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How to Write a Higher-Level Essay Introduction

by JJ Stier, Demand Media

    The introduction is the most important part of a higher-level essay because it shapes the reader's expectations of the essay and is one of the most important ways of demonstrating that the paper has a logical structure. Students should begin their introduction with an entertaining and thought-provoking first sentence, explain this sentence with two or three more sentences, and end the introduction with a sentence that contains the essay's thesis, or main idea. The thesis will shape the following paragraphs or pages and is essential an essential part of the structure of the essay.

    The Thought-Provoking First Sentence

    Whether you are writing a response to Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights," a personal reflection essay, or an essay explaining the importance of a particular economic theory, the introduction is the anchor of the rest of the essay. The first sentence should be what is called a "hook," or an exciting and thought-provoking idea. If your essay about "Wuthering Heights" will explain the concept of wild nature as seen through Heathcliff's characterization, your first sentence might contain your visceral impression of the landscape and lead into a sentence quoting Bronte's early description of the wild Heathcliff.

    Providing Support for the First Sentence

    The thought-provoking hook in the first sentence should be followed with a sentence that moves the hook toward the thesis. The second sentence must interpret the thought-provoking first sentence and make it relevant to the thesis. If you are writing a personal essay on time management in a mother's life, for example, you would begin with an exciting hook showing the baby crying, the PTA calling, and a row of school lunches to be made, and then you would transition into the second sentence of the essay: "Clearly, no one can manage all of these tasks simultaneously."

    Transitioning to the Thesis

    By sentence three, you are ready to state the problem your paper is going to tackle. You take the hook and its interpretive second sentence and move toward the thesis by adding a sentence that does not yet state the thesis but introduces the problem or issue that you will address in the paper. The previous example of time management in a mother's life should be stated as a problem or issue that you the writer will explain how to solve through the essay. For example, a third sentence might state that a time-management strategy is essential for busy mothers.

    Arriving at the Thesis

    Now that you have the hook, the interpretation, and the transition to the issue or problem that is addressed in the paper, it is time to write the thesis. If the thesis is about time-management strategies for mothers, you will set forth a claim about a particular time-management strategy or strategies that you will explain in the paper. The thesis is often part of the "data-claim-warrant" or Toulmin model, which provides evidence about a problem (data), declares a solution (claim/thesis) and then shows how the evidence in the paper supports the claim (warrant). This is a common strategy in higher-level essays.

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    About the Author

    JJ Stier , who earned a EdM from Harvard and MA from the University of Oregon, teaches English in higher education and K-12. She is particularly attuned to issues in education and parenting. She has spent many years in community colleges and universities teaching preparatory and developmental reading and writing and has served on committees that shape college policy in developmental studies.

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