Introductory Paragraphs



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Introductory Paragraphs

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Your introductory paragraph is extremely important. It sets the tone for the entire paper and introduces your reader to your argument. In almost all cases, you want to be sure the paragraph has the following components: a thesis statement and a preview of how you will make your argument.

Some of the most common problems with introductory paragraphs are:

1) No thesis statement. Remember that your thesis statement needs to be an argument, not simply a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response to the question. What will you argue? Within the thesis statement or in the next sentence you must say something about why you are making that argument. Also, be bold and direct about your thesis. OWN it. Don’t beat around the bush with lots of qualifying statements.

2) No indication to the reader how the argument will be made. In addition to the WHAT question (what will you argue?), there is the HOW question. How will you make your argument? Your introductory paragraph should say something about the logic, evidence or points you will present in support of your thesis.

3) Opening the paper with a discussion of the nature of the universe. Don’t start your paper with huge, sweeping statements about the world. Cut to the chase. What material are you engaging? Who is making what arguments? What do you have to say about those arguments?

4) Sloppy punctuation. Don't frustrate your reader by forgetting to proofread for basic grammar problems. USE THE APOSTROPHE for possessives (i.e., Thompson's book, not Thompsons book). But don’t use apostrophes to say the possessive "its." LEARN HOW TO USE THE COMMA. If you aren’t sure when to use a comma, refer to a style manual or go to the Writing Center technical assistance website.

5) Imprecise word choices. You always want to avoid words that are vague (such as "problematic") but this is particularly true for the introductory paragraph. Your reader will immediately have questions about your meaning. Be as specific as possible. Instead of writing, "Foster’s argument is problematic," (which doesn’t tell your reader very much) think about what aspect of Foster’s argument has a problem and what sort of problem it is. Is it inaccurate? Is it naïve? inconsistent? incoherent? ridiculous?

6) Overuse of quotations. It is usually best not to begin or end your introductory paragraph with a quotation. You weaken your argument by relying on someone else’s words so early on in the paper. If you do quote in the first paragraph, make sure it is short and to the point.

Thesis Statements



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A writing assignment is designed to make an argument of some sort. In order to do that, it must be well organized and make a clear point. The framework and structure of the paper must be clear so as to direct the reader along the path of your argument. To accomplish this task, you need to develop a clear thesis. A thesis is the central argument. It is essential that it be concise and well written. It should be provided early on in your paper, so as to give the reader a road map and a sense of direction. Don't bury it, state it clearly and visibly. Developing a well-written thesis, and then revising and revisiting it, will help you develop a clearer understanding of your paper and your argument.



Thesis statements must make a claim. Thesis statements are not statements of fact, and they should be more than a simple point of view. For example:

Statement of fact: "Karl Marx was a political thinker who believed that capitalism exploits working people." This is a point that is essentially undisputeable.

Similarly, the claim "The United Nations is an organization comprised of different nation-states around the world" is not likely to inspire much debate.



Opinion statements: On the other hand, the sentence "Marx was wrong about capitalism because capitalism is good for people" is closer to a thesis statement because it makes a claim - it takes a stand or a perspective on a particular topic. But in this format it is too much of an opinion and not enough of an argument.

Similarly, "The United Nations is an ineffective organization" is closer to a thesis statement than the factual statement about the United Nations because it raises a point that is debateable. But again, in this format it doesn't offer the reader much information and, thus, it sounds like the author is simply stating their viewpoint which may or may not be substantiated by evidence.



The key difference between an opinion statement and thesis statement is that the latter conveys to the reader that the claim being offered has been thoroughly explored and is defendable by evidence.

Thesis statements: Thus, in the first example, you need to indicate that you have a clear sense of which of Marx's views were wrong and why they were wrong (by "wrong" do you mean incorrect, inaccurate, silly, ridiculous, unsupported...?). Furthermore, you would need to specify what you mean by capitalism being "good" for people. Good in what sense? It makes them happy? successful? productive? Being specific in your claims means that you will have to think through your evidence to be sure it supports your conclusions. By doing this, you will make it clear to your reader that your thesis is something that you have considered and are able to support through the knowledge you have acquired in the course.

