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Preparing to Write An Introduction
Author: ADMIN (ukstudent at gmail dot com)
Published: Thu, 13-Nov-2008
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Preparing to Write An Introduction. Article by Writer\'s Web

While it is impossible to provide advice for every academic subject and every professor\'s \"pet peeves,\" the advice that follows should assist students preparing papers for many general assignments. Writers should always speak to professors about personal likes/dislikes, and the conventions of the field of study.

The tutors and Writing Fellows who helped make up this list agree that, in general, these techniques hold true for many courses and assignments.

Types of introductions to avoid:

The Dictionary Definition: Many papers begin \"Webster\'s defines X as...\" and then continue to discuss the topic. This type of introduction has become very stale with faculty, who have seen it thousands of times.

The \"Cinema scope\" Intro: These often crop up in introductory history classes. Avoid sweeping panoramas such as \"Throughout the march of history, one thing has been true...\" or \"Many novels have considered the ways in which good people become corrupted by money.\"

Cutting to the Chase too Quickly: It is too easy to go too far while avoiding overly general introductions. Avoid jumping right into a thesis statement and do not try to cover every topic in the first paragraph. It is difficult to say how specific to be in an introduction, but consider the idea that this part of a paper provides \"the lay of the land\" for a reader who will then know why the paper is worth finishing.

Memorable Quotations: Some faculty do not like papers to start with another\'s words. This overused strategy may be acceptable if a direct quotation sets the stage for what follows and its relevance is discussed in the introduction.

Other flaws common to introductions:

The \"telegraphic\" sentence: Here a writer uses the first person to tell a reader what is going to happen. We have all seen this pattern:

\"This essay will consider the development of communism in South-East Asia after 1960. My thesis is. . . \"

Academic writing tends to adopt a more subtle approach, as in the revised example:

\" Communism gained ground in South-East Asia after 1960 for several reasons. In the countryside, one particularly interesting development . . . \"

Good ideas for introductions:

Orienting readers to your topic: Some faculty members will urge you to \"dive right into\" the paper. This can lead to trouble, if the reader does not know why you are beginning where you do.

Testing the introduction: An introduction is a great test for the writer--it maps the rest of the paper and will quickly show whether the topic is covering too much ground.

When you write the introduction, imagine yourself as the reader. If you had not read the paper before, what would you expect next, given what you have already read? Are there topics in the essay that are not briefly mentioned in the introduction? If so, include a mention of these topics.

Focusing the introduction: The goals just mentioned could, if abused, lead you to write an introduction that is pages and pages long. Remember, the introduction should not contain every bit of detail you have in the paper, and it should not include support for a thesis (save that for the body of the paper). An introduction might, however, include the reasons for supporting the thesis as you do.

Example of a focused introduction that orients its readers:

For decades, analysts of American foreign policy have debated the victories that communist insurgents operating in Southeast Asia enjoyed in the 1960s and 70s. One by one, it seemed to observers in the mid 70s, the nations known then as \"the Asian Dominoes\" were turning communist, even after the United States and France had fought costly wars to prevent that very outcome. Today, as communist governments have either fallen or moderated their policies, in hindsight we reconsider what role our foreign policy played in earlier successes against America and its allies. Many reasons exist for the dominance of communism in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Laos, but a few ideas bear close examination. In the countryside, one particularly interesting development was the way in which the insurgents, and not America and its allies, were able to gain the cooperation of villagers. With the countryside in the hands of the insurgents, it was never possible for the American-supported regimes to retain control of their nations.

A reader now \"expects\" the paper to talk about the rural areas and the ways in which the insurgents\' tactics worked successfully there. Were the essay to include discussions of the antiwar protests in the US, Japan\'s occupation of Vietnam in the 1940s, or the role of US air power in the Vietnam war, the reader would be surprised. Were the writer to try to cover all those in the introduction and then write a paper on the topic, the paper would be huge--it would be best to pick one aspect of the war (such as the communists\' work in the countryside) and stick to it.

Copyright for this article belongs to Writer\'s Web

This document was re-printed with the kind permission of Joe Essid. Original Source of the article is located here: http://writing2.richmond.edu/writing/wweb/intros.html

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