IntroductionsHow to hook your readerslike slimy little fish.
First and ForemostThink of Hollywood. If thefirst tenminutesof amovieareboring, youmight turn it off or walk out. Acatchy introduction isafilm maker’schallenge. A writer hasthesamechallenge: an essay introductionshould catch readers’ attention, pullthem in.
An introduction should . . .• Hook readers, makethem want to keepreading, and beenjoyableto read.• Beoriginal, creative, clever andmemorable.• Smoothly transition to your thesis.• Clearly and logically introducethepurposeof your paper (thethesis).
Ask yourself thesequestions:• Istheintroduction clever andoriginal?• Would Iwant to keep reading thispaper based on theintroduction?• Could areader statewhat thispaperisabout based on my introduction?
Introduction No-No’s• Don’t start out with “This paper isabout,” “In this essay, I will tell youabout,” “today you will read about” orany other variations.• Unless you are writing a lengthypaper (over five pages), you don’tneed to state all of your main points inthe introduction. You can hint atthem, though . . .
Introduction Formula:Catchy intro+Transition+ThesisStatementExampleswill becolor coded in thefollowing strategies.
Tell a StoryStart out with afew detailsfrom areal or hypothetical story involvingyour topic.Example:Irene Williams had been in twelve fo ster homes by the age o f ten. Inthe hands o f ill-qualified fo ster parents, she suffered physicalabuse,malnutritio n and emo tio nal trauma. With deep cutbacks to so cialprograms, the office that was suppo sed to oversee Irene and the o therfo ster children in that co unty went fro m twenty-seven case wo rkers tojust ten. Irene fellthro ugh the cracks and she has suffered. Childrenallo ver the co untry have sto ries similar to Irene’ s, due simply to thesevere under funding o f children’ s welfare pro grams. Ourgo vernment must prio ritize mo re mo ney to secure a safe future fo r allo f American’ s children thro ugh fully funding fo ster care pro grams.
Ask QuestionsPosesomechallenging or interesting questionsto thereader. You will answer thesequestionsin your essay.Example:Do yo u ever wo nder what happens to allthat paper yo udutifully place o ut o n the curb fo r recycling each week?Yo u may feelthat yo u are do ing yo ur part to help reducewaste and save fo rests, but depo siting waste in a bin is justo ne part o f the pro cess o f recycling. Co ncerned co nsumerssho uld suppo rt co mpanies that use recycled materials intheir pro ducts to help create a demand fo r the recycledreso urces.
Use a Theme StatementGiveageneral statement about the/alarger idea.Example:Do ubt, fear, ho pes and insecurities may be influenced by theo utside wo rld, but are largely co nstructs o f o ur o wn mind.Humans have lo ng so ught to understand and master themind, thro ugh rituals, physicalendurance, meditatio n andmo st recently psycho lo gy . But perhaps the mo st pro minent,universal way to explo re o urselves is thro ugh sto rytelling,beginning with ancient myths and legends. Indeed,mytho lo gicalsto ries are but extensio ns o f the universalstruggles o f the human psyche.
Give Background Informationor Define TermsDepending on your topic, it can behelpful to givesomeminimalbackground to ensureall readersareon thesamepage.Example:“ So lid waste management” is a sanitary way o f saying “ dealing withyo ur garbage.” Tho ugh it’ s so mething that mo st American willgladly avo id thinking about, we sho uldn’ t igno re this issue. With theaverage American pro ducing abo ut fo ur po unds o f solid garbage perday, landfills are, well, filling up. So me cities have dealt with thisproblem by impo sing fines o n people and businesses that do n’ trecycle and/o r co mpo st, a practicaland necessary step fo r allAmerican cities to take to help reduce our garbage and helpAmerican rethink their dispo sable lifestyles.
Set the SceneCreateavisual location to set up your topic.Example:Shado ws sweep acro ss the grassy hillo cks and sagebrush inYello wsto ne Natio nal Park’ s Lamar River Valley, with the deep quieto f a late fallevening bro ken by the haunting ho wlo f a wolf co mingfro m the valley flo o r. It’ s a member o f the Druid pack— o ne o f twelvepacks o f wild wo lves in the park. Like o ther wo lves in the park andthe rest o f the no rthern Ro ckies, this pack is thriving. But that do esn’ tkeep Do ug Smith, lead wo lf bio lo gist at Yello wsto ne, fro m wo rryingabo ut their future.Fro m “ Ro cky Ro ad Ahead fo r Wo lves?” by Heidi Ridgley, published in Defenders magazine, Spring 2008 .
Use Surprise or ShockShakethereader up abit with asurprising or shockingstatement, then go on to explain it.Example:Hitler was a hero . Maybe no t to peo ple to day, but in the1 930s, fo r many unwitting Germans, he was the man whowas leading Germany back to pro sperity and greatness. Ofco urse, these Germans later fo und o ut their leader was amo nster. We always hear ho w so cieties need hero es, butwhen taken to o far, hero wo rship destro ys bo th hero andfo llo wers.“Writing Introductions.” Teaching and learning Center at Superstition Mountain Campus.Central Arizona College, 2004.<http://www.cac.cc.az.us/smc/writing/intros.htm>
Use a QuotationFind arelevant quotefrom asourceof authority.Example:" The no velLo lita," the critic Charles Blight said in 1 959," is pro o f that American civilizatio n is o n the verge o f to talmo ralco llapse" (45). The judgment o f critics and readers insubsequent years, ho wever, has pro claimed Lo lita [is/to be]o ne o f the greatest lo ve sto ries o f alltime and o ne o f thebest pro o fs that American civilizatio n is stillvibrant andalive.“Introduction Strategies.” MIT Online Writing and Communication Center. MassachusettsInstitute of Technology, 2001.<http://web.mit.edu/writing/Writing_Types/introstrategies.html>
Give a Fact or StatisticUseapieceof information to startlethereader into wanting to readmore.Example:Ask most kids who smo ke if they plan to puff away fo r their entirelives and they will say no , they can quit any time they want to .Ho wever, ninety percent of adult smo kers started befo re the age o feighteen, and fifty percent befo re age fo urteen. Bet they tho ught theyco uld quit, too . The truth is, whether a perso n willbe a life-lo ngsmo ker or no t is mo st o ften determined in the teen years. Allteensshould be educated with the latest info rmatio n o n the realities anddanger o f smo king at an early age.Zibisky-Silver, Michelle. “Efficacy of Anti-tobacco Mass Media Campaigns onAdolescent Tobacco Use.” Pediatric Nursing. May/June 2001, pg. 293-296.
