Writing an Introduction
By Chris Cherry
Writing an introduction can be frustrating. For some, it’s the hardest part of an essay to write and it’s the first thing that you try to write after having tackled the topic and produced a thesis through invention (brainstorming, prewriting—whatever you prefer to call it!). And, since it comes before the thesis statement, it isn’t as obvious what it should say. So, if you’re having trouble writing an introduction, I have a handy method for constructing one that I like to think of as “The Upside Down Pyramid.” “The Upside Down Pyramid” method consists of taking your very specific thesis statement and generalizing it into an introductory sentence. This method is a great way to write an introduction if you’re stuck.
Before you write anything, you should already have a thesis statement. Your thesis statement is going to be the final sentence of your introduction. Since you know what the last sentence of the paragraph is going to be, work backwards.
Look at your thesis statement and decide what it’s about in the most general sense. For example, let’s say your thesis statement is “’The Upside Down Pyramid’ method is the best way to write an introduction.” What is that statement about in one word? Introductions. Once you’ve got that topic, come up with a simple statement about that topic, like “Writing an introduction can be frustrating.” That’s your opening sentence.
Once you have your first and last sentence, all you have to do is connect the dots. First, you can elaborate on your opening sentence. In this case, you can explain why writing introductions can be frustrating. Each sentence will get more specific and bring you closer to your thesis.
Let’s take a look at an example. Let’s say your thesis is “Romeo and Juliet is not a tragedy about true love, but a tragedy about warring families.” What’s that statement about in one word? Tragedy. So let’s get from tragedy to our thesis:
The tragedy, marked by an unhappy resolution, is one of the most enduring forms of drama. Shakespeare’s tragedies, in particular, have a particular resonance in our culture, and have been taught in schools and universities for centuries. However, they have not always been understood. One of Shakespeare’s most popular tragedies, Romeo and Juliet, often has been mistaken for a love story. Romeo and Juliet is not a tragedy about true love, but a tragedy about warring families.
Final note: Just because the introduction is the first part of your essay that people will read, that doesn’t have to be the first part of the essay you write. If you’re REALLY stuck, just put down your thesis and then write all of your body paragraphs. They’re more important than your introduction anyway. Plus, you might have a better idea of what you want to say in your introduction once you’ve written everything else.