WRITING AN INTRODUCTION
First, what NOT to do. DO NOT:
Apologize or sound unsure.
Ex: “In my opinion”
“I’m not sure about this, but…”
Announce what you’re “going to do.” Ex: “The purpose of this essay is to…” “I will show that…”
Use a dictionary definition or general information.
Ex: “Music can be defined as…”
“Everyone knows that…” (Then why tell us?)
Above all, don’t waste time. Introductions should be as
concise as possible. Accomplish the goal and move on.
What should the introduction accomplish? What’s the goal?
1. Get the reader’s attention.
2. Make the goal of the writing clear.
The “attention-getter”: You can use:
1. In medias res (“in the middle of things”): provide
some historical or situational information. Make
sure it’s concise.
thEx: (an essay about the 4 of July)
The mood was joyful and relaxed; the smell of
barbeque and the sound of fireworks exploding filled
ththe air. Everyone was celebrating the 4 of July.
Celebrating this holiday is important to all Americans,
as it brings communities together with a common ideal
and provides time for relaxation and fun.
2. An anecdote: a small story to introduce the subject
and its importance or level of interest.
Ex: (an essay about the prevalence of crime in major
My walk home had been rather pleasant, but my
feelings of peace were shattered when I was
unexpectedly robbed by an armed thief. Afterwards, I
felt helpless, angry and frustrated. Many feel as did
then, and do now: that crime has gotten out of control.
3. A quote or action by a famous person.
Ex: (an essay about religion)
Friedrich Nietzsche famously said, “God is dead,
and we have killed him.” Religious leaders complain of
growing apathy toward faith in modern culture; it has
been their failure to show their faiths’ relevance to the
complex problems of our postmodern era.
When Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie adopted the first of
their African children, they made national headlines.
The uproar demonstrates a growing fascination with
the possibilities of overseas adoption, and, more
generally, the role of the U.S. on the world stage.
4. A surprising fact or declaration
Ex: (about the U.S. criminal justice system)
Fully 1% of the current U.S. population is prison,
and this percentage continues to grow year by year.
The way we practice criminal justice in the U.S. needs
thorough reform, with respect to both administration
Notice that these “attention-getters” are
immediately followed by a thesis statement.
Speaking of which…
Making the goal clear, i.e. the “thesis statement”
The thesis statement defines, in one sentence, your
objective for the piece. Generally, it should be the final
sentence in your intro-, after the “attention-grabber.”
Your thesis SHOULD NOT be:
1. A simple observation.
Ex: Factories contribute to global warming.
Instead: Factories are considered the most significant source of global warming emissions, and governments
around the world are taking steps to rapidly bring these
2. Too vague or undefined; the statement needs to be
Ex: The enlargement of the EU has led to considerable
Instead: The EU is considering taking in more members, giving rise to debate on immigration law, the
role of language barriers, and international trade.
3. Too broad; that is, too large to be discussed
thoroughly. Again, the statement should be specific.
Ex: Cultural differences represent a large barrier for
those who seek international communication.
Instead: Linguistic and cultural differences between Chinese and American people often prevent them from
reaching common goals together.
The following thesis statements are incomplete: complete
them by adding specific areas of investigation.
1. A good student must have the following qualities:…
2. The main difficulties affecting foreign students at
3. China is increasing in international importance
4. Technology is changing our lives in three important
1. A good student must have the following qualities:
discipline, flexibility, and open-mindedness. 2. The main difficulties affecting foreign students at
university are linguistic and cultural differences. 3. China is increasing in international importance
because of its strong economy and willingness to
trade with foreign partners.
4. Technology is changing our lives in three important
areas: in the home, in the workplace, and in how
we spend our free time.
Edit the following thesis statements into ones effective for
a short (2-3 page) essay. In addition, choose one of the
above “attention-grabbing” techniques to introduce the
thesis statement. Make something up if you have to
(anecdote, statistic, etc.) It’s all about the form, not the
1. Choosing a career is very difficult.
2. It is important to visit foreign countries.
3. In this essay, I’m going to talk about social
problems in China.
4. Humans are damaging the environment.
1. 49% of graduating students report being uncertain
about which career path they want to take.
Choosing a career is very difficult, as the individual must consider many factors: what kind of job they will enjoy, what kind of job they are most qualified for, and what kind of jobs are available in the current market.
2. When my friend John returned from his visit to Europe, he described his experience as “life-
changing:” the things he experienced gave him an entirely new perspective. A “global” perspective is essential if one wants to be a leader in today’s world, therefore, it is important that an ambitious person should visit a foreign country at some point.
3. Sir Walter Scott famously said, “China is a place where things are always changing, yet nothing changes.” “New China” has experienced rapid progress, but large social challenges, like curbing urban pollution and providing equal economic opportunity, remain difficult problems for the national government to solve.
4. A grey haze constantly covers the metropolis of Guangzhou, a reminder that progress has a price. It is a familiar sight in large cities all over the globe. Humans have always sought progress and material wealth, but our desire has damaged our air quality, our water supply, and the habitats of other animals.