Valencia College – Online Teaching

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The following video will discuss introductions, the importance of an introduction, the important elements of an

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introduction, and some advice on effective introductions. By capturing the reader’s interest and pinpointing the

significance and purpose of the essay, your introduction can orient the reader and set the tone for your paper.

Well, that doesn’t really quite work. It’s not really engaging.

Starting with my thesis is just too direct. The reader might feel bombarded by my paper and the ideas within it. So

I should try to realize the truth here. There is no introduction here.

Whoa!

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Welcome to the introduction video! This is going to be so awesome! We’re going to learn so many cool things

today!

No, that doesn’t do it, either. It’s not really the impression I want to give. I don’t want to give this “I’m a crazy

person” impression. Let’s try this over again.

[DRAMATIC MUSIC PLAYING]

Since the dawn of time, people have written introductions– no, no, that’s not it, either. No. It’s a little better,

because I’m connecting to my topic. But it’s so broad that it’s going to be so hard for me to actually get back to my

specific point.

It also gives my reader this impression that I don’t really know enough about my topic, so I can’t see anything

specific or less huge about my topic. And worse yet, it doesn’t make any sense for people writing introductions

when the universe is a big ball of matter that exploded. I should just avoid generalizations altogether.

According to dictionary.com, an introduction is the preliminary part of a work and presents content and leads to

the work’s main part. Well, that’s not going to work. It’s closer. It’s important for my audience and I do have a

shared understanding of the important in terms of my paper.

However, it’s cliche. It’s formulaic. A lot of people will do that introduction. And it’s not really inventive or won’t

really capture the reader’s interest.

Also, anyone can look up the definition of a term. And the definition that they look up is probably not going to be

specific to the context of the course in which we are enrolled in. And it’s also not going to be specific to my

 

 

particular argument. So therefore, if I want to go with this strategy, maybe I’d want to come up with my own

definition as opposed to citing dictionary.com.

Let’s try this one last time. So have you heard the expression that first impressions are lasting impressions? I’m

sure you have.

And it relates to many different situations, for instance, a first date, or a job interview, or just meeting someone for

the first time. Your impression of that individual will largely dictate how you perceive them from then on. In fact,

impressions have been shown to be so significant that a lot of people study them.

For instance, psychologists have come up with two terms to describe some of the effects of first impressions. And

they are the primacy effect on memory and the halo effect. Now, basically, these interrelated phenomenon

describe how what we first encounter affects how we judge subsequent information.

In effect, the perception of positive qualities in one thing will give rise to the perception of similar qualities in later

moments. Similarly, when we’re writing an introduction, we can depend on the halo effect to essentially help carry

through a perception into the paper itself. I’m going to say that again.

First impressions are very important. You can effectively get your reader to think highly of your paper if you have a

strong introduction. Because we have to remember. Who are our readers?

Our readers are people who are evaluating the quality of our paper. Therefore, if we can get them to think that

this introduction is sophisticated, it’s complex, its tone is appropriate for the message, it’s engaging, if we can get

them to think that from the onset, then that kind of impression will carry through throughout the entire paper. So

bottom line, introductions are incredibly important. So let’s go ahead and discuss how to write an effective

introduction.

First off, introductions are definitely important. But I do not want to overstate their importance. The introduction is

not going to remedy a disaster of a paper. No favorable first impression would counteract something absolutely

egregious and downright terrible.

So ideally, you’ll want your paper to match the quality of your intro. Still, it’s easier to maintain a favorable

impression than it is to try to fix a horrible one. So, what should an introduction do? As we’ve already mentioned,

introductions set up an expectation, an expectation of content but also, like we’ve discussed, of quality.

Number two, an introduction captivates your reader’s attention. It grabs their interest. The confetti intro try to do

this. But remember, our reader is an academic reader and is not seeking to be blindly entertained but, instead,

intellectually stimulated.

 

 

The third thing that my introduction should do is orient the reader. The intro should help serve the larger goals of

the paper by helping the reader understand and appreciate my broader topic. In this way, they should start to see

why the paper’s argument is worth looking at.

This is why the intro is often referred to like an upside down triangle, where all the introduction’s elements connect

and point to the thesis statement. Again, it’s important to ensure that your introduction aligns or connects with the

thesis. The intro, like this triangle, starts out broad, because we want to start at a place of shared understanding

and appreciation, for my reader probably hasn’t really considered my specific thesis statement before. It’s

probably not something that they think is especially important.

Also, we might have a diverse array of readers with varying concerns and interests. So I want to start at their level

of concern and then progressively bring them to my specific focus. So that’s why I start broad and then narrow it

to my thesis statement.

