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Make or break introductions

A clear and accurate introduction is critical to the success of your essay

Remember: There is a strong correlation between the quality of the introduction and the overall quality of the essay, so give the introduction your full attention.

  • Know what you are introducing and why
  • Capture the reader's attention
  • Set the essay up for the discussion that follows
  • Give the reader 'sign posts' and a clear sense of direction

A sample question

Imagine that you are a portfolio manager for The National Bank's Thoroughbred International Equity Growth Trust. What strategies would you have used over the past few years to manage its finds for your clients' benefit? How would you manage it in the future? Take into consideration issues such as diversification, value and growth investment strategies, market timing and risk, relative performance/benchmarking and investment horizons.

A model introduction that answers this question

The Thoroughbred International Equity Growth Trust is a relatively small managed fund of only $7.4 million. Its performance over the past 10 years has shown its investors sequential losses, until 2003 when it posted an 11.27% net return for the year. [Those first two sentences state what the fund is and how it has performed in the recent past: the information establishes a basepoint from which the discussion can progress. It gives context and background.] Understanding whether this fund has been effectively and efficiently managed is a complex task. To analyse the fund's performance, we need to evaluate the four main strategies used in effective portfolio management, discuss how the fund's managers used these strategies, and comment on how the strategies could have been used more efficiently. These strategies are: managing currency exposure, benchmarking, the allocation between value and growth stocks and, finally, security diversification. [Those three sentences link directly back to the question, establishing the issue that the writer is asked to address. They identify the objectives of the essay, outline its scope and preview the structure.] In analysing the fund's performance it is important to acknowledge that we have the luxury of hindsight. The investment environment in which these managers have been working has been especially turbulent over the recent medium term. Therefore, not all of the fund's poor performance can be attributed to mismanagement. [Those last three sentences indicate the limitations of the question and deal with an assumption built into it i.e. that perhaps the fund's poor performance cannot only be attributed to the skills and talents of its managers.]


  • Make sure your first sentence does some real work
  • Focus the reader's attention
  • Demonstrate that you understand the topic
  • Remember that sometimes it is easier to write the conclusion before the introduction

Get more advice and tips on how to write a great essay or report.

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