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Tip Two: Include Background Information and Provide Context

Take a look at the following introduction:
Americans charge about $860 billion a year — far more than we spend in cash — but we don't feel very good about it. Sociologist Daniel Bell has called credit cards, "the greatest single engine in the destruction of the Protestant ethic." Harvard's Juliet Schor agrees. Credit cards inculcate "an unsustainable gotta-have-it-now attitude", Schor warns in her 1998 bestseller, The Overspent American. Even the Department of Justice has taken a dim view of plastic. In 1998, the government filed an antitrust suit against MasterCard and Visa.
    But it's a bum rap, a scholar claims in his new book. In Financing the American Dream: A Cultural History of Consumer Credit, Augustana College history professor Lendol Calder debunks the myth that easy credit led a virtuous nation of thrifty, hardworking producers down the primrose path to hedonistic consumer culture.


— David D. Kirkpatrick, "Giving Credit Its Due," LinguaFranca, March 2000
Step 1: Re-read the paragraph above. Can you locate the thesis sentence — the sentence that presents the main idea of the essay? Copy and paste it in the box below.

Then, after you've copied the thesis, try paraphrasing the sentence. (Use your own words to restate the idea).



Step 2: In one sentence, summarize the first paragraph of this introduction.

When you've finished, explain the purpose of the first paragraph. Why do you think the writer included it?


  • The introduction will often include important facts the reader needs to know in order to read on. In the paragraph above, the writer makes sure to tell us the name of the book under discussion, the name of the author, what the author does — he's an historian — and where he teaches.

  • The introduction will often locate the subject of the paper within a larger context. In this case, the author situates his discussion of a new book by reminding the reader of the extent of credit card spending in America and by summing up current attitudes towards credit cards.


   Find out more about writing introductions. »



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