A template for university essay introductions

An article in the Guardian entitled How to write better essays: ‘nobody does introductions properly’ has, toward the end, a template for any essay that produces an ideal introduction in under 100 words.  I was not convinced.  He says:

Introductions are the easiest things in the world to get right and nobody does it properly,” Squirrel says. “It should be ‘Here is the argument I am going to make, I am going to substantiate this with three or four strands of argumentation, drawing upon these theorists, who say these things, and I will conclude with some thoughts on this area and how it might clarify our understanding of this phenomenon.’ You should be able to encapsulate it in 100 words or so. That’s literally it.

I was going to strongly disagree and came up with an example to prove it, but failed.  I took his template:

Here is the argument I am going to make, I am going to substantiate this with three or four strands of argumentation, drawing upon these theorists, who say these things, and I will conclude with some thoughts on this area and how it might clarify our understanding of this phenomenon.

and tried turning it into a very simple (and silly) introduction to prove it cannot be done in 100 words:

I am going to argue that in visual perception black is actually white.  I am going to substantiate this with the claims that black is black, white is white and in between are shades of grey.  I am going to refer to Tom, Dick and Harry who say black is dark, white is light and there is a sliding scale between them.  I will conclude with some thoughts on how reading 50 Shades of Grey will pass some time but it will not clarify our understanding of optical perception in humans.

But that’s only 91 words.  He might actually be right.  His template might be a good one.

Oops, I forgot the “Never use the first person” rule that applies in some subjects.  Second attempt:

This essay argues that rodents in the visual media don’t always like aged pressed milk curds.  This will substantiated with examples from old cartoons, feature films and modern digital cinematography, drawing on productions by Fred Quimby, Walt Disney and Pixar.  Their works demonstrate titbit-laden mousetraps, no dairy products and toy rodents who don’t eat at all.  The essay will conclude that it depends on context but that there is an age to cheesiness correlation, and it might be worth watching some Dreamworks videos for further research.

How’s that for a comprehensive media studies TMA introduction in 86 words?

I’m convinced.  What do you think of this method?

13 thoughts on “A template for university essay introductions

  1. Feedback on an introduction written in the above style on an essay from my university tutor:
    “Interesting opening I look forward to reading on…”

  2. A327, TMA04.

    “This essay explores how far change has occurred in religion in Western Europe in the context of secularisation and in the post-war modernising period of 1945 to 1968. It will consider changes in German religious political activity, the Catholic Church’s involvement in state activity, Dutch social ‘pillarisation’, the sexual liberation of the 1960s and the Vatican’s response, personal belief and how the Catholic Church has responded to modernisation. It draws on the theories of Steve Bruce, Callum Brown, Grace Davie and Clive Field who say modernisation led to secularisation, that religion was in crisis, that people still believe even though they do not show it and that what change there has been has actually been gradual. It concludes that religion changes with society and church attendance may yet return to previous numbers.”

    132 words.

  3. DD301, TMA01:

    “This essay will argue global relations have had no positive influence regarding opiate production or distribution. It will examine the impact of the war on drugs on illegal opiate distribution, the unfair distribution of medicinal opiates, monopolistic practices of developed nations, how illegal opiate production is considered criminal and the outcomes of these activities. It will conclude the war on drugs as an experiment in using global relations to influence opiate production and distribution appears to have been a complete failure.”

    81 words.

  4. DD301, TMA02:

    “This essay argues that conventional criminology would be substantially enhanced by extending it to consider social harm rather than just law-breaking, albeit with some problems remaining. This will be substantiated by drawing on the theories of Becker, Whyte, Tombs, Hillyard and others to argue ‘crime’ is a poor definition of wrong-doing and that those in power manipulate the law and even criminology for their own benefit and protection. It concludes by highlighting a potentially significant flaw in criminological theory whereby it relies on state violence for its underpinning rather than human rights.”

    92 words.

