The introduction is where you set up your argument. The introduction should probably be the second most important part of the essay to draw readers into reading the essay after the title. As such, it should be written in a way that truly captures readers’ interest. Very often, novice writers find it challenging to come up with an effective introduction. In this lesson, we will explore different types of introduction as well as strategies for crafting an effective introduction.

The Inverted Triangle Introduction

An inverted-triangle introduction, like an upside-down triangle, is an introduction where  the writer begins with a broad situation, concept, or idea, and narrow the focus to his or her thesis.

In today's world, many believe that education's sole purpose is to communicate information for students to store and draw on as necessary. By storing this information, students hope to perform well on tests. Good test scores assure good grades. Good grades eventually lead to getting a degree, which ultimately translates into getting a good job. Although this view of education is rampant among students, teachers, and educational institutions, the Ball State Center for Information and Communication Sciences (CICS) believes that education's true purpose is to prepare students for the real world by allowing them to access pertinent life knowledge available in their studies. 

CICS, through their master's program, "prepares students to solve problems, manage people, and lead situations." CICS does this by creating a tight community of students where they get hands-on-experience, research opportunities, and social learning.  Unlike many other master's programs, CICS students share the same struggles, have the same objectives, use the same jargon, socialize in the same spaces, follow the same rituals, all of which contribute to make the program a subculture of its own. 

My journey into this graduate program started with my encounter with Mrs. Smith, CICS' associate director, technology officer, and labs manager. It was at a ThanksGiving dinner...

The Narrative Introduction

Opening with a short narrative, or story, is a strategy many writers use successfully to draw readers into a topic. Storytelling is an ancient verbal art genre which survived the test of time, and can be especially effective to coax indifferent or reluctant readers into taking interest in your topic. Since a narrative can often delay the declaration of your topic or argument, it is wise to choose a short story that clearly connects to your argument, and get to its thesis as quickly as possible.

Glancing at my watch, I ran into the gym, noting to myself that being late to my first day observing a boxing practice was not the right way to make a good first impression as a researcher. I flew down the stairs into the basement, to the room the boxers have lovingly dubbed "The Pit." What greeted me when I got there was more than I could ever have imagined. Picture a room filled with boxing gloves of all sizes covering an entire wall, a mirror covering another, a boxing ring in a corner, and an awesome collection of framed newspaper and magazine articles chronicling the boxers whose pictures were hanging on every wall. Now picture that room with seventy-plus girls on the floor doing push-ups, sweat dripping down their faces. I was immediately struck by the discipline this sport takes, but I had no idea I would learn so much more from my immersion into this group.

The Interrogative Introduction

An interrogative introduction invites readers into the conversation of your essay by asking them one or more questions, which the essay goes on to answer. In short, this kind of introduction piques readers’ interest with a question enticing them to read on to discover how your insights shed light on the issue.

What do you think are the reasons for homelessness in today's society? Many would be quick to assert that most homeless are drug addicts, alcoholics, or both, people who do not like rules and do not want to be helped, people who willingly chose that lifestyle. My two-month ethnographic research on Better Way, a transitional housing system designed to provide housing an appropriate support services to persons who are homeless or close to homelessness, defies the traditional image of the homeless and challenges the widely-held reasons behind homelessness. By using a naturalistic research approach and triangulating with library research, surveys, observation, interviews, and artifact analyses, I was able to uncover an insight far different from the commonly held views of this subculture, an insight which paints the symbolic world of the homeless at Better Way. 

The Paradoxical Introduction

A paradoxical introduction appeals to readers’ curiosity by pointing out an aspect of the topic that runs counter to their expectation. Just as an interrogative introduction draws readers in by asking a question, a paradoxical introduction draws readers in by saying, in effect, “Here is something completely surprising and unlikely about this issue, but my essay will go on to show you how it is true.”

The Minding-The-Gap-Introduction

In a minding-the-gap introduction, a writer calls reader’ attention to a gap in the research on an issue and then uses the rest of the essay to fill in the gap. A minding-the-gap introduction says, in effect, “Wait a minute. There is something missing from this conversation, and my research and ideas will fill in this gap. ”

This essay is about police officers. But, unlike other essays you have read about the police, essays which fill and monopolize online spaces, social media, and library shelves, this one is about police officers as a subculture. It examines a specific police department, The Ball State University Police, as a group of people who share language, stories, rituals, behaviors, and values as a subculture. Using a completely naturalistic approach and participant observation as the research method, this essay argues that police officers are always torn between two competing and often conflicting values: integrity and loyalty; integrity as a public servant sworn in to uphold the law, and loyalty to other officers, members of the culture.

Activity 1

Using one of the above strategies for writing introductions, draft the introduction of your final ethnographic essay. Keep in mind that the introduction can be more than one paragraph. Then share your introduction with one of your peers ans ask the following questions:

  1. To what extent did this strategy compel you to read further?
  2. To what extent is my thesis clear?
  3. How effectively do I draw a distinction between what I believe others assume to be true and my own approach?
  4. Is there another way that I might have made my introduction more compelling?