The purpose of an introduction is to interest and intrigue your readers so they want to read on. It includes the thesis statement and provides a brief overview of what your paper will cover. You can approach the introduction from several angles, depending on the purpose and mood of your essay.
Capture your readers by developing an attention-grabbing introduction. You might open with an intriguing quotation, an unexpected anecdote or a surprising detail, recommends The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina. The goal is to start your paper with a bang and make readers think wow. For example, if your paper is about John F. Kennedy's presidency, you might introduce the topic with, "John F. Kennedy never accepted a dime for his legislative or presidential terms in office -- he donated his salaries to charity." Or, "John F. Kennedy wasn't intimidated by tensions during the Cold War, he proposed a joint Soviet-U.S. mission to the moon."
Make a Claim
Write an introduction that clearly spells out your claims if you're writing an argument paper or a critical analysis, suggests the Harvard College Writing Center. The goal is to present your arguments as if you're making an opening statement in a courtroom trial. This introductory technique works best if you want to get right to the point.
You might start your paper with your thesis and use the remainder of your introduction to explain why your claims are credible. For example, if you're analyzing William Shakespeare's play "Macbeth," you might write, "'Macbeth' is an example of a tragic tale because Macbeth allowed selfishness, pride and power to override moral judgment. In my paper, I will prove that Macbeth acted on free will, despite the witches' involvement."
Ask thought-provoking questions in your introduction to stimulate readers' interest, suggests the University of Maryland University College. Opt for rhetorical questions to help readers consider alternate viewpoints. Or, choose a direct question that leads into your thesis statement. This introductory style is well suited for compare-and-contrast essays, advantages-disadvantages papers or essays that discuss controversial topics. For example, if you're discussing the advantages to legalizing marijuana, you might ask, "Is it possible that legalizing marijuana could save lives by reducing criminal activity associated with underground trafficking?" Or, "Could the legalization of marijuana stimulate the economy?"
Opt for the straightforward approach -- an introductory style that involves presenting the topic by explaining its significance in the larger context, suggests the Oregon State University Department of Anthropology. This introductory method works well for research papers. Use this style to provide background information so readers understand the significance of your thesis. For example, if your paper is about the United States' seemingly late involvement in World War II, use your introduction to briefly explain the government's policies, objectives and desires during that time. State your thesis at the end of the introductory paragraph, immediately following the background overview.
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill -- The Writing Center: Introductions
- Purdue University Online Writing Lab: Introductions
- Harvard College Writing Center: Essay Structure
- Webster University: Writing Effective Introductions
- Oregon State University Department of Anthropology: Some Tips on Writing Introductions
- University of Maryland University College: Introductions
- History: 10 Things You May Not Know About John F. Kennedy
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