What makes a good scholarly introduction?

Over the past two or three weeks I’ve been musing about what makes a good introduction for an academic essay as it’s a frequent question raised in the Library. Although there does appear to be variations according to the subject an academic is writing about, be it marketing, events or entrepreneurship, there might be a standard formula for this regular conundrum. From my observations, an introduction seems to generally consist of: an overview sentence which outlines the breadth of the article (1st sentence ); further explanation (2nd); an example or case study (3rd); further explanation (4th) and scholarly debate (5th +) which indexes various topics / theories to academic publications, but not going into any depth. On the 6th + sentence the author then announces what they are going to investigate, and may raise questions at this stage before dissecting themes in the main body…An introduction generally covers the breadth of the article in the shortest possible word limit, meaning that some articles are packed full of references where the academic (s) have simply linked / referenced ideas which they will go into greater detail later.

The University of Warwick‘s Centre for Applied Linguistics  goes further by explaining the ingredients of a good introduction, and that it’s vital to make a good impression. Trzeciak and Mackay’s (1994) Study Skills for Academic Writing (English for Academic Study) identified a number of ‘ingredients’ of an introduction, but it’s not always necessary to to include all of them, but a combination of some will be useful to introduce an academic argument.

  • a statement of the importance of the subject
  • mention of previous work on the subject
  • a justification for dealing with the subject
  • a statement of your objectives
  • a statement of the limitations of the work
  • a mention of some of the differing viewpoints on the subject
  • a definition of the topic being discussed

For those wishing to learn more, Trzeciak & MacKay’s Study skills for academic writing Student’s book is available at Call no: 428.343 stu in the Library on the 1st floor.