Provide thesis and forecasting statements in the introduction to help busy readers focus.
Approximately 100,000 books and millions of journal articles are published each year in the United States (see Bowker Annual). Digital Archivists estimate the size of the Deep Web at over 7.5 billion documents. The Internet Archive has archived 10 billion pages of the Open Web–over 100 terabytes of information. Now that the Internet has made it possible for just about anyone to publish and potentially reach millions of readers, we are truly overwhelmed by information.
Hook Your Readers – Get to the Point!
Accordingly, writers are under increasing pressure to get to the point, to grab the prospective reader’s attention and deliver the goods. In many writing contexts, across genres, readers expect writers to define the purpose, organization, and significance of a document in a thesis statement that is provided in the introduction. As a result, most documents follow a deductive organization in which the authors make a general statement and then support it with specific examples. In other words, writers summarize their thesis and often forecast how they’ve organized a document. Here, for example, is a headline from today’s newspaper:
“Self-Amputation. Frustrated Man Plans to Cut Off His Legs Online” by Paul Eng (ABCNEWS.COM)
This headline is designed to hook readers, enticing them to read the essay. Now, in the past–that is, long ago (read after the Ice Age but before the Internet)–readers may have given writers several pages to get to the point. Nowadays, you’ve got seconds. Literally seconds. The time it takes to click onto something more informative or entertaining.
Here, for example, is an abstract of “Cybersex and Infidelity Online: Implications for Evaluation and Treatment” prepared by Kimberly S. Young, James O’Mara, and Jennifer Buchanan for the 107th annual meeting of the American Psychological Association:
Prior research has examined how marital relationships can result in separation and divorce due to Internet addiction. This paper examines how the ability to form romantic and sexual relationships over the Internet can result in marital separation and possible divorce. The ACE Model (Anonymity, Convenience, Escape) of Cybersexual Addiction provides a workable framework to help explain the underlying cyber-cultural issues increasing the risk of virtual adultery. Finally, the paper outlines specific interventions that focus on strategies for rebuilding trust after a cyberaffair, ways to improve marital communication, and finally how to educate couples on ways to continue commitment.
Here’s another example of an introduction that gets right to the point, extracted from “Blinded by Junk Food”:
Over indulging in fat-filled snack foods may heighten the risk of developing advanced age-related muscular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness and vision impairment in the United States for those over 55, researchers at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary said in a new study.
By the way, you should know that readers expect you to provide deductive summaries throughout a document, particularly in lengthy documents. Each time you begin a new section, consider:
1. Providing a quick, perhaps one-sentence review of what you’ve discussed.
2. Explaining ways the new topic relates to what has been discussed.
3. Explaining how one section relates to another section.