Editor’s Toolkit: Writing Introductions for Readings

Once an author has chosen the readings for an anthology and decided how the readings will be grouped and sequenced, it’s time to begin thinking about the original material. Typically, the first thing an author–editor will write is the original introductions.

Part I: Unit Introductions

If the readings are grouped into units, each unit should have an introduction. This unit introduction need not be more than ¾ of a page, although some authors may choose to write more.

What Goes into a Unit Introduction?

Ideally, the unit introduction should answer the following questions.

  • Why have these readings been grouped together?
    • What, in brief, is the subject matter of each reading?
    • Do they present a sequential overview of a topic?
    • Do they represent diverse viewpoints on a particular topic?
    • Do they support and reinforce one another?
  • If the readings are not presented in chronological sequence of some kind (the history of the subject matter, the date they were originally written, etc.), why has the author–editor presented them in this particular sequence?
    • Does it reflect the development of opposing opinions?
    • Do certain articles respond to other articles?
    • Do certain articles expand on or refine a point of view presented in other articles?

There is no right or wrong answer to these, or any other, questions about why the readings are being presented together and in a certain order. It’s just important to explain the reasons to the students. The explanation will provide a context for their reading and help them understand and respond to the goals of the author–editor of the anthology.