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Compass-vs Professional introductory paragraphs

Study the following examples of successful introductions. What do they have in common? Consider especially:

  1. The way the first sentence gives an overall view of the topic and/or demonstrates knowledge and authority
  2. The placing of the thesis statement or question, at the end of the paragraph
  3. The way in which 1 leads to 2.

See below for a commentary to help you understand how this all works.

Habermas, the Public Sphere, and Democracy: A Critical Intervention
 Douglas Kellner


Jurgen Habermas's The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere is an immensely rich and influential book that has had major impact in a variety of disciplines. It has also received detailed critique and promoted extremely productive discussions of liberal democracy, civil society, public life, and social changes in the twentieth century, among other issues. Few books of the second half of the twentieth century have been so seriously discussed in so many different fields and continue, almost forty years after its initial publication in 1962, to generate such productive controversy and insight. While Habermas's thought took several crucial philosophical twists and turns after the publication of his first major book, he has himself provided detailed commentary on Structural Transformation in the 1990s and returned to issues of the public sphere and democratic theory in his monumental work Between Facts and Norms. Hence, concern with the public sphere and the necessary conditions for a genuine democracy can be seen as a central theme of Habermas's work that deserves respect and critical scrutiny.


Changing literacies in the knowledge-based economy
David Barton


The term ‘knowledge-based economy’ serves as shorthand for a range of interconnected factors and changes which are transforming many aspects of contemporary life. One area which is in an ongoing process of change is that of literacies and communicative practices. As Lankshear and Knobel (2003) point out, changes in the substance and character of literacies have occurred in recent years, associated with changes in technology, institutions, media, the economy, and general processes of globalisation. In this paper, I shall discuss a range of questions related to these issues. Firstly, in what ways are literacies really changing in the so-called knowledge-based economy? And if they are, what are the implications of this change?


Richard Hoggart: Literacy and the Media, then and now
John Hodgson


In 1954, Dr H.M. King, a past president of the National Union of Teachers, spoke in the debate on the Queen’s Speech. King feared that the easy attractions of the “television, the film and the comic strip” might allow mankind “to slip back into a state where there are more illiterates than literates”. Richard Hoggart took up this concern with the effect of mass popular culture in his 1957 book The Uses of Literacy. Hoggart went on to found, with Stuart Hall, the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, which laid much of the theoretical ground for Media Studies as it exists today. Hoggart was always ambivalent about mass culture, and The Uses of Literacy anticipates many contemporary debates about literacy, media and cultural quality.



The third introductory paragraph above is from a published paper by me, John Hodgson, and so I feel confident in explaining how it works.

The first sentence starts the paper in quite a striking way. It suggests that something significant happened that was important in relation to the overall topic of the paper. The second sentence explains what this was: that Dr King expressed concern about the effect of television, films and comics on the literacy of the British people. This is both interesting (because we still have such debates today) and, most importantly, it suggests that I've done my research and know what I'm talking about. In other words, it makes me sound like an authority on the subject. This is one of the main purposes of the introduction: to give the reader confidence in the writer. I continued to give grounds for confidence by showing my historical knowledge of the Birmingham Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies. Then the last sentence of the introductory paragraph indicates my thesis. I will be writing about the way in which Hoggart's book anticipates contemporary debates about literacy, media and cultural policy. My thesis has three parts (debates about literacy, media, and culture) which makes the direction of the essay clear to the reader and will help me to write it in a logical manner, dealing with each of these aspects in turn.


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