papers often have no heading, so I have not used one here, but an effective title for the paper as a whole might be ‘Reassessing the Medieval Influence of Maximus Auctor One Reader at a Time.’ The opening sentences of this example of an introduction in a research paper pick up keywords from this title as they introduce the research problem.
Example of an Introduction in a Research Paper
As a student of medieval literature, I have often heard lectures and read research papers in which knowledgeable academics claim with certainty that no writer or thinker was more influential in the later Middle Ages than Maximus Auctor. The exact nature of the powerful influence attributed to Auctor varies among researchers, but so numerous and expansive are the claims that were every one of them entirely true, much about medieval religion, philosophy, law, architecture, literature, trade and even cloth making and beer brewing could hardly have developed without the authoritative voice of Auctor sounding in every ear eager for learning, creative ideas and profitable strategies. Although I do not doubt the veracity of the most specific of these claims and am not questioning here the importance of Auctor and his writing among medieval people who had access to his texts and the ability to read them, I do believe that a close critical look at the primary evidence for Auctor’s influence from the late eleventh through the end of the fifteenth century is not just timely, but overdue. This paper aims to meet this need by investigating medieval English manuscripts and owners of Auctor’s works and considering the traces of reception left by readers in the margins as well as in their own writing.
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Maximus Auctor produced his many texts as the Roman Empire was crumbling, but it was in the late eleventh century as Norman church reforms were in full swing that Auctor’s works, or rather a careful selection of them, began to be copied and collected with vigour in England’s monastic houses. By the late twelfth century some of his texts – the biblical commentaries, the philosophical dialogues and the personal letters, for instance – can be traced to private English owners as well. The interest in these especially popular texts continued unabated for the next three centuries, resulting in more than 350 medieval manuscripts that either still survive today or have been identified through medieval library catalogues, booklists, letters or other original documents. There is, then, an extremely large body of primary evidence for the dissemination and reception of Auctor’s most popular writing from the late eleventh to the end of the fifteenth century and it is readily available in English libraries and archives. I have only begun to mine the riches of this material for traces of the ways in which medieval owners and readers thought about and responded to Auctor’s texts, but already it is clear that the most grandiose of the modern claims about Auctor’s influence in the Middle Ages will require significant adjustment in the face of the specific, dateable and sometimes detailed responses of those actually influenced.
I do not mean to give the impression here that none of the published scholarship that addresses the influence of Auctor in the Middle Ages has examined specific instances of reception. Certainly a large body of scholarship that I discuss in detail in the Literature Review following this Introduction demonstrates a tendency for literary scholars and historians to formulate and encourage somewhat unsubstantiated generalisations about Auctor’s medieval influence. However, two important studies of English manuscript collections have moved beyond the generalisations in productive ways. Over a decade ago Mirachi and Frederik (2007) included a long and thoughtful digression on the manuscripts of Auctor in their study of the extensive fourteenth-century book collection of Earl Rockface. More recently, Ramsey and Morton (2011) dedicated much of their discussion of surviving manuscripts from three northern English monastic houses to the marginal annotations they discovered in Auctor’s texts. In both studies the authors express surprise at the striking mismatch between what they expected to find based on current understanding of Auctor’s medieval influence and what they actually detected in the unique responses of Auctor’s medieval readers. Similar surprise has been expressed by those authors of literary studies (Underhill, 2013 is an excellent example) who have taken the time to return to the original Latin of Auctor’s texts and compare passages closely with similar passages of medieval poems and treatises.
My own approach to clarifying Auctor’s influence in the Middle Ages has benefitted significantly from the three studies I have mentioned above (Mirachi & Frederik, 2007; Ramsey & Morton, 2011; Underhill, 2013) as well as the pioneering work of Oleson (1934). As a literary critic, Oleson focussed on reader reception long before it was fashionable to do so and as a manuscript specialist she understood that the annotations of readers meant far more than the messy margins her colleagues lamented. Oleson’s discussion of what researchers can glean from the clues medieval readers have left in and around their books served as a starting place for my work on the English manuscripts of Auctor’s writings. Ramsey and Morton’s (2011) section on transcription techniques, medieval abbreviations and reader symbols has been my constant companion, and the methods Mirachi and Frederik (2007) use to contextualise each manuscript they study have been indispensible. Close readings and interpretations of medieval texts, historical as well as literary, have been undertaken with the detail, thoroughness and insight inherent to Underhill’s (2013) illuminating approach. The ways in which I have combined and adapted these different methods to investigate the English reception of Auctor’s most popular writings from the eleventh to the fifteenth century are explained at length in the Methods and Manuscripts section of this paper.
My findings are reported in the next section entitled The Responses of Auctor’s Medieval Readers and are packed with unexpected comments, unusual interpretations and surprising uses of Auctor’s writing. They are also a powerful reminder that readers are individuals with the potential to understand a text – particularly a complex or abstract text – in unique ways that can be notoriously difficult to predict or characterise. One reader’s interpretation might be diametrically opposed to another’s, and the same text or even the same passage or phrase from Auctor can be used by different medieval authors to ‘prove’ key points on more than one side of a debate. The distinctive perspective of each reader has encouraged me to resist excessive categorisation and generalisation in my final discussion of Auctor’s Medieval English Reception. Instead, I have focussed on making sense of each reader’s responses to and uses of Auctor’s texts in their immediate historical contexts and highlighted how these responses and uses challenge long-held assumptions and encourage researchers to rethink what they are writing and teaching about Auctor’s medieval influence.
A Few Explanatory Notes for the Example of an Introduction in a Research Paper
• Notice how the first sentence of this example of an introduction in a research paper hooks the reader through general and familiar information – the kind of thing every student of medieval literature has heard and read – and then works to narrow the focus down to the author’s new research on English readers of Auctor’s most popular works from the late eleventh to the late fifteenth century. This movement from general to specific information is often recommended for academic and scientific introductions.
• Take a look at vocabulary choices in this example of an introduction in a research paper. The words are accurate and precise, but they are not the most specialised terms available. For example, instead of ‘exegetical writings’ I use ‘biblical commentaries’ and instead of ‘extant’ to describe existing manuscripts I use ‘survive’ or ‘surviving’ on the basis that these words are more common and therefore readily understood by a wider range of readers.
• As the example of an introduction in a research paper demonstrates, the summary of scholarship for an introduction should be brief and offer details only for studies that are vital to the new research. Proper citations should always be given and they must be recorded in a style appropriate for the discipline and in conformity with the relevant guidelines. Author–date citations are used in the text of this example of an introduction in a research paper.
• Information about the structure of the rest of the paper (the literature review, the methods, the findings and the discussion) is offered in a few different places in this example of an introduction in a research paper, which is fine for a paper in the humanities where a rigid structure is not usually a prime concern. However, scientific papers will often present this material in a single paragraph at or near the end of the introduction.
• At the end of this example of an introduction in a research paper there is a return to the ideas and the research problem as stated in the opening sentences. There is also a clear indication of the value and purpose of the research, drawing readers on to the following sections of the paper with the promise of new and exciting findings.
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