The Introduction: How do I start this thing?

Writing the introduction to your thesis can feel difficult. You want to grab the reader’s attention, set up your big question or driving purpose, and sound academic all at the same time. You want to give enough info about your topic without giving everything away.  So how do you do it?

I recommend writing the introduction after you’ve shaped the other parts of the proposal.  You’ll have a better grasp on the literature and understand how your project fits in.  It will also seem less daunting.

Some Approaches for the Introduction
I will use media representations of breastfeeding as the sample topic to show different approaches.

  • An event related to your thesis topic or that spurred the inspiration for your topic “In 2012, hundreds of mothers gathered on the lawn of Capitol Hill for the Great Nurse-In, a rally to celebrate breastfeeding.”
  • Legislation that dramatically impacts your thesis topic.                                                  “A mother’s right to breastfeed in public is protected by law in 49 states.”
  • Statistics about your thesis topic.                                                                                      “Although 81.1% of  U.S. women attempt to breastfeed, only 44.4% are exclusively nursing at three months.”
  • An example from news or entertainment on your topic–USE THIS SPARINGLY IF YOUR THESIS ANALYZES MEDIA (more below).                                                              “In the Game of Thrones episode “The Wolf and the Lion,” Lady Lysa Arryn openly nurses her school-age son, a groundbreaking moment due to the visual aesthetics and child’s age.”

Avoid These Pitfalls

  • Using cheesy generalized expressions “Since the dawn of time, women have been breastfeeding.”
  • Writing your introduction like an abstract “This study explores media representations of breastfeeding”–You will make a statement like this, but not yet. Introduce your topic first.
  • Describing your stream of consciousness and/or writing informally “When I think of breastfeeding in the media, I wonder. . . .”
  • Using media examples from your primary sources–i.e. for a study on TV’s representations of breastfeeding, I would not start the thesis with the Game of Thrones reference above.
  • Taking too much space to get to your statement of purpose.  The introduction should be concise and used as a stepping stone to the heart of your thesis.

It’s fine to try out a few approaches. When I wrote my dissertation, I had several files with different openings.  Remember, your introduction can change as you move from the proposal to the thesis.

Good luck!

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