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Effective Introductions and Thesis Statements

Writing an effective introduction is an art form.  It is the first thing that your reader sees; it is what invests the reader in your paper; therefore, it should make them want to continue reading.  You want to be creative and unique early on in your introduction; here are some good techniques: 

  • A brief anecdote or short story; opening with the dialog of the story can be interesting.
  • A series of short questions
  • A powerful quotation
  • A refutation of a common belief
  • A dramatic fact or statistic

Your introduction also needs to adequately explain the topic of your paper and the order in which your information will appear in the paper. Your thesis statement identifies the purpose of your paper.  Your thesis also helps focus the reader on the piece’s central point, and thus helps you achieve this purpose.  An effective thesis establishes a tone and a point of view for a given purpose and audience.

Sometimes a thesis statement includes a plan of development: a concise overview of the essay’s main points in the exact order in which those points will be discussed (ex.  Banning smoking in public places benefits customers, businesses, and the next generation). This plan of development tells readers what information will be in your paper and the order in which this information will appear. 

Here are some important things to consider when constructing your thesis statement:

  • Don’t just make a factual statement – your thesis is always your educated opinion on a topic.
  • Don’t write a highly opinionated statement that might offend some readers. 
  • Don’t simply make an announcement (ex. “My essay will discuss if tuition should be lowered.” Instead state “tuition should be lowered.”
  • Don’t write a thesis that is too broad – be specific.

The thesis is often located in the middle or at the end of the introduction.  But considerations about audience, purpose, and tone should always guide your decision about its placement. 

Sometimes it’s helpful to skip the introduction until after you’ve written the essay’s body because, again, you want this to be one of the strongest parts of the paper.

Example of an introduction:

Innocent people murdered because of the hysteria of young girls.  Many believe that the young girls who accused citizens of Salem, Massachusetts of taking part in witchcraft were simply acting to punish their enemies.  But, recent evidence shows that the young girls may have been poisoned by a fungus called Ergot, which affects rye and wheat. The general public needs to learn about this possible cause for the hysteria that occurred in Salem, so that society can better understand what happened in the past, how this event may change present opinion, and how the future might be changed by learning this new information.  

By Rachel McCoppin, Ph.D.
Liberal Arts and Education Department