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The Introduction

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					                    Writing Skills for Accounting Students
                        http://ceds.vu.edu.au/studentlearning/

The Introduction
The introduction of any Business essay should focus the reader’s attention on the
exact subject of the essay and familiarise the reader with the structure and purpose of
what they are about to read. It is important in the introduction to introduce the real
“deep” issue of the essay – which is not always the issue that the topic mentions
explicitly. The introduction consists of introductory comments and a statement of
purpose.

Introductory comments
The purpose of the introductory comments is to bring the reader’s attention down to
the topic at hand, and to explain the significance of the topic – why it is an important
topic in the context of accounting. The introductory comments should be like a
funnel, beginning by referring to broader accounting issues and then narrowing down
the reader’s attention until it focuses on the specific question. There is an art to
writing these comments; in students’ essays they are often too general, too specific or
simply meaningless.

Statement of purpose
The second important part of the introduction is the statement of purpose. This
should:

•   be no more than two sentences long in a 1000 word essay
•   explain the purpose, structure and main argument to the reader
•   be more than just a rewrite of the question

Useful phrases for writing a statement of purpose:

The purpose/aim of this essay is to ...
This essay will ...
In this essay, X will be done (this grammatical form is called “passive voice” - don’t
worry if your grammar checker tells you it’s wrong; this is only because the
Americans don’t like it!) for example:
        it will be argued that X is Y
        X will be outlined/investigated/examined/compared with Y
        the advantages/disadvantages of X will be examined etc

Example 1:
Essay question
Compare General Purpose and Specific Purpose Financial Reports. Which do you
consider more important? Justify your answer.

Introductory comments
The major concern of Accounting is to communicate decision useful information to
users. Reporting entities use both General Purpose and Specific Purpose Financial
Reports for this purpose; however there are major differences in their purpose,
structures and intended users.

                                                                                      1
Amanda Pearce                              2003                                Wendy Fleet
                    Writing Skills for Accounting Students
                        http://ceds.vu.edu.au/studentlearning/


Statement of Purpose

A BAD statement of purpose would be:

The purpose of this essay is to compare General Purpose and Specific Purpose
Financial Reports, and to consider which is more important.

This statement of purpose simply rewrites the question.

A BETTER statement of purpose would be:

The aim of this essay is to compare the purposes for which General Purpose and
Specific Purpose Financial Reports are used, and by whom. It will be argued that
both types of report are equally important in the accounting system.




                                                                              2
Amanda Pearce                             2003                          Wendy Fleet
                    Writing Skills for Accounting Students
                        http://ceds.vu.edu.au/studentlearning/


The Introduction (contd)
Example 2

In Semester 1, 2002, the essay question in this subject was:


 Shining Skies Ltd, umbrella manufacturers, have decided to paint the company Logo on the
 side of each car in the company’s fleet as part of a new advertising campaign at a total cost of
 $5,500. How should this be recorded and reported by Shining Skies Ltd?
 The following year there was an unusually fierce hailstorm in the area and the company cars
 were damaged and required repainting including the company logo. The cost of the
 repainting, including the logo, was $4,000. How should this be recorded and reported by
 Shining Skies Ltd?
 Your answer should include:
 •   A discussion of revenue and capital expenditure including how each is reported.
 •   What accounting doctrines and conventions should be considered when making a decision
     on how to report transactions and how they affect these particular transactions?
 •   A recommendation for the recording and reporting of the $5,500 and the $4,000 citing the
     reasons for your answer.



Good introductory comments (adapted from students’ writing)

Accounting reports are essential for the purpose of providing useful information to
users. To do this, accountants must prepare general purpose accounting reports in
accordance with the Statements of Accounting Concepts (SACs) and accounting
standards, including the qualitative characteristics.     When making reporting
decisions regarding particular items, accountants should follow Generally Accepted
Accounting Principles (GAAP’s) as well as regulatory and conceptual frameworks.
Within this extensive system of guidelines, accountants must make choices as to the
best method of recording and reporting particular items.

Good statement of purpose (adapted from students’ writing)
This essay will outline two approaches to recording and reporting the cost of painting
and repainting the company logo in the case of Shining Skies Ltd, as capital
expenditure and revenue expenditure. It will be argued that the two transactions
should be recorded and reported as revenue expenditure because …

Below are 3 introductions actually written by students in answer to the question
above. All 3 have good parts, but all could be improved.




                                                                                      3
Amanda Pearce                              2003                               Wendy Fleet
                                  Writing Skills for Accounting Students
                                      http://ceds.vu.edu.au/studentlearning/


              The Introduction (contd)
              Introduction 1


              This Introduction would get quite a good mark.



 Good first sentence which explains the
 significance of the topic. Introductory               Good use of                  The expression
 comments move from the general to the                 quotation integrated         here is awkward
 particular and focus the reader’s attention           into sentence.               and would have
 quite well.                                                                        benefited from
                                                                                    another draft


                   Financial information is used by individuals to aid them in their decision
                   making process.        Therefore to assist users of financial reports,
                   accountants need to make decisions about the allocation of items, and
                   how they are to be recorded. In order to do this, there are a number of
                   guidelines to aid accountants in their recording process. Such guidelines
Page number        include: GAAP’s – which provide guidance for recording business of
missing.           specific transactions; SAC4 – which ‘establishes the definitions and
                   recognition criteria for assets, liabilities, revenues, expenses and equity’   Full name
                   (Bazley, Berry, Hancock & Jarvis 2001) and the AASB (Australian                should be
                   Accounting Standards Board). The aim of this essay will be to analyse          used first
                   these doctrines and conventions and explain why Shining Skies Ltd,             with the
                   umbrella manufacturers should record their expenditure of $5500, for a         acronym
                   company logo (on the side of the sales director’s car) as an expense           (AASB) after
                   rather than an asset. It will also explain why the $4000 used to repaint       it in brackets.
                   the logo will be treated as an expense rather than an asset.

