# 4.2: Introductory Paragraphs

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A strong introductory paragraph is crucial to the development of an effective persuasive essay. Without an introductory paragraph that properly introduces both the topic and the writer’s argument, persuasive essays fail to convince the reader of the validity of the argument. Since the introductory paragraph contains the thesis statement, or the core argument and purpose of the essay, introductory paragraphs are essential to the overall success of the paper.

Introductory Paragraph:

• Introduce the issue.
• Provide each of the arguments that will later appear in each body paragraph.
• Refute any counterpoints to the argument.
• Provide the thesis statement.

Since the success of the paper rests on the introductory paragraph, it is important to understand its essential components. Usually, persuasive papers fail to make a clear argument not because the writer’s ideas or opinions are wrong but rather because the argument is not properly explained in the introduction. One of the most important jobs of an introductory paragraph is that it introduces the topic or issue. Most arguments cannot be made without at least some background information. Thus, it is essential to provide a foundation for your topic before you begin explaining your argument. For instance, if you wanted to argue that the special effects in the movie Avatar are innovative, your introductory paragraph would first need to provide background information about movie special-effects. By 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 argument.

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 San José State University Writing Center survey answers reveal that a significant portion of tutees improved their writing skills, and this has correlated to an improvement on their essay scores. This sentence tells the reader both that the topic of the paper will be the benefits of the Writing Center and that the significance of these benefits is the improvement of essay scores.
Introductory paragraphs outline the structure of the paper and highlight the main ideas. Considering the SAT average of high school juniors in California, it is apparent that schools are not addressing basic math skills such as fractions, percentages, and long division. This sentence provides the main ideas of the essay and indicates the order in which they will be presented in the body paragraphs.

Introductory paragraphs state the thesis.

San José State University should require all students to enroll in Creative Writing courses in order to better prepare them for employment. This thesis statement indicates the argument of the paper.

Another common, though often forgotten, component of an introductory paragraph is the refutation of counterpoints. In order for your argument to appear strong, and in order for your audience to know that you considered the points against your claim, it is essential to refute, or disprove, counterpoints, or arguments against your thesis, in your introductory paragraph. The most common error a writer faces when dealing with counterpoints is to not refute them. Sometimes, a writer forgets to show how the counterpoints are wrong and how his or her opinion or argument is correct. To avoid this error, consider using the sentence constructions in the chart below that help refute counterpoints. By using words such as while, although, yet, or however in compound sentences, you can be sure that you are properly refuting any counterpoints to your argument while support your own claims.

In the examples listed below, X is the counterargument and Y is the writer’s argument.

• While most people believe X, Y is true.
• Although people argue X, Y is correct.
• This expert claims X, yet this expert in the same field argues Y.
• This book says X; however, this book indicates that Y is true.

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...