Why do I need an introduction?
of an introduction is to grab your reader's attention, to set the stage for
the rest of your paper, and to get across the paper's main point. After
reading the introduction, your reader should not be surprised by the paper's
contents, tone, or organization. Many writers find introductions to be the
most difficult section of a paper to write.
How can I write one?
it. Until you have written the rest of your paper, you do not know exactly
what you are introducing. Even if you write the introduction first, you will
probably have to go back and change it after you write the body of the
paper. So jump to the body first! After you know what the paper contains and
how it "sounds,' you will probably find it easier to write the introduction.
cannot go wrong with a general-to-specific structure, sometimes called the
"inverted pyramid" or "funnel." (It is not terribly exciting, but it gets
the job done.) These introductions begin with a broad, general sentence to
give the reader perspective. The next few sentences get more specific, until
the paragraph ends with the thesis statement. Here is an example from
The St. Martins Handbook:
The United States has seen many changes in its
economy during the last hundred years. Among these changes is the
organization of workers. Unions were formed in the late nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries to battle against long hours and bad working conditions.
The workers organized against their employers and won their battles. Today,
it is very uncommon to find such oppressive conditions in the work place.
Why, then, do unions still exist today? When we examine many of the labor
battles of recent years, we find that unions exist mostly as bargaining
units through which workers can gain higher wages-at any cost.
first sentences of an introduction are often the trickiest.
The Bedford Handbook for Writers describes
eight "hooks,' or types of first sentences: a startling statistic or unusual
fact; a vivid example; a description; a paradoxical statement; a quotation
or bit of dialogue; a question; an analogy; a joke or anecdote.
St. Martins provides some good examples of
with a quotation: "Go back to hell where you came from, you old wart hog,"
says Mary Grace, an unattractive girl from a Massachusetts college, to Mrs.
Ruby Turpin, a hypocritical Southern woman, in Flannery O'Connor's
with an anecdote: "Imagine awakening to a thunderous roar that sounds like a
herd of elephants and banshees, accompanied by an upheaval of your bed that
dumps you on the floor."
with a question: "Why is the American population terrified of turning to
nuclear power as a future source of energy?"
What about the thesis statement?
thesis statement is a crucial part of most introductions. The thesis should
say exactly what the paper will be about,
but it should not be a fact; instead, it
should be "a generalization demanding proof or further development" (Medford
Handbook). For example, the thesis in the sample paragraph above (#2) is
the last sentence; it tells us exactly what the paper will do: it will
describe some recent union battles and will argue that these battles (often
quite nasty) were ultimately about the workers seeking higher pay.
Bedford gives additional examples:
factual: The first polygraph was developed by Dr. John A. Larson in 1921.
Revised: Because the polygraph has not been proved reliable, even under the
most controlled conditions, its use by private employers should be banned.
broad: Many drugs are now being used successfully to treat mental illness.
Revised: Despite its risks and side effects, lithium is an effective
treatment for depression.
vague: Many of the songs played on station WXQP are disgusting. Revised: Of
the songs played on station WXQP, all too many crudely depict sex, sanction
the beating or rape of women, or foster gang violence.
- The OWL has other online handouts about introductions and thesis