Introduction to Academic Writing

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Writing6: Introductions

Writing Introductory Paragraphs

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

  1. Recognize the importance of strong introductory paragraphs.
  2. Learn to engage the reader immediately with the introductory paragraph.

Picture your introduction as a storefront window: You have a certain amount of space to attract your customers (readers) to your goods (subject) and bring them inside your store (discussion). Once you have enticed them with something intriguing, you then point them in a specific direction and try to make the sale (convince them to accept your thesis).

Your introduction is an invitation to your readers to consider what you have to say and then to follow your train of thought as you expand upon your thesis statement.

An introduction serves the following purposes:

  1. Establishes your voice and tone, or your attitude, toward the subject
  2. Introduces the general topic of the essay
  3. States the thesis that will be supported in the body paragraphs

First impressions are crucial and can leave lasting effects in your reader’s mind, which is why the introduction is so important to your essay. If your introductory paragraph is dull or disjointed, your reader probably will not have much interest in continuing with the essay.

Attracting Interest in Your Introductory Paragraph

Your introduction should begin with an engaging statement devised to provoke your readers’ interest. In the next few sentences, introduce them to your topic by stating general facts or ideas about the subject. As you move deeper into your introduction, you gradually narrow the focus, moving closer to your thesis. Moving smoothly and logically from your introductory remarks to your thesis statement can be achieved using a funnel technique, as illustrated in the diagram below:

Funnel Technique

Immediately capturing your readers’ interest increases the chances of having them read what you are about to discuss. You can garner curiosity for your essay in a number of ways. Try to get your readers personally involved by doing any of the following:

  • Appealing to their emotions
  • Using logic
  • Beginning with a provocative question or opinion
  • Opening with a startling statistic or surprising fact
  • Raising a question or series of questions
  • Presenting an explanation or rationalization for your essay
  • Opening with a relevant quotation or incident
  • Opening with a striking image
  • Including a personal anecdote

Tip

Remember that your diction, or word choice, while always important, is most crucial in your introductory paragraph. Boring diction could extinguish any desire a person might have to read through your discussion. Choose words that create images or express action.

Look at the example below:

Tip

If you have trouble coming up with a provocative statement for your opening, it is a good idea to use a relevant, attention-grabbing quote about your topic. Use a search engine to find statements made by historical or significant figures about your subject.

Writing at Work

In your job field, you may be required to write a speech for an event, such as an awards banquet or a dedication ceremony. The introduction of a speech is similar to an essay because you have a limited amount of space to attract your audience’s attention. Using the same techniques, such as a provocative quote or an interesting statistic, is an effective way to engage your listeners. Using the funnel approach also introduces your audience to your topic and then presents your main idea in a logical manner.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • A strong opening captures your readers’ interest and introduces them to your topic before you present your thesis statement.
  • An introduction should restate your thesis, review your main points, and emphasize the importance of the topic.
  • The funnel technique to writing the introduction begins with generalities and gradually narrows your focus until you present your thesis.
  • A good introduction engages people’s emotions or logic, questions or explains the subject, or provides a striking image or quotation.
  • Carefully chosen diction in both the introduction and conclusion prevents any confusing or boring ideas.

This material is adapted from Successful Writing.


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