All right, now how to accomplish these things– well, an introduction generally contain four elements. First, a hook-

– you need to grab the reader’s interest or concern. Second is we need to introduce the topic, introduce the

subject that’s being discussed.

Third is we want to demonstrate our logic. Illustrate your reasons and the organization of the paper to your

reader. And then finally, we’ll want to state the thesis. And I want to look at these categories with the exception of

the thesis, as we’ve already covered that topic in another video.

So a hook– something that grabs and secures the attention of our reader. How do we grab our reader’s interest

or concern? Well, first, we need to know something about our audience.

What do they care about? What do they value? We also need to keep in mind that academic audiences are not

blank– a television and entertainment, for instance. We’re striving to garner that reader’s intellectual curiosity and

interest. Still, this doesn’t mean that we have to get dry and boring.

So, what are some strategies we can use? Well, some types of hooks– you could try the interesting quote, either

a literary quote or one from a famous person, or maybe a maxim of some sort. For instance, it might sound

something like this.

Evelyn Anderson, a famous journalist from the UK, once said, “After such an introduction, I can hardly wait to hear

what I’m going to say.” I could also include an anecdote, which is a short, interesting story, often personal, that

helps communicates something about your topic and helps engage your reader.

 

 

Or I could include a metaphor. A metaphor is a powerful tool, as human beings kind of think in metaphor. So I

could start with some type of comparison that helps make my point. For instance, I could say something like,

introductions are like movie trailers. They should attract attention and encourage the audience to want more.

Or I could start my introduction with a surprising fact. I could include some information that would shock my reader

and perhaps grab their interest. I might say something like, only 10% of papers turned in to instructors have

strong introductions.

The fifth type of hook we could use is a provocative or thought-provoking question, something similar to what I did

in this video. I might say something like, what makes a reader decide to keep reading a book or watching a

movie? Six is the most common type of introduction in academic arguments, which is the illustration of a problem.

So for instance, I could state something like, when researchers pulled together their evaluations of student writing,

they found that students with merely a strong introduction scored significantly better than students with more well-

informed and complex body paragraphs. Clearly, a significant bias is present here. In this case, the illustration of a

problem is a great strategy, because it could help establish exigence. In other words, the intro helps the reader

see the urgency and importance of my message and then compels them to read the paper.

After we have engaged our reader’s interest and intellectual curiosity, we want to introduce our topics so that my

reader understands and appreciates my topic. In this way, the introduction serves to give our reader pre-

understanding. Because without it, they might feel disoriented, or confused, or not see the importance of the topic.

So this is where a lot of students have a lot of trouble.

We know, for instance, that we should provide some kind of background information. But a lot of times, students

don’t have a clear conception on why they’re giving the background information. So for instance, if we’re writing a

piece on Frederick Douglass, we might include some facts about Douglass, about his life, about his escape from

slavery, et cetera.

But this won’t necessarily help the reader understand and appreciate the topic of the essay, for maybe that essay

is mostly about pathos. Maybe this is just a pathos essay. And we are simply examining Douglass as a way to see

how pathos works. Now, if that was the case, then my background about Douglass doesn’t necessarily help serve

my purpose, which is to explain pathos and explain how pathos is working in Douglass’s work. So I need to be

more discerning about connecting my background information to my specific point in my thesis statement.

So what I would ask, then, is, what pre-understanding do my readers need so that they might understand and

appreciate my specific claim? The last two things we should do to illustrate our reasoning and the organizational

structure of the paper and, finally, to state the thesis. Since we have been writing short papers in this class, I

 

 

lumped those two together. I’ve had you include your reasoning inside your thesis statement.

Remember, when we were coming up with thesis statements, I asked you, what are you arguing? What’s the

thesis? And how will you prove it? What’s your reasoning and organizational structure, which is also called

methodology?

The how question is oftentimes, in longer papers, separated from the thesis. So if you had a particularly long

paper, you might actually find 2, 3, or 4 sentences explaining the structure and the reasoning that will happen in

the paper. Also, some papers, particularly these long papers, will often switch the order that we’ve laid out here.

That is, the writer might state their thesis first and then, later on, discuss the layout and reasons of the paper

towards the end of the introduction.

One last note I’ll make is that not all introductions will be one paragraph long. In fact, for academic papers, you’ll

find that the majority of them are more than one paragraph long. Oftentimes, they are several pages long.

So we need to have a more complex understanding of what introductions do. They need to help get the reader to

understand and appreciate the claim and grab their interests so that they feel compelled to read the paper. And

sometimes, that takes longer than one paragraph to do.

OK, so that ends our introduction video. Remember to take the quiz. And good luck.