Now that you have ‘poured your concrete’ (inserted your argument into the introduction), you have to ensure that it does not spill over the foundation boundaries and make a mess on your neighbour’s lawn.

01 Intro 04 0101 Intro 04 02

Question

What do we mean by ‘Containing the Overspill?

Answer

Limiting the number of issues you are going to discuss so that you keep your answer tight, relevant and within the word limits.

Question

What do we mean by ‘limiting the number of issues you are going to discuss?

Answer

There are libraries overflowing with detailed research and analysis of most of the topics you will have chosen to investigate – you can’t possibly fit all of this research and analysis into an essay with a limited word count. The key here is to stick only to a certain number of issues that are to be discussed: pour your concrete into specifically set boundaries.

Question

How can you do this?

Answer

This is very easy, and in fact is a bit of a trick. As long as you have outlined in your introduction that you are only examining a specific set of issues in relation to the subject, then you will rarely be challenged by the examiner for omitting other issues. How can the examiner criticise you for leaving out of your coursework issues that you have already deemed to be outside of your area of discussion?

Question

How do you decide which issues to include in your discussion?

Answer

This is easy: make, what you believe, to be a concise list of the most crucial issues relevant to the question being asked, bearing in mind the limits of your word count, and choose the number you can reasonably investigate. Then you can set out in your introduction the limits of your investigation and explain (briefly) why you have set such limits.

Once you have ‘contained the overspill’, the reader now understands the issues you plan to discuss and why. They also appreciate why certain issues have been selected while others have been discarded. They may not always agree with your limits, but as long as your explanation is justified, you should not be penalised. This is a foundation that feels secure.

Example 1


The Question (OCR Style)

How significant were the events of 1933-34 in allowing Hitler to become the Fuhrer of Germany?

LIST OF EVENTS THAT HELPED HITLER BECOME FUHRER, 1933-34

  • Actions taken by Hitler and the Nazis, e.g. The Night of the Long Knives
  • Legislation passed, e.g. The Enabling Law
  • Events outside of the control of the Nazis, but exploited by them, e.g. the Death of Hindenburg

The Introduction:

At the beginning of 1933, Hitler was in a very precarious position: he was Chancellor of Germany, but he was also subordinate to President Hindenburg, there were only three National Socialists in the Cabinet (including Hitler), the Nazis did not have a majority in the Reichstag nor did they have the support of the army. However, by the end of 1934, Hitler was the undisputed Fuhrer of the German people. The years 1933-34 were of profound significance to the establishment of Hitler’s dictatorship in Germany because it was in these years that all obstacles to his leadership were overcome. For the purpose of this investigation, the most crucial elements which enabled Hitler’s rise to the position of dictator, can be defined as:actions deliberately taken by Hitler and the Nazis which eradicated opposition, such as the ‘Night of the Long Knives’, legislation passed which increased the authority of Hitler, such as the Enabling Law, and events outside the control of the Nazis that Hitler carefully exploited, such as the death of President Hindenburg...

Broken down...

At the beginning of 1933, Hitler was in a very precarious position: he was Chancellor of Germany, but he was also subordinate to President Hindenburg, there were only three National Socialists in the Cabinet (including Hitler), the Nazis did not have a majority in the Reichstag nor did they have the support of the army. However, by the end of 1934, Hitler was the undisputed Fuhrer of the German people. The years 1933-34 were of profound significance to the establishment of Hitler’s dictatorship in Germany because it was in these years that all obstacles to his leadership were overcome. For the purpose of this investigation, the most crucial elements which enabled Hitler’s rise to the position of dictator, can be defined as: actions deliberately taken by Hitler and the Nazis which eradicated opposition, such as the ‘Night of the Long Knives’, legislation passed which increased the authority of Hitler, such as the Enabling Law, and events outside the control of the Nazis that Hitler carefully exploited, such as the death of President Hindenburg...

The overspill is contained. Your foundation has clear boundaries, that is, you have clearly stated the issues that will be covered in your essay. You need not be unduly worried about omissions.

Simple!

What you have learned

This section has shown you the importance of stating, briefly, in the introduction, the main issues you will cover in your essay. By doing this you will show the examiner that you understand the key issues related to the title but, more importantly, you will set the limits to your investigation. This will help you manage your work, because you now do not have to worry about including everything related to the topic. In addition, you have explained to the examiner which issues you are prepared to discuss (because, as you say, they are the most important to the title) and those which you are not.

In the language of the building metaphor, you have contained the concrete of the foundation with clear and strong boundaries. By way of an example, from the OCR exam board, you have learned how to decide upon the key issues you are prepared to discuss, and to insert them into your introduction. Now apply these skills to your work.

The next section – Getting Some Expert Advice – will show you the importance of using historiography (arguments of historians) in your introduction.

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