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Writing Lab Seminar Series April 16 and April 18 How to Write An Introduction Why is the introduction important? Creates a transition for your reader from the “real world” into the world of your essay Gives background information on your topic Makes a good first impression for the rest of your essay Makes the reader want to read the rest of your essay What should be included in an introduction? The intro is a road map for the rest of your paper. It should include the following elements: Topic of the paper Why the topic is important How you will discuss the topic (what information will be used) and how you will organize your argument Thesis that asserts your main argument What are some strategies for writing an effective introduction? Think about the question! Sometimes you can get ideas about how to structure your essay based on the question. The direct answer to the question = your thesis. If you are stuck on how to start an essay, try writing the body paragraphs first, then go back and write the introduction. Or, try writing a tentative draft of the introduction that you can improve later. Be straightforward and confident in your writing. For example, don’t write: “In this paper, I will describe how Frederick Douglass valued education.” Instead, write: “Frederick Douglass valued education.” Then give examples to prove it! Open with an attention-grabbing hook. (see page 2) What kind of introduction strategies should I avoid? Don’t just restate the question. Your teacher wrote the question so he/she knows what it is! Don’t start with a dictionary definition. It’s an overused technique. Don’t make statements that are too general. For example, don’t say: “Since the beginning of time, slavery has held people back.” Other phrases to avoid are “In the world today...” or “For as long as man existed...” Instead, think of a way to connect your topic to something that is relevant to life today and that connects to your thesis. What are some effective strategies for writing an introduction? Pretend we are writing an essay in response to the following question: Education has long been considered a major force for American social change, righting the wrongs of our society. Drawing on The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, discuss the relationship between education and slavery in 19th century America. Consider the following: How did white control of education reinforce slavery? How did Douglass and other enslaved African Americans view education while they endured slavery? And what role did education play in the acquisition of freedom? Most importantly, consider the degree to which education was or was not a major force for social change with regard to slavery. The following strategies can be used to write a great introduction to this question or any question: Quotation or Dialogue o Douglass writes “education and slavery were incompatible with each other.” Example o Describe the example of the mistress who initially taught Douglass but then ceased her instruction as she learned more about slavery. Puzzling Scenario or Startling Information o Frederick Douglass says of slaves that "[N]othing has been left undone to cripple their intellects, darken their minds, debase their moral nature, obliterate all traces of their relationship to mankind; and yet how wonderfully they have sustained the mighty load of a most frightful bondage, under which they have been groaning for centuries!" Douglass clearly asserts that slave owners went to great lengths to destroy the mental capacities of slaves, but yet his own life story proves that these efforts could be unsuccessful.) Anecdote (funny story) o Learning about slavery in the American history course at Frederick Douglass High School, students studied the work slaves did, the impact of slavery on their families, and the rules that governed their lives. We didn't discuss education, however, until one student, Mary, raised her hand and asked, "But when did they go to school?" That modern high school students could not conceive of an American childhood devoid of formal education speaks volumes about the centrality of education to American youth today, and also suggests the meanings of the deprivation of education to past generations." Thought-provoking question o Given all of the freedoms that were denied enslaved individuals in the American South, why does Frederick Douglass focus his attentions so squarely on education and literacy? What are some other ways to make sure my introduction is good? Make sure that the body paragraphs actually support the thesis statement. If not, consider rewriting your thesis. Make sure the hook flows into the thesis statement by adding some explanatory sentences. Ask someone else to read your introduction and then tell you what they think the paper will discuss. If the person can predict your essay accurately, you probably have a good intro. Visit the writing center and have one of the coaches review your introduction with you. More Examples Read the following introductions and determine what was the original question that the essay will answer. Quotation French epicure Anthelme Brillat-Savarin remarked two hundred years ago: "Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are." This relationship between good health and diet has been confirmed by modern science. Millions of Americans suffer from obesity, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, and food allergies--all ailments linked to ingredients in our food products. Consequently, four out of five U.S. adults indicate they "pay attention" to the ingredient lists and nutritional information on food labels, and two out of three say they use the information to avoid or limit their consumption of certain items. Learn to eat healthier by reading the label. Thought-Provoking Question What's the calorie difference between "light" and "reduced calorie" yogurt? How many servings in a twelve ounce can of soda pop? Being able to answer both of these questions requires knowledge of food labeling. More and more Americans are reading the information on food labels. In fact, four out of five U.S. adults indicate they "pay attention" to the ingredient lists and nutritional information on food labels, and two out of three say they use the information to avoid or limit their consumption of certain items. Learn to eat healthier by reading the label. Startling Information "Americans are nutritionally ignorant," asserts David Kessler, Chairman of the Food and Drug Administration. Despite this lack of nutritional understanding, Kessler notes that more and more Americans are reading the information on food labels. In fact, four out of five U.S. adults indicate they "pay attention" to the ingredient lists and nutritional information on food labels. Until recently, understanding that information was a serious challenge for consumers. However, the Food and Drug Administration has established new rules governing what and how nutritional information is presented to consumers. Now it is possible to learn to eat healthier by reading the label. Specific Example Patricia Morris is a typical American consumer. Each time she shops at her neighborhood Safeway, she wants to purchase delicious, nutritionally adequate food at a reasonable price. Therefore, like many other consumers, Patricia reads food labels and comparision shops. In fact, four out of five U.S. adults indicate they "pay attention" to the ingredient lists and nutritional information on food labels. Until recently, understanding that information was a serious challenge for consumers. However, the Food and Drug Administration has established new rules governing what and how nutritional information is presented to consumers. Now it is possible to learn to eat healthier by reading the label.
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