August 6, 2021| Category: Writing Tips
Writing the introductory and concluding parts of a paper often presents the greatest difficulty for writers. Most writers have some ideas of what they want to cover in their paper’s main body when they sit down to complete a writing assignment. It may be that you have already selected a couple of examples you will possibly use or you have some idea about how you will address an assignment’s primary questions. Hence, writing the body parts is less difficult and there is nothing wrong with writing these parts first!
However, body sections do not just appear by magic in the final version of your paper. You need to introduce them and bring them to a conclusion in a manner that enables readers to follow and understand your work.
Both the introductory and concluding sections are like a bridge that takes readers out of their everyday lives into a “place” you create for them, usually through analysis. A good introduction helps readers transition from their world to the world you have created. Your words enable them to understand and care about the issues or topics you have written about. Likewise, once readers are hooked by your introduction and engaged by proof you presented to support the paper’s thesis, your concluding section should transport them back to their everyday lives.
Please note that there can be varying views on what makes an effective introduction. Much depends on the assignment type and the discipline it belongs to.
Why Struggle to Write an Effective Introduction?
You get only one opportunity to make a good first impression. The caliber of the introduction paragraph you write gives readers their first impression of your work, its argument(s), your style of writing, and your paper’s overall or ultimate quality. If your introduction is badly organized, vague, boring, irrelevant, or filled with errors, it is unlikely to create a good first impression. By contrast, an introduction that is well written, concise, and engaging should immediately get readers to think well of you, your style of writing, your paper, and your analytical abilities.
The introduction acts as a type of road map or guide to the remainder of your written work, so it is very important. This section provides readers with a myriad of essential information. Use it to tell them what topic you are going to write about, why this topic is so important, and the manner in which your discussion will proceed. In a lot of academic fields or disciplines, the introduction will need a thesis statement in which you set out your paper’s central argument.
Use the introduction to provide readers with an idea of the types of evidence and/or information you will draw on to argue and support your thesis. Explain also how the following paragraphs, sections and/or pages will generally be organized. Having read your introductory section, there should be no unexpected elements to take readers by surprise as they peruse the entirety of your paper.
The Process of Writing a Good Introduction
Begin by considering the question(s) you are attempting to address. Your whole paper will be focused on answering this issue or question, and the very first stage of achieving this goal is the introductory paragraph. Your answer to the question will form your paper’s thesis, and it is likely this will be presented in your introductory paragraph. Hence, using this question is a good starting point in an introduction.
You could try leaving the writing of your introductory paragraph until last. While it may feel as if this part should be written first, this is not necessary. Moreover, this is not always the best way to write an effective introduction. It may be that you are not precisely sure what arguments you will make early on in the process.
You might start thinking you will argue a certain point but end up changing your mind when most of your paper is written. Consequently, your final argument may be a little or even radically different from your original idea. This is perfectly acceptable. However, in itself, the process of writing can play a key role in the development and organization of ideas, refining thoughts, thinking through complex issues, and developing well-rounded arguments.
So, if you write your introduction too early in this journey of discovery, the opening paragraph may not properly reflect your end product. Your paper will need to be revised to ensure your introduction, every piece of evidence, and your conclusion are an accurate reflection of your intended argument. Oftentimes, the easiest thing is to begin by writing down your proof or evidence and not write your introduction until last. This will ensure it matches the rest of your paper.
Strategies for Writing Effective Introduction
It is fine to write a provisional or experimental introduction to start with and later alter it. Some writers find it helpful to create some form of introductory paragraph first to get a writing project kick-started. If you belong to this category of writers, this approach is fine but make sure you revisit your introduction at a later time and, if needed, rewrite it.
Begin with a statement or sentence that gets readers hooked. Here are some strategies to consider (but bear in mind these might not suit every type of paper):
- an interesting example
- a stimulating quote closely linked to your paper’s argument
- a perplexing scenario
- some vivid and possibly surprising anecdote
- a question that gets readers thinking
Your essay’s opening sentence is one you need to pay careful attention to. Get yourself off on a good footing with readers by ensuring your opening sentence imparts some useful or intriguing information, done in a polished and interesting manner.
Five Types of Introduction that Are Not So Effective
If you do not have much to write about on a particular topic, this type of weaker introductory paragraph is relatively easy. In essence, it contains a number of rather vague sentences that do not say a great deal. Their goal is to fill the place of an introduction in a paper. If you have something useful to mention, then say it. Otherwise, this type of introduction simply holds the place, i.e., it is a “placeholder.”
2. An introduction that restates the question:
Sometimes, this strategy can be effective. It needs to be nothing more than simply restating your paper’s question rather than introducing your paper in a more interesting and/or specific way. With several essays from writers responding to this same question, teachers or professors will not want to have to read an entire paragraph that merely restates the assignment’s question.
3. The introduction known as the Webster’s Dictionary intro:
This type of introduction starts with the writer defining a word (or some of the words) from the assignment’s question as these are defined in, say, Webster’s dictionary. This is something any writer can do. If your aim is to discuss a key term, developing a definition of this yourself can be more advantageous and interesting for both you and your readership. This is especially so in the context of a specific assignment or class.
It may also be possible to take a definition from reading material or a source related to your class. You also need to understand that a dictionary is not necessarily an authority on your work. For example, its definition is unlikely to have considered your course context, and the information provided is not especially detailed.
4. “Dawn of Man:”
Generally speaking, this introduction type uses sweeping and broad-ranging statements regarding a topic’s relevance e.g. since time began, all over the world, and so on. Usually, it is very broad and general (very like a placeholder) and it does not link to a paper’s thesis. It often uses clichés, examples of which are “throughout the ages” and the “dawn of man.” It is difficult to think of a scenario where these might work. Very often, instructors consider them irritating.
5. The “Book Report:”
You possibly used introductions of this type when writing book reports at elementary school. You provide the book’s author and title, tell readers what that book is all about, and present other basic information about it. Because this format feels comfortable and familiar, you might be tempted to use it as a space filler. Since it includes information that your readers possibly know already and is not relevant to your paper’s thesis, this type of introduction is not effective.
To Conclude …
It can be difficult to write a good introduction. You could try various options before choosing the format you like best.
So, an introductory paragraph is used to transport readers into your paper’s topic, but what about your concluding paragraph? To put it simply, the closing paragraph should help return them to their everyday lives – while leaving them with a lasting feeling that they have read something meaningful and useful.