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Like Water For Chocolate

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Introductory Paragraphs

Introductory paragraphs always seem to cause more anxiety in students than any other kind of paragraph. Just getting started is frequently a problem. In high school you probably learned that you need to "grab the reader's attention" right away in the introduction. But making some grand declaration meant to cause the reader's jaw to drop in awe and surprise isn't nearly as effective as laying out the groundwork for a well-argued essay.

QA (p.16) tells us that introductions can include various devices to stimulate the reader's interest as well as to provide needed information. For the kind of writing in response to texts you're doing, the following of those will be the most useful:

providing relevant background information

asking a provocative question (or questions) pertinent to your argument

asserting an analogy or comparison, especially of unlike elements

defining a term or clarifying an idea central to your argument

In addition to introducing your topic to the reader, you'll need to focus her attention on the precise point you are making in the essay; your statement of that point will be your thesis . The introductory paragraph does not necessarily have to contain the thesis statement, but in college-level, analytic essays of the length you're writing, it's a good location in which to place it. The thesis--the controlling idea of the paper--should be one or two sentences and follow clearly from the assignment.

Some things a good introductory paragraph contains:

Specific examples, possibly even as much as any evidentiary body paragraph.

A logical response to the assignment, articulating the purpose of the paper and avoiding simply "talking about" the subject of the assignment.

Pertinent assertion(s)

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