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How to Write a Background for a Research Paper

Published on: Jun 26, 2023
Updated on: Aug 15, 2023
Table of content
  • What is the background
  • Background structure
  • Literature review vs background
  • Step-by-step writing guide
  • Tips to avoid mistakes
  • Background information example

How to Write a Background for a Research Paper

The background of any academic paper is the academic backbone it relates to. Thus, you must carefully write the first section to keep the end goal clear for your reader.

We’ve got you covered if you need more time or writing skills to create a solid study paper! This article will provide the necessary information to write a background for a research paper. Let’s go!

What is the background of the study in research?

The research paper background refers to the section, component, or thesis that provides context and justification for conducting the study. It outlines the existing knowledge, gaps, and limitations in the field or topic you currently investigate.

The definition of “background” says it should begin with a general introduction to the subject matter, providing an overview of the broader scientific area. It aims to familiarize the reader with the topic and establish its significance and relevance in the existing body of knowledge.

Furthermore, the background of the study highlights the specific problem or knowledge gap that the current study aims to address. It emphasizes the need for further investigation, highlighting the unanswered questions or areas where you have to conduct an additional examination.

The background of the study also plays a crucial role in shaping the study objectives, questions, and hypotheses. By reviewing the existing literature and identifying gaps, academic associates can formulate clearer goals and design appropriate methodologies to address the specific problems.

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The background of the study structure

The background statement can vary depending on the scientific field and the paper or thesis requirements. However, it generally follows a logical flow and includes several key components. Here is a standard structure for the background structure:

  1. Introduction: Begin with a brief introduction that provides an overview of the chosen topic and its importance. This section should capture the reader’s interest and establish the context for the study.
  2. Current problem: As an academic author, you must clearly identify the scientif problem or gap in the existing knowledge the study aims to address. Please explain why this problem is significant and why it requires further investigation.
  3. Literature review: Review the relevant literature related to the research topic. Summarize critical theories, concepts, and findings from previous studies directly relevant to the research problem. Discuss the existing knowledge and highlight any limitations or gaps the current study aims to fill.
  4. Research questions/objectives/hypotheses: To write background information, you should clearly state the research questions, objectives, or assumptions that guide the study. These should be directly derived from the research problem and align with the gaps identified in the literature review.
  5. Study rationale: Explain the potential contributions and implications of the study. Discuss how the findings may advance knowledge, address practical issues, or have broader impacts in the field or society. Justify why the study is worth conducting and how it adds value to the existing body of knowledge.
  6. Scope and limitations: Define the size of the study by outlining the boundaries and specific aspects you will cover. Discuss any limits or constraints impacting the study’s findings or generalizability.
  7. Summary: Provide a concise summary or conclusion of the background section of a research paper, emphasizing the research problem, significance, and the need for further investigation.

It’s important to note that you can imply changes to the structure based on your requirements and the specific guidelines provided by your college advisor.

Difference between literature review and background

The literature review and the background of the study are two distinct components of a research paper or thesis, although they are closely related. Let’s explore the differences between these two sections:

Literature review Scientific Background
Purpose To analyze and synthesize existing knowledge on a specific research topic.


It aims to provide a comprehensive overview of relevant theories, concepts, and empirical studies.

It serves to provide context and justification for conducting the specific research study.


The background outlines the broader research area, introduces the research problem, and explains the significance and rationale for the study.

Focus The literature review focuses on analyzing and synthesizing the existing scholarly works related to the research topic.


The emphasis is on evaluating and comparing different studies.

The background of the study is more specific and directly related to the particular research project.


Its primary focus is on explaining the research problem’s significance and relevance and setting the study’s stage.

Length The literature review typically constitutes a standalone section within a research paper or thesis.


It follows a structured and organized format, synthesizing the existing literature chronologically.

The research paper background section is more concise and directly precedes the thesis.


It provides a brief overview of the research topic and the significance of the study.

Steps to write a good background section

When writing a background section for a research paper, you can follow these three steps to ensure a clear and compelling presentation:

Identify the Research Problem

  • Begin by clearly identifying and defining the research problem or gap in the existing knowledge that your study aims to address.
  • Consider the significance and relevance of the problem within your research field or discipline.
  • Briefly explain why the problem is essential and how addressing it can contribute to the existing body of knowledge.

Review the Relevant Literature

  • Conduct a thorough literature review to gather relevant information and understand the current state of knowledge on your research topic.
  • Summarize critical theories, concepts, and findings from previous studies that directly relate to your research problem.
  • Highlight any gaps, controversies, or limitations in the existing literature that your study aims to address.
  • Organize the literature review logically, either by themes, sub-topics, or chronologically, depending on what they mean for your research.

Provide Rationale and Objectives

  • Provide a clear rationale for conducting your study based on the research problem and the gaps identified in the literature review.
  • Explain why your research is essential and how it will contribute to filling the identified gaps or advancing knowledge in the field.
  • State the specific research objectives or questions your study aims to answer.
  • Align the objectives with the research problem and the gaps identified in the literature, demonstrating how your study will address those gaps.

Following these steps, you can create a well-structured and coherent background section that establishes your research’s context, significance, and rationale. Remember to provide sufficient background information and be concise yet informative in your presentation.

The main tips to avoid mistakes

Here are a few tips to help you avoid common mistakes when writing background paragraphs:

  • Focus on the research topic;
  • Be concise and clear;
  • Use credible and up-to-date sources;
  • Provide a logical flow;
  • Avoid excessive jargon and technical terms;
  • Balance breadth and depth;
  • Use citations appropriately;
  • Revise and proofread.

By following these tips, you can enhance the quality of your background section, ensuring that it effectively sets the stage for your research and engages the reader from the beginning of your paper.

Background information example

To write the background of a research paper, you must understand the overall structure and know exactly how this section should look.

Let’s see an excellent example of a background section for a research paper on the topic of “The Impact of Social Media on Mental Health”:

“The rapid rise of social media platforms in recent years has transformed how people communicate, connect, and share information. Platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat have become integral parts of daily life for millions of individuals worldwide. 

While social media offers numerous benefits, including increased social connectivity and access to diverse perspectives, concerns have been raised regarding its potential impact on mental health.

Numerous studies have investigated the relationship between social media use and mental health outcomes, focusing on depression, anxiety, and body image dissatisfaction. 

This study seeks to contribute to the existing knowledge by employing a longitudinal design and examining a broad range of mental health outcomes among a diverse sample of adults aged 18-45.

Research has shown that excessive use of social media and constant exposure to carefully curated and idealized representations of others’ lives can contribute to feelings of inadequacy, social comparison, and low self-esteem. 

Additionally, cyberbullying has emerged as a significant concern, as individuals may experience harassment, negative comments, and exclusion within the online environment”.

Brief Summary

You have to be very concise and clear to write a background paragraph. Remember that it often serves as the first point of contact between your research and the reader. As a result, the background section has to focus on the study, explaining the significance and relevance of the research problem.

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