LAVC Writing Center
The first paragraph (or sometimes paragraphs) in an essay is (are) called the introductory paragraph(s). The introductory paragraph (or paragraphs) usually consists of an introductory sentence (or sentences) to attract the reader's interest, a thesis statement to state the main idea of the paper, and a plan of development that lists the points that support the thesis.
A thesis statement is the main idea or point developed in an essay. (It is analogous to the topic sentence of a paragraph.) A thesis statement should be a clear, direct presentation of the central idea that will be developed in the paper. The thesis statement should have a key word or words reflecting your attitude about the subject. The entire essay will be based on your thesis statement, so it will need to state a position that you will be able to support. The thesis statement is usually one sentence in length and will most likely appear at the end of the first paragraph.
1. For a number of reasons, students who have the time should consider volunteering to help out their neighbors in the community.
2. Peter the Great is by far the most impressive ruler in Russia's history because of his amazing transformation of his country from a backward nation into one that was on par with the great nations of Europe.
Although the thesis statement occurs at the beginning of the essay, do not expect that your final thesis formulation will always occur at the start of your writing process.
A good idea is to develop a working thesis statement. A working thesis statement is one that can be amended, altered, or changed completely depending on what you discover during your writing process. As you go through the writing process, your understanding of the subject will deepen. As a result, you may find that your opinion changes or that you will be unable to support your original thesis statement. This is OK and to be expected. The main thing to remember is that each idea in the essay must relate directly to your thesis statement. Think of your thesis statement as the umbrella under which all the rest of your ideas and details in the paper rest.
The following are sample introductory paragraphs. Underline the thesis statement.
1. 1 In the course of working my way through school, I have taken many jobs I would rather forget. 2I have spent nine hours a day lifting heavy automobile and truck batteries off the end of an assembly belt. 3I have risked the loss of eyes and fingers working a punch press in a textile factory. 4I have served as a ward aide in a mental hospital, helping care for brain-damaged men who would break into violent fits at unexpected moments. 5But none of these jobs was as dreadful as my job in an apple plant. 6The work was physically hard; the pay was poor; and most of all, the working conditions were dismal.
2. 1Tae kwon do is a Korean martial art. 2 It is a way of fighting and self-defense based on an understanding of both body and mind. 3As a college student, I discovered tae kwon do. 4 Even though I was physically fit and planned to become a police officer, I thought that women needed special skills to protect themselves. 5 Tae kwon do teaches these skills and much more. 6 The person who practices tae kwon do gains discipline, maturity, and a changed self-concept.
3. That was the most boring and painful job I've ever had, but it motivated me to change my life.
4. 1Most people believe that stress has a negative effect on their lives. 2Under severe stress, most cannot function effectively - or at all. 3Pressured by tight deadlines, heavy workloads, or competitive situations, they may suffer from such problems as anxiety, sleeplessness, or ulcers. 4Yet stress is not necessarily bad. 5Contrary to popular opinion, people can learn to turn stress into a valuable asset in the classroom and the workplace.
5. 1Sixty-five is the traditional age for workers to retire in the United States. 2Conventional wisdom says that they have fulfilled their work obligations and should now leave job openings for those on the way up the career ladder, including young people just starting out. 3However, for many reasons, today's companies should look for ways to keep their older employees instead of forcing people to retire at age sixty-five.
This handout is based on the following texts:
Fawcett, Susan and Alvin Sandberg. Evergreen with Readings: A Guide
to Writing. 4th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1992.
Fawcett, Susan and Alvin Sandberg. Grassroots with Readings: The
Writer's Workbook. 6th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company,
Hacker, Diana. A Pocket Style Manual. 3rd ed. Boston: Bedford/St.
Martin's, 2000. 106-107. Langan, John. English Skills. 6th ed.
Boston:McGraw-Hill, 1997. 235-236.
All of the above texts are available in The Writing Center.
Rev. Jan '03