The Essay Introductory Paragraph

Understanding Introductory Paragraphs:  Five Techniques 

  • Ask a question
  • Move from general to specific
  • Present facts and statistics
  • Use an anecdote
  • Use a quotation

Match the paragraph writing techniques in the left column with the descriptions in the right column.

A.    Recognizing paragraph writing techniques

Tick the box of which writing technique you find in each Introductory paragraph.

Read the following sample introductory paragraphs. Below each paragraph, choose the technique or techniques used in each one. Remember that writers often use combinations of techniques to write an introduction.

Paragraph 1

Karate, which literally means “the art of empty hands,” is the most widely practiced of all the martial arts. It is primarily a means of self-defense that uses the body as a weapon for striking, kicking, and blocking. Developed in ancient Asia, the art of karate is more than 1,000 years old. It started as a form of training for monks and later became a method of self-defense. During the seventeenth century, karate became highly developed as an art on the Japanese island of Okinawa. Over the years, karate has gained much popularity, and today, karate is practiced throughout the world. More than a method of combat, karate emphasizes self-discipline, positive attitude, and high moral purpose.


Paragraph 2

One student looks at his neighbor’s exam paper and quickly copies the answers. Another student finds out the questions on a test before her class takes it and tells her friends. Still another student sneaks a sheet a paper with formulas written on it into the test room. What about you? Would you be tempted to cheat on an exam if you knew you wouldn’t get caught? According to a recent national survey, 40 percent of American teenagers would cheat under that condition. What is causing this epidemic of cheating in our schools? Most students cheat on tests because they feel pressure to get into a good college. They want to avoid the hours of studying they need to get high grades, or they don’t care about honesty.


Paragraph 3

In Washington, DC, more children die from being killed than from anything else, including car accidents, house fires, or drowning. Unfortunately, other areas also have this problem. Overcrowded neighborhoods in many big American cities, such as Detroit, Dallas, St. Louis, Atlanta, and Miami, all have high levels of violent crime. Types of violent crime range from burglary and fires to rape and murder. The solution to this growing problem is not to build more and bigger prisons, but to understand and deal with the causes: drug use, the availability of guns, and serious poverty.


Paragraph 4

Misty, a five-month-old German shepherd puppy, goes to the hospital twice a week, but not to see a veterinarian. At this Veteran’s Administration hospital, Misty is helping doctors—not the other way around. Animals like Misty are visiting human patients to help with a type of pain that doctors cannot treat. Their treatment is love, both giving it and helping others return it to them. Pets ranging from dogs to tropical fish are helping as therapists in hospitals, nursing homes, prisons, and other institutions.


Paragraph 5

It is often said, “Two heads are better than one.” For the past two years, the job of secretary in my office has been shared successfully by two people. This job sharing arrangement has worked out well for everyone involved. In the business world, interest in flexible jobs, like job sharing, is growing. Employers are realizing that many talented people are looking for something different from traditional employment schedules. In a job sharing arrangement, two people share a full-time job. As a manager in a large company, I believe that job sharing is one way for companies to meet employees’ needs as they change. Not only is job sharing helpful to employees, it also offers several advantages to employers. With two people working together, tasks are often completed more quickly, a wider range of skills is used, and most importantly, production is increased.