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Read this introduction to a supervision essay (pdf) written by a first-year student. 

Why is this introduction a good example of ‘writing with authority’ – please determine which of the following statements apply to this essay’s introduction:

  1. The essay opens with a bold, high impact sentence which has the potential to shape the entire answer.
  2. The author nicely sums up the current historiography and offers insights into her own take on the question.
  3. The author uses terms associated with parallel historical problems (McKibbin’s idea of the ‘conventional wisdoms’ underpinning inter-war Conservative dominance) to suggest a potentially fruitful way into the topic.
  4. The author uses the introduction to offer a concise summary of the argument that will follow with each point representing a paragraph in embryo.
  5. The author sets up a thesis about ‘security’ rather than ‘affluence’ being at the heart of the discursive political battles of the 1950s which allows her to reframe the topic in her own terms.
  6. The author makes controlled but forceful statements which display a sophisticated understanding of political and historical language. Highlight a few examples.


Now click here to access Supervisor feedback on the points above; but you should take time to read the text and note your own responses before accessing it.

It should be clear from this section that writing with authority is not just about adopting an assertive 'tone'. There is a difference between communicating a sense of authority within your argument and appearing arrogant to your reader. What we are looking for is a controlled argument, which will develop from a range of features covered in this section. Myths circulate that authority is somehow a 'male' writing skill, but this essay, written by a female first year student, provides evidence to dispel this myth.