16

Dr. Karen Palmer and Dr. Sandi Van Lieu

Introductions

the worst thing you write is better than the best thing you did not write

The introduction has two main jobs. First, it sets the stage for the argument that you will be making, letting readers know what is coming. Second, it connects that argument to the audience’s experiences so that they will want to read the argument. For the purposes of an introductory composition course, an introduction is usually no longer than a paragraph (four-six sentences). However, if a paper is longer than 5-6 pages, the introduction might be longer. In a 10 page paper, an introduction might be about a page. In a 200 page dissertation, the introduction will be chapter length–10-15 pages!

Parts of an Introduction

An introduction has three parts: a hook, an introduction to the topic, and a thesis.

  • Hook: The hook captures the reader’s attention with an intriguing question, a surprising fact, or a story that pulls them in. Your hook should relate the information in the argument to the reader’s experience, connecting the reader to the argument. (Hint: you must know who your audience is to do this effectively!)
  • Introduction to the topic: The introduction to the topic serves as a bridge between the hook and the thesis. It tells readers how the hook relates to your argument and gives them them the basic details about the topic. If you are writing about a piece of literature, for example, this is where you would include the title and author.
  • Thesis: The thesis is a one sentence statement that tells readers what the purpose of your essay is and gives a “map” of the paper. Your thesis should include both an arguable opinion about your topic and the main points you will cover in your essay.

Here is a sample introduction paragraph from an argument paper about community gardens:

Did you know that three in four college students will go hungry at some point of their college career? Even though there are campus food banks popping up around the country to address food insecurity for college students, the problem still exists. Campus gardens might be a way to enhance what food banks are already doing. Wasatch Gardens provides an innovative solution for fighting hunger on college campuses through creating community gardens that can assist the efforts of food banks.

The Hook is the question at the beginning of the paragraph–it provides a surprising statistic about food insecurity on college campuses. The last sentence is the thesis–it presents the author’s opinion on the topic. The middle two sentences introduce the topic of the paper and connect the hook to the thesis.

Checklist:

Here’s a checklist that can help you make sure your introduction includes all the necessary components:My introduction is a minimum of 4-6 sentences:

◊ I start with an engaging sentence that relates to my main topic.

◊ I grab the reader’s attention with a surprising fact, and interesting quote, or a question.

◊ I set the tone for the rest of the essay.

◊ I move from general to specific, with the thesis as the last sentence in the intro.

◊ I have a clear thesis that sums up what the paper is about.

Conclusions

Like the introduction, the conclusion of a paper should be brief but powerful. A conclusion helps the writer to wrap up the argument successfully. One way to do this is by presenting the introduction backward. Instead of moving from broad to specific, go the other way. First, re-state the thesis, then relate it back to your topic. Finally, end with that idea that you used to connect readers to the topic. If you asked a question, give the answer in the conclusion. If you told a story, tell readers the rest of the story. Depending on the type of essay, a conclusion might also include a call to action. The goal is to leave readers feeling that the time they spent reading the essay was worth their time because they learned something new or were presented information in a way that they hadn’t considered previously.

Here is a sample conclusion from the Community Garden essay:

Wasatch Gardens provides college campuses with a model for an innovative solution that can help to alleviate food insecurity on their campuses. Even for colleges that already have a campus food bank, adding a campus garden might be a way to enhance the services they provide. Not only would campus gardens provide nutritious food for students, but it could provide job experience for agriculture students and provide a living wage, as well. College campuses would do well to consider the benefits of incorporating a community garden to combat food insecurity on their campuses.

Note that the first sentence here restates the thesis, then the paragraph moves from the specific solution to a more general call to action that is related to the hook–the number of students facing food insecurity on college campuses–recapping the main points of the essay along the way.

Exercise 1

1. Using your current course essay topic, write an outline. Then, use the checklist as you edit your introduction:

◊ I start with an engaging sentence that relates to my main topic.

◊ I grab the reader’s attention with a surprising fact, and interesting quote, or a question.

◊ I set the tone for the rest of the essay.

◊ I move from general to specific, with the thesis as the last sentence in the intro.

◊ I have a clear thesis that sums up what the paper is about.


Attributions

License

Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Introductions and Conclusions Copyright © 2023 by Dr. Karen Palmer and Dr. Sandi Van Lieu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book