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What is the best way to start and conclude an essay introduction? Supply some examples...

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wanderista | TA , Grade 11 | Valedictorian

Posted September 6, 2011 at 6:43 AM via web

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What is the best way to start and conclude an essay introduction? Supply some examples of good essay introductions.

What is the best way to start (begin), conclude (end) and write (middle) an essay introduction? Supply some examples (at least three) of some good essay introductions, demonstrating what you have just said, as well as showing how powerful an essay introduction can be.

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vangoghfan | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 6, 2011 at 7:17 AM (Answer #2)

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Please remember that there is no absolutely “right” way to compose an essay, let alone a “best” way. The “right” or “best” way to compose an introductory paragraph for an essay is to follow clearly the directions you are given by any particular teacher. I am giving you a link below to one of the very best of all internet sites dealing with writing. It will give you some very precise ideas about what (and what not) to do when trying to write an introductory paragraph for an essay.  There are hundreds if not thousands of such pages of advice to be found on the internet. Go to Google and search for “writing an introductory paragraph,” and you will be overwhelmed with advice, almost all of it good.

Much depends, of course, on what the topic of your essay is.  An essay about math might be different in approach than an essay about literature. An essay about an epic might be different in approach than an essay about a limerick.  A narrative essay will almost certainly differ from an analytical essay.  I am giving you a link below to some simple advice I once concocted for my own students, offering them step-by-step advice about how to write an analytical essay about a work of literature (it’s the “archive.org” link).

I can simply share with what I tell my own students now when I ask them to write an introductory paragraph to an analytical essay dealing with a work of literature.  Many teachers would strongly disagree with my advice, considering it too simplistic, unsubtle, uncreative, and unexciting.  However, I have found that it works well for me and for my students, so here it is:

  • Begin with a sentence that plainly and clearly announces your subject in general terms (for example: how a work of literature is typical of its time in themes and in stylistic techniques).
  • Repeat the idea, using other words, so that the teacher really knows what you are trying to prove.
  • Connect the larger idea to a specific work of literature.
  • Give a brief summary of the plot and characters of that piece of literature.
  • Break the main ideas (for example, themes and stylistic techniques) down into very specific examples (for instance, the techniques of irony, alliteration, assonance, and juxtaposition) and briefly list them in a sentence or two.  The reader will thus have a road map or outline for the rest of the paper. S/he will know precisely what you will be trying to prove.
  • Conclude the essay with a sentence or two in which you restate the argument you announced at the beginning and connect it once more to the specific piece of literature you will be discussing.

There is absolutely nothing subtle, sophisticated, creative, or exciting about this way of doing things.  Its chief virtues are that it usually helps produce essays that are clear in argument, clear in logic, clear in design, and clear in phrasing.

Hope it helps!

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lsumner | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

Posted September 6, 2011 at 7:43 AM (Answer #3)

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Example 1:

Today, technology is becoming more widespread. More and more people are becoming dependent on technology. Most jobs require the use of technology. Technology has increased over the years until many people cannot do their jobs without technology. While technology is a good thing, one may wonder if it has replaced many human beings in the workforce.

Sentence 1=topic sentence

Sentences 2, 3, and 4=middle--the supporting details

Sentence 5=thesis or main idea statement

(You would try to prove whether or not technology has replaced human beings in the workforce).

Example 2:

Love is an emotion that many people do not really understand. Too many people confuse love with infatuation. It is easy to say "I love you" but how often do people say it without knowing what it means? Love is a strong, powerful emotion that grows over time. To really be in love would take some time. While some people often use those three little words, one may wonder if they know what love is, especially since actions prove love.

(You would elaborate on how actions prove love, not the three little words "I love you").

Example 3:

Marriage has gone out of fashion. Forever is no longer popular. Commitment makes some people uncomfortable. It is easier to live together. Truly, marriage is an out-of-date idea. Saying "I do" is becoming an obsolete expression. Although it is popular to live together, some people still believe in commitment for life through the vows of Holy Matrimony.

(You would try to prove how many people still believe in marriage).

*See the link below for more help with the essay.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 7, 2011 at 12:51 AM (Answer #4)

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I agree with the first post.  I hate it when students (doing as they have been taught) try to contrive ways to "catch my attention" with their introductions.  When I am reading an expository piece of writing, I do not expect to be dazzled by gimmicky intros.  Instead, I simply want to be told what the student is going to write about.  It can be okay to start with some justification for the essay topic, but there's no need to be cute about it.

So, I'd like to see something like this:

In the 1960s, American youths rebelled against their parents' values.  They felt that their parents were too materialistic and lacked emotional and spiritual depth.  Because of this, the hippie movement and the counterculture in general came into existence.

