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.
Some Basic Guidelines Read the rest of this entry »
I am hoping that at this point, you all are working on (at least) your first draft of your papers. We have addressed some of the frustrations about writing in earlier posts, so for this week, I am going to post instead one of my favorite pieces of writing by Anne LaMott titled “Shitty First Drafts” from her book on writing, Bird by Bird. I think there is something reassuring about knowing that even people who write for a living, and who have been writing for decades, still feel anxiety and frustration while they are writing. Whenever I get really stuck or frustrated with my own writing, I find re-reading this brief excerpt really helps.
Shitty First Drafts
The easiest way for me to think about incorporating quotes into my own writing is to imagine each paragraph as a sandwich. It is kind of a goofy image, but it is an easy one to help you remember all the key elements that you need to include in a good paragraph.
Depending on the type of essay, you get to make your own fancy sandwiches and they can be any kind that you want, but they usually have the same basic elements that contribute to good writing. There are a lot of fun, stylistic ways to adapt the basics to your particular topic, audience and preference. Read the rest of this entry »
This is the third in a series of posts aimed at helping you through the process of writing your research papers. Read the first on creating an argument here. Read the second on using good research well here. I have already addressed forming your arguments and using good research well in previous posts. This post will be focused on easing some of your drafting anxieties.
Tip #3. Research papers take time
A number of you have expressed anxiety about how you aren’t clear on your argument yet or you are still struggling to make all the pieces fit together. This is TOTALLY normal and to be expected. At this point in the process, you are likely trying to refine your own argument, pick out primary texts, locate secondary texts, read those sources and incorporate them into you argument, while choosing which parts of those sources should be included in your paper and how to balance them with your own ideas and the information from your primary texts. Whew. Here are a couple of tips for you to cope with some of this juggling act. Read the rest of this entry »
“She was killed [by zombies.]” <—- Makes sense? Yes. It’s passive voice.
“Zombies killed [by zombies] her.” <—- Makes sense? No. It’s active voice.
(In honor of Spring Break, this grammar post is both short and sweet. Enjoy!)