Accounting Communication Matters
The introduction of any business report or essay should:
- focus the reader's attention on the exact subject of the report;
- provide background information on the topic of the report;
- engage the reader's interest in the topic;
- give definitions if required [not usually done if it's a short piece of writing];
- summarise the writer's main argument if it is an argumentative essay or report;
- familiarise the reader with the structure and purpose of what they are about to read.
The length of the introduction depends on the total word limit. For an essay with a word limit of about 1,000 words the introduction should start with three or four general sentences to cover points 1-3. This should be followed by the statement of purpose which will cover points 5-6.
The introduction should begin with general points and move to more specific points. One way to think of the introduction is as a film which starts with a satellite view of the earth and gradually narrows down to a country, an area, a city and then the house that the film will be about. You could also think of the introduction as a funnel, with more general phrases or sentences at the beginning and more specific ones later.
There is an art to writing the introductory sentences – they should not be too general, too specific or too meaningless.
It has been suggested that accounting information fulfils many functions. What are the functions of accounting information and which function do you consider to be the most important? Explain your answer.
Taken from: Carnegie, G., Jones, S., Norris, G., Wigg, R. & Williams, B. 1991, Accounting financial and organisational decision making, McGraw Hill, Melbourne.
In a short essay based on the above question, the introduction could look like this:
Accounting information is central to the various types of decisions made by a wide range of people and groups in our society. However, the precise functions of accounting information vary according to who is using it and for what purpose.
In this essay, the functions of accounting information for investors, lenders and other external users will be examined and it will be argued that there is no single most important function of this information
Statement of Purpose
Image source: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/479608
The introduction to an essay has three primary objectives:
- Explain the context of the essay
- Give the answer: the response to the question or the overall focus of the essay (the thesis statement)
- Describe the structure and organisation of the essay
These aims can be given more or less emphasis depending on the length and type of essay. In a very short essay (less than 1000 words), for example, there is not much room to give a full and detailed context or structure. A longer essay has room for greater detail.
Essays are usually written for an intelligent but uninformed audience, so begin with some context: the background of the topic, the topic scope, and any essential definitions.
- Introductions often begin with a broad opening statement that establishes the subject matter and background. Don't make it too broad (“Since time began…”), but identify the relevant topic and sub-topic (e.g. human resource management, early childhood development, animal behaviour…).
- To establish the scope, answer basic questions: Who? What? When? Where? How? Why? Is the essay limited to a particular time period, a particular group of people, a particular country?
- Definitions are often established after the introduction, so only include them here if they are absolutely essential.
Answer / focus
The most important part of the introduction is the response to the question: the thesis statement. Thesis statements are discussed in detail here: thesis statements.
An introduction often ends on the thesis statement. It begins with a broad statement and gradually narrows down until it directly addresses the question:
This order of introduction elements is not set in stone, however. Sometimes the thesis statement is followed by a breakdown of the essay's structure and organisation. Ultimately, you must adapt the order to suit the needs of each particular essay.
Strong introductions tell the reader how the upcoming body paragraphs will be organised.
This can be as easy as outlining the major points that your essay will make on the way to the conclusion. You don't need to go into much detail in the introduction: just signal the major ‘landmarks.’
It can help to identify how all of the paragraphs are organised:
- Do the paragraphs deal with the issue from earliest to most recent (chronological)?
- Are the paragraphs grouped by broader themes (thematic)?
- Does the essay answer several related questions one after the other (sequential)?
- Do the paragraphs describe two elements and them compare them (contrasting)?
The essay will be much more readable once the reader knows what to expect from the body paragraphs.
See sample essay 1 and sample essay 2 for model introductions.
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Last updated on 25 October, 2012