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In academic writing, the introduction and thesis statement form the foundation of your paper.
Identify elements of a successful introduction
Writing in the social sciences should adopt an objective style without figurative and emotional language. Be detailed; remain focused on your topic; be precise; and use jargon only when writing for a specialist audience.
In the social sciences, an introduction should succinctly present these five points: the topic, the question, the importance of the question, your approach to the question, and your answer to the question.
A thesis statement is a brief summary of your paper's purpose and your central claim. The thesis statement should be one to three sentences in length, depending on the complexity of your paper, and it should appear in your introduction.
The introduction can be the most challenging part of a paper, since many writers struggle with where to start. It helps to have already settled on a thesis. If you're feeling daunted, you can sometimes write the other sections of the paper first. Then, when you've organized the main ideas in the body, you can work "backward" to explain your topic and thesis clearly in the first paragraph.
Present Main Ideas
The introduction to a social-science paper should succinctly present the main ideas. The goal of the introduction is to convince the reader that you have a valid answer to an important question. In order to do that, make sure your introduction covers these five points: the topic, the question, the importance of the question, your approach to the question, and your answer to the question.
Structuring Your Ideas
A popular introduction structure is the concept-funnel—begin with general information about your topic, narrow the focus and provide context, and end by distilling your paper's specific approach. As you move from general background information to the specifics of your project, try to create a road map for your paper. Mirror the structure of the paper itself, explaining how each piece fits into the bigger picture. It is usually best to write the introduction after you have made significant progress with your research, experiment, or dataanalysis to ensure you have enough information to write an accurate overview.
Papers in the sciences generally aim for an objective voice and stay close to the facts. However, you have a bit more freedom at the beginning of the introduction, and you can take advantage of that freedom by finding a surprising, high-impact way to highlight your issue's importance. Here are some effective strategies for opening a paper:
Make a provocative or controversial statement
State a surprising or little-known fact
Make a case for your topic's relevance to the reader
Stake a position for yourself within an ongoing debate
Talk about a challenging problem or paradox
After you engage your reader's attention with the opening, make a case for the importance of your topic and question. Here are some questions that may help at this stage: Why did you choose this topic? Should the general public or your academic discipline be more aware of this issue, and why? Are you calling attention to an underappreciated issue, or evaluating a widely acknowledged issue in a new light? How does the issue affect you, if at all?
A thesis statement is a brief summary of your paper's purpose and central claim. The thesis statement should be one to three sentences, depending on the complexity of your paper, and should appear in your introduction. A thesis statement in the social sciences should include your principal findings and conclusions. If writing about an experiment, it should also include your initial hypothesis. While there is no hard-and-fast rule about where to state your thesis, it usually fits naturally at or near the end of the introductory paragraph (not later than the very beginning of the second paragraph). The introduction should provide a rationale for your approach to your research question, and it will be easier to follow your reasoning if you reveal what you did before you explain why you did it.
Your thesis is only valid if it is testable. Testability is an extension of falsifiability, a principle indicating that a claim can be proven either true or false. The statement, "all Swedish people have blonde hair" is falsifiable—it could be proven false by identifying a Swede with a different hair color. For a hypothesis to be testable, it must be possible to conduct experiments that could reveal observable counterexamples. This is the equivalent of the principle in the humanities that a claim is only valid if someone could also reasonably argue against it.
Thesis Statements to Avoid
The statement without a thesis: A statement of a fact, opinion, or topic is not a thesis. Push the thesis statement beyond the level of a topic statement, and make an argument.
The vague thesis: If your thesis statement is too general, it will not provide a "road map" for readers.
The "value judgment" thesis: Your argument should not assume a universal, self-evident set of values. Value-judgment-based arguments tend to have the structure "$x$ is bad; $y$ is good," or "$x$ is better than $y$." "Good," "bad," "better," and "worse" are vague terms that do not convey enough information for academic arguments. In academic writing, it is inappropriate to assume that your reader will know exactly what you mean when you make an overly general claim. The burden of proof, and thorough explanation, is on you.
The oversized thesis claim. There is only so much material you can cover within a page limit, so make sure your topic is focused enough that you can do it justice. Also, avoid arguments that require evidence you do not have. There are some arguments that require a great deal of research to prove—only tackle these topics if you have the time, space, and resources.
"The Cain Project in Engineering and Professional Communication, Three Modules on Clear Writing Style: An Introduction to The Craft of Argument, by Joseph M. Williams and Gregory Colomb. September 17, 2013."