It is the number one study skill mistake I see made in college writing, and it’s in the introduction. If you’re like me when I was trying to become a better writer, then you know how difficult getting a great introduction to your paper can be. Pulling your hair out thinking how to start your paper is a time management disaster, too. And the worst part is that Professors read the introduction closest.
In fact, when you really think about how many sheets professors and their T.A.’s have to read through, you can bet that, within the first few paragraphs, they already have a good idea of what your grade will be. And when someone CREATES a decision in their mind, it is infinitely harder to change that perception. So, do yourself a favor and learn to skew your professor’s perception in the right direction.
Let’s outline the four parts of the introduction first. Follow this four-part template, and your introduction will have much more clarity and magnetism:
-Part 1: Engage your reader with a more relatable idea of your specific topic. Something most can relate to. If your paper is on the cost of the War in Afghanistan, speak to a more general event everyone can deeply connect with. For example, talk about how everyone remembers where they were on September 11th, when they heard the towers were hit. Emotional responses get bonus points, like the above example.
-Part 2: Move to your specific topic. In the above example, that would mean moving to the topic of the War in Afghanistan. If you’re writing a paper on Romeo and Juliet, move from a more general topic – love, tragedy, the history of Shakespeare’s era… etc. – to the play itself.
-Part 3: Hone in on your specific thesis, which is a narrow look at a specific element of the part 2 topic. Please, please, please make your thesis interesting. Boring thesis statements make the reader (your Professor) regret getting that far, and really regret continuing. Make it an argument people would find hard to swallow – something they would even argue with you about. This will keep them wrapped in to what you’re saying.
-Part 4: Preview the central arguments to support your thesis very briefly, and then transition to the first of those arguments you plan to address.
Okay, so simple enough – engage, specify topic, specify thesis, preview and transition. If it is a particularly long paper, I would suggest making Part 1 a paragraph on its own, then making parts 2-4 a paragraph. Now, here’s the trick to writing the first paragraph to your paper without wasting a lot of time thinking.
WRITE IT LAST
The introduction should be the absolute last thing you try writing for your paper. For most people, the writing of the paper is how you actually learn and engage with the topic. Well, you can’t very well make a compelling introduction for a reader if you haven’t explored the ideas fully.
If your having trouble writing the introduction right off the bat, that’s because you’re having trouble understanding the information holistically. That’s OK, WRITING the body of the paper will bring clarity.
Some will argue that writing the conclusion last is really what you should be doing. There are pros and cons to doing that, but they are pretty minimal. The bottom line is that you should write the intro and conclusion AFTER the body paragraphs. The body paragraphs allow you an opportunity to explore big arguments, and the specific details that prove those arguments. By gaining the specifics and big picture, you gain a better perspective to write an introduction and conclusion.
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