General The purpose of an introduction is to prepare The purpose of an introduction is to prepare the reader for the body of writing that comes the reader for the body of writing that comes after it. after it. You know what you are writing about and why. But unless you inform your readers of this in an introduction, they will feel lost and judge your essay to be an unclear piece of work!
A good introduction: indicates the topic that the essay is about indicates the topic that the essay is about describes how the body of the essay is organized describes how the body of the essay is organized explains the point of writing the essay; explains the point of writing the essay; the point of writing an essay is usually to argue for a thesis, so you will need to explain what thesis you argue for and how you argue for it – this is called a the point of writing an essay is usually to argue for a thesis, so you will need to explain what thesis you argue for and how you argue for it – this is called a thesis-statement, and most essay introductions include one. thesis-statement, and most essay introductions include one.
First example Suppose you had to write a ten page essay on the topic of whether body-checking should be banned in junior ice-hockey. You did your research and found that there are several main arguments for and against a ban. In the body of your essay you described and evaluated these arguments, and determined that arguments for a ban are stronger than arguments against a ban. Now you must write your introduction!
First example Here is how someone new to academic essays may write the introduction (the topic-sentence is in red, essay structure in blue, thesis in yellow): This essay is about the issue of body-checking in junior ice-hockey. First, arguments for a ban on body-checking are examined. Second, arguments against a ban are discussed. It is shown that pro- ban arguments are stronger than anti-ban arguments. Therefore, the thesis of this essay is that body-checking in junior ice-hockey should be banned.
Discussion of first example This introduction is all right so far as it goes. It is better to have an introduction that includes the three important elements (topic, structure, thesis) than to have one that does not. Many people start out by writing essays with introductions like this one. It does have the virtue of being clear, and clarity is essential. But let us review it to see if it can be improved.
Discussion of first example The structure-sentences are fine. Notice that words such as first and second are useful in helping to describe how the body of an essay is organized. However, if you can convey the structure of your essay without using too many organizational words, that is even better.
Discussion of first example The topic-sentence could be improved. Rather than writing: “This essay is about…” it would be better to write a few topic- sentences that convey a sense of the current state of the topic. This not only tells the reader what the topic is but it also gives the impression that you are knowledgeable about the topic and in command of your research material.
Discussion of first example The thesis-sentences could be better. Instead of writing: “Therefore, the thesis of this essay is…” simply give a bold, factual sentence that expresses your position on the issue. This conveys an air of confidence, unlike the phrase “…the thesis of this essay…” which is timid and non-committal.
Second example The introduction on the next slide takes these points into account. Compare it with the previous introduction and note how wording the three main elements differently can improve the impact that the introduction has on the reader.
Second example Body-checking has always been a controversial issue. However, the recent decision of Hockey Canada to allow some hockey associations to permit body-checking among players as young as nine years of age, on an experimental basis, has aggravated the controversy quite considerably in recent months. Perspectives fall into three main categories: viewpoints of fans, the official standpoint of Hockey Canada, and positions held by the scientific community. Evaluation of the main arguments shows quite clearly that Hockey Canada’s decision to allow body-checking in some junior games, even on an experimental basis, is a serious mistake.
Discussion of second example In this second introduction, the topic- sentences give an impression of the current state of the topic (and, so, convey the topic of the essay to the reader) without using the words essay or topic. The structure- sentences inform the reader of the main parts of the body of the essay and their order of discussion (views of fans, Hockey Canada, and scientific community) without using many organizational words.
Discussion of second example The thesis-sentences tell the reader where you stand on the issue and how you arrived at your position (through evaluation of the main arguments for and against a ban), without including words such as essay or thesis.
Discussion of second example This second introduction gives the reader the impression that you are knowledgeable on the topic, and that doing the research has led you to an intelligent, informed thesis. Why didn’t the first introduction have the same effect?
