"Nay," I say. We all know about that almighty trinity of writing a paper: Introduction, Body, and Conclusion, but do we really know Introductions? That's like saying we know Burt Reynolds; sure, we know the hat, the mustache, the Trans Am--but do we really know the man? This week we'll start things off right with Introductions.
There's a time-honored formula that goes into writing an introduction. First, you have your attention getter. This is the hook, how you pull your reader into the paper. There are many ways to start off your introduction with an attention getter, like a rhetorical question, fun fact, or dialogue. But you're not limited to those options. I personally like outrageous statements, like "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away..." but the key is to write something relevant to continue off of that.
The other vital piece of the paper is what many consider the all-important piece: the thesis. A paper without a thesis is like a car without a steering wheel; if you write without one, you will most likely crash and require medical treatment. The thesis is the one-sentence embodiment of your paper's argument. If you don't have a thesis, you don't have much of an argument. You may have all of these awesome, on-the-money observations throughout your piece but if there's no thesis, your reader might be trying to dig for a thesis throughout. Rather than handing them the spade to start scooping up the dirt, give them the thesis outright. Traditionally, people stick the thesis at the end of the introduction or towards the end. I'm a fan of the end myself. It's like being told everything you need to know how to swim and then getting Spartan-kicked into the deep end. That may seem like a strong metaphor, but babies can swim right off the bat so get over it.
Now the attention grabber and thesis, though important parts of an introduction, are not all you have in a paper. At most from those, you might have two or three sentences. Often, the connection between your thesis and attention grabber may not be so outright obvious to the reader that you need to do some transitional sentences between them in order to make the connection more clear and concrete. Por ejemplo:
"I've been looking forward to this for a long time," says Greedo the Bounty Hunter, sitting across from smuggler Han Solo in the seediest corner of the Mos Eisley Cantina. "Yeah, I'll bet you have," Solo responds. A blast rings out in the cantina and the green bounty hunter goes limp. Solo leaves, but not before throwing a coin to the bartender, saying, "Sorry about the mess." George Lucas made several alterations to the Star Wars series that detrimentally changed the films.
You're probably thinking, That's great and all, but how did get to that point? Well, my sisters and brothers, it's missing some filler. Let's add some!
"I've been looking forward to his for a long time," says Greedo the Bounty Hunter, sitting across from smuggler Han Solo in the seediest corner of the Mos Eisley Cantina. "Yeah, I'll bet you have," Solo responds. A blast rings out in the cantina and the green bounty hunter goes limp. Solo leaves, but not before throwing a coin to the bartender, saying, "Sorry about the mess." This scene is just one of many affected by editing changes since Star Wars: A New Hope first came out in 1977. Creator George Lucas insists that Han never shoots first but rather retaliates against the bounty hunter's attack. Many argue still that Han not only shot first but that him doing so is more accurate to the character's behavior. By editing it to a mere retaliation alters Han Solo as a character and does not fit harmoniously with his actions later in the series. Lucas made several alterations to the Star Wars series that detrimentally changed the films.
You'll see that I added a significant amount of information. It provides a context for my attention getter, which is a brief snippet of the Han-Greedo encounter from A New Hope, and how it relates to my thesis. There is no perfect formula for an introduction, but that's what makes the introduction such a vibrant and unique part of a paper. The introduction is the first thing someone will see of your paper, so the key is to make sure that you're present in the introduction through your style and language.