Thus, you may end up with:

Marx's views about capitalism were rooted in a specific time and place, neither of which are true today; his arguments that capitalism exploits working people, when re-examined in contemporary society, do not account for the high standard of living enjoyed by a great many workers around the world.

Note: You should always think about what another argument (perhaps the opposite one) would look like if you were to try to counter your own. This will ultimately strengthen your argument because it requires you to justify to yourself and others why you think what you think. For example, one could counter the above thesis statement with:

Marx's critique of capitalism, though written over 100 years ago, is still devastating today; with the gap between rich and poor increasing even in the world's richest countries such as the U.S., it has become clear that a capitalist economic system can only result in massive exploitation of the working class.

Of course, one can re-work a thesis statement indefinitely and one can almost always find something at fault with it. But the point is that you must be sure that your thesis statement is indicating to your reader that you have an argument to make.

In addition, your thesis should also help you organize your paper. As you present your argument in your thesis, it should lay out how you will organize your paper. For example if your thesis is, "The organization of the UN makes it incapable of preventing war between major powers," this then gives the central structure to your paper. First you will explore the UN's organizational structure. Then you will examine why that structure hampers the UN's ability to keep peace. After laying the foundations of your central argument, you can elaborate on the specific logical steps within your thesis. You can add to the argument above, by describing the organizational structures you wish to explore, such as the Security Council, funding of the UN, and other assorted points that you are going to explore more fully in your paper. Always be sure to present them in order as they will appear in order as they will appear in your paper. In the end, your thesis should lay out your argument and provide the reader with a map to the paper.


Plagiarism and Student Writing


 

Plagiarism occurs whenever someone uses the ideas or writings of another as their own without giving due credit. According to the Committee on Academic Conduct (1994, p. 23), a student commits plagiarism by:

 


  1. 1.      Using another writer's words without proper citation.

If you use another writer's words, you must place quotation marks around the quoted material and include a footnote or other indication of the source of the quotation.

  1. 2.      Using another writer's ideas without proper citation.

When you use another author's ideas, you must use a citation to indicate where this information can be found. Your instructors want to know which ideas and judgments are yours and which you arrived at by consulting other sources. Even if you arrived at the same judgment on your own, you need to acknowledge that the writer you consulted also came up the with idea....

  1. 3.      Citing your source but reproducing the exact words of a printed source without quotation marks.

This makes it appear that you have paraphrased rather than borrowed the author's exact words.

  1. 4.      Borrowing the structure of another author's phrases or sentences without crediting the author from whom it came.

This kind of plagiarism usually occurs out of laziness: it is easier to replicate another writer's style than to think about what you have read and then put it in your own words. For example (Hacker, 1989, p. 171):

Original: If the existence of a signing ape was unsettling for linguists, it was also startling news for animal behaviorists.

Unacceptable borrowing of words: An ape who knew sign language unsettled linguists and startled animal behaviorists.

Unacceptable borrowing of sentence structure: If the presence of a sign-language-using chimp was disturbing for scientists studying language, it was also surprising to scientists studying animal behavior.

Acceptable paraphrasing: When they learned of an ape's ability to use sign language, both linguists and animal behaviorists were taken by surprise.

  1. 5.      Borrowing all or part of another student's paper or using someone else's outline to write your own paper.

  2. 6.      Using a paper writing "service" or having a friend write the paper for you.

Regardless of whether you pay a stranger or have a friend do it, it is a breach of academic honesty to hand in work that is not your own or to use parts of another student's paper.

 

What Are the Consequences of Plagiarism at the University of Washington?



