Introductions and Conclusions Framing Your Essay
In this workshop, we’ll look at ways to develop powerful introductions and conclusions that grab your readers and leave them satisfied.
Introductions have three functions: • They tell the readers what the essay will discuss; • They include the thesis statement; and • They pique our interest.
Introductions matter!It takes most of us about three seconds to decide whether we’ll read a newspaper article. If the introduction (a.k.a. “lead”) is dull, we ignore the whole article.
Let’s look at ways to create a memorable introduction that will hook our readers and usher them into the rest of the essay.
Different techniques for introductions: • Startling idea • Quotation • Story or example • Definition of a key term • Interesting statistic
Example of a Startling Idea: My grandfather said he stopped chewing tobacco at the age of nine. It was then that I realized that people are not always what they seem.
Example of a Quotation: “Anyone who lives within their means suffers from a lack of imagination,” wrote renowned British author Oscar Wilde. He would have been entirely at home in our modern-day, consumer society.
Example of a Story: My brother-in-law went to the doctor’s office to get a mole removed and ended up with a nose job. Clearly, the medical field needs more oversight.
Example of a Definition: Narrowly defined, family consists of mother, father, junior and sis. But surely family includes all those we love, support, nurture, advise, argue with, lend money to, as well as those who do the same for us.
Avoid Clichés • “What goes around comes around.” • “It was a day I’ll never forget.” • “Every cloud has a silver lining.” Clichés are trite, stale, and show a lack of imagination.
In general, avoid announcing what you’re going to do:“In this essay, I will explain why health care reform is so desperately needed in the United States.”
Avoid Apologies Saying something like, “I’m not sure this is right, but this is what I think” will NOT inspire confidence in your readers.
Possibly the worst introductory sentence ever? “It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents—except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the rooftops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.” – Edward George Earle Bulwer-Lytton, 1830
Remember: You don’t need to start with your introduction. Some writers complete the body of their essays before they develop their introduction.
Thesis statements Most introductions include a thesis statement. Thesis statement Introduction
So what does a thesis statement do? In one or two sentences, a thesis statement states your topic, purpose, and focus.
Examples of thesis statement do’s and don’ts Don’t:The Avian flu is a really bad and scary disease. (Too broad and unfocused.) Do:Because of the risk of another 1918-type flu pandemic, the public needs to be educated about how to protect themselves from the spread of germs. How can we do this? (More specific, purposeful, and focused.)
Road Map A good thesis statement helps both the reader and the writer stay on course.
Evaluate Share your opinion about the issue you’re writing about.
Restate for emphasis:Rewrite your thesis in different words to strengthen your point.
Put in perspective:What makes your essay worth reading? What’s the big picture here?
Leave a lasting impression What can you say that will prevent your readers from having a “so-what” reaction?
What to avoid in your conclusions: Avoid introducing new ideas. Either develop that idea in the body of your paper or cut it out.
Avoid simply re-wording your introduction If you can switch your introduction and conclusion without a problem, you need to work on your conclusion. Introduction Conclusion
Don’t announce what you’ve done “In this essay, I have explained why my brother-in-law looks like Michael Jackson after his nose job” is a clumsy statement.
Avoid making absolutely claims. “I have proven without a doubt that global warming is just a myth perpetuated by the liberal media” sounds arrogant and implausible.
As with introductions, avoid apologies.“I may not be a plastic surgeon—or even know much about the field—but I know a botched nose job when I see one” doesn’t convey much authority.
How many bad movie endings have you had to endure? Any of the Rocky sequels, for example.
Transitions In the introduction, we’re guiding our reader from the outside world into our world. In the conclusion, we’re guiding the reader from our world back into her own. That’s what makes these two components so critical in successful essay writing.
Remember: If you plan ahead, you can bring your introduction, conclusion, and everything in between to the Writing Center for informed feedback.