Can you guide me through how to write an introductory paragraph?

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The simple formula to create a well-structured introductory paragraph is

P + (E+E) + (E+E) + (E+E) + L

This means: 

P - state the main point of your essay (your thesis or the answer to your essay question)

(E+E) - provide the first example your essay will explore (your first body paragraph Point) and elaborate on its meaning.

(E+E) - provide the second example your essay will explore (your second body paragraph Point) and elaborate on its meaning.

(E+E) - provide the third example your essay will explore (your third body paragraph Point) and elaborate on its meaning.

L - Conclude your introduction by restating your P in another, more final way OR link  to your first body paragraph in a clever way.

This example is for an analytical essay about Hayoa Miyazaki's use of film techniques to position the audience to understand his messages about growing up, the evils of materialism and the power of love in "Spirited Away". Note the underlined and annotated sections of an introduction. You will also note that the E+E sections are often made up of complex or compound sentences, and may be in a variety of orders, dependent upon the writer's intended meaning. The P sentence for the introduction does summarise the main point of the introduction, but the thesis statement is in fact contained in the L sentence. In writing, it is always a matter of choice and style, provided you understand the basics!

(P) Spirited Away is an entertaining and challenging film about the awakening of a young girl, Chihiro, to the realities of the world in which she lives, as she is stranded in a dangerous place and forced to work to save her parents. (+E)A very normal young girl, both cute and annoying, (E)Chihiro is not immediately liked by the audience. (E) Through accompanying Chihiro through horror and fear, audiences are part of a very strange journey, (+E) and there is no doubting the strength and worth of a the young protagonist. (E) Miyazaki’s use of camera angles, lighting, symbolism and sound (+E) draw the audience to empathise with Chihiro, as she discovers who Sen is,  (L) literally an unknown part of Chihiro who can save her parents and restore life to its normal patterns.

Most often, essays are written in response to a question or statement. The following can be used, in combination with the PEEL structure (above) as a guide to writing a literary criticism essay.

  1. Use key words from the question to gain the reader’s attention and explain the question in more detail
  2. State your point of view
  3. Preview / highlight main arguments of essay
  4. Concluding Sentence which sums up your main argument.
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Your introductory paragraph needs to introduce your topic as well as entice your reader, so that they want to continue reading. A typical sufficient paragraph length is 5-7 sentences in secondary schools.

Your first sentence should "hook" your audience. A hook can be a startling statement, a question, an anecdote, or even a relevant quotation. Next, you want to provide your reader with background. Finally, include your thesis statement, which is your topic sentence that tells exactly what your paper is about.

Your background information should not only clarify your topic, but it should clarify your hook. Explain, for instance, quickly, why your startling statement about America's child obesity rates is connected to your thesis statement that argues all McDonald's should display not only the calorie count on their menu, but also the exercise equivalent to "walk off" those calories.

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The introduction is the first impression that the reader has of the rest of the essay. A well formulated introduction will entice the reader to read on.  It serves as a road map for the rest of the paper.  After reading the introduction, the reader should not have trouble following the organization of the paper. 

The introduction contains an abundance of information. There are four features of an introduction:

  1. Grab the attention of the audience.
  2. Show the relationship between the attention getter and the topic
  3. Introduce the topic.
  4. State the thesis of the paper.

Getting the reader’s attention is the first facet of the introduction.

  • A vivid or unexpected anecdote

Think of what the world would be like if there were no more polar bears, no more ice pack, and no more Arctic Circle at all.

  • A provocative quotation (possibly quoting an expert)

In a shrinking ice environment, the ability of polar bears to find food, to reproduce, and to survive will all be reduced," said Scott Schliebe, Alaskan polar bear project leader.

  • A thought provoking or startling question

Is the world willing to watch a polar bear die of starvation?

  • Present surprising facts and statistics

In 50 years, there will be no more polar bears in the world.

  • Adapt a familiar quotation or phrase

To be concerned about global warming, or not; that is the question facing every person in the world right now.

Show the relationship between the attention getter and the topic.

The next step is to connect the attention grabber to the topic.  Then, provide background information introducing the topic. 

When you write an introduction, you need to clearly indicate the topic that you will be writing about. Be careful that you do not confuse your topic with your thesis.

These sentences must serve as a bridge to connect the attention getter to the topic

  • Introduce the topic
  • Explain the importance of the topic
  • Lead into the thesis statement
  • Provide brief and germane sentences that give just enough information

State the thesis statement.

The final part of the introduction is the thesis sentence(s).  This should be the most planned sentence in the essay. The statement must be specific and clearly stated. It should be placed at the end of the introduction.

The type of thesis depends on the purpose of the essay:

Expository paper which explains something to the reader

  • Global warming has impacted polar bears by decreasing population sizes, moving sea ice platforms farther apart, and increasing the scarcity of food.

Analytical paper which breaks down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluates the issue or idea, and presents this analysis and assessment to the audience.

  • The polar bear population reveals one challenge: global warming effect on sea ice in the Arctic can see a loss of two thirds of the entire world’s polar bear population over the next fifty years.

Argumentative paper makes a claim about the topic, justifies the claim with specific evidence.  The goal is to convince the audience that the thesis is true based on the evidence provided.

  • Global warming has moved the polar bear to possible extinction.  Lack of food, natural habitat, and the Arctic weather will doom the polar bears’ survival.

The introduction familiarizes the reader with the subject and helps relate the purpose of the rest of the essay.  The essay will benefit by an interesting well planned introduction.

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