Academic Writing AdviceAcademic, Writing, Advice
ServiceScape Incorporated
ServiceScape Incorporated

Tips for Writing an Effective Background of the Study

David Costello

Published on
Last Modified on

The Background of the Study is an integral part of any research paper that sets the context and the stage for the research presented in the paper. It's the section that provides a detailed context of the study by explaining the problem under investigation, the gaps in existing research that the study aims to fill, and the relevance of the study to the research field. It often incorporates aspects of the existing literature and gives readers an understanding of why the research is necessary and the theoretical framework that it is grounded in.

The Background of the Study holds a significant position in the process of research. It serves as the scaffold upon which the entire research project is built. It helps the reader understand the problem, its significance, and how your research will contribute to the existing body of knowledge. A well-articulated background can provide a clear roadmap for your study and assist others in understanding the direction and value of your research. Without it, readers may struggle to grasp the purpose and importance of your work.

The aim of this blog post is to guide budding researchers, students, and academicians on how to craft an effective Background of the Study section for their research paper. It is designed to provide practical tips, highlight key components, and elucidate common mistakes to avoid. By the end of this blog post, readers should have a clear understanding of how to construct a compelling background that successfully contextualizes their research, highlights its significance, and sets a clear path for their investigation.

Understanding the background of the study

The Background of the Study in a research context refers to a section of your research paper that discloses the basis and reasons behind the conduction of the study. It sets the broader context for your research by presenting the problem that your study intends to address, giving a brief overview of the subject domain, and highlighting the existing gaps in knowledge. This section also presents the theoretical or conceptual framework and states the research objectives, and often includes the research question or hypothesis. The Background of the Study gives your readers a deeper understanding of the purpose, importance, and direction of your study.

How it fits into the overall structure of a research paper

The Background of the Study typically appears after the introduction and before the literature review in the overall structure of a research paper. It acts as a bridge between the general introduction, where the topic is initially presented, and the more specific aspects of the paper such as the literature review, methodology, results, and discussion. It provides necessary information to help readers understand the relevance and value of the study in a wider context, before zooming in to specific details of your research.

Difference between the background of the study, introduction, and literature review

Now that we understand the role of the Background of the Study within a research paper, let's delve deeper to differentiate it from two other crucial components of the paper - the Introduction and the Literature Review.

  • Background of the Study: This section provides a comprehensive context for the research, including a statement of the problem, the theoretical or conceptual framework, the gap that the study intends to fill, and the overall significance of the research. It guides the reader from a broad understanding of the research context to the specifics of your study.
  • Introduction: This is the first section of the research paper that provides a broad overview of the topic, introduces the research question or hypothesis, and briefly mentions the methodology used in the study. It piques the reader's interest and gives them a reason to continue reading the paper.
  • Literature Review: This section presents an organized summary of the existing research related to your study. It helps identify what we already know and what we do not know about the topic, thereby establishing the necessity for your research. The literature review allows you to demonstrate how your study contributes to and extends the existing body of knowledge.

While these three sections may overlap in some aspects, each serves a unique purpose and plays a critical role in the research paper.

Components of the background of the study

Statement of the problem

This is the issue or situation that your research is intended to address. It should be a clear, concise declaration that explains the problem in detail, its context, and the negative impacts if it remains unresolved. This statement also explains why there's a need to study the problem, making it crucial for defining the research objectives.

Importance of the study

In this component, you outline the reasons why your research is significant. How does it contribute to the existing body of knowledge? Does it provide insights into a particular issue, offer solutions to a problem, or fill gaps in existing research? Clarifying the importance of your study helps affirm its value to your field and the larger academic community.

Relevant previous research and literature

Present an overview of the major studies and research conducted on the topic. This not only shows that you have a broad understanding of your field, but it also allows you to highlight the knowledge gaps that your study aims to fill. It also helps establish the context of your study within the larger academic dialogue.

Theoretical framework

The theoretical framework is the structure that can hold or support a theory of a research study. It presents the theories, concepts, or ideas which are relevant to the study and explains how these theories apply to your research. It helps to connect your findings to the broader constructs and theories in your field.

Research questions or hypotheses

These are the specific queries your research aims to answer or the predictions you are testing. They should be directly aligned with your problem statement and clearly set out what you hope to discover through your research.

Potential implications of the research

This involves outlining the potential applications of your research findings in your field and possibly beyond. What changes could your research inspire? How might it influence future studies? By explaining this, you underscore the potential impact of your research and its significance in a broader context.

How to write a comprehensive background of the study

Identify and articulate the problem statement

To successfully identify and articulate your problem statement, consider the following steps:

  • Start by clearly defining the problem your research aims to solve. The problem should be specific and researchable.
  • Provide context for the problem. Where does it arise? Who or what is affected by it?
  • Clearly articulate why the problem is significant. Is it a new issue, or has it been a long-standing problem in your field? How does it impact the broader field or society at large?
  • Express the potential adverse effects if the problem remains unresolved. This can help underscore the urgency or importance of your research.
  • Remember, while your problem statement should be comprehensive, aim for conciseness. You want to communicate the gravity of the issue in a precise and clear manner.

Conduct and summarize relevant literature review

A well-executed literature review is fundamental for situating your study within the broader context of existing research. Here's how you can approach it:

  • Begin by conducting a comprehensive search for existing research that is relevant to your problem statement. Make use of academic databases, scholarly journals, and other credible sources of research.
  • As you read these studies, pay close attention to their key findings, research methodologies, and any gaps in the research that they've identified. These elements will be crucial in the summary of your literature review.
  • Make an effort to analyze, rather than just list, the studies. This means drawing connections between different research findings, contrasting methodologies, and identifying overarching trends or conflicts in the field.
  • When summarizing the literature review, focus on synthesis. Explain how these studies relate to each other and how they collectively relate to your own research. This could mean identifying patterns, themes, or gaps that your research aims to address.

