The paragraph that begins an essay causes students the most trouble, yet carries the most importance. Although its precise construction varies from genre to genre (and from essay to essay), good introductory paragraphs generally accomplish the same tasks and follow a few basic patterns. I have listed some of them below, but keep in mind that what follows are guidelines, not immutable templates.
Tasks: The introductory paragraph to a short essay usually attempts to do three things:
- Introduce the topic with some indication of its inherent interest or importance, and a clear definition of the boundaries of the subject area
- Indicate the structure and/or methodology of the essay, often with the major sections of the essay or its structural principle clearly stated
- State the thesis of the essay, preferably in a single, arguable statement with a clear main clause
Patterns: The standard pattern for an introductory paragraph follows the order of the tasks outlined above. Below is an outline of that pattern, written as if it were the first section of a formal outline of the entire essay:
- The topic
- Its boundaries
- Why it is interesting
- Structure and/or Methodology
- The essays main sections (structure)
- Why they come in that order (structural principle)
- How the author plans to draw the necessary conclusions from the information available (methodology)
- The Thesis Statement (usually a single sentence)
- Its premise (the general claim about the information available)
- Its conclusion (the consequences of the first claim)
This resource was written by Jaclyn M. Wells.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on March 23, 2009 .
This resource explains how to organize your essay's introduction.
Lesson 3: Development and Details
Choosing a main idea and subpoints, creating an outline, and producing a thesis statement and topic sentences are all great first steps to writing a successful GED essay. The solid foundation you make during the planning phase of your writing process is extremely important. But what comes next? Remember the third criterion that essay readers use to score your essay: development and details. While writing your essay, you must develop and support your ideas with details. This lesson provides tips for using details develop and support the main ideas you discovered during the planning phase and to expand the outline you created while planning.
Writing a Developed and Detailed Introduction
You know your introduction needs a clear thesis statement. But what else do you put in the paragraph? To answer that question, think about the purpose of an introduction:
- Introduce your topic
- Create interest
- Provide necessary background information
- Identify your main idea
- Preview the rest of your essay
Your thesis statement will identify your main idea and preview the rest of your essay. Remember that this can be either one or two sentences. You will probably place your thesis at the end of your introduction paragraph. You can use the other sentences in your introduction to introduce your topic, create interest, and provide necessary background information.
Let's look again at the sample essay topic from Lesson 1 and Lesson 2.
Sample Essay Topic
What is one important goal you would like to achieve in the next few years?
In your essay, identify that one goal and explain how you plan to achieve it. Use your personal observations, experience, and knowledge to support your essay.
The paragraph below is an example introduction for this topic. As you read, think about what each sentence does within the paragraph. What sentence(s) introduce the topic and create interest? What sentence(s) provide background information? What sentence(s) identify the main idea and preview the rest of the essay?
"Making goals for myself and working toward them keeps me on my toes and makes my life interesting. There are many goals that I would like to achieve throughout my life. I have begun working toward many of them by looking into going back to school and thinking about what I’d like to do for a career. One major goal I would like to accomplish in the next few years is getting a better job. My plan to get a better job is to finish school, prepare a resume, and then search for jobs."
Notice how the first two sentences introduce the topic and create interest in it. The third sentence provides some background information for the reader. Although this background information might not be absolutely necessary, it gives the reader some background for the essay and also creates interest in the topic. The final two sentences identify the main idea and preview the rest of the essay. Notice also the movement from general to specific in this paragraph. When you read carefully through the paragraph, you’ll notice that each sentence is a bit more specific than the last. It’s a good idea to move from general to specific like this in your introduction.
Now try writing your own introduction. Use the sample essay topic, the brainstorming, and the outline work you completed in Lessons 1 and 2 to help you. Remember to include two or three sentences that introduce your topic, create interest, and provide necessary background information. Finally, include one or two sentences that identify your main idea and preview the rest of your essay.