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Arkansas State University

Starting Your Research Paper: Writing an Introductory Paragraph

Time for the dreaded paper? Learn how to get started!

The Dreaded Introductory Paragraph

Writing the introductory paragraph can be a frustrating and slow process -- but it doesn't have to be.  If you planned your paper out, then most of the introductory paragraph is already written.  Now you just need a beginning and an end.

Beginning Sentence(s)   Here's your chance to introduce your topic and grab your reader's attention.  NEVER start your paper saying, "In this paper, I will" or "This paper is about." Start strong.  In your research, have you come across an odd factoid or interesting quote? Try starting your paper with that.  How about starting with an anecdotal story or humor?
     
Middle Sentences   The middle sentences cover the different points in your paper.  If you've already planned which order to write the points in the paper, you already know which order to place them in your introductory paragraph. (Hint: it's the same order).  You don't have to include every single point, but make sure the important ones get in there. 
     
Ending Sentence   All the previous sentences have been building up to this: your thesis. Your thesis statement expresses the overall idea of your paper and show where you stand on the topic.  Indiana University has a great tutorial for writing thesis statements.

Example

Here's an introductory paragraph for a paper I wrote.  I started the paper with a factoid, then presented each main point of my paper and then ended with my thesis statement.

Introductory Paragraph

 
Breakdown:

1st Sentence   I lead with a quick factoid about comics.
2nd & 3rd These sentences define graphic novels and gives a brief history. This is also how the body of my paper starts.
4rd Sentence This sentence introduces the current issue. See how I gave the history first and now give the current issue? That's flow.
5th Sentence Since I was pro-graphic novels, I gave the opposing (con) side first. Remember if you're picking a side, you give the other side first and then your side.
6th Sentence Now I can give my pro-graphic novel argument.
7th Sentence This further expands my pro-graphic novel argument.
8th Sentence This is my thesis statement.