Step 6: The Introduction
Get the reader's attention
first goal in your introduction is to grab the reader's attention.
Wake him or her up and generate some interest about the topic.
To grab the reader's attention, you might present . . .
- an interesting fact
- a surprising piece of information
- an exciting quotation
- an intriguing paradox
- an explanation of an odd term
- a short narrative/anecdote (not fiction)
- a provocative question
an example of an attention-getting introduction.
right into the Issue
In a short essay (under 1,000 words), a lengthy introduction
is hardly needed. After getting the reader's attention, just jump
right into the issue and begin directly, perhaps describing a
specific, concrete situation -- presumably the context of the
problem you're exploring. Avoid beginning your essay with broad
statements or bland generalizations such as "X is becoming
an issue . . . " or "Throughout time man has wondered
. . . ." Do not begin so broad and general that the first
several sentences could fit nearly any essay in the world. For
- Too General: Crime has been
an issue throughout time.
- More Specific: The question
of the severity of punishments for juveniles is an issue that
has garnered attention due to the increasing number of juvenile
shootings in the last several years.
- Too General: Man has always
wondered about the meaning of information.
- More Specific: The Age of
Information brought about through the digital revolution of
computers has posed significant questions about the value and
worth of this information: Does having instant access to every
newspaper and journal blog in the world make us more intelligent,
I like how Michele Montaigne, a sixteenth-century essayist, explains
how to write an introduction: "For me, who ask only to become
wiser, not more learned or eloquent, these logical and Aristotelian
arrangements are not to the point. I want a man to begin with
the conclusion. I understand well enough what death and pleasure
are; let him not waste his time anatomizing them. I look for good
solid reasons from the start, which will instruct me in how to
sustain their attack. . . . I do not want a man to use his strength
making me attentive and to shout at me fifty times "Or oyez!"
in the manner of our heralds. . . . These are so many words lost
on me. I come fully prepared from my house; I need no allurement
or sauce; I can perfectly well eat my meat quite raw; and instead
of whetting my appetite by these preparations and preliminaries,
they pall and weary it" ("Of Books").
In other words, don't tire your reader with long introductions
that fail to get quickly to the point and issue. Begin with specifics
and jump right into the problem or conflict you are addressing.
When readers see a good conflict, they are likely to take an interest
Present your thesis
The entire introduction should lead toward the presentation of
your arguable assertion, or thesis, whereby you take a stand on
the issue you are discussing. Deliver your thesis at the end of
the introduction so that your reader knows what general position
you will take in your essay. You don't need to spell out all the
nitty gritty details of your thesis in the introduction, particularly
if it would be bulky and unintelligible to the reader who lacks
all the ensuing reference and context, but you should give the
reader a good idea of what your argument is. As you do this, avoid
saying "I will discuss . . ." or "I intend to argue
. . ."