Introductions

Your introduction paragraph should grab your reader's attention, introduce the topic of your essay, and present your thesis.

Grab the reader's attention and introduce the topic

The very first sentence of your introduction should get your reader interested in your topic. Don't start out too generally in your introduction paragraph. Also, don't state all of your specific main points individually in the introduction.

Introduce the topic through background information

Focus on giving background information that your reader needs to understand the topic generally. The middle sentences of your introduction paragraph prepare your reader to understand your thesis statement. 

To know what background information you should include, you need to consider your audience. You need to know who your audience is before you can start guessing what background information they already know and what background information you need to tell them for them to understand your thesis statement later.

Example: Using Specific Knowledge

Are you writing a piece for a local newspaper about the effects of a recent local government policy change for the general public who don't know anything about the policy that was changed? 

The average people of a town would probably need the new government policy defined and explained. If you tried to explain the effects of the policy when they don't even know what the policy is, they would be confused. Background information introduces the topic of the essay and prepares the reader to understand your main idea about that topic (your thesis statement).

If you are not sure if a piece of information is general knowledge or specific knowledge, ask a friend who doesn't know about your topic to read your introduction. They can point out what information they don't understand as a general reader. Then, you can add background information about those points.

Pro Tip: 

Never use the phrase "Everyone knows..." in the background knowledge section because you need to assume the general audience doesn't know most of the things about your topic.

Present your thesis

The thesis states the main idea, or focus, of the essay. The rest of the essay will give evidence and explanations that show why or how your thesis is true.

An effective thesis—

  • addresses the prompt if there is one* (i.e., answers the question).
  • is usually at the end of the introduction paragraph.
  • controls the content of all of the body paragraphs.
  • is a complete sentence.
  • does not announce the topic (e.g., "I'm going to talk about social media.").
  • should not simply be a fact (e.g., "Social media is prevalent in today's world.").
  • should not be too general (e.g., "Social media is bad for mental health.").
  • should not be too specific (e.g., "Social media can be bad for your mental health because of unrealistic standards of beauty and lifestyles, seeing only one side of an argument or issue, getting negative comments and or being cyberbullied, isolating yourself and feeling alone, and wasting time that could be spent more productively.").
  • may state or imply main points (e.g., "Social media can harm you through being bullied and gives you unrealistic expectations of life." vs. "Social media can be harmful to mental health in specific ways.").

Thesis Statements: Concision & Grammar

Concision 

  • A concise thesis statement expresses the whole main idea in as few words as possible.  

Why is important? 

  • The reader will be more engaged and will prevent the thesis statement from being confusing because of the long, unnecessarily complex sentences.  

  • Some main ideas are very complex and may take multiple sentences to say clearly, but most can be said in just one sentence.  

Writing your main idea concisely is preferred in academic writing. Single-sentence thesis statements are generally more powerful than thesis statements that are multiple sentences long.  

Grammar 

A thesis statement sentence needs to be grammatically correct.  

One of the more common errors with student essay writing is comma splice sentences in the thesis statement.  

  • A comma splice sentence is a sentence that doesn't properly use conjunctions, connecting all the clauses with commas only.  

    • Other common grammar errors include: run-on sentences, incorrectly placed periods, and a lack of commas.

Thesis statements are often only a single sentence long, but due to the complex grammar and need for specific wording, they can take more time to write than other sentences.  

Thesis statements may also be revised multiple times to get the grammar and the wording just right to express your idea most clearly. 

Exercises

Exercise 1: Background Information

Part A: Consider the prompt and the proposed thesis statement. Then answer this question: What background information would you need as a reader to understand the topic of this essay? 

Prompt: Explain your position on an issue related to education. Support your opinion using specific examples, details, and sources.

Thesis Statement: There is a lot of evidence that supports the idea that a specific amount of homework is valuable and brings benefits for the students.

**Don't read part B until you are done with part A. **

Part B: Read the introduction below. Then answer the reflection questions below.

       Because there has been a series of comments regarding schoolwork, it is appropriate to reflect on an issue that has been causing much controversy in the last decade. According to several experts on the subject, there are different positions and reasons. On the one hand, we have those who disagree to leave homework to the students for the house. They argue that there is no positive reason to leave home arguing that it is not beneficial because they eliminate the time available for other activities essential in the cultural and physical growth of students. “Being in a classroom can be a good thing, but so ca being on a playground. With too much homework, a child doesn’t have enough time to play and that can impact their learning and social development” (20 Pros and Cons of Homework, Crystal Ayres). On the other hand, there are those who agree with the tasks for the house. The argument of these is that the task has a purpose and is to strengthen the learning of students, also give the sense of responsibility to students from very young. “Homework reinforces the concepts. The more you work with them, the more likely you are to actually learn them” (Reasons Why Homework Is Good and Sometimes Bad, Anne Marie Helmenstine). Because of these two stated positions, two questions need to be answered. Is it appropriate to leave schoolwork for our students to do at home?

Reflection Questions:

  • Does the author answer the questions that you had?
  • Do you feel confident that you would understand the essay’s thesis statement based on the background information in the introduction? Why or why not?

Exercise 2: Thesis Analysis

Using the points above, decide whether or not each of the following thesis statements is effective:

  1. When facing a difficult problem, asking someone with more experience in life is the best way to solve it, and it is important to say that not just one person, but we can try to communicate with several people that have lived moments related to that one.
  2. As many other people, the pandemic has changed my life socially, mentally and academically.
  3. Studying abroad is a great opportunity to learn new things. 
  4. I agree with the idea that they presented in the question for the three following reasons: better economy, security, and better schools.

Exercise 3: Complex Main Idea Thesis Practice

Below is a chart of common subordinating conjunctions or conjunctive phrases. Use this chart to help write a complex or complex compound thesis statement that answers the prompt. You will need to answer both questions from the prompt in only one sentence. 

Subordinating Conjunctions:

after, although, asif, in order for
because, beforeunless, until
even though, even ifwhere, whereas, while

Prompt: 

A large shopping center is being constructed in your neighborhood. Do you support or oppose this? What would the short-term and long-term effects of this decision be?

 
 

Exercise 4: Thesis Grammar Practice

Revise these thesis statements to be more concise and grammatically correct. Write your best version of the thesis statements on the line. 

  1. The nopal cactus is something basic in the lives of the Mexican people. The reason why it is important is because it appears in the flag and also because it is a food that we have in our homes.
 
 

2. Some people have different ideas about what are the best qualities that a good student should have, but I think there are three major qualities that a student should follow. These qualities are being responsible with their assignments, being respectful with their classmates, and having patient with himself. 

 
 

3. I am definitely the kind of student that hate classes teachers lecture, because I believe that is is the kind of class where you learn the less and where you sleep the more. Classes where students do some or most of the talking are more entertaining, it's where you learn the most because you have to be prepared for this kind of class. A study has proven that the best way of learning is not to listen but to teach.

 
 

This content is provided to you freely by Ensign College.

Access it online or download it at https://ensign.edtechbooks.org/up_writing_fall/introduction_paragra.