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Anxious gatekeeping

Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Tasks for an Introduction

1) Introduce the topic. What is the subject matter being treated here? I like to do that in the very first sentence rather than starting out with a kind of vague generality that some undergraduates favor. "People have always fallen in love."

2) Provide necessary background information. When was the novel published? What other information is necessary to understand the argument?

3) Frame the debate by identifying a critical problem. Your approach to the topic differs from previous ones. You have to set forward a framework for the discussion of the topic. Theory enters here.

4) Put forward a thesis: a distinctive idea emerging from the way you have framed the problem.

5) Tell us what you will do in the paper.

You can use anywhere between 1 and 5 paragraphs to accomplish these tasks. (5) can be implicit if you want to avoid excessive signposts. The reader should know what the paper is going to do one way or another.

Once you get into paragraph 6 or 7 you might be putting into the introduction material that belongs more properly to the body of the paper. My first published article, in one of its earlier drafts, had a ten page introduction followed by a ten page body.

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