maandag 27 mei 2013

Beginning at the beginning

Last Friday we set out for another walk. This time we did not head off to Breukelen, but to a place called the Zaanse Schans.

Compared to Breukelen it has even more and even prettier "typically Dutch" windmills. 

But this was not our topic of conversation. We talked about beginnings. And these were our questions:

How to start?

The introduction of a paper/article/chapter is crucial. The first sentences set the tone. They frame what is to come afterwards. And they might decide whether a reader lays to the side the paper or actually continues reading.

So, how to start a paper or chapter? How to write the introduction?

Take the paper/chapter you are working on at the moment with its topic, material and argument.

How do you plan to start the paper?

What might be a good first sentence? And more generally, how do you introduce the topic?

Do you begin with the case? A general problem? A puzzle? A gap in the literature?

What do you give away in the beginning? What do you need to spare for later?

Have you thought about possible alternatives for this paper/chapter? What else might work?

And how have others solved these problems? How did the introductions of the articles you have read recently look like? Can you remember introductions that were in some way or another extraordinary? What made them particularly seductive, interesting, memorable?