Your examiner is lost. He’s never been in this neighbourhood before and it’s dark. He’s lonely and disoriented. This is the same thing as saying that the examiner has no knowledge of your topic. He is a clever person but needs direction from you. He wants to feel secure in this unfamiliar neighbourhood. He wants to feel that that you are building your house in a safe area that he can easily become familiar with. Here’s how you make him feel secure:

Before you can begin discussing, in detail, the complexities of your argument, you must ‘drop’ the examiner into the contextual surroundings of your chosen topic.

Question

What do we mean by contextual surroundings?

Answer

It’s a complicated way of saying, the neighbourhood. We mean the circumstances that form the setting for your essay (or the place you chose to build your house) – details that will help the examiner fully understand the topic of your essay. You want to give him a brief understanding of the important aspects of the topic being discussed. In short, you want to give him a flashlight to illuminate his environment, after all, he’s going to spend a long time in this neighbourhood – you better make sure he is comfortable with his surroundings.


01 Intro 01 0101 Intro 01 02



Question

How do you do this?

Answer

Here’s how: Imagine that you have travelled in a time machine back to a time and place of unknown origin. You are told to report your situation over the radio to your superiors. What do you do? You look around, and answer these questions: What? Where? Why? Who? When? These are the basic duties you should perform in your introduction.




Question

OK, but how do put this in an introduction?

Answer

Simple – take a look at the example below.




Example 1


The Question (AQA Style)

Within the context of 1890-1990 and with specific reference to Nazi Germany, to what extent did successive governments impact the lives of young people in Germany?

The Introduction

In 1933, Adolf Hitler was ‘given’ the chancellorship of Germany and almost immediately set about establishing an entrenched system of education designed around his core beliefs of ideological loyalty, physical education, racial purity, and military preparation. During the course of their thirteen years in power, the National Socialists oversaw an unprecedented orchestration of the lives of young people in Germany…

(Note: this is only a part of, what will become, a bigger introduction)




Let's break this introduction down into five questions:

The highlighted text shows the examiner WHAT

In 1933, Adolf Hitler was ‘given’ the chancellorship of Germany and almost immediately set about establishing an entrenched system of education designed around his core beliefs of ideological loyalty, physical education, racial purity, and military preparation. During the course of their thirteen years in power, the National Socialists oversaw an unprecedented orchestration of the lives of young people in Germany

The highlighted text shows the examiner WHERE

In 1933, Adolf Hitler was ‘given’ the chancellorship of Germany and almost immediately set about establishing an entrenched system of education designed around his core beliefs of ideological loyalty, physical education, racial purity, and military preparation. During the course of their thirteen years in power, the National Socialists oversaw an unprecedented orchestration of the lives of young people in Germany

The highlighted text shows the examiner WHY

In 1933, Adolf Hitler was ‘given’ the chancellorship of Germany and almost immediately set about establishing an entrenched system of education designed around his core beliefs of ideological loyalty, physical education, racial purity, and military preparation. During the course of their thirteen years in power, the National Socialists oversaw an unprecedented orchestration of the lives of young people in Germany…

The highlighted text shows the examiner WHO

In 1933, Adolf Hitler was ‘given’ the chancellorship of Germany and almost immediately set about establishing an entrenched system of education designed around his core beliefs of ideological loyalty, physical education, racial purity, and military preparation. During the course of their thirteen years in power, the National Socialists oversaw an unprecedented orchestration of the lives of young people in Germany…

The highlighted text shows the examiner WHEN

In 1933, Adolf Hitler was ‘given’ the chancellorship of Germany and almost immediately set about establishing an entrenched system of education designed around his core beliefs of ideological loyalty, physical education, racial purity, and military preparation. During the course of their thirteen years in power, the National Socialists oversaw an unprecedented orchestration of the lives of young people in Germany…

Once you have done this, the examiner will feel safe in the ‘neighbourhood’ that you have selected to lay your foundation. The examiner is now familiar with his surroundings – his context – and is now beginning to feel comfortable in your essay; secure on your foundation.

What you have learned

This section has shown you, using an AQA style coursework question and a basic introduction as an example, the importance of familiarising your examiner with his contextual surroundings (or, the neighbourhood in which you are building your house). You have learned how to break down the core contexts (What? Where? Why? Who? When?) of your topic and acquaint your examiner with them in your introduction. Now, apply these skills to your work.

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