  5. DD301, TMA05:

    “This essay explores ‘trading criminal justice for peace’ and will argue that criminal justice is not necessarily the best tool for managing conflict in society, substantiating this using the Northern Ireland peace process as a case study. It draws on evidence and theories from Quinney, Reiman & Leighton, Green & Ward, Hillyard & Tombs and others who say laws exist to maintain the social order, the criminal justice system gives the state impunity, criminology should consider human rights and social harm is a better measure of injustice than illegality. It will conclude that a new ‘state criminology’ is required regarding harms from violent national conflict.”

    105 words. Marker’s comment on the introduction: “Clear direction √”

    Best essay mark ever.

  6. MA, Research Proposal:

    “This research proposal suggests an investigation into the value or otherwise of a UK Minister for Peace for the UK and globally. It will consider this using existing political literature, documented debates on the subject, current political party activity and values, by considering the effect of similar roles elsewhere in the world both currently or historically and relating this to practices in international affairs and irenology (peace studies). It will draw on the theories of Adam Curle, Johan Galtung, Kumar Rupesinghe and John Paul Lederach who wrote on conflict transformation, structural violence, conflict resolution, peace-building, harmonious coexistence within globalisation and mediation in international relations. It will conclude with what appears to be possible and worthwhile of such a role and make suggestions of how best to implement the office in practice. The output will take the form of a 20,000 word dissertation.”

    142 words. Merit.

  7. MA, PPR.430 Theory and Concepts in Diplomacy and Foreign Policy:

    “This essay argues the Invasion of Iraq in 2003, or Second Gulf War, was a failure of professional diplomacy to influence the method of implementation of combined USA and UK foreign policy by allowing the means to be dictated rather than the objectives. It substantiates this with arguments from diplomats, military analysts and political researchers who say war had already been decided upon outside of democratic circles, that professional advice was being disregarded, the wishes of the UN were evaded, public diplomacy was used to disseminate false arguments and the motivations were not necessarily in the national interests. It concludes with the suggestion professional diplomats be more forceful with determining how foreign policy is formed.”

    115 words. Merit.

  8. MA, PPR.431 Issues and Practice in Diplomacy and Foreign Policy:

    “This essay argues the ‘global South’ label is an ‘othering’ of weaker nations by the global power elite to maintain the status quo, drawing on writing from Esteva, Escobar, Doty, Morphet and Cooper & Fues to substantiate that with claims the United Nations was formed with inherent North/South division, that development has bettered the North at the expense of harming the South, that even with collaboration the South is weaker than the North and the fastest developing nations are ambiguous in their intentions concluding that even if the most powerful developing countries are capable and permitted to join the elite, the situation may not change for the weaker nations.”

    109 words. Merit. Although I think the marker did not like this introduction going by his scribbles, underlining and arrows and comments on it. Oops.

  9. MA, PPR.563 Media Religion and Politics:

    “This essay argues the media creates artificial division in society to generate outrage to serve its own banal end of creating content for consumers. It substantiates this by examining how remembrance in Britain has changed in the last century from grieving memorial to poppy-worship, drawing on the theories of Hjarvard, Strömbäck and Couldry who say the media has become an institution in its own right and others must mediatise to engage with it. It concludes with how the media can use controversy to control political debate at the highest levels.”

    90 words. Distinction!

  10. MA, PPR.420 Conflict Management and Contemporary Conflicts:

    “This essay argues that the British government’s repeated varied attempts at applying consociationalism to tackle the sectarian violence in Northern Ireland is gradually having success, substantiated with a brief summary of causes of and interventions in The Troubles and examining some power-sharing theory. It draws on the writings of Wilford, Anderson & Goodman, Hayes & McAllister, Lijphart, Bew and others who say consociationalism is unsuitable for Northern Ireland, that it will make the divisions worse, that the public need to be more involved, plus contrasting optimistic outlooks, and concluding that this experience is valuable.”

    94 words. Good distinction!

  11. I need to to thank you for this excellent read!! I absolutely loved every bit of it. I have got you bookmarked to look at new stuff you post…

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