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John Thompson, Professor Emeritus, Sociology

Introductory Paragraph

What are the elements of a strong introductory paragraph?

I don't want some big broad thing. I want them to come at this topic. Where I see the contrast in the opening statement is: this is still a fairly general topic even though it's narrowed, and this is the specific way I'm going to go at it. You don't go way out some place. You start with the general topic that you're working [with] and then you say, 'This is my particular angle on this topic.' So, I think I'm in agreement with the way that you would do that. I do not want some big broad thing, because then we don't have the idea that this is a particular aspect of this topic. That's what I really did want. I also want them, in some ways...I tell them this this way: "Think of somebody walking down the hallway and you want them to come into your office to talk about something." That's your reader. Now, how can you get them into the office so that you can then start to focus on exactly what you're going to do? But, you've got to get them out of the hallway into your office, [with] enough attention, but don't spend a whole lot of time with, just, huge questions or irrelevant stuff. This has got to go at this topic fairly quickly and one paragraph is very short, so you don't have a lot of time to set this thing up.