A 5-Step Guide to Writing Intoductions
I get it, writing an introduction is friggin’ hard. Just as in real life, the first impressions you make in an essay are so important and basically the introduction will set the tone for everything that follows!
This is something we were discussing today in class and I thought a lot of it would be very useful so I decided to share it (#yourewelcome). Basically one of the assignments for our main class is to write an abstract which will essentially be the introduction to our dissertations. We were told what sort of format it should take and just reading through the different points it should cover, I thought it would make a very strong introduction for any topic!
Basically, we were told that writing is like a funnel - you should start with the broadest idea and get more specific throughout your work. So, an ideal introduction should be quite broad - but it should also highlight some of the specific things you’re going to write about in your essay.
So here are the 5 steps as promised:
- Opening premise - this should be a broad statement that is difficult to disagree with. We were given the example of ‘Intertextuality is central to the production and reception of translations.’ Can’t really disagree with that now, huh. (That’s written by Lawrence Venuti, btw - the rest of this is further down the post).
- Problematic - what problems arise from that opening statement? What are the main issues in the field? Have there been any recent (relevant!) developments?
- Research questions/purpose - what questions are you hoping to answer? What is the purpose of your essay/work? This is where the general ‘In this essay I’m going to…’ phrase comes in - this should be a statement of specific purpose that also demonstrates how relevant your main argument is in relation to the field mentioned in 1. Although please don’t actually say ‘In this essay I’m going to’. Please???
- Method - how are you going to answer those questions? Are you going to look at a particular example or case?
- References - this overlaps with number 4 a little. Basically, are there any particular texts, authors or works that you’re going to be referring to?
The basic way of wording all this, however, is what > why > how. Simple as that. 4-5 can blend together and they are less important depending on your level in the education system. These two points though can just be something as simple as the book that you’re going to discuss in a literature essay for English class.
Here’s the rest of the Venuti text, so you can (hopefully!) see these steps more clearly:
Intertextuality is central to the production and reception of translations. Yet the possibility of translating most foreign intertexts with any completeness or precision is so limited as to be virtually nonexistent. As a result, they are usually replaced by analogous but ultimately different intertextual relations in the receiving language. The creation of a receiving intertext permits a translation to be read with comprehension by translating-language readers. It also results in a disjunction between the foreign and translated texts, a proliferation of linguistic and cultural differences that are at once interpretive and interrogative. Intertextuality enables and complicates translation, preventing it from being an untroubled communication and opening the translated text to interpretive possibilities that vary with cultural constituencies in the receiving situation. To activate these possibilities and at the same time improve the study and practice of translation, we must work to theorize the relative autonomy of the translated text and increase the self-consciousness of translators and readers of translations alike.
To explore these ideas, I will discuss three cases: Rossella Bernascone’s 1989 Italian version of David Mamet’s play Sexual Perversity in Chicago; Kate Soper’s 1976 English version of Sebastiano Timpanaro’s study, Il lapsus freudiano. Psicanalisi e critica testuale (The Freudian Slip); and my own 2004 English version of Melissa P.’s fictionalized memoir, 100 colpi di spazzola prima di andare a dormire (100 Strokes of the Brush before Bed). The discussion makes use of a number of theorists, notably Ezra Pound and Philip Lewis.
Other pro tips:
- Sometimes it can be useful to write an introduction when you have finished writing the main bulk of the essay - that way when you say ‘I’m going to write about xyz..’ you know for a fact that you’ve actually written about said things.
- Your introduction should somehow match with your conclusion. Copy & paste these into a separate document from the rest of your essay and compare/contrast the both. Make changes as necessary
- Sometimes you have an original thought in the conclusion of an essay - put that in your introduction!
I hope this helps at least one person out there! And, as per, my ask box is always open for questions/suggestions!