The function of introductions

An introduction paragraph can be one of the most daunting parts of papers to write, for it has to complete the following tasks:

  • Introduce the topic
  • Indicate the structure and/or methodology of the essay;
  • State the thesis of the essay.(1)

These tasks have somewhat illustrated the role of introductions——to "act as bridges that transport your readers from their own lives into the "place" of your analysis."(2)
(Note:Not every essay does all three in the first paragraph, and the degree to which an essay declares its structure or methodology may vary widely, depending on how necessary that information will be to the readers(1).)

Why bother writing a good introduction? "You never get a second chance to make a first impression".(2)To some extent, introductory paragraphs serve as interviewees, while readers act as interviewers who will decide whether the interviewees are qualified enough to get the job. "The opening paragraph of your paper will provide your readers with their initial impressions of your argument, your writing style, and the overall quality of your work. A vague, disorganized, error-filled, off-the-wall, or boring introduction will probably create a negative impression. " (2)
"Your introduction is an important road map for the rest of your paper.” (2)Your introduction conveys a lot of information to your readers,providing details about your topic or your process to develop your essay. In order to make make it clear, all these should be carefully arranged and organized in a thesis statement. "Unless an essay has a thesis, it has no purpose for being." (3)

"Ideally, your introduction will make your readers want to read your paper." (2) Essays are born to be read. So the introduction should accomplish the task of attracting others' interests, making readers want to read the rest of your paper.

How to write an effective introduction
Following are example introductions to show it is possible to write many different starts for any topic:
Most of the examples are adapted from a handout prepared byMattew Evens for the writing course for English majors in Xiamen University.
1. Anecdote
An anecdoteis a short ofthen funny story. Funny short stories are usually easier than any boring theoretical statement to capture the reader's interest so that he or she will continue to read your paper. "One caution: be sure that your story does not take over the paper. Remember, it is an introduction, not the paper."(4)

E.g: I had knocked on his locked door numerous times but without an answer. because i was worried, i decided to get help in forcing the door. As we walked in, we saw a dig mess with my friend at the center, eyes glued to the computer screen. We were relieved and shocked at the same time: he was alive but addicted. One question revolved around in our minds: how could we help him?
2. Scene
Caution: Your description must be vivid and engaging, otherwise do not bother to use a scene to start your essay.

E.g: The desk was littered with candy wrappers, and half-finished coke cans were everywhere. The entire room smelt like decay. My friend’s eyes were bloodshot, and his hair was sticky because he had not showered in days. He had just woken up, completely disoriented, from sleeping on the keyboard of his computer.

3. ProfileA profile is a short description of someone's life, work, character,etc. If you are going to write about someone famous, then it is a good try to use this means; otherwise you'd better quit it. People like to know more about celebrities, what they say or do. Dropping the name of a famous person at the beginning of a paper usually gets the reader's attention. The famous person, dead or alive, prestigious or notorious, must be relevant to the topic. 220px-Heath_Ledger.jpg

E.g: Australian actor __Heath Ledger__ died in January 2008 of an overdose at the age of 28. His death was mourned by fans around the world, and they flocked to see him in his last role as The Joker in Batmen://The Dark Knight//.. Ledger is just one person in a long line of actors, singers, and sports stars that have suffered from addiction and did not live to tell the tale. Realizing that you are not alone in your affliction and that your addiction can destroy you are two important lessons addicts can learn from such cases.

Heath Andrew Ledger
(4 April 1979 – 22 January 2008)

4. Background
This kind of technique is, more often than not, used when you want to raise people's ettentions to some unpleasant situations or problems that need to be urgently solved. Sometimes you may add startling statistics to draw attention.

E.g: While Chinese college students seem to be aware of the risks of computer games, 55% report they have stayed up playing games until 3 am or even later in the past month. That means more than half of college students were sleeping in class at least once in the past month, not being able to pay attention, or perhaps they did not go to class at all. If such practices are allowed to continue, we will see poorer performances in national exams, and graduates with significantly lower interpersonal abilities.

