Writing tip of the week

by Harriet Castor

Writing Tip of the Week – from Harriet, Royal Literary Fund Writing Fellow in the Department of Arts & Cultural Industries

If you’re having trouble knowing what to write in the introduction of your essay or assignment, this may be because you’re not very clear on what an introduction is for. Introductions might seem like mysterious things – but they’re not. They have 2 main tasks to fulfil:

  1. To give the reader any information that’s needed in order to understand the question or the essay.
  2. To give the reader a ‘route map’ for the journey you’ll be taking them on.

Let’s start with the first point. Are there any terms in the essay question that need to be defined? Do you need to give some background to set the scene for your argument? (For example, has the topic been a controversial issue for a long time?) Have a think about why you have been asked this particular question, and why it is important. Remember, though, to keep any scene-setting brief (if it really can’t be kept brief, it will need to become a section in the main body of the essay).

Now let’s look at the second point. Giving the reader a ‘route map’ means telling them what you are going to do in the essay and how you are going to do it. In order to answer the essay question, what aspects of the subject will you focus on? What specific points will you be considering along the way?  Be clear and precise, and let the reader know what to expect.

There is an optional third task for an introduction. It can say what you are going to argue – in other words, what your viewpoint is. Do you think it’s more effective to make your view clear upfront, or to state it as your argument develops? This is up to you.

Focus on these two (or three) tasks, and writing your introduction should become a whole lot more straightforward!

If you’d like to book a confidential one-to-one session with me to work on your writing skills, please email Harriet.Castor@uwe.ac.uk  I’m at Frenchay on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.


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