Final WordSinceweareoften too embedded in our ownwork to look at it with an outsider’sperspective,makesureto haveafew friendslook over yourintroduction. Ask them:– Do es this get yo ur attentio n? (If no t, ask themwhat might.)– Do es it make yo u want to keep reading?– Do yo u have a pretty go o d idea o f what mypaper is abo ut?
Now go for it,young writers.Begin the racestrong and youshall prevail!
CONCLUSIONSHow to say the end without saying“The End.”
First and ForemostA conclusion should soundnatural. If theend of your lastparagraph already bringstheessay to it’slogical end, thendon’t forceaconcludingparagraph.
A conclusion should. . .• stresstheimportanceof your main point(theideain your thesisstatement, but not inthesameexact words).• givetheessay asenseof completenessforthereader.• leaveafinal impression on thereader.“Strategies for Writing a Conclusion.” LEO: Literacy Education Online. St. CloudState University, 2004. <http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/acadwrite/conclude.html>
Ask Yourself Two Questions• Doesit bring thediscussion to alogical conclusion?• Doesit engagethereader and makethemain point of theessaymemorable?“Strategies for Writing an Effective Conclusion.” Effective Writing I Class Notes.West Chester University, 2002. <http://brainstorm-services.com/wcu-2002/conclusions.html>
Conclusion Suggestions• Answer thequestion “So what?”(Show what’simportant about your topic.)• Synthesize, don’t summarize.• Redirect your readers.• Createnew meaning.“Strategies for Writing a Conclusion.” LEO: Literacy Education Online. St. CloudState University, 2004. <http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/acadwrite/conclude.html>
Conclusion No-no’sAvoid thephrases• “In summary”• “In conclusion”• “In closing”These so und stiff and fo rced. Yo usho uld showthe reader yo urco nclusio n, no t tellher.
Conclusion FormulaA reminder of the point of yourpaper+Something to leave your readerthinking (specific strategies follow)Examples are colored-coded on the strategies.
Echo the IntroductionRefer back in somecreativeway to yourintroductory story and scenario. You might finishthestory or givean alternateending, for exampleExample:If we are to callo urselves a civilized so ciety, wemust dedicate mo re reso urces to so cialservices thathelp children thro ugh the nightmare o f abuse. No tevery child has to beco me an Irene Williams.
Tie Together Some DetailsFrom the EssayRefer back in somecreativeway to afew salient andmemorabledetailsbrought up in thearticle.Example:Allthis means , o f co urse, is that statistically in NewHampshire Iam far mo re likely to be hurt by myceiling o r underpants— to cite just two po tentiallylethalexamples— than by a stranger, and, frankly, Ido n’ t find that co mfo rting at all.Fro m “ Well, Do cto r, IWas Just Trying to Lie Do wn. . .” by BillBryso n.
Challenge the ReaderGiveyour reader acall to action or achallengetochangehisor her mind!Example:Co nsumers have the po wer to make this change. It’ stime to sto p giving lip service to recycling; use thepo wer o f the do llar to make a statement. Next time yo uare in the sto re, do n’ t just lo o k fo r pro ducts that arerecyclable, but also made fro m recycled materials. Ifwe allco mmit to buying recycled pro ducts, the demandwillincrease, and allthat paper we feelso go o d abo utsetting o ut o n the curb wo n’ t go to – think abo ut this –waste.
Look to the FutureGiveyour reader alook into thefutureif theactionsyou arespeaking about either do or do not happen. Thefuture, isafter all, what you aretrying to changein apersuasiveessay.Example:Witho ut well-qualified teachers, scho o ls are little mo re thanbuildings and equipment. If higher-paying careers co ntinueto attract the best and the brightest co llege students, therewillno t o nly be a sho rtage o f teachers, but the teachersavailable may no t have the best qualificatio ns. Our yo uthwillsuffer. And when yo uth suffers, the future suffers.
Pose QuestionsAsking questionsthat prompt deep thought may help you and yourreadersgain new insight on theissues.Example:Campaign advertisers sho uld help us understand the candidatesqualificatio ns and po sitio ns o n the issues. Instead, mo st presento nly generalo r emo tio nal images of a family man o r a Go d-fearingAmerican. Do suchadvertisements contribute to creating info rmedvo ters o r people who cho se leaders the same way they cho o se so ftdrinks and so ap?“Strategies for Writing a Conclusion.” LEO: Literacy Education Online. St. CloudState University, 2004. <http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/acadwrite/conclude.html>
Final WordTheconclusion of your paper needstofeel likeanatural ending. You should, ineffect, say theend, without ever using thewords“TheEnd.”That is your challenge, youngwarriors of the paper. Wieldyour pens well and be brave.