Rather than something like this:

Imagine being at home with your stressed out mother as Dad stays at work all night.  Imagine Dad coming home and barely talking to you.  Imagine living in a community where everyone seems to want material things and to measure their lives that way.  This is why the hippie movement and the counterculture in general came into existence.

I think this second one (if I do say so myself) is a very well-done example of being cute, but I don't like it.  I want straightforward statements of what the main point of your essay will be.

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stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 7, 2011 at 1:19 AM (Answer #5)

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You've got great guidelines in the prior posts. The short and sweet way to summarize might be to remember the phrase I was taught to use in planning essays or lesson plans:

Tell the audience what you're going to say - introduce the topic and the points you're going to make

Tell the audience what you have to say - provide the information and the support for each point of information

Tell the audience what you've said - conclude by reviewing a summary of the information

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 7, 2011 at 1:33 AM (Answer #6)

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I think another option to add to the good suggestions you have already received is the use of quotations to start or conclude an introduction. This can also be another more unique way of making your introduction stand out and prevent it becoming formulaic. Whilst I sympathise with #4 and his hatred of students trying to be "cute," at the same time I applaud attempts to be different and make me sit up and take notice of a slightly different approach. For example:

As the Beatles famously sang in their chart-topping classic, "All you need is love." Whilst this captured the mood of the 60's, at the same time it places emphasis on the way that love, as an emotion, is superior to other emotions and is the necessary ingredient to gaining a meaningful relationship, peace or forgiveness.

This is a bit off the cuff, but I hope you get the idea.

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K.P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted September 8, 2011 at 1:00 AM (Answer #7)

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One point that American instructors emphasize for an Introduction is the "attention grabbing opening hook." Non-American educators tend to prefer that the Introduction be short (5 to 10 percent of the whole paper) and direct to the academic point. In the second scenario, background information follows the Introduction rather than being part of the Introduction.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 10, 2011 at 7:31 AM (Answer #8)

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I have always tried to teach students a standard structure in writing an essay. Have a good thesis statement: it can have a "hook" as Ms. Hardison so aptly points out, something that grabs the reader. It can be a quote or a piece of attention-grabbing research, etc.

The essay needs to have some organization. I always tell students to choose the form that best suits them, but I prefer starting with the least important item of the discussion in the first body paragraph, with supporting details!!! for each item.

In the second body paragraph, I focus more on the next most important aspect of the writing, and support it with specific details to "prove" that my standpoint is logical and accurate.

I save the last, most important point for the third body paragraph (which is the essay's fourth paragraph if you're doing a five-paragraph essay.) It, too, needs supporting details.

I make sure each of the body paragraphs has a topic sentence so the reader knows what is to come in that paragraph.

The last paragraph is the conclusion: here you summarize without introducing new information or summarizing all the details you mentioned before. You can mention the primary points, but no supporting information here. It is good to have a "clincher," in this last paragraph—something that sums it up for the reader: perhaps a quote or a play on words...something clever, but nothing that will ruin your credibility as a writer.

As an example, I answered a posting recently about how important language is in the Prologue in setting the mood for the tragedy to come in Romeo and Juliet. In the conclusion, I stressed again that the language in the Prologue had been carefully chosen, but also introduced the audience to the tragic elements while setting the mood. I mentioned that language helped Shakespeare "set the stage" for the story he was about to tell. It's not brilliant—perhaps it's predictable—but as it's about a Shakespearean play, I felt it "worked."

After finishing the essay, then proofread three to four times! It can always be better. Watch subject-verb agreement, stick to one tense, and watch the use of pronouns—if the subject is singular, the pronoun must be also.

Also, do not go overboard with quotes: no more than 10 percent of any paper should be reflected in quotes: check this with your teacher.

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clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 20, 2011 at 11:20 PM (Answer #9)

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I love the variety of introduction recipes posted here!

Here's mine:

Sentence 1: hook = I agree, doesn't have to be gimmicky or "attention grabbing" but simply needs to introduce the text or topic without being the thesis statement.  Can be more than one sentence, can contain necessary definitions or background information.

Sentence 2: thesis statement = one sentence introducing your basic topic.

Sentence 3: sub-topics covered in the paper = standard essays cover 3 sub-topics, but depending on the length of your essay, you may have more.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted September 26, 2011 at 1:48 PM (Answer #10)

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Good introductions catch the reader's attention and lay out explicitly what your thesis is. I also think the best way to end the introduction is by previewing your points. It helps prepare your audience for your argument.

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