How to Write an Introduction
Many writers are ill-equipped to write an introduction to an essay, article, formal research paper, or business letter. All too often, students only received this limited instruction about how to write an introduction: “Introduce the topic in one sentence; write another sentence that has a “hook” or “lead”; then end with a thesis statement.” Not much to go on with that limited instruction…
The following strategies will help you write an introduction leading up to your thesis that will be appropriate to the writing task, engage the reader, and show off your writing skills. The BAD RAPS memory trick will help remind you of your introduction strategy options on timed writing tasks. Not every introduction strategy fits the purpose of every writing task, so learn and practice these options to increase your writing skill-set.
BAD RAPS Introduction Strategies
- Background—Sentences that briefly explain the setting or help your reader better understand the thesis statement. (B)
- Question to be Answered—A sentence worded as a question that asks either a question needing no answer (rhetorical question) or a question to make the reader think of a question that will be answered in the essay. (A)
- Definition— Sentences that explain the meaning of a key word that may be unfamiliar to the reader or help to narrow the focus of the subject. (D)
- Reference to Something Known in Common—Sentences that refer to a fact or idea already known by most people, including your reader. (R)
- Quote from an Authority—Sentences that quote an authority in the subject of the essay. It must list the name of the authority. (A)
- Preview of Topic Sentences—Sentences that list the subjects of each body paragraph topic sentence in the order that they appear in the essay. (P)
- Startling Statement—Sentences that are designed to startle the reader with an emotional response or a controversial remark to help support the thesis statement. (S)
For short essays (such as on the SAT®), college applications, business letters, etc. I suggest that two of the strategies listed above, leading into a concise thesis statement will be more than adequate. Flesh out each strategy in a compound-complex sentence or two separate sentences and then finish the introduction with a one-sentence thesis statement that makes good plagiarized use of the writing prompt. For longer writing tasks, such as research reports, a few more of the introduction strategies, developed in separate paragraphs will be appropriate. The writing rule of thumb is 10% of the writing task as introduction paragraph(s), 80% as body paragraphs, and 10% as conclusion paragraph(s).
Think of writing an introduction much as a prosecuting attorney uses an opening statement to convince a jury that the defendant is guilty of the crime. Connect your introduction strategies and thesis statement with effective transition words to maintain coherence. The introduction should flow together as one whole. Every word should move the reader toward the demanded verdict, which is your thesis statement. Always place your thesis statement at the end of your introduction. Writing research indicates that the thesis statement is placed at the end on the introductory paragraph most of the time in published works, so don’t re-invent the wheel. Write in the way your reader expects to read.
I suggest that you take the time to pre-write before drafting any writing task. Compose your thesis statement first; then, brainstorm the body paragraphs. Next, draft the body paragraphs, skipping space to later write your introductory paragraph. Then, write the introduction. Finish the writing with your conclusion paragraph.
Now you have the right strategies to make your case in your opening statement, by using BAD RAPS to write an introduction. All you have to do is to convince your jury.
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