By Steve Ross,2014-04-24 23:40
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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

    and law-making.

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

    emissions down.

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.

Exercise 1:

    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

    universities are…

    3. China is increasing in international importance


    4. Technology is changing our lives in three important


Possible answers:

    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.

Exercise 1:

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.

Possible answers:

    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.

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