 

The procedures of the College of Arts and Sciences for handling cases of plagiarism are the following: "an instructor need not give credit for work which is the product of cheating, plagiarism, or other academic misconduct. However, the lowering of a course grade is not appropriate as a disciplinary sanction." In other words, you can receive a failing grade for writing a plagiarized paper. Or, you may receive an incomplete until the case is brought before the College Disciplinary Committee. The result in most cases is academic probation for the student involved. For more information, see the Statement of Academic Responsibility in the UW Bachelor's Degree Handbook.

 

How Do You Avoid Plagiarism?


  • Understand your subject! Often students will want to recopy entire sections of a scientific paper -- with or without crediting the original author -- because they don't really understand what they are writing. If you can't put the information into your own words, you aren't ready to write about it. To learn how to paraphrase what you want to write, first try to explain it to someone else.

 

  • Use others' ideas or writing as support for, not in place of, your own ideas. If your ideas come directly from another source, cite that source.

 

  • When taking notes for a paper, always distinguish your ideas from those from the source you are reading. Establish a pattern and use it consistently. For example, write information obtained from another source in brackets or parentheses, and write your own ideas without brackets. Alternatively, use different colors of ink to distinguish between original and non-original ideas.

 

  • Always paraphrase unless you are quoting directly. Rework an idea and shorten it. If the idea is new, or not common knowledge, make sure to cite the source in a footnote or in the body of your paper.

 

When Do You Use Quotation Marks?

  • Use quotation marks whenever you are using someone else's words exactly, but use direct quotes sparingly (e.g., to support your point with the words of an authority, or when original wording is unusual, strong, or characteristic of the speaker). Writing in your own words, using a few quotes to strengthen your main points, shows that you understand your topic. Stringing quotes together suggests that you don't. Arguments made in scientific writing rarely focus on the specific words used in the source material -- unlike arguments made in literary criticism, for example -- so students may find that they use quotes less often in scientific papers.

 

When Do You Use Footnotes or Citations?

  • Anytime that you quote someone, you must refer to the source and exact page number. If you are paraphrasing another writer's ideas or opinions, or information that is not common knowledge, you must cite the source. Citations are important, not only because they give credit to the original author, but also because they allow your reader to find the original information.

The Introductory Paragraph


From Grace Fleming,
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Start With a Great First Sentence


First impressions are so important. How many times have you heard that? It is true that the first impression—whether it’s a first meeting with a person or the first sentence of a paper—sets the stage for a lasting opinion.

The introductory paragraph of any paper, long or short, should start with a sentence that piques the interest of your readers.

In a typical essay, that first sentence leads into two or three sentences that provide details about your subject or your process. All of these sentences build up to your thesis statement.

The thesis statement is the subject of much instruction and training. The entirety of your paper hangs on that sentence. But its function is to be informative and direct.

This means it’s not normally very exciting.

Your First Sentence


To get your paper off to a great start, you should try to have a first sentence that engages your reader. Think of your first sentence as a hook that draws your reader in. It is your big chance to be so clever that your reader can’t stop.

As you researched your topic, you probably discovered many interesting anecdotes, quotes, or trivial facts. This is exactly the sort of thing you should use for an engaging introduction.



Consider these ideas for creating a strong beginning.

Surprising fact: The pentagon has twice as many bathrooms as are necessary. The famous government building was constructed in the 1940s, when segregation laws required that separate bathrooms be installed for people of African descent. This building isn’t the only American icon that harkens back to this embarrassing and hurtful time in our history. Across the United States there are many examples of leftover laws and customs that reflect the racism that once permeated American society.

Humor: When my older brother substituted fresh eggs for our hard-boiled Easter eggs, he didn’t realize our father would take the first crack at hiding them. My brother’s holiday ended early that particular day in 1991, but the rest of the family enjoyed the warm April weather, outside on the lawn, until late into the evening. Perhaps it was the warmth of the day and the joy of eating Easter roast while Tommy contemplated his actions that make my memories of Easter so sweet. Whatever the true reason, the fact is that my favorite holiday of the year is Easter Sunday.

