Your introduction paragraph should grab your reader's attention, introduce the topic of your essay, and present your thesis.
Grab the reader's attention
The very first sentence of your introduction should get your reader interested in your topic. Don't start out too generally in your introduction paragraph. Also, don't state all of your specific main points individually in the introduction.
Introduce the topic through background information
Focus on giving background information that your reader needs to understand the topic generally. The middle sentences of your introduction paragraph prepare your reader to understand your thesis statement.
To know what background information you should include, you need to consider your audience. You need to know who your audience is before you can start guessing what background information they already know and what background information you need to tell them for them to understand your thesis statement later.
Example: Using Specific Knowledge
Are you writing an essay about electromagnetism for a scientific journal that will be read by other scientists in your field?
Fellow scientists might not need basic scientific words such as electromagnetism defined for them when they read a research article.
However, they may need other specific science concepts that few people are experts in explained (for example, quantum mechanics or relativity) as well as recent research about the topic reviewed to bring them up to date before they read your thesis statement.
If you are not sure if a piece of information is general knowledge or specific knowledge, ask a friend who doesn't know about your topic to read your introduction. They can point out what information they don't understand as a general reader. Then, you can add background information about those points.
Never use the phrase "Everyone knows..." in the background knowledge section because you need to assume the general audience doesn't know most of the things about your topic.
Present your thesis
The thesis states the main idea, or focus, of the essay. The rest of the essay will give evidence and explanations that show why or how your thesis is true.
An effective thesis—
- addresses the prompt if there is one* (i.e., answers the question).
- is usually at the end of the introduction paragraph.
- controls the content of all of the body paragraphs.
- is a complete sentence.
- does not announce the topic (e.g., "I'm going to talk about exercise.").
- should not simply be a fact (e.g., "Many people exercise.").
- should not be too general (e.g., "Exercise is good.").
- should not be too specific (e.g., "Exercise decreases the chance of developing diabetes, heart disease, asthma, osteoporosis, depression, and anxiety.").
- may state or imply main points (e.g., "Exercise is essential because it improves overall physical and mental health." vs. "Exercise is essential for improving our well-being.").
Thesis Statements: Concision & Grammar
- A concise thesis statement expresses the whole main idea in as few words as possible.
The reader will be more engaged and will prevent the thesis statement from being confusing because of the long, unnecessarily complex sentences.
Some main ideas are very complex and may take multiple sentences to say clearly, but most can be said in just one sentence.
Writing your main idea concisely is preferred in academic writing. Single-sentence thesis statements are generally more powerful than thesis statements that are multiple sentences long.
A thesis statement sentence needs to be grammatically correct.
One of the more common errors with student essay writing is comma splice sentences in the thesis statement.
Thesis statements are often only a single sentence long, but due to the complex grammar and need for specific wording, they can take more time to write than other sentences.
Thesis statements may also be revised multiple times to get the grammar and the wording just right to express your idea most clearly.
Exercise 1: Background Information
Part A: Consider the prompt and the proposed thesis statement. Then answer this question: What background information would you need as a reader to understand the topic of this essay?
Prompt: Describe a historical figure who had a significant impact on the world. Be sure to show through your details and examples the long-term impact of this individual.
Thesis Statement: Mother Teresa's philanthropy has been recognized for a lot of people because it has shown that the best way that someone can help the poor is by having love and hope; which she had in abundance.
**Don't read part B until you are done with part A. **
Part B: Read the introduction below. Then answer the reflection questions below.
A lot of people help poor people to have a better lifestyle. That kind of help can be through food, medicine, housing, clothing, education, and so on. People that decide to help the poor are usually rich people, foundations, organizations, schools, and hospitals. In addition to these groups of helpers, religious people are the ones who help the most. Mother Teresa has been the most honorable person who decided to help the poor in the most humble manner. When Mother Teresa was at the convent, she saw a lot of things from her window. Joan Clucas, the author of the book Mother Teresa, says that “Standing in the darkness of her room, overlooking the slum, Sister Teresa often witnessed the suffering of its inhabitants. Disease, starvation, and misery abounded on the other side of the convent wall” (1988). When Mother
Teresa witnessed what was happening around her, she decided that she had to serve the people that were outside of the convent in a better way. In order to accomplish what she wanted to do, she made the tough decision to leave the convent to go and serve.
- Does the author answer the questions that you had?
- Do you feel confident that you would understand the essay’s thesis statement based on the background information in the introduction? Why or why not?
Exercise 2: Thesis Analysis
Using the points above, decide whether or not each of the following thesis statements is effective:
- The murder of the last Inca emperor, an important event in the history that has had different impact in the Inca Empire.
- Overuse of smartphones causes detrimental effects on the brain, unsatisfied relationships with others, and several physical problems.
- It was a place desert and uninhabited, but that place turned out to be one of the most important, beautiful, and futuristic cities around the world because they manage a stable economy, they started to gain recognition with the Burj Al Arab, that construction was interesting, fast, but struggling as well.
- This essay will explain the effects of alcohol consumption on your body such as the effect on organs and the ability to control your actions.
Exercise 3: Complex Main Idea Thesis Practice
Below is a chart of common subordinating conjunctions or conjunctive phrases. Use this chart to help write a complex or complex compound thesis statement that answers the prompt. You will need to answer both questions from the prompt in only one sentence.
|after, although, as||if, in order for|
|because, before||unless, until|
|even though, even if||where, whereas, while|
Should a new railroad be built in your home state or province? What would the short-term and long-term effects of this decision be?
Exercise 4: Thesis Grammar Practice
Revise these thesis statements to be more concise and grammatically correct. Write your best version of the thesis statements on the line.
1. Although there are some different opinions about that, I prefer to study with a group of classmates. This is because studying with a group gives us an opportunity to learn from others, and develop communication skills.
2. In Haiti, my home country, fritay has a big role and function in our culture, and it is loved by many for a multitude of reasons. Firstly, it is tasty. And secondly, it is made with organic food.
3. International students should not be obligated to buy overly expensive health insurance, especially when they are not going to use it or it does not work as it should. Many times they don't even understand how the service works or it is too difficult to get the help you need.