How to Write a Great Introduction Paragraph

Talk to any good career counselor and they will tell you that the best way to land a job is by intentionally building an impressive set of steps that lead the potential employer closer to hiring you.  Everything starts with a neat, solid resume that gives off a good impression immediately.  Having good phone skills is next, which will hopefully lead to an in-person interview.  Showing up neatly dressed, articulate, and enthusiastic is just the icing on the cake.  Running with this analogy, introduction paragraphs are similar to writing a good resume.

Sadly, most students (especially online students) don’t recognize that their writing is a key part to their reputation in any course.  Depending on when writing assignments are due, they can give a professor the first glimpse into who you are and what kind of student you will be in their course.  As a professor, the minute I open a paper on my computer, I immediately recognize if the student forgot to put their name on their paper, are missing a title page, or missed small formatting errors such as leaving out page numbers.  If they haven’t paid close attention to detail, what is the rest of their paper going to be like?  Just being honest here.

But that’s probably not you.  After all, you are on web site like this because you want to know how to write great papers!  Congratulations, you passed the first test :).

A nicely formatted title page is the first thing your professor will see – so make sure to give off a good first impression.

After that comes your introduction paragraph (given you don’t need an abstract after your title page).  Given that your introduction is the first think people read, it’s hard to understate its importance to your writing.  Shoot for 5-7 good sentences starting from broad to narrow, like an upside-down cone.   Think of your introduction like the map for the rest of your paper.  It will introduce the audience to the topic, explain the general idea, and offer your thesis statement.  A finely tuned introduction adds an elegance and readability that draws the reader into the rest of your paper.  It tells the reader what to expect in the rest of you paper because everything in your introduction should be elaborated on later in your writing.

Where to begin?

Start by writing down the main points that you would like to make in your paper.  In APA Made Easy, I go through this in detail.  Each main point will be mentioned in your introduction paragraph, but given a fuller treatment in the body of your paper.  Thus, any points you mention in the introduction should be brought up again.  If, after writing your paper, you notice that you don’t mention a point, be sure to revise your introduction to reflect the paper you will be handing in.

What makes for a great introduction?

Anything that is memorable.  You can start with a funny story (if appropriate), a question that subtly draws the reader in, a controversial statement that bucks convention (just be polite), and personal story or experience.  A great paper combines an appropriate level of artistic expression while staying within the bounds of the assignment and scholastic expectation.  Be creative, but keep your coloring inside the lines!  Great writing is a balancing act.


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