- Identify successful strategies for writing introductions and conclusions
- Evaluate successful strategies for writing introductions and conclusions
Even though a nearly infinite number of topics and arrangements is possible in English prose, introductions generally follow one of several patterns. If you’re writing a children’s story, you’d probably start with “once upon a time” or something similar. If you’re writing a research article on biomechanical engineering, you’d probably start with a statement about how previous research has examined the problem of loading soldiers with daypacks on various surfaces, including sand, concrete, and railroad ballast. These examples are poles apart, but their introductions share very similar purposes: they orient their imagined readers to the topic, time, and place.
In working toward the overall goal of orienting readers, introductions often
- Provide background about a topic
- Locate readers in a specific time and/or place
- Start with a compelling quotation or statistic—something concrete
- Include an ethical appeal, with which you (explicitly or implicitly) show that you’ve researched your topic and are credible
- Articulate a main claim/thesis (but normally after some buildup)
- Lay out the stakes for the piece of writing—that is, why the reader should bother reading on
Let’s look at some examples of effective parts in introductions:
The introduction can provide background information and provide a compelling quotation or statistic. (In the following example, notice how just a sentence or two can accomplish multiple purposes.)
In the early twentieth century there were just 8,000 cars in the United States and only 144 miles of paved roads. In 2005, the Department of Transportation recorded 247,421,120 registered passenger vehicles in the United States and more than 5.7 million miles of paved highway. The automobile has changed our way of life dramatically in the last century.
The introduction can locate readers in a specific time and/or place.
In 246 BCE, Ctesibius of Alexandria invented a musical instrument that would develop into what we know as the organ. Called a hydraulis, it functioned via wind pressure regulated by means of water pressure. The hydraulis became the instrument played at circuses, banquets, and games throughout Mediterranean countries.
The introduction can include an ethical appeal, with which you (explicitly or implicitly) show that you have researched your topic and are credible.
Although history books have not presented it accurately, in fact, the Underground Railroad was a biracial movement whereby black and white abolitionists coordinated secret escape routes for those who were enslaved.
The introduction usually articulates a main claim/thesis (often near the end, so the writer can build up to the claim).
While IQ tests have been used for decades to measure various aspects of intelligence, these tests are not a predictor of success, as many highly intelligent people have a low emotional intelligence, the important human mental ability to reason about emotions and to use emotions to enhance thought.
The introduction lays out the stakes for the piece of writing; it lets readers know why they should bother continuing.
Few people realize how much the overuse of antibiotics for livestock is responsible for the growth of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria, which are now found in great abundance in our waterways.