What better topic for our first blog post than that of introductions? In theory, introductions should be relatively straightforward to draft: their function is simply to outline the structure of your text and the main ideas presented within. Why, then, are they often so challenging to write?
In academic writing, we know that our ideas may change as we conduct further research and deepen our understanding of a topic. This makes it challenging to write a convincing introduction at the beginning of the essay-writing process, and ideally, we will remain flexible and tweak our introductions as our essays evolve in their arguments and content.
The introduction is also our first opportunity to impress our reader, who might be another researcher, a supervisor, or even a publisher. In this case, it is important to craft an introduction which is functional, but not repetitive or which has redundant information. For instance, I often read a variation of the phrase,
Part 1 is an introduction, which introduces…
This is accurate and useful, but stylistically clumsy. Of course part 1 is your introduction – your reader already expects this! How, then, can we express the same idea in a more accomplished tone? Let’s take a look…
Part 1 introduces the existing research which has already been conducted into…
Although we often prefer to use noun forms in academic writing, here we have used the verb form introduces to avoid the obvious statement, ‘Part 1 is an introduction…’.
Following the introduction, part 2 will explain how a research sample was chosen.
Your reader understands that part 1 will come first, so it’s perfectly acceptable to simply cut it from our introductory paragraph.
The introduction of part 1 elaborates the key factors which have contributed to this growing issue.
If you are determined to include the phrases ‘Part 1’ and ‘introduction’ in the same sentence, this is a stylish way to do so. Note that I’ve also used the synonym elaborates instead of repeating introduces.
The first section introduces the background of the 2013 curriculum, and its main values.
Again, here we’ve used a synonym to avoid repetition, this time substituting ‘The first section’ for ‘Part 1’.
It’s a useful exercise to read the introductions of the academic texts you read critically, and ask yourself:
- how the author has avoided repetition
- what information they have included in this section, and
- if there are any key ideas which they haven’t included in the introduction but which can be found in the main body of the text, and why this might be.
Do you find writing introductions challenging? What is your advice for writing an effective academic introduction? Let me know in the comments!