Getting Over the Hump - Writing Great Introductions

The introduction is probably the most important part of your paper that you will write. It will probably also be the hardest section of it for you to write as well. Part of what makes the introduction so hard for most people is that they try to do it before they've written their paper, or before they even have a really good idea of what they are planning to write. It is the natural progression, after all. It's at the beginning of the paper, so it's what we tackle first. Your approach to writing a great introduction has to consider these difficulties, but get you over the hump. So how do you do that?
Your first lesson in writing a great introduction is to not expect it be great the first time around. Instead, go gentle on yourself, and draft the introduction first with the knowing intention that you are going to go back and refine it once you've gotten rolling on your paper. Think of the drafting of your introduction as simply setting the thought process in motion - greasing the wheels so to speak.
Then, keep in mind that a great introduction accomplishes a few things:
o It grabs the reader's attention and makes them want to read further. It throws out an enticing lure in hopes that they will bite.
o It sets up the reason for the paper. Start with background, history or other general information that demonstrates why the question the paper will attempt to answer is an important and necessary one. Help the reader understand why they need to follow you through your thought process by getting their attention in an area that is relevant to them.
o It begins with broad brush strokes, and focuses a bit more with each sentence. Then, at the end of the paragraph, propose your thesis or question and set the scene for how you will answer it.
o Its easy to read. Keep it simple. Complicated theories and terms can be delved into later in the paper. Save the detail for later.
o It doesn't spill the beans! Your introduction should not answer the question it sets up. Don't describe what is to be learned from reading the paper. And, don't include the conclusion. If the reader knows what your conclusion is right up front, why should they bother reading the rest of the paper? It takes all the wind out of your sails.
Consider these guidelines in writing your first draft of your introduction. Don't agonize over it too much, because you are coming back to it later. Write the body of your paper. Look at your introduction again. Do your conclusion, then come back and finish up your introduction. At this point, you will have your arms around your topic, and you can do your final edit. Don't skip any of these steps. A paper is only as good as its introduction, and the time you spend on it will pay off in the end.
Jennifer Swanson is a writer and editor. Her editing service for businesses and students can be found at []


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