The introduction is the broad beginning of the paper that answers three important questions:
- What is this?
- Why am I reading it?
- What do you want me to do?
For a paper less than 5 pages, it should be a paragraph. For a paper between 5-10 pages, it can be as long as the first page. For an even longer paper, an introduction can be a couple of pages, and will often have its own section heading.
In a good introduction, you should answer these three questions by doing the following:
- Set the context – provide general information about the main idea, explaining the situation so the reader can make sense of the topic and the questions you will ask
- State why the main idea is important – tell the reader why s/he should care and keep reading. Your goal is to create a compelling, clear, and educational essay people will want to read and act upon
- State your research goals – compose a sentence or two that clearly communicate what you want you hope to discover, why you are interested in the topic, or where your idea for the essay came from. You might also include an overview of the types of sources you explored, the methods of research you engaged in, or particular sources you found inspiring.
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