Quotation: 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.

Finding the Hook


In each example, the first sentence draws the reader in to find out how the interesting fact leads to a point. You can use many methods to capture your reader’s interest.

Curiosity: A duck’s quack doesn’t echo. Some people might find a deep and mysterious meaning in this fact …

Definition: A homograph is a word with two or more pronunciations. Produce is one example …

Anecdote: Yesterday morning I watched as my older sister left for school with a bright white glob of toothpaste gleaming on her chin. I felt no regret at all until she stepped onto the bus

End With a Good Beginning


Once you complete a first draft of your paper, go back to re-construct your introductory paragraph. Be sure to check your thesis statement to make sure it still holds true—then double check your first sentence to give it some zing.

How Transitions Work


The organization of your written work includes two elements: (1) the order in which you have chosen to present the different parts of your discussion or argument, and (2) the relationships you construct between these parts. Transitions cannot substitute for good organization, but they can make this organization clearer and easier to follow. The following example should help to make this point clear.

El Pais, a Latin American country, has a new democratic government after having been a dictatorship for many years. Assume that you want to argue that El Pais is not as democratic as the conventional view would have us believe. One way to effectively organize your argument would be to present the conventional view and then to provide the reader with your critical response to this view. So, in Paragraph A you would want to enumerate all the reasons that someone might consider El Pais highly democratic, while in Paragraph B you would want to refute these points. The transition that would establish the logical connection between these two key elements of your argument would indicate to the reader that the information in paragraph B contradicts the information in paragraph A. As a result, you might organize your argument, including the transition that links paragraph A with paragraph B, in the following manner:

Paragraph A: points in support of the view that El Pais's new government is very democratic.

Transition: Despite the previous arguments, there are many reasons to think that El Pais's new government is not as democratic as typically believed.

Paragraph B: points that contradict the view that El Pais's new government is very democratic.

In this case, the transition words "Despite the previous arguments," suggest that the reader should not believe paragraph A and instead should consider the writer's reasons for viewing El Pais's democracy as suspect in the upcoming paragraph.

As the previous example suggests, transitions can help reinforce the underlying logic of your paper's organization by providing the reader with essential information regarding the relationship between your ideas. In this way, transitions act as the glue that binds the components of your argument or discussion into a unified, coherent, and persuasive whole.

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Types of Transitions


Now that you have a general idea of how to go about developing effective transitions in your writing, let us briefly discuss the types of transitions your writing will use.

The types of transitions available to you are as diverse as the circumstances in which you need to use them. A transition can be a single word, a phrase, a sentence, or an entire paragraph. In each case it functions the same way: first, the transition either directly summarizes the content of a preceding sentence, paragraph, or section, or it implies that summary. Then it helps the reader anticipate or comprehend the new information that you wish to present.



  1. Transitions between Sections--Particularly in longer works, it may be necessary to include transitional paragraphs that summarize for the reader the information just covered and specify the relevance of this information to the discussion in the following section.

  2. Transitions between Paragraphs--If you have done a good job of arranging paragraphs so that the content of one leads logically to the next, the transition will highlight a relationship that already exists by summarizing the previous paragraph and suggesting something of the content of the paragraph that follows. A transition between paragraphs can be a word or two (however, for example, similarly), a phrase, or a sentence.

  3. Transitions within Paragraphs--As with transitions between sections and paragraphs, transitions within paragraphs act as cues by helping readers to anticipate what is coming before they read it. Within paragraphs, transitions tend to be single words or short phrases.

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Transitional Expressions


Effectively constructing each transition often depends upon your ability to identify words or phrases that will indicate for the reader the kind of logical relationships you want to convey. The table below should make it easier for you to find these words or phrases. Whenever you have trouble finding a word, phrase, or sentence to serve as an effective transition, refer to the information in the table for assistance. Look in the left column of the table for the kind of logical relationship you are trying to express. Then look in the right column of the table for examples of words or phrases that express this logical relationship.