5. Quotation
You can choose whaterever quotations, whether it is a proverb, an idiom, words said by celebrities or lines from a classic movie, to get your article started. Quatations, especailly delicately selected lines of famous poems, are pretty much used in writings of Chiese students, for they think is is a way to show that they have read a lot and lerned a lot.225px-Hillary_Clinton_official_Secretary_of_State_portrait_crop.jpg

E.g: "__Hillary Rodham Clinton__ once said that “There cannot be true democracy
unless women's voices are heard.” In 2006, when Nancy Pelosi became the nation’s
first female Speaker of the House, one woman’s voice rang out clear.
With this development, democracy grew to its truest level ever
in terms of women’s equality. The historical event also paved the way
for Senator Clinton as she warmed her own vocal chords in preparation
for a presidential race."(5)

Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton
67th United states secretary of State

6. Dialogue
When using a dialogue, you'd better try to make it short, clear and related to the topic, otherwise it will destory its role as an "attention grabber".(1)

E.g: "Don't you have that chemistry paper that you need to hand in tomorrow?” I asked my roommate. He only nodded and continued his game. “Shouldn’t you stop playing then and start working on it?” I asked with more urgency in my voice. “Yeah, yeah, I’ll stop in a minute. I just want to make it to the next level,” he replied. “Perhaps you should stop now,” I suggested. I should not have said that: he turned around and started screaming at me:” Don’t stick your nose in my business!” it is not easy to help somebody with an addition, but an intervention must be the best solution.

7. Contrast

E.g:My cousins Jack and John are two happy, funny guys. They enjoy play basketball with me, and we often go out for dinner together. But when their grandfather passed away, they reacted very differently. Both of them felt depressed, naturally. Jack dove into his studies for a few weeks, yet cheered up after that. John, however, started playing computer games as distraction. We let him, because we thought it would help him. Several months later, John cannot stop playing and is only happy we he has played at least five hours a day. Computer game addiction is just as serious as any other kind of addiction.

8. Question
E.g: How can we help our fellow students that are addicted to computer games? They fail in their studies and do not take proper care of themselves. Good friends worry, but it is not easy to find a solution when the addicted person denies and refuses help. The best way to help addicted friends is with an intervention where you get all their friends together and try to make them see their troubles.

9. Controversial statement
Controversial statement, or put in another way "surprising statement"(1), shold be a surprise but not a shock. "There are many ways a statement can surprise a reader. Sometimes the statement is surprising because it is disgusting. Sometimes it is joyful... Sometimes it is surprising because of who said it. Sometimes it is surprising because it includes profanity."(1)

E.g: Computer games are the most dangerous invention since the gun. With a gun you can shoot others, and you will go to prison for it. But with computer games, you can truly destroy your own life and that of the people who love you: you are still alive, but like an empty shell. The only way to solve the problem is to severely restrict computer games; both the kind of game as the amount of time people can play it.

10. Definition
E.g: Addiction is a condition in which a person cannot live without the addiction’s source, for example alcohol. It may cause people to go to great lengths to get their desired kick and try and hide it from others around them. Without the fulfillment of their addiction, they feel physically sick…
Of all the 10 suggested means ot start an essay, some are frequently used, such as scene, profile, controvertial statement and so on, while some are not so popular, such as question and definition. Choose a proper one that is to your topic as well as engaging.

Things NOT to do in an introductory paragraph(4):
  • Apologize. Never suggest that you don't know what you're talking about or that you're not enough of an expert in this matter that your opinion would matter. Avoid phrases like the following:
In my [humble] opinion . . .
I'm not sure about this, but . . .

  • Announce your intentions flatly. Get into the topic and let your reader perceive your purpose in the topic sentence of your beginning paragraph. Avoid expressions like the following:

In this paper I will . . .
The purpose of this essay is to . . .

  • Use a dictionary or encyclopedia definition.
According to Merriam-Webster's WWWebster Dictionary,a widget is . . .
  • Dilly-dally. Get to it. Move confidently into your essay. Many writers find it useful to write a warm-up paragraph (or two, even) to get them into the essay, to sharpen their own idea of what they're up to, and then they go back and delete the running start.

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