The Writing Center


A good introduction often signals to your reader that you are really in control of the subject matter. That’s worth doing–it makes you more trustworthy and it makes the essay easy to read. There are a number of factors, however, that influence writing one:

    • You need to write generally about your subject or question, but many times you’re so far into the subject you can hardly remember what the reader knows about it
    • You need to write generally about the background of your sources
    • You only have so much space to do both of these tasks, so often it’s good to get right to the most compelling aspect of the topic

A common strategy is to pose a problem or show a gap. Here’s one student’s model: he uses 2 paragraphs. One introduces a problem, the next gives the focus or thesis of the essay and the source he’s consulted:

Many of us are concerned with the present state of the environment. Problems seem to crop up faster than we can deal with them. Even worse is the fact that, despite our increasing understanding of how industrial society is destroying the environment, we persist in practices known to damage the natural balance of the earth. Many look to modern science and technology as the keys to an eventual solution. For others, it is modern science and technology that are at the root of the problem.

There has been, for some time now, an increasing school of thought that points to western/masculinist thought as the means of the environment’s eventual demise. They suggest that a closer understanding of western paradigms concerning issues of ecology and gender will reveal the inconsistencies and dangers of the practices they advocate. Vandana Shiva, a former physicist, is one such person. In her book, Staying Alive, she puts forth arguments suggesting that any solution to the growing environmental crisis must be found outside of the western/scientific model.

Note that he explains Vandana Shiva’s point of view, mentions the book itself, and presents his thesis in the 2nd paragraph. Too often students either omit the sources they’ve consulted, or they cite them too early in the paper, not allowing for their own voice.

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