LOGICAL RELATIONSHIP

TRANSITIONAL EXPRESSION

Similarity

also, in the same way, just as ... so too, likewise, similarly

Exception/Contrast

but, however, in spite of, on the one hand ... on the other hand, nevertheless, nonetheless, notwithstanding, in contrast, on the contrary, still, yet

Sequence/Order

first, second, third, ... next, then, finally

Time

after, afterward, at last, before, currently, during, earlier, immediately, later, meanwhile, now, recently, simultaneously, subsequently, then

Example

for example, for instance, namely, specifically, to illustrate

Emphasis

even, indeed, in fact, of course, truly

Place/Position

above, adjacent, below, beyond, here, in front, in back, nearby, there

Cause and Effect

accordingly, consequently, hence, so, therefore, thus

Additional Support or Evidence

additionally, again, also, and, as well, besides, equally important, further, furthermore, in addition, moreover, then

Conclusion/Summary

finally, in a word, in brief, in conclusion, in the end, in the final analysis, on the whole, thus, to conclude, to summarize, in sum, in summary 

 

The Role of Introductions


Introductions and conclusions can be the most difficult parts of papers to write. Usually when you sit down to respond to an assignment, you have at least some sense of what you want to say in the body of your paper. You might have chosen a few examples you want to use or have an idea that will help you answer the question: these sections, therefore, are not as hard to write. But these middle parts of the paper can't just come out of thin air; they need to be introduced and they need to be concluded in a way that makes sense to your reader.

What purpose do these sections serve? Your introduction and conclusion act as bridges that transport your readers from their own lives into the "place" of your analysis. If your readers pick up your paper about education in the autobiography of Frederick Douglass, for example, they need a transition to help them leave behind the world of Chapel Hill, network television, e-mail and the The Daily Tar Heel and to help them temporarily enter the world of nineteenth-century American slavery. By providing an introduction that helps your readers make a transition between their own world and the issues you will be writing about, you give your readers the tools they need to get into your topic and care about what you are saying. Similarly, once you've hooked your reader with the introduction and offered evidence to prove your thesis, your conclusion can provide a bridge to help your reader make the transition back to their daily lives. (See our handout on conclusions.) Such a conclusion will help them see why all that analysis about nineteenth-century education and American slavery should matter to them after they put the paper down.



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Why bother writing a good introduction?


  1. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. 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. On the other hand, a concise, engaging, and well-written introduction will start your readers off thinking highly of you, your analytical skills, your writing, and your paper. This impression is especially important when the audience you are trying to reach (your instructor) will be grading your work. Do you want that audience to start off thinking "C+" or thinking "A"?

  2. Your introduction is an important road map for the rest of your paper. Your introduction conveys a lot of information to your readers. You can let them know what your topic is, why it is important, and how you plan to proceed with your discussion. It should contain a thesis that will assert your main argument. It will also, ideally, give the reader a sense of the kinds of information you will use to make that argument and the general organization of the paragraphs and pages that will follow. After reading your introduction, your readers should not have any major surprises in store when they read the main body of your paper.

  3. Ideally, your introduction will make your readers want to read your paper. The introduction should also capture your readers' interest, making them want to read the rest of your paper. Opening with a compelling story, a fascinating quotation, an interesting question, or a stirring example can get your readers to see why this topic matters and serve as an invitation for them to join you for an interesting intellectual conversation.

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Strategies for Writing an Effective Introduction


  • Start by thinking about the question. Your entire essay will be a response to the assigned question, and your introduction is the first step toward that end. Your direct answer to the assigned question will be your thesis, and your thesis will be included in your introduction, so it is a good idea to use the question as a jumping off point. Imagine that you are assigned the following question:

Education has long been considered a major force for American social change, righting the wrongs of our society. Drawing on The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, discuss the relationship between education and slavery in 19th century America. Consider the following: How did white control of education reinforce slavery? How did Douglass and other enslaved African Americans view education while they endured slavery? And what role did education play in the acquisition of freedom? Most importantly, consider the degree to which education was or was not a major force for social change with regard to slavery.

