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9.4.4 Scope

Besides explaining what your paper is about and your argument, an introduction may also state what you will and won’t cover. For instance, let’s say your paper is about an issue affecting mothers infected with HIV. Your introduction should reflect this focus, rather than present your paper as a general overview of HIV. If your scope isn’t clear, then readers will constantly wonder when you’ll address the larger topic–or even assume you simply forgot to do it.

Let’s say you wanted to write a paper that argued that Ford makes better cars than Chevrolet. However, your introduction didn’t mention Chevrolet at all, but instead had the line: “Ford makes better cars than any other car manufacturer.” Your reader would quickly begin to wonder why you’re not talking about Toyota or Nissan! Try to anticipate what your reader will expect to see covered, and, if necessary, state it explicitly:

  • Although my topic is capital punishment, I will focus on one aspect of that larger issue: the execution of convicts who are mentally ill.
  • Although we interviewed over two hundred doctors in our study, we will discuss only three of them in detail here.
  • In the following essay, I will be discussing only the first edition of Leaves of Grass, and my claims may or may not apply to Whitman’s later editions.


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Expression and Inquiry by Christopher Manning; Sally Pierce; and Melissa Lucken is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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