Writing introductions

Writing paragraphs for the body of your essay can be difficult enough, but introductions (and conclusions) present special challenges. In an introduction you must gain your reader’s attention, identify the subject of your essay, and present the basic substance of your argument for the essay. Writers are always struggling with introductions, asking themselves questions about how specific or general they should be in defining their subject, whether they have adopted the correct tone to draw their reader in, what kinds of questions they are trying to answer in the body of the paper, and how those should be presented in the introduction, etc. Many writers leave writing the introduction until the very end of the writing process, when they are most sure about what they have written and can be clearest about laying it out for their reader. Below are several guides to writing introductions that will help you think about the shape and content of this all-important part of your essay.

For a detailed handout on writing introductions, including a section on “less-effective” introductions, visit the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Writing Center at http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/introductions.htm. For more examples of both successful and unsuccessful introductions, try http://writing2.richmond.edu/writing/wweb/intros.html.

For a list of strategies when writing introductions, try MIT’s http://web.mit.edu/writing/Writing_Types/introstrategies.html.

For a useful introduction to the “funnel” structure of an introduction, as well as a few examples of what not to do, go to http://www.gmu.edu/departments/writingcenter/handouts/introcon.html.

For a clearly defined set of strategies for writing introductions, go to http://www.uefap.co.uk/writing/function/introd.htm.

For advice on writing introductions for more scientific papers (and to see how the general principles of introduction remain relatively constant across disciplines), visit another MIT site at http://web.mit.edu/7.17/www/pdfs/writing_3.pdf.


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