You will probably refer back to this question extensively as you prepare your complete essay, and the question itself can also give you some clues about how to approach the introduction. Notice that the question starts with a broad statement, that education has been considered a major force for social change, and then narrows to focus on specific questions from the book. One strategy might be to use a similar model in your own introduction -- start off with a big picture sentence or two about the power of education as a force for change as a way of getting your reader interested and then focus in on the details of your argument about Douglass. Of course, a different approach could also be very successful, but looking at the way the professor set up the question can sometimes give you some ideas for how you might answer it. (See our handout on Reading Assignments for additional information on the hidden clues in assignments.)



  • Try writing your introduction last. You may think that you have to write your introduction first, but that isn't necessarily true, and it isn't always the most effective way to craft a good introduction. You may find that you don't know what you are going to argue at the beginning of the writing process, and only through the experience of writing your paper do you discover your main argument. It is perfectly fine to start out thinking that you want to argue a particular point, but wind up arguing something slightly or even dramatically different by the time you've written most of the paper. The writing process can be an important way to organize your ideas, think through complicated issues, refine your thoughts, and develop a sophisticated argument. However, an introduction written at the beginning of that discovery process will not necessarily reflect what you wind up with at the end. You will need to revise your paper to make sure that the introduction, all of the evidence, and the conclusion reflect the argument you intend. Sometimes it helps to write up all of your evidence first and then write the introduction -- that way you can be sure that the introduction matches the body of the paper.

  • Don't be afraid to write a tentative introduction first and then change it later. Some people find that they need to write some kind of introduction in order to get the writing process started. That's fine, but if you are one of those people, be sure to return to your initial introduction later and rewrite if need be.

  • Open with an attention grabber. Sometimes, especially if the topic of your paper is somewhat dry or technical, opening with something catchy can help. Consider these options: ·

  1. an intriguing example (for example, the mistress who initially teaches Douglass but then ceases her instruction as she learns more about slavery)

  2. a provocative quotation, (Douglass writes that "education and slavery were incompatible with each other")

  3. a puzzling scenario, (Frederick Douglass says of slaves that "[N]othing has been left undone to cripple their intellects, darken their minds, debase their moral nature, obliterate all traces of their relationship to mankind; and yet how wonderfully they have sustained the mighty load of a most frightful bondage, under which they have been groaning for centuries!" Douglass clearly asserts that slave owners went to great lengths to destroy the mental capacities of slaves, but yet his own life story proves that these efforts could be unsuccessful.)

  4. a vivid and perhaps unexpected anecdote (Learning about slavery in the American history course at Frederick Douglass High School, students studied the work slaves did, the impact of slavery on their families, and the rules that governed their lives. We didn't discuss education, however, until one student, Mary, raised her hand and asked, "But when did they go to school?" That modern high school students could not conceive of an American childhood devoid of formal education speaks volumes about the centrality of education to American youth today, and also suggests the meanings of the deprivation of education to past generations."

  5. a thought-provoking question (Given all of the freedoms that were denied enslaved individuals in the American South, why does Frederick Douglass focus his attentions so squarely on education and literacy?)

These attention-grabbing openers might get your reader interested and also help your reader connect to what might otherwise seem a pretty obscure topic. Essentially, you can use attention-grabbers to help your readers see why your topic is relevant and to help them begin to care about your findings and perspectives.

  • Pay special attention to your first sentence. If any sentence in your paper is going to be completely free of errors and vagueness, it should be your first one. Start off on the right foot with your readers by making sure that the first sentence actually says something useful and that it does so in an interesting and error-free way.

