English 101 –Aand NNN Fall 2012 Professor Jim Johnson 1
What this handout is about
This handout will explain the functions of introductions, offer strategies for writing effective ones, help
you check your drafted introductions, and provide you with examples of introductions to be avoided.
The role of introductions
Introductions and conclusions can be the most difficult parts of papers to write. Usually when you sit
down to respond to an assignment, you have at least some sense of what you want to say in the body of
your paper. You might have chosen a few examples you want to use or have an idea that will help you
answer the main question of your assignment: these sections, therefore, are not as hard to write. But these
middle parts of the paper can’t just come out of thin air; they need to be introduced and concluded in a
way that makes sense to your reader.
Your introduction and conclusion act as bridges that transport your readers from their own lives into the
“place” of your analysis. If your readers pick up your paper about education in the autobiography of
Frederick Douglass, for example, they need a transition to help them leave behind the world of Chapel
Hill, television, e-mail, and the Daily Tar Heel and to help them temporarily enter the world of
nineteenth-centuryAmerican slavery. By providing an introduction that helps your readers make a
transition between their own world and the issues you will be writing about, you give your readers the
tools they need to get into your topic and care about what you are saying. Similarly, once you’ve hooked
your reader with the introduction and offered evidence to prove your thesis, your conclusion can provide
a bridge to help your readers make the transition back to their daily lives
Why bother writing a good introduction?
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. The opening paragraph of your paper will
provide your readers with their initial impressions of your argument, your writing style, and the overall
quality of your work. Avague, disorganized, error-filled, off-the-wall, or boring introduction will
probably create a negative impression. On the other hand, a concise, engaging, and well-written
introduction will start your readers off thinking highly of you, your analytical skills, your writing, and
your paper. This impression is especially important when the audience you are trying to reach (your
instructor) will be grading your work.
Your introduction is an important road map for the rest of your paper. Your introduction conveys a
lot of information to your readers. You can let them know what your topic is, why it is important, and how
you plan to proceed with your discussion. In most academic disciplines, your introduction should contain
a thesis that will assert your main argument. It should also, ideally, give the reader a sense of the kinds of
information you will use to make that argument and the general organization of the paragraphs and pages
that will follow.After reading your introduction, your readers should not have any major surprises in store
when they read the main body of your paper.
Ideally, your introduction will make your readers want to read your paper. The introduction should
capture your readers’interest, making them want to read the rest of your paper. Open with a compelling
story, a fascinating quotation, an interesting question, or a stirring example that can get your readers to see
why this topic matters and serves as an invitation for them to join you for an interesting intellectual
conversation. [. . .]
What this handout is about
In this crazy, mixed-up world of ours, transitions glue our ideas and our essays together. This handout will
introduce you to some useful transitional expressions and help you employ them effectively.
Since the clarity and effectiveness of your transitions will depend greatly on how well you have organized
your paper, you may want to evaluate your paper’s organization before you work on transitions. In the English 101 –Aand NNN Fall 2012 Professor Jim Johnson 2
margins of your draft, summarize in a word or short phrase what each paragraph is about or how it fits
into your analysis as a whole. This exercise should help you to see the order of and connection between
your ideas more clearly. […]
Types of transitions
Now that you have a general idea of how to go about developing effective transitions in your writing, let
us briefly discuss the types of transitions your writing will use.
The types of transitions available to you are as diverse as the circumstances in which you need to use
them. Atransition can be a single word, a phrase, a sentence, or an entire paragraph. In each case, it
functions the same way: first, the transition either directly summarizes the content of a preceding
sentence, paragraph, or section or implies such a summary (by reminding the reader of what has come
before). Then it helps the reader anticipate or comprehend the new information that you wish to present.
1. Transitions between sections—Particularly in longer works, it may be necessary to include
transitional paragraphs that summarize for the reader the information just covered and specify the
relevance of this information to the discussion in the following section.
2. Transitions between paragraphs—If you have done a good job of arranging paragraphs so that
the content of one leads logically to the next, the transition will highlight a relationship