Introductions How to hook your readers like slimy little fish.
First and ForemostThink of Hollywood. If the firstten minutes of a movie areboring, you might turn it off orwalk out. A catchy introduction isa film maker’s challenge. A writerhas the same challenge: an essayintroduction should catch readers’attention, pull them in.
An introduction should . . .• Hook readers, make them want to keep reading, and be enjoyable to read.• Be original, creative, clever and memorable.• Smoothly transition to your thesis.• Clearly and logically introduce the purpose of your paper (the thesis).
Ask yourself these questions:• Is the introduction clever and original?• Would I want to keep reading this paper based on the introduction?• Could a reader state what this paper is about based on my introduction?
Introduction No-No’s• Don’t start out with ―This paper is about,‖ ―In this essay, I will tell you about,‖ ―today you will read about‖ or any other variations.• Unless you are writing a lengthy paper (over five pages), you don’t need to state all of your main points in the introduction. You can hint at them, though . . .
Introduction Formula: Catchy intro + Transition + Thesis StatementExamples will be color coded in the following strategies.
Tell a Story Start out with a few details from a real or hypothetical story involving your topic.Example: Irene Williams had been in twelve foster homes by the age of ten. In the hands of ill-qualified foster parents, she suffered physical abuse, malnutrition and emotional trauma. With deep cutbacks to social programs, the office that was supposed to oversee Irene and the other foster children in that county went from twenty-seven case workers to just ten. Irene fell through the cracks and she has suffered. Children all over the country have stories similar to Irene’s, due simply to the gross under funding of children’s welfare programs. Our government must prioritize more money to secure a safe future for all of American’s children through fully funding foster care programs.
Ask Questions Pose some challenging or interesting questions to the reader. You will answer these questions in your essay.Example: Do you ever wonder what happens to all that paper you dutifully place out on the curb for recycling each week? You may feel that you are doing your part to help reduce waste and save forests, but depositing waste in a bin is just one part of the process of recycling. Concerned consumers should support companies that use recycled materials in their products to help create a demand for the recycled resources.
Use a Theme Statement Give a general statement about the/a larger idea.Example: Doubt, fear, hopes and insecurities may be influenced by the outside world, but are largely constructs of our own mind. Humans have long sought to understand and master the mind, through rituals, physical endurance, meditation and most recently psychology . But perhaps the most prominent, universal way to explore ourselves is through storytelling, beginning with ancient myths and legends. Indeed, mythological stories are but extensions of the universal struggles of the
Give Background Information or Define Terms Depending on your topic, it can be helpful to give some minimal background to ensure all readers are on the same page.Example: ―Solid waste management‖ is a sanitary way of saying ―dealing with your garbage.‖ Though it’s something that most Americans will gladly avoid thinking about, we shouldn’t. With the average American producing about four pounds of solid garbage per day, landfills are, well, filling up. Some cities have dealt with this problem by imposing fines on people and businesses that don’t recycle and/or compost, a practical and necessary step for all American cities to take to help reduce our garbage and help American rethink their disposable lifestyles.
Set the Scene Create a visual location to set up your topic.Example: Shadows sweep across the grassy hillocks and sagebrush in Yellowstone National Park’s Lamar River Valley, with the deep quiet of a late fall evening broken by the haunting howl of a wolf coming from the valley floor. It’s a member of the Druid pack— one of twelve packs of wild wolves in the park. Like other wolves in the park and the rest of the northern Rockies, this pack is thriving. But that doesn’t keep Doug Smith, lead wolf biologist at Yellowstone, from worrying about their future.From ―Rocky Road Ahead for Wolves?‖ by Heidi Ridgley, published in Defenders magazine, Spring 2008.
Use Surprise or Shock Shake the reader up a bit with a surprising or shocking statement, then go on to explain it.Example: Hitler was a hero. Maybe not to people today, but in the 1930s, for many unwitting Germans, he was the man who was leading Germany back to prosperity and greatness. Of course, these Germans later found out their leader was a monster. We always hear how societies need heroes, but when taken too far, hero worship destroys both hero and followers.“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 Quotation Find a relevant quote from a source of authority.Example: "The novel Lolita," the critic Charles Blight said in 1959, "is proof that American civilization is on the verge of total moral collapse" (45). The judgment of critics and readers in subsequent years, however, has proclaimed Lolita [is/to be] one of the greatest love stories of all time and one of the best proofs that American civilization is still vibrant and alive.“Introduction Strategies.” MIT Online Writing and Communication Center. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2001. <http://web.mit.edu/writing/Writing_Types/introstrategies.html>
Give a Fact or Statistic Use a piece of information to startle the reader into wanting to read more.Example: Ask most kids who smoke if they plan to puff away for their entire lives and they will say no, they can quit any time they want to. However, ninety percent of adult smokers started before the age of eighteen, and fifty percent before age fourteen. Bet they thought they could quit, too. The truth is, whether a person will be a life- long smoker or not is most often determined in the teen years. All teens should be educated with the latest information on the realities and danger of smoking at an early age.Zibisky-Silver, Michelle. “Efficacy of anti-tobacco mass media campaigns on adolescent tobacco use.” Pediatric Nursing. May/June 2001, pg. 293-296.
