Writing the Introduction
An introduction can be tricky. Because the introduction is the first portion of the essay that the reader encounters, the stakes are fairly high for the introduction to be successful. A good introduction presents a broad overview of the topic and the thesis, and should convince the reader that it is worth their time to actually read the rest of the essay. Below are some tips that will make writing an introduction a little less daunting, and help us all to write essays that do not make professors want to bang their heads against the wall.
Basically, a good introduction provides the reader with a brief overview of the topic and an explanation of the thesis. A good introduction is fresh, engaging, and interesting. Successful introductions don’t rely on clichés or irrelevant information to demonstrate their point. Be brief, be concise, and be engaging. Good luck.
A strong body paragraph explains, proves, and/or supports the paper’s argumentative claim or thesis statement. If you are not sure how to craft one, try using this handy guide!
1. Insert a topic sentence: Encapsulates and organizes an entire paragraph. Although topic sentences may appear anywhere in a paragraph, in academic essays they often appear at the beginning. When creating a topic sentence, ask yourself what is going on in the paragraph. Why you chosen to include the information you have? Why is the paragraph important in the context of the argument or thesis statement? What point are the trying to make? It should be noted that relating the topic sentences to the thesis can help strengthen the coherence of the essay. If you include an argumentative claim or thesis statement in the introduction, then think of incorporating a keyword from that statement into the topic sentence. But you need not be overly explicit when you echo the thesis statement. Better to be subtle rather than heavy-handed. Do not forget that the topic sentence should do more than just establish a connection between the paragraph and the thesis. Use a topic sentence to show how the paragraph contributes to the development of the argument by moving it that one extra step forward. If the topic sentence merely restates the thesis, then either the paragraph is redundant or the topic sentence needs to be reformulated. If several of the topic sentences restate the thesis, even if they do so in different words, then the essay is probably repetitive. Although most paragraphs should have a topic sentence, there are a few situations when a paragraph might not need a topic sentence. For example, you might be able to omit a topic sentence in a paragraph that narrates a series of events, if a paragraph continues developing an idea that you introduced (with a topic sentence) in the previous paragraph, or if all the sentences and details in a paragraph clearly refer—perhaps indirectly—to a main point. The vast majority of the paragraphs, however, should have a topic sentence.
2. Explain the topic sentence: Does the topic sentence require further explanation? If so, add another 1-2 sentences explaining the topic sentence here.
3. Introduce the evidence: Most academic papers require students to integrate evidence (often quotes, but it can also include statistics, figures, common sense examples, etc.) to support the claim(s) made in the paragraph and/or the paper as a whole. When including evidence, make sure it is integrated smoothly into the text of the paper. Readers should be able to move from the words to the evidence without feeling a logical or mechanical jolt. When introducing quotes, always a) identify the source and b) summarize to provide context. Many terms may be used to introduce quoted material: asserts, believes, claims, comments, confirms, declares, defines, describes, explains, indicates, makes clear, proposes, etc. However, these terms are not interchangeable. Make the choice based on the meaning. Example #1: All of us know the grammar of our own language because, as Robert C. Pooley writes, “grammar is the structure: the observation of what people do when they use English words in discourse” (95).
Example #2: Edward P. J. Corbett (1960), one of America’s most distinguished rhetoricians, defines grammar clearly “as the study of how a language ‘works’–a study of how the structural system of a language combines with a vocabulary to convey meaning” (p. 111).
4. Insert the evidence: Insert/drop-in the supporting evidence (often quotes but again, evidence can also be in the form of personal examples, facts, statistics, etc.).
5. Unpack the evidence: Explain what the quote means and why it is important to the argument. The author should agree with how you sum up the quotation—this will help you establish credibility, by demonstrating that you do know what the author is saying even if you do not agree. Often 1-2 sentences tops (unless you evidence is particularly long or complicated that is).
6. Explain the evidence: No matter how good the evidence is, it will not help the argument much if the reader does not know why it is important. Ask yourself: how does this evidence prove the point you are trying to make in this paragraph and/or the paper as a whole? Can be opinion based and is often at least 1-3 sentences.
