Essay Paper Writing: Building An Introductory Paragraph
In general, an essay is structured in three parts — an introduction, the body, the conclusion. Think of the introduction as a single paragraph designed to introduce the thesis statement. Often persons build an introductory paragraph before having developed an effective thesis statement indicating less than the most effective organization of thinking about the topic of a paper! In this article, using an example thesis statement, the development of an introductory paragraph for an actual essay assignment is described.
In a cultural diversity class the author had an assignment to write an essay to “…review a current article that discusses or illustrates the portrayal of some aspect of cultural diversity in U.S.society.” One current article which appeared to meet the assignment directions concerned black officers in the U.S. military — it illustrated an aspect of cultural diversity in U.S. society. So the general topic of the proposed essay became “A review of a current newspaper article that discusses black officers in the U.S. military illustrating an aspect of cultural diversity in the U.S.” This statement of the general topic of the proposed essay serves as the basis for the first sentence in the introductory paragraph. The first sentence of the example introductory paragraph might be something like “The media addressing some aspect of cultural diversity that was selected for this paper is a newspaper article discussing black officers in the U.S. military.” Notice how this sentence clearly states what is the general topic of the essay which IS the main point of the introductory paragraph. Also notice how words from the assignment directions are used in this sentence — communicating to the essay evaluator that the writer is paying attention to the assignment directions.
For the example essay paper assignment, one thesis statement developed was “Regarding black officers in the U.S. military, the author in this essay presents performance examples of these officers, then describes programs in the U.S. military to promote black officer candidates, and then explores challenges still facing black officers in the U.S. military.” Notice how this statement begins with communicating the general topic of the paper followed by the presentation of three main points to be addressed in the essay using action verbs (presents, describes, explores) to identify what the author intends to do with each main point in the essay. For the most effective organization of thinking for an essay, stick with focusing on three and only three main points. This thesis statement becomes the last sentence in the introductory paragraph. So the statement of the general topic is the basis for the first sentence and the thesis statement is the last sentence in an introductory paragraph — what’s between these two sentences?
Although there are many resources available via the Internet describing how to build paragraphs, this author uses a simple four-sentence method for constructing a basic paragraph. In a basic paragraph, first sentence, often labeled the “topic sentence,” states what is the main point of the paragraph. Second sentence provides some evidence that demonstrates or supports the main point. Third sentence describes for the reader how the writer understands the information provided in the second sentence DOES demonstrate or support the main point stated in the first sentence. Since the first three sentences DO communicate the main point of the paragraph, provide evidence to support or make that point, and explain how the evidence provided DOES support the main point according to the writer’s understanding, then by the end of the third sentence, the point of the paragraph HAS BEEN MADE. Therefore, sentence four is designed to communicate to the reader that the point of the paragraph has now been made AND introduce the reader to the main point of the next paragraph. This four-sentence structure may be used to develop the three main paragraphs in an essay (and any subparagraphs for the main paragraphs) as well as developing the introductory paragraph.
Using this four-sentence structure to build the introductory paragraph, start the paragraph with a statement that clearly communicates the general topic of the paper. The topic statement developed for this example assignment as indicated previously is “A review of a current newspaper article that discusses black officers in the U.S. military,” so a possible first sentence might be “The media addressing some aspect of cultural diversity that was selected for this paper is a newspaper article discussing black officers in the U.S.military.” Notice how this sentence clearly communicates up-front to the reader what is the general topic of the essay and it clearly communicates to the essay evaluator the author’s understanding of the assignment!
Following the four-sentence process for paragraph development, the second sentence is expected to provide some information that illustrates or supports the point stated in the first sentence. For this example essay assignment, the located newspaper article that discusses black officers in the U.S. military IS the support or evidence to present in the second sentence — and the article located, via some online research is titled “After 60 years, black officers rare” by L.C. Baldor, published in The Times Herald, 7/28/08. So the second sentence of the example introductory paragraph might be something like “In the newspaper article ‘After 60 years, black officers rare,’ the author of the article indicates that although ‘Blacks have made great strides in the military since it was integrated 60 years ago, but they still struggle to gain a foothold in the higher ranks [in the military]’.” Of course, at the end of this sentence is expected a “citation” to show the source of the information presented in the second sentence — like (Baldor, 2008, ¶ 1). Please note the role of a citation is to point the reader to the related reference that is expected on the “References” page at the end of the essay — and note the citation consists of last name of the author, year of publication of the article, and, in this case, a number indicating the specific paragraph in the article where the cited information may be located (because this online article did not provide page numbers). What to notice in this second sentence is how the information presented in the sentence directly supports or MAKES the point stated in the first sentence, BUT, don’t leave it up to the reader to make that connection on his or her own — in the third sentence, communicate explicitly to the reader how YOU, the writer, understands the information in the second sentence demonstrates the point stated in the first sentence.