Discussion of second example The reason is that within the context of an essay introduction, words like essay, topic and thesis make it seem as if there is a gap between you, the writer, and the essay. This gives the impression that the concerns about and position on the issue may not be your concerns and position (only the essay’s!). Notice that the second introduction gives the impression that there is no gap, and that you are expressing yourself through the essay.
Practice! Practice writing introductions without using phrases such as “the topic of this essay…” or “the thesis argued for is…” Expressing the topic without using words like topic or subject may be particularly challenging because it is easy to include too much detail and end up with an unintended body- paragraph. But with practice, you will be able to write more effective introductions.
Frequently asked questions 1. How long should my introduction be? One common mistake is to write an introduction that is too long; the introduction is so detailed that it is indistinguishable from the body of the essay! As a rule, an introduction should not be longer than about 8% of the length of the essay. For example, the introduction of a ten, fifteen, and twenty- page essay should be a maximum of about a page, a page and a quarter, and one and a half pages respectively.
Frequently asked questions 2. How detailed should the introduction be? Another common mistake is that the introduction is so detailed that it fails to indicate the topic of the essay in a clear way! The introduction only needs to state the topic, general structure, and thesis of the essay. The longer the essay is supposed to be, the more detailed your topic, structure and thesis-sentences can be.
Frequently asked questions 3. Why am I finding it hard to write the introduction? The introduction must indicate the topic, structure and thesis of the essay. If you are not completely sure about any of these things, you will find it hard or even impossible to write an introduction. Writer’s block can happen when you try to write the introduction before you have done sufficient reading and research on the topic.
Frequently asked questions 3. Why am I finding it hard to write the introduction (continued)? How can you know what the structure of your essay will be until you have written at least a draft of the body? How can you know what your thesis will be until you have done the reading and research?! To save time, always write the introduction last.
Frequently asked questions 4. What is an introduction for? Is it a summary? An introduction is not a summary. A summary repeats the main ideas of an essay. An introduction introduces the reader to the topic of the essay, describes the organizational structure of the essay, and explains the point of the essay (the thesis argued for).
Frequently asked questions 5. What should I put in my introduction? Do not try to pack everything into the introduction. It would then not be an introduction at all! An essay introduction does not need to do more than tell the reader the topic of the essay, describe how the body of the essay is organized, and explain the thesis that you argue for in the essay.
Frequently asked questions 6. How many paragraphs should I use for the introduction? The introduction needs to indicate the topic, structure, and thesis of the essay for the reader. In a short ten page essay, all of these things should be easy to include in one or two paragraphs. In longer essays, your topic, structure, and thesis-sentences will be more detailed, and so more paragraphs may be required to complete the introduction.
Other sources and resources Make an appointment for the Bethune Writing Centre Make an appointment for the Bethune Writing Centre (go to Master’s office at 205 Bethune to book a slot, (go to Master’s office at 205 Bethune to book a slot, or call ext ) or call ext ) Visit York Centre for Academic Writing online resources at: Visit York Centre for Academic Writing online resources at: The following books may be useful: The following books may be useful: Hacker, D. (2003). A Canadian writer’s reference (2 nd ed.). Scarborough, Ont.: Nelson Thomson Learning. Call number: PE 1408 H293 Finbogason, J., & Valleau, Al (2002). A Canadian writer’s pocket guide (2 nd ed.). Scarborough, Ont.: Thomson/Nelson. Call number: PE 1408 F45
Other sources and resources Troyka, Lynn Quitman (2002). Simon & Schuster handbook for writers (3 rd ed.). Scarborough, Ont.: Prentice-Hall. Call number: PE 1408 T697 For science students writing a scientific report, the requirements of the introduction are slightly different from those stated here. The following book will be particularly useful: For science students writing a scientific report, the requirements of the introduction are slightly different from those stated here. The following book will be particularly useful: Day, Robert A. (1998). How to write & publish a scientific paper (5 th ed.). Phoenix, Arizona: The Oryx Press. Call number: T11 D33