Is Your Intro Out of Date?: Funneling to Align Your Intro with Your Argument

Often when we write, we start with our introductions; we map out what we think we will argue and how we think we will argue it. However, because writing is a process of thinking, our Argument and our plan for proving it may have changed dramatically by the time we are done writing the first draft. Our introductions no longer provide a clear map for our writing, and they may even introduce a different idea entirely. This can be a problem for readers, who will be left expecting you to say and do things that don’t actually happen. This entry will help you to use a funneling technique to guide your revision efforts.

Funneling is a Revision Strategy that can work for many types of editing, and is a great technique for rethinking introductions, be they a paragraph or two, or even an entire chapter of the dissertation. At its core, funneling is a way of reading to think about what you are really saying, as a whole, at a paragraph level, and at a sentence level. Funneling asks you to break down your writing into smaller and smaller pieces; in this process you pick out the overall message of your text, and then examine your writing in increasingly small increments to ensure every single sentence works to support our larger argument.

Try this funneling exercise to solve introduction dysfunction.

Step 1: When you’re done drafting (whether you finished 5 minutes ago or 5 weeks ago), take a moment to re-read your text and write down your main argument. Try to condense this to a few sentences. Then read your introduction all the way through and write down the main argument or idea that is presented in the intro. Compare your overall argument with the argument of the introduction. Do your main ideas match? If they do, that’s awesome. Your introduction is clearly reflecting what you’re trying to argue. If they don’t, move on to the next steps of the funnel.

Step 2: Read each intro paragraph individually. You should look for places where each paragraph of the introduction doesn’t align with your argument anymore. Adjust at the paragraph level as needed. You may want to cut a paragraph entirely, or add a new one.

Step 3: Re-read your introduction thinking about every sentence as an independent idea. Consider whether or not each sentence serves your argument, or if it is no longer relevant to what you’re trying to prove. Pay particular attention to topic sentences, as these will help reconcile your paragraph-level and sentence-level changes. Adjust at the sentence level as needed.

Step 4: Assess again. You can repeat this strategy as many times as you feel you need to.

Often, revising introductions is difficult because we become attached to our writing. Funneling forces us to look at our text in a new way, taking away some of the anxiety of adjusting or even deleting our older ideas to make room for new ones that fit better with our more developed arguments.

If this was a helpful technique, check out “Does Each Topic Sentence State the Purpose of That Paragraph? Check Topic Sentences for Signaling” for another approach to sentence-level revising.