Introductions and Titles Worth Weller W131 To Begin or Not To Begin

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Introductions and Titles

  • Worth Weller
  • W131

To Begin or Not To Begin

  • Keep the following in mind:
  • You do not need to begin writing your essay with either a title or introduction in mind
  • Sometimes a title can be too constrictive; and your introduction may become more obvious after you’ve completed your summary and analysis

That Said…

  • A creative title can often give focus to an essay
  • A well-thought out introduction can provide both the thesis statement and the organizational scheme for the rest of the essay
  • Both can be changed later if you see a better focus or title as your thinking progresses - the point is not to get blocked at this point. Start in the middle if you have to!

A good title…

  • Is specific; it would be appropriate only with the paper that follows it.
  • Is interesting, intriguing; it asks questions or raises expectations that readers will want to satisfy.
  • (You might want to come up with several titles, and see which one you like best when you go back to make revisions)


  • Often, the first sentences of the introductory paragraph of an essay are the hardest to write.
  • You want to get your reader’s attention,
  • you want to focus on the main idea of the essay,
  • but you don’t want to begin, boringly, with your thesis statement.

How to begin

  • To draft an effective introduction, you need to review your:
  • purpose
  • topic
  • and audience.
  • Then consider which of the following forms appears most appropriate.

Here are a few choices…

A personal example

  • I knew my dieting had gotten out of hand, but when I could actually see the movement of my heart beating beneath my clothes, I knew I was in trouble.

A description of a person

  • He strides toward us in navy and white, his body muscled and heavy-set, one arm holding his casually flung jeans jacket over his shoulder. A man in his prime, with just the right combination of macho and sartorial flair.

A description of a place

  • It’s still there, the Chinese school on Yale Street where my brother and I used to go. Despite the new coat of paint and the high wire fence, the school I knew ten years ago remains remarkably, stoically the same.

An example from a case study

  • Susan Smith has everything going for her. A self-described workaholic, she runs a Cambridge, Massachusetts, real estate consulting company with her husband Charles and still finds time to cuddle and nurture their two young kids, David, 7, and Stacey, 6. What few people know is that Susan, 44, needs a little chemical help to be a supermom: she has been taking the antidepressant Prozac for five years.

A startling statement, fact, or statistic

  • Embalming is indeed a most extraordinary procedure, and one must wonder at the docility of Americans who each year pay hundreds of millions of dollars for its perpetuation, blissfully ignorant of what it is all about, what is done, and how it is done.

A statement from a book

  • The American novelist John Barth, in his early novel The Floating Opera, remarks that ordinary, day-to-day life often presents us with embarrassingly obvious, totally unsuitable patterns of symbolism and meaning—life in the midst of death, innocence vindicated, youth versus age, etc.

A striking question or questions

  • Do non-human animals have rights? Should we humans feel morally bound to exercise consideration for the lives and well-being of individual members of other animal species? If so, how much consideration, and by what logic?

A common error or mistaken judgment

  • There was a time when, in my search for essences, I concluded that the canyonland country has no heart. I was wrong. The canyonlands did have a heart, a living heart, and that heart was Glen Canyon and the golden flowing Colorado River.

Other formats…

  • A general to specific paragraph that states a generality and then modifies and limits it, thus indicating the essay’s limited topic.


  • Pets have been a part of human society at least since the days of the Pharaohs. Recently, however, doctors and other health care workers have begun to use pets as an integral part of their recommended treatments, particularly with children and the elderly. As a result, some older folks take a greater interest in their own well-being and in the life around them.

More Possibilities

  • A quotation that the essay will agree with or contradict
  • A brief story that dramatizes the essay’s topic
  • A strong assertion of opinion.
  • A road map - an introductory paragraph that gets the reader’s attention, states the thesis, and indicates the organizational scheme.

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