   Statement of purpose (2                Clear indication that                   The writer here promises
   sentences) clearly outlines            statement of purpose is                 more than s/he can deliver.
   what the essay will cover              beginning.                              The topic does not require a
   including the argument or                                                      full analysis of the doctrines
   opinion that it will                                                           and conventions, and the
   support. It does not just                                                      writer does not really intend
   rewrite the question. It is                                                    to write one!
   acceptable to state your
   opinion briefly in the
   introduction and then
   come back to it at length
   in the body of the essay.




                                                                                                     4
              Amanda Pearce                              2003                                 Wendy Fleet
                                   Writing Skills for Accounting Students
                                       http://ceds.vu.edu.au/studentlearning/


                The Introduction (contd)
                Introduction 2

                This student has not yet learned to write a good introduction and there are several
                serious expression and content errors. This introduction would receive a low mark.



   This first sentence does not really explain               There is a serious grammar problem
   why the topic is important. The reader does               in the first sentence, which is
   not understand why s/he suddenly has to                   obvious when the sentence is read
   think about conservatism. The reference to                aloud. It could be corrected by
   a choice between “two possibly suitable                   taking out the first “is”. Such a
   answers” is excellent, but unfortunately                  serious mistake looks extra bad in
   conservatism is not the principle required to
             b                                               the first sentence!
   make this choice.
                                                                                                    Never use “I”
The thinking
                                                                                                    or “my” in a
is good, but
                                                                                                    Business essay.
this is too
much detail       Conservatism is a Generally Accepted Accounting Principle (GAAP), is a
for an            principle accountants will encounter when making a cautious judgement                This
introduction.     between two possibly suitable answers for a particular transaction. As               sentence is
It sounds         expense is seen as a decrease in equity, from my judgement the                       far too
more like a       classification of $5,000 should be categorised as an asset as it will be of          long,
short answer      future prospect as beneficial and also it was found that a ‘newspaper                contains
in an exam        masthead’ is identified as an intangible asset, so I don’t see how a                 too much
than an           company logo on the side of a van could be of any difference. As the                 information
introduction.     advertisement will last long as the van will, it can be reported and                 and is in
Keep the          recorded as it is incurred at the similar rate as the van depreciates seeing as      informal
reasoning for     it would have no value once the van is off the road. It should be reported           style.
the body of       in the balance sheet as a non-current asset as it will hold its value for more
the essay.        than one accounting period and be seen as a payment which therefore will
                  reduce cash at bank.
                                                    Where was it                 Never use
            “So”, “and also” and
                                                    found? This needs            short forms
            “seeing as”
                                                    referencing.                 like this in a
            (meaning “because”)
                                                                                 Business essay.
            are too informal.
            This should be made                     There is no real
            more academic in                        statement of purpose.
            the second draft.




                                                                                                       5
                Amanda Pearce                            2003                                 Wendy Fleet
                           Writing Skills for Accounting Students
                               http://ceds.vu.edu.au/studentlearning/


      The Introduction (contd)
      Introduction 3
            A little more attention to expression would make this a very good
            introduction indeed.

                                  This sentence                               The writer here
                                  is not                                      promises more than
The first sentence                necessary; the         Referencing          s/he can deliver.
explains the significance         qualitative            is not               The topic does not
of the topic, and is              characteristics        necessary            require a full
followed by introductory          are part of the        here as the          discussion of the
comments that set the             SACs, and this         writer is            doctrines and
scene quite well,                 level of detail        mentioning           conventions, and the
explaining the concept of         is too much for        the                  writer does not
choice that underlies the         an                     Statements in        really intend to write
task.                             introduction.          general.             one!


            Accounting reports are essential for the purpose of providing useful
            information in decision-making processes. To do this, accountants must
            prepare general purpose accounting reports in accordance with the
            Statements of Accounting Concepts (SAC 2 para. 7) and accounting
            standards. All information contained within these reports must comply with
            the qualitative characteristics of accounting information in that they must be
            relevant, reliable, material, comparable and understandable.            When
            classifying expenses as in the case of Shining Skies Ltd accountants require
            guidelines as to the method of classification which are obtained through
            Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP’s) as well as regulatory
            and conceptual frameworks. The aim of this essay is to compare the
            difference between revenue expenditure and capital expenditure as in the
            case of Shining Skies Ltd and how each is reported and a discussion of the
            relevant doctrines and conventions. Finally, recommending that the two
            transactions be recorded and reported as revenue expenditure by citing the
            relevant doctrines and conventions to add claim to my recommendations.

It is better to                 Using the verb                  Never
                                                                use “I” or      The statement of
use the word                    ending in “ing”
                                                                “my” in a       purpose begins
“expenditure”                   makes this a
                                                                Business        well, and
in a pre-                       sentence fragment.
                                                                essay.          summarises the
classification                  In other words, it is
                                                                                writer’s
context                         not a complete
                                                                                argument.
                                sentence. It needs to
                                                                                However it is a
“Compare X and Y”               be rewritten as              Wrong              bit too similar to
not “compare the                “Finally, it will be         word               the words of the
difference between              recommended that
                                                                                question and is
X and Y”.                       …”                                              awkwardly


                                                                                             6
      Amanda Pearce                              2003                                Wendy Fleet

				
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