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3.2: Introductory Paragraphs

  • Page ID
    6605
  • A strong introductory paragraph is crucial to the development of an effective expository essay. Unlike an argumentative essay which takes a stand or forms an opinion about a subject, an expository essay is used when the writer wishes to explain or clarify a topic to the reader. In order to properly explain a topic, an expository essay breaks the topic being addressed into parts, explains each component in relation to the whole and uses each component to justify the explanation of the topic. Thus when writing an introductory paragraph, it is crucial to include the explanation or clarification of the topic and the categories or components used to produce this explanation.

    Introductory Paragraph:

    • Introduce the issue.
    • Present the topic and its explanation or clarification.
    • Provide the categories used to explain the topic.
    • Provide the thesis statement.

    Since the success of the paper rests on the introductory paragraph, it is important to understand its essential components. Usually, expository papers fail to provide a clear explanation not because the writer’s lacks explanations or clarifications but rather because the explanations are not properly organized and identified in the introductory paragraph. One of the most important jobs of an introductory paragraph is that it introduces the topic or issue. Most explanations cannot be clarified without at least some background information. Thus, it is essential to provide a foundation for your topic before you begin explaining your topic. For instance, if you wanted to explain what happened at the first Olympic Games, your introductory paragraph would first need to provide background information about how the first games happened. In doing so, you ensure that your audience is as informed about your topic as you are and thus you make it easier for your audience to understand your explanation.

    Below is a table describing and explaining the main jobs of the introductory paragraph.
    Main Job Example Explanation
    Introductory paragraphs introduce the topic and suggest why it is important.

    An analysis of the essay exam results of the new English class shows that the new class format promotes close reading and better essay organization.

    This sentence tells the reader both that the topic of the paper will be the benefits of the new English class and that the significance of these benefits is the improvement of close reading and essay organization.
    Introductory paragraphs outline the structure of the paper and highlight the main ideas.

    Considering the results of the High School Exit Exam, it is apparent that school curriculum is not properly addressing basic math skills such as fractions, percentages and long division.

    This sentence indicates that main ideas (fractions, percentages and long division) of the essay and indicates the order in which they will be presented in the body paragraphs.

    Introductory paragraphs state the thesis.

    California high schools will require all students to take a resume and cover letter writing workshop in order to better prepare them for employment.

    This thesis statement indicates the explanation of the paper.

    In addition to introducing the topic of your paper, your introductory paragraph also needs to introduce each of the arguments you will cover in your body paragraphs. By providing your audience with an idea of the points or arguments you will make later in your paper, your introductory paragraph serves as a guide map, not only for your audience but also for you. Including your main sub-points in your introduction not only allows your audience to understand where your essay is headed but also helps you as a writer remember how you want to organize your paper. This is especially helpful if you are not writing your essay in one sitting as it allows you to leave and return to your essay without forgetting all of the important points you wanted to make.

    Things to always do Things to never do
    • Capture the interest of your reader.
    • Introduce the issue to the reader.
    • State the problem simply.
    • Write in an intelligible, concise manner.
    • Refute any counterpoints.
    • State the thesis, preferably in one arguable statement.
    • Provide each of the arguments that will be presented in each of the body paragraphs.
    • Apologize: Do not suggest that you are unfamiliar with the topic.
      Example:I cannot be certain, but...
    • Use sweeping generalizations.
      Example:All men like football...
    • Use a dictionary definition.
      Example:According to the dictionary, a humble person is...
    • Announce your intentions: Do not directly state what you will be writing about.
      Example:In the paper I will...

    Most importantly, when writing an introductory paragraph, it is essential to remember that you must capture the interest of your reader. Thus, it is your job as the writer to make the introduction entertaining or intriguing. In order to do so, consider using a quotation, a surprising or interesting fact, an anecdote or a humorous story. While the quotation, story or fact you include must be relevant to your paper, placing one of these at the beginning of your introduction helps you not only capture the attention or the reader but also introduce your topic and argument, making your introduction interesting to your audience and useful for your argument and essay.