Criteria for a Scholarly Introduction

by Dr. Lesley Peterson University of North Alabama (Former JP student editor, mentor editor and member of the Advisory Board)


The introduction has a clear focus, generally stated as a thesis statement.
The purpose of the Introduction is to help the reader understand and appreciate the texts being introduced through a knowledgeable and thoughtful discussion of some combination of the following:

  • Biographical context: how old was the writer? At what stage of her or his literary career? What events in his or her life may have influenced these texts?
  • Historical context: what current events do these texts respond to, critique, take inspiration from?
  • Literary context: what texts influenced the author in writing these works? What texts is s/he responding to, critiquing, resisting, imitating? How and to what effect?
  • Literary merits of the texts being introduced: genre, significant themes, features of style

or structure, etc.

  • Why knowledge of these texts will help the reader appreciate other, better-known texts by the same author? Significant links to later texts by the same author.
  • Special problems unique to these texts: is one of them unfinished? Are there two different versions? Are the author's intentions unclear for any reason? Is the genre hard to identify?

It is not necessary or appropriate to try to cover all of the above topics in every introduction.


The introduction is written with a particular audience in mind, and must be appropriate to that audience. Things to think about in planning and revising include the following:

  • Who is your audience? (Age, occupation, gender, literary tastes, other relevant details)
  • How familiar is your audience with other works by this author? with other works in this genre? with the region or period in which these works were composed?
  • What difficulties might your audience have with these works? For instance, are these rap song lyrics that you are trying to "sell" to adults who dislike the genre?
  • Are your focus, argument, and evidence appropriate to your audience?
  • Does your introduction begin in a way designed to engage your audience's interest?
  • Do you keep your audience's interest with a clear, well-supported argument and an appropriate tone?


Evidence will be drawn from your primary texts and from appropriate secondary texts.

  • Primary texts: does your introduction demonstrate through paraphrase, summary, and specific quotations (as appropriate) that you are familiar with the works you are introducing and understand them thoroughly?
  • Secondary texts: have you consulted reliable sources of biographical or historical information?

Have you consulted appropriate and reliable sources of literary criticism? Have you thought "outside the box" and considered interviews, archives, blogs, and other non-standard sources of information?

Style and Structure

  • Have you written your introduction in formal, correct English?
  • Have you followed the style guide (i.e., MLA, Chicago, or Juveniia Press) prescribed by your instructor? See Juvenilia Press Style Sheet for full guide to referencing used in our volumes.
  • Are your quotations accurate and properly referenced? Are the sentences that contain them grammatically correct?
  • Have you revised your argument so that the order of your points makes sense, your topic sentences are clear, and your transitions are effective?
  • Do you have an appropriate title? (Consult other models and our most recent volumes for examples.) Do you have a strong conclusion?
  • Have you adhered to the length requirements of the task?

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