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Essay Introduction: Write a Thesis and Capture Your Audience

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  • 0:05 Importance of Intros
  • 1:06 Rules of Intros
  • 2:00 Attention Getters
  • 4:08 The Bridge
  • 5:28 The Thesis
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Bill Brown

Bill holds an M.A.T. He has taught English/Language Arts to secondary students.

We'll look at the importance of the introductory paragraph and engaging your audience through the use of attention getters, a bridge, and an arguable thesis. Three of the most common attention getters are specifically defined, and examples are provided in this lesson.

The Importance of an Introduction

Do you remember your first date? I certainly do. As I cautiously backed dad's car down the driveway for my first real date, the last thing I heard was my anxious mother calling, 'Remember…you never get a second chance to make a first impression!'

While perhaps not nearly as exciting as a first date, the same adage is applicable to writing. An author never gets a second chance to capture the attention of his or her reader. We often focus the majority of our attention on the body of an essay, neglecting a quality introduction as either just a few necessary rushed sentences or an afterthought to be filled in later. However, I'm here to tell you that's a mistake. You may have a ground-breaking idea to share with the world, but if you can't engage readers within the first few sentences, your ideas may be lost. By following my three simple steps, you can take your writing to the next level and assure that readers are interested in what you have to say.

Rules of Introductions

  1. Be sure your essay contains an attention getter to draw in your readers.
  2. Use at least one sentence as a bridge to 'walk' your readers from that attention getter to the main idea of your essay, or the thesis.
  3. Always check that your thesis statement is the last sentence of your introduction, it's arguable, and clearly lays out the direction of your essay.

Types of 'Attention Getters'

Our romantic Romeo has recently been assigned a paper on dating in the age of social media, which he hopes will involve some quality time with the luminous Laurie. After gathering his sources and taking notes, the time comes to draft an introduction.

The attention getter is the first thing your readers encounter, and your job as a writer is to capture their attention and make them want to keep reading. Now, there are several ways we can do this, but let's look at the most popular: Use a shocking statistic.

I can assure you that: 'My paper is about dating and social media' neither gets my attention nor does it make me want to read further. However, learning that '68% of dating teenagers say that their boyfriends/girlfriends have posted their embarrassing pictures on the internet' gets me thinking about dating in the age of social media, and, in terms of etiquette, relates to a definite 'don't do' for Romeo's relationship with the luminous Laurie. As always, don't forget to cite your statistic for authenticity.

You can also integrate a quote. A great way to capture the readers' attention is to make the content of your writing relatable to the reader. During his research, Romeo came across the story of a teenage girl whose boyfriend posted an embarrassing picture of her online, and when asked how that made her feel, she responded, 'It makes me hurt both physically and mentally. It scares me and takes away all my confidence. It makes me feel sick and worthless' (qtd. in Hinduja, 2010).

As a reader I may not know what this particular girl went through, but I can certainly feel empathy for her situation. Romeo would do well to remember this when he's tempted to snap a picture of the luminous Laurie slurping her spicy spaghetti.

Finally, ask a thought-provoking question. Just like 'My paper is about dating and social media' won't work as an attention getter, simply asking the question 'Have you ever heard of dating in the age of social media?' won't work either. Chances are your readers know a thing or two about dating, and just asking if they do doesn't get them excited about the topic. How about posing the question: 'Could there be a deep psychological need within us to boost our own confidence by putting other people's down?' Wow! Now this question makes me think and acts as a perfect segue way for a paper that we know will involve the dangers of posting embarrassing pictures online.

The Bridge

Once you've captured the attention of your audience, think about a bridge crossing the rough rapids of a river. Your job is to take readers from side A, or the attention getter, to side B, the thesis statement. The sentence or two between these are identified as, no coincidence, the bridge.

Romeo chose to use a statistic to begin his most recent essay. His bridge expands on the idea of the attention getter to bring readers to the thesis, which lays out the direction of his entire essay.

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