  • Be straightforward and confident. Avoid statements like "In this paper, I will argue that Frederick Douglass valued education." While this sentence points toward your main argument, it isn't especially interesting. It might be more effective to say what mean in a declarative sentence. It is much more convincing to tell that "Frederick Douglass valued education" than to tell us that you are going to say that he did. Assert your main argument confidently. After all, you can't expect your reader to believe it if it doesn't sound like you believe it!

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How to Evaluate Your Introduction Draft


Ask a friend to read it and then tell you what they expect the paper will discuss, what kinds of evidence the paper will use, and what the tone of the paper will be. If your friend is able to predict the rest of your paper accurately, you probably have a good introduction.

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Five Kinds of Less Effective Introductions


1. The Place Holder Introduction. When you don't have much to say on a given topic, it is easy to create this kind of introduction. Essentially, this kind of weaker introduction contains several sentences that are vague and don't really say much. They exist just to take up the "introduction space" in your paper. If you had something more effective to say, you would probably say it, but in the meantime this paragraph is just a place holder.

Weak Example: Slavery was one of the greatest tragedies in American history. There were many different aspects of slavery. Each created different kinds of problems for enslaved people.

2. The Restated Question Introduction. Restating the question can be an effective strategy, but it can be easy to stop at JUST restating the question instead of offering a more effective, interesting introduction to your paper. The professor or teaching assistant wrote your questions and will be reading ten to seventy essays in response to them--they do not need to read a whole paragraph that simply restates the question. Try to do something more interesting.

Weak Example: Indeed, education has long been considered a major force for American social change, righting the wrongs of our society. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass discusses the relationship between education and slavery in 19th century America, showing how white control of education reinforced slavery and how Douglass and other enslaved African Americans viewed education while they endured. Moreover, the book discusses the role that education played in the acquisition of freedom. Education was a major force for social change with regard to slavery.

3. The Webster's Dictionary Introduction. This introduction begins by giving the dictionary definition of one or more of the words in the assigned question. This introduction strategy is on the right track--if you write one of these, you may be trying to establish the important terms of the discussion, and this move builds a bridge to the reader by offering a common, agreed-upon definition for a key idea. You may also be looking for an authority that will lend credibility to your paper. However, anyone can look a word up in the dictionary and copy down what Webster says - it may be far more interesting for you (and your reader) if you develop your own definition of the term in the specific context of your class and assignment. Also recognize that the dictionary is also not a particularly authoritative work -- it doesn't take into account the context of your course and doesn't offer particularly detailed information. If you feel that you must seek out an authority, try to find one that is very relevant and specific. Perhaps a quotation from a source reading might prove better? Dictionary introductions are also ineffective simply because they are so overused. Many graders will see twenty or more papers that begin in this way, greatly decreasing the dramatic impact that any one of those papers will have. You might find a more creative way to define your terms, or perhaps you could weave a definition into a more attention-grabbing introductory paragraph.

Weak Example: Webster's dictionary defines slavery as "the state of being a slave," as "the practice of owning slaves," and as "a condition of hard work and subjection."

4. The Dawn of Man Introduction. This kind of introduction generally makes broad sweeping statements about the relevance of this topic since the beginning of time. It is usually very general (similar to the place holder introduction) and fails to connect to the thesis. You may write this kind of introduction when you don't have much to say--which is precisely why it is ineffective.

Weak Example: Since the dawn of man, slavery has been a problem in human history.

5. The Book Report Introduction. This introduction is what you had to do for your fifth-grade book reports. It gives the name and author of the book you are writing about, tells what the book is about, and offers other basic facts about the book. You might resort to this sort of introduction when you are trying to fill space because it's a familiar, comfortable format. It is ineffective because it offers details that your reader already knows and that are irrelevant to the thesis.

Weak Example: Frederick Douglass wrote his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave, in the 1840s. It was published in 1986 by Penguin Books. He tells the story of his life.


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