To continue with the building metaphor...

Now that you have ‘fixed your pylons’ in place (addressed all of the key terms in the question), you have to pour the concrete around them and wait for it to set. Once the concrete is set, you will have an anchored foundation worth building upon.

Question

What do we mean by ‘Pouring the Concrete’?

Answer

You are going to gently ‘pour’ your argument into the introduction.

Question

What do we mean by ‘argument’?

Answer

Your ‘argument’ is your point of view in relation to the ‘Judgement Demand’ and the ‘Hot Topic’. You will also hear us call it, your ‘Thesis’. It is the set of logical and well evidenced reasons that will prove your conclusion and support your judgements.

Of course, you won’t have time to demonstrate a fully supported argument in your introduction, but you should ‘introduce’ it. Once you have introduced your argument (poured the concrete), you have the solid foundation upon which the rest of your house can be built. The reader knows what kind of house you are going to build and how you are going to build it. In terms of the essay, he now understands where you are planning to go and how you are planning to get there. This is a house the examiner will feel secure in; an essay he will be comfortable reading.

01 Intro 03 01

Example 1


The Question (Edexcel Style)

How far would you agree that the Wall Street Crash and the Great Depression which followed was caused largely by falling prices?

The Introduction: (N.B.: this is just a section of the introduction)

In October 1929 the New York Stock Exchange crashed, bringing to a close the prosperity that much of the US had enjoyed since the end of World War One. What replaced the apparent prosperity was a deep and unrelenting economic depression that affected almost every area of American social, economic and political life. One of the most significant causes of this unprecedented downturn in economic fortunes was indeed the falling prices of both agricultural and industrial products – unable to find markets for their goods, factories and farms became victims of overproduction, which led to a collapse in the prices they could charge, thus reducing revenue significantly. This, in turn, led to a cycle of unemployment and poverty that the US government found it difficult to break. Despite the obvious role falling prices played in the Crash and the depression which followed, there are a great number of other reasons for the economic collapse, the most significant being the failures of the economic policies pursued by three successive Republican administrations. These laissez faire (and occasionally protectionist) policies actually provided the fragile economic environment within which the factories and farms operated, making them arguably more significant to the Wall Street Crash and the depression than falling prices...

This seems complicated. It isn’t. The argument is just embedded so nicely that you might not see it.

Broken down...

In October 1929 the New York Stock Exchange crashed, bringing to a close the prosperity that much of the US had enjoyed since the end of World War One. What replaced the apparent prosperity was a deep and unrelenting economic depression that affected almost every area of American social, economic and political life. One of the most significant causes of this unprecedented downturn in economic fortunes was indeed the falling prices of both agricultural and industrial products – unable to find markets for their goods, factories and farms became victims of overproduction, which led to a collapse in the prices they could charge, thus reducing revenue significantly. This, in turn, led to a cycle of unemployment and poverty that the US government found it difficult to break. Despite the obvious role falling prices played in the Crash and the depression which followed, there are a great number of other reasons for the economic collapse, the most significant being the failures of the economic policies pursued by three successive Republican administrations. These laissez faire (and occasionally protectionist) policies actually provided the fragile economic environment within which the factories and farms operated, making them arguably more significant to the Wall Street Crash and the depression than falling prices...

Impressive, right?

Top Tip 1

Make sure that, before you write a word, you have done sufficient research in order to have a point of view on the subject matter and the discussion. This will be the basis for any argument you formulate.

There are usually only three positions you can inhabit for most coursework titles:

  • for the statement in the title
  • against the statement in the title
  • somewhere in the middle – perhaps even undecided

Being neither for nor against the title, does not mean that you have a weak argument. On the contrary, in doing this, you have the flexibility to deny both arguments and create a completely original argument, claim that the correct judgment is a mixture of both arguments, or claim that both arguments have merits but for different reasons, and so on.

Some essay questions might not necessarily fit the three possible positions we have just mentioned. This is not a problem because, no matter the question, there is always an argument that needs making. e.g. This is an IB style title:

Compare and contrast the circumstances that gave rise to two communist regimes in Latin America

Question

What argument can be made from this title?

Answer

Simple. Remember the ‘Comparative Discussion’ Key Term (from Key Terms Number 2)? The question is merely asking you to find the similarities and differences between two kinds of regimes – all you have to do is insert your argument, which would be, the degree to which the circumstances that created these two regimes are similar/different.

For example:

A significant degree of similarity between the circumstances that gave rise to both regimes can be proven…

OR

A significant degree of difference between the circumstances that gave rise to both regimes can be proven…

OR

A significant degree of similarity between the circumstances that gave rise to both regimes can be proven in the areas of…, however, despite these similarities, there are clearly evidenced differences…

OR

A significant degree of difference between the circumstances that gave rise to both regimes can be proven in the areas of…, however, despite these differences, there are clearly evidenced similarities…

N.B. Whichever stance you take, whichever argument you make, ensure you assert it with confidence. Nothing lets a piece of coursework down more than an author unsure of their own argument. Remember: assertive but NOT arrogant.

What you have learned

This section has shown you the importance of stating your argument in the introduction. Your argument is arguably the most vital element to include in your introduction because it shows the examiner, right from the beginning, that your coursework has a clear direction. In the language of the building metaphor, a correctly asserted argument, briefly stated in your introduction, is the concrete upon which the entire structure of your house depends. An introduction lacking an argument, is a house built on shifting sands. By way of a number of examples, from different of exam boards, you have learned how to create and insert an argument into your introduction. Now apply these skills to your work.

The next section – Containing the Overspill – will show you the importance of controlling the parameters (limits) of your coursework.

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