Final WordSince we are often too embedded in our ownwork to look at it with an outsider’sperspective, make sure to have a few friendslook over your introduction. Ask them: – Does this get your attention? (If not, ask them what might.)– Does it make you want to keep reading?– Do you have a pretty good idea of what my paper is about?
Now go for it, young writers. Begin therace strong and you shall prevail!
CONCLUSIONS How to say the end without saying “The End.”
First and ForemostA conclusion should soundnatural. If the end of your lastparagraph already brings theessay to its logical end, thendon’t force a concludingparagraph.
A conclusion should. . .• stress the importance of your main point (the idea in your thesis statement, but not in the same exact words).• give the essay a sense of completeness for the reader.• leave a final impression on the reader. “Strategies for Writing a Conclusion.” LEO: Literacy Education Online. St. Cloud State University, 2004. <http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/acadwrite/conclude.html>
Ask Yourself Two Questions• Does it bring the discussion to a logical conclusion?• Does it engage the reader and make the main point of the essay memorable? “Strategies for Writing an Effective Conclusion.” ___________. West Chester University, 2002. <http://brainstorm-services.com/wcu-2002/conclusions.html>
Conclusion Suggestions• Answer the question ―So what?‖ (Show what’s important about your topic.)• Synthesize, don’t summarize.• Redirect your readers.• Create new meaning.“Strategies for Writing a Conclusion.” LEO: Literacy Education Online. St. Cloud State University, 2004. <http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/acadwrite/conclude.html>
Conclusion No-no’sAvoid the phrases • ―In summary‖ • ―In conclusion‖ • ―In closing‖ These sound stiff and forced. You should show the reader your conclusion, not tell her.
Conclusion Formula A reminder of the point of your paper + Something to leave your reader thinking (specific strategies follow)Examples are colored-coded on the strategies.
Echo the Introduction Refer back in some creative way to your introductory story and scenario. You might finish the story or give an alternate ending, for exampleExample: If we are to call ourselves a civilized society, we must dedicate more resources to social services that help children through the nightmare of abuse. Not every child has to become an Irene Williams.
Tie Together Some Details From the Essay Refer back in some creative way to a few salient and memorable details brought up in the article.Example: All this means , of course, is that statistically in New Hampshire I am far more likely to be hurt by my ceiling or underpants—to cite just two potentially lethal examples—than by a stranger, and, frankly, I don’t find that comforting at all.From ―Well, Doctor, I Was Just Trying to Lie Down. . .‖ by Bill Bryson.
Challenge the Reader Give your reader a call to action or a challenge to change his or her mind!Example: Consumers have the power to make this change. It’s time to stop giving lip service to recycling; use the power of the dollar to make a statement. Next time you are in the store, don’t just look for products that are recyclable, but also made from recycled materials. If we all commit to buying recycled products, the demand will increase, and all that paper we feel so good about setting out on the curb won’t go to – think about this – waste.
Look to the Future Give your reader a look into the future if the actions you are speaking about either do or do not happen. The future, is after all, what you are trying to change in a persuasive essay.Example: Without well-qualified teachers, schools are little more than buildings and equipment. If higher-paying careers continue to attract the best and the brightest college students, there will not only be a shortage of teachers, but the teachers available may not have the best qualifications. Our youth will suffer. And when youth suffers, the future suffers.
Pose Questions Asking questions that prompt deep thought may help you and your readers gain new insight on the issues.Example: Campaign advertisers should help us understand the candidates qualifications and positions on the issues. Instead, most present only general or emotional images of a family man or a God- fearing American. Do such advertisements contribute to creating informed voters or people who chose leaders the same way they choose soft drinks and soap?“Strategies for Writing a Conclusion.” LEO: Literacy Education Online. St. Cloud State University, 2004. <http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/acadwrite/conclude.html>
Final WordThe conclusion of your paper needs to feel like anatural ending. You should, in effect, say theend, without ever using the words ―The End.‖ That is your challenge, young warriors of the paper. Wield your pens well and be brave.