Describe the theoretical framework

The theoretical framework of your research is crucial as it grounds your work in established concepts and provides a lens through which your results can be interpreted. Here's how to effectively describe it:

  • Begin by identifying the theories, ideas, or models upon which your research is based. These may come from your literature review or your understanding of the subject matter.
  • Explain these theories or concepts in simple terms, bearing in mind that your reader may not be familiar with them. Be sure to define any technical terms or jargon that you use.
  • Make connections between these theories and your research. How do they relate to your study? Do they inform your research questions or hypotheses?
  • Show how these theories guide your research methodology and your analysis. For instance, do they suggest certain methods for data collection or specific ways of interpreting your data?
  • Remember, your theoretical framework should act as the "lens" through which your results are viewed, so it needs to be relevant and applicable to your study.

Formulate your research questions or hypotheses

Crafting well-defined research questions or hypotheses is a crucial step in outlining the scope of your research. Here's how you can effectively approach this process:

  • Begin by establishing the specific questions your research aims to answer. If your study is more exploratory in nature, you may formulate research questions. If it is more explanatory or confirmatory, you may state hypotheses.
  • Ensure that your questions or hypotheses are researchable. They should be specific, clear, and measurable with the methods you plan to use.
  • Check that your research questions or hypotheses align with your problem statement and research objectives. They should be a natural extension of the issues outlined in your background of the study.
  • Finally, remember that well-crafted research questions or hypotheses will guide your research design and help structure your entire paper. They act as the anchors around which your research revolves.

Highlight the potential implications and significance of your research

To conclude your Background of the Study, it's essential to highlight the potential implications and significance of your work. Here's how to do it effectively:

  • Start by providing a clear explanation of your research's potential implications. This could relate to the advancement of theoretical knowledge or practical applications in the real world.
  • Discuss the importance of your research within the context of your field. How does it contribute to the existing body of knowledge? Does it challenge current theories or practices?
  • Highlight how your research could influence future studies. Could it open new avenues of inquiry? Does it suggest a need for further research in certain areas?
  • Finally, consider the practical applications of your research. How could your findings be used in policy-making, business strategies, educational practices, or other real-world scenarios?
  • Always keep in mind that demonstrating the broader impact of your research increases its relevance and appeal to a wider audience, extending beyond the immediate academic circle.

Following these guidelines can help you effectively highlight the potential implications and significance of your research, thereby strengthening the impact of your study.

Practical tips for writing the background of the study

Keeping the section concise and focused

Maintain clarity and brevity in your writing. While you need to provide sufficient detail to set the stage for your research, avoid unnecessary verbosity. Stay focused on the main aspects related to your research problem, its context, and your study's contribution.

Ensuring the background aligns with your research questions or hypotheses

Ensure a clear connection between your background and your research questions or hypotheses. Your problem statement, review of relevant literature, theoretical framework, and the identified gap in research should logically lead to your research questions or hypotheses.

Citing your sources correctly

Always attribute the ideas, theories, and research findings of others appropriately to avoid plagiarism. Correct citation not only upholds academic integrity but also allows your readers to access your sources if they wish to explore them in depth. The citation style may depend on your field of study or the requirements of the journal or institution.

Bridging the gap between existing research and your study

Identify the gap in existing research that your study aims to fill and make it explicit. Show how your research questions or hypotheses emerged from this identified gap. This helps to position your research within the broader academic conversation and highlights the unique contribution of your study.

Avoiding excessive jargon

While technical terms are often unavoidable in academic writing, use them sparingly and make sure to define any necessary jargon for your reader. Your Background of the Study should be understandable to people outside your field as well. This will increase the accessibility and impact of your research.

Common mistakes to avoid while writing the background of the study

Being overly verbose or vague

While it's important to provide sufficient context, avoid being overly verbose in your descriptions. Also, steer clear of vague or ambiguous phrases. The Background of the Study should be clear, concise, and specific, giving the reader a precise understanding of the study's purpose and context.

Failing to relate the background to the research problem

The entire purpose of the Background of the Study is to set the stage for your research problem. If it doesn't directly relate to your problem statement, research questions, or hypotheses, it may confuse the reader. Always ensure that every element of the background ties back to your study.

Neglecting to mention important related studies

Not mentioning significant related studies is another common mistake. The Background of the Study section should give a summary of the existing literature related to your research. Omitting key pieces of literature can give the impression that you haven't thoroughly researched the topic.

Overusing technical jargon without explanation

While certain technical terms may be necessary, overuse of jargon can make your paper inaccessible to readers outside your immediate field. If you need to use technical terms, make sure you define them clearly. Strive for clarity and simplicity in your writing as much as possible.

Not citing sources or citing them incorrectly

Academic integrity is paramount in research writing. Ensure that every idea, finding, or theory that is not your own is properly attributed to its original source. Neglecting to cite, or citing incorrectly, can lead to accusations of plagiarism and can discredit your research. Always follow the citation style guide relevant to your field.


Writing an effective Background of the Study is a critical step in crafting a compelling research paper. It serves to contextualize your research, highlight its significance, and present the problem your study seeks to address. Remember, your background should provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of research, identify gaps in existing literature, and indicate how your research will fill these gaps. Keep your writing concise, focused, and jargon-free, making sure to correctly cite all sources. Avoiding common mistakes and adhering to the strategies outlined in this post will help you develop a robust and engaging background for your study. As you embark on your research journey, remember that the Background of the Study sets the stage for your entire research project, so investing time and effort into crafting it effectively will undoubtedly pay dividends in the end.

Header image by Flamingo Images.

Get in-depth guidance delivered right to your inbox.