introductory paragraph

In ENG 101 essays, the introduction is a single paragraph placed before the body paragraphs. The purpose of an introductory paragraph is to establish the topic of the essay, state the writer’s stance, position, or claim, and preview the shape of the essay’s argument in a formal thesis statement.

Additionally, a well-developed introduction may also use an interesting opening (also known as a “hook”) to stimulate a reader’s interest in the topic, help the reader activate what they already know (or think they know) about the topic, explain the writer’s purpose in writing, place the writer’s thesis in context, or give any background/ definitions of terms needed to understand it.

To create an interesting opening, you could refer to:

  • an anecdote/personal experience
  • a fictional/historical story
  • a surprising fact/statistic
  • a definition or concept
  • a debate or controversy
  • a popular (but fallacious) assumption (that you will rebut)

In addition, the introduction may need to provide a brief definition of any terms/concepts or mention a controversy/debate that will be discussed in depth later in the body of the essay. But do not mechanically define a list of terms used in the body of the essay; decide if the reader needs to understand any terms before they reach your thesis statement.

Finally, it  is very important that all parts of the introduction are relevant to the topic and develop organically towards the thesis.

When writing an introduction for your essay, elements 1-4 below are optional, but try to include at least one of them:

  1. INTERESTING OPENING to introduce the TOPIC
  2. RATIONALE for writing – why is it important to discuss this topic now?
  3. You may also want/need to include one or more of the following elements
    • BACKGROUND/CONTEXT of the topic, perhaps historical background, or an intellectual or cultural controversy about the topic
    • DEFINITION/S of any key terms on which the argument of the essay depends
    • SCOPE/FOCUS that limits the essay to looking at one thing but not another
    • METHOD to describe how you will proceed, e.g., by analysis/comparison of certain sources, etc.
  4. A clear and concise THESIS STATEMENT of your body paragraph arguments A1, A2, A3 … An
  • Try to write your introduction last in timed writing sessions, once you are sure what the body paragraphs of your essay will argue.
  • Introductions are notoriously difficult to write – writers often don’t know where to start, or get lost in the details of the contextual background, or begin with unsupported claims about the topic.
  • The “funnel introduction” (moving from general to specific ideas) often taught in high school is rarely an interesting or effective way to begin an essay. Please consider using a different strategy to create an engaging opening section to your introduction.
  • Remember, all arguments (claims and reasons) that you will support in the essay should be placed in the thesis statement, at the end of the introduction.
  • In ENG 101/102, a thesis may contain several complex ideas, so it does not have to be written as a single sentence, but may be comprised of several, as long as the shape of the coming argument is clearly suggested.
  • Academic writers often write multiple-paragraph introduction, or their thesis may be spread over several paragraphs, or even be unstated/implicit! This does not mean that you should do the same in 101. Follow the advice here, which is specific to the genre expected in this course.