Writing an Introduction

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Introductions are essential to a piece of writing’s structure and argumentative or narrative development. A good introduction will grab the reader’s attention, provide enough background information for the reader to understand the topic, define necessary terms, make clear the writer’s driving question or problem, and provide a roadmap for the direction the writing will take. Of course, if you’re writing a novel, you won’t necessarily have every mentioned aspect in the first paragraph. However, you should incorporate each piece of this into the first few chapters of your book. This is the best way to introduce the reader to the world you are creating. 

So, how do you start an introduction? For the purpose of this module, I’m going to use the analytical essay as an example. However, this outline will work well with most forms of writing—you’ll just need to adjust to fit your preferred genre.

An introduction should nearly always begin with a broad announcement of the topic. This should be presented in a way that engages the reader in a problem, issue or perspective, or that frames the topic in a way that is new, unusual, or interesting. How does the best writing catch your attention? Is it a hilarious interjection from a character? Is it a sobering statistic? Think back to the pieces of writing you’ve most enjoyed—what made their introductions successful? 

From there, the writer should provide essential context for the topic. This is where you will provide any essential background material, define key terms, acknowledge opposing views or common perspectives, and create a roadmap for the argumentative direction of the paper. Sure, this might seem straightforward, but practicing this a couple of times will allow you to better understand the importance of each part. 

Finally, the writer should end the introduction with a thesis statement. In an analytical paper, this is where the writer will state their argument and briefly mention the pieces of evidence they will use in support. If you’re writing a novel, this is where you will begin to discuss the purpose of the story. Why did the chicken cross the road? The thesis might be The chicken crossed the road to get to the other side, and the evidence might be The chicken’s eggs were laid there. Get it? 

Introductions are notoriously difficult to write. If you’re trying to improve your writing or the way you teach writing, don’t skip over this essential piece. Often, the introduction to a piece of writing will determine its ultimate success; don’t sell yourself short by writing a crappy intro.