7. Insert a concluding sentence: End the paragraph with a concluding sentence or sentences that reasserts how the paragraph contributes to the development of the argument as a whole. So, to recap…
A. Insert a Topic Sentence
B. Explain the Topic Sentence
C. Introduce the Evidence
D. Insert the Evidence
E. Unpack the Evidence
F. Explain the Evidence
G. Insert a Concluding Sentence
Example #1: Claim: In the short story by Amy Tan, “Two Kinds,” the author leads us on a journey of a mother’s expectations for her daughter to become a prodigy are too high and willingly not obtainable. Upon a closer analysis of the writing, one can argue that the mother is not allowing her daughter to become her own person. She is instilling all hopes of her lost children on her sole child. In due course this short story looks at whether or not the pressure from the mother, hinders the daughter. Sample Body Paragraph: (1) Upon a further examination, the mother’s constant pressure on the daughter was beginning to wear on her. (2) Jing-mei’s mother would consistently give her daughter tests and the expectations to succeed were high. (3) As the daughter states right after she failed to perform well at the climatic piano recital (4) “After seeing my mother’s disappointed face once again, something inside me began to die. I hated the tests, the raised hopes and failed expectations” (Tan, 2017, p. 1152). (5, 6) After seeing the dissatisfaction from her mother’s face, the tests and hopes for success, began to eat away at her. It began to tear at the daughter’s emotional state. (7) The consistent disappointment pushed the daughter to the point where she would not become someone she is not
Example #2 Claim: The University of Texas (UT) provides a diversity of social, academic and athletic opportunities for students. This can be a powerful positive force, but it can also detract from students‟ abilities to manage their time. More attention to time management training is needed to ensure that all UT students graduate with the ability to succeed in their chosen careers Sample Body Paragraph: (1) While there is little doubt that extracurricular opportunities at UT are a positive and critical component of students‟ overall development, providing students with time management skills is equally important. (3) One only needs to look at past alumni to see the validity of this claim. As famous alum George W. Bush (1968) stated, (4) “I sometimes overdid it when I was at UT, missing out on valuable academic opportunities. Fortunately, I buckled down in my senior year and managed to make a “C‟ average and things have worked out fine since” (p. 227). (5) In this example, George W. Bush is arguing that the detrimental effects of extracurricular excesses can be rectified in the senior year of college. (6)While George W. Bush is certainly correct when he implies that it is never too late for a student to try to raise his or her GPA, it is probably better for students to attempt to balance academic and other activities early in their college career. Also, Bush assumes that all students can achieve what they want with a “C‟ average, but many students need higher GPAs in order to apply to professional school, graduate school and for graduate-entry jobs. (7) While extracurricular activities are often a positive and critical component of student life at UT, administrators should consider instigating a time management education and awareness course for all incoming freshmen. After all, not every UT graduate will be as lucky as George W. Bush; if our students are going to succeed in business and higher education, we need to first ensure they understand the importance of time management.
The Concluding Paragraph
Although conclusions generally do not cause students as much trouble as introductions, they are nearly as difficult to get right. Contrary to popular belief, conclusions do not merely restate the thesis, and they should never begin with “In conclusion…” They represent the last chance to say something important to the readers, and can be used for some, or all, of the following tasks:
Exactly which tasks the conclusion fulfills will vary according to the subject, the audience, and the objectives for the essay. Generally, conclusions fulfill a rhetorical purpose—they persuade the readers to do something: take action on an issue, change a policy, make an observation, or understand a topic differently.
Conclusions vary widely in structure, and no prescription can guarantee that the essay has ended well. If the introduction and body of the essay have a clear trajectory, the readers should already expect you to conclude when the final paragraph arrives, so don’t overload it with words or phrases that indicate its status. Below is an outline for a hypothetical, abstract essay with five main sections:
If AIDS is natural, then there is no message in its spread. But by all that science has learned and all that rationality proclaims, AIDS works by a mechanism that can be discovered. Victory is not ordained by any principle of progress, or any slogan of technology, so society must fight to end this dreaded disease. There is no message, but there is a mechanism.
Odegaard Writing Center. (2018). Strong body paragraphs. Retrieved from
The Concluding Paragraph. (2018). Retrieved from
The Writing Center. (2018). How to write a good introduction. Retrieved from
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