Introduction

The introduction provides an overview of the ideas that you will focus on for the rest of your paper. It must include:

  • something to grab your audience’s attention.
  • any background information your audience needs to understand the topic.
  • an indication of how your paper will be organized.
  • a clear thesis statement.

Your introduction commits you to building an argument based on a certain topic and position. It must be interesting so that your audience will keep reading!

Check out this visual representation of an introduction:

introPyramid

Grabber

Your introduction must grab your audience’s attention. Keep in mind that regardless of how you capture your audience’s attention, your introduction will be more effective if you:

  • avoid clichés.
  • choose strong words.
  • define terms that are necessary for your audience to understand the topic.
  • get to the point and avoid rambling about the topic.

Consider the following suggestions on this sample topic:

  • What are some benefits of distance learning?

For the purposes of this topic, your thesis might be:

  • Distance learning students benefit from the flexibility of time and space; this meets the needs of individuals living far away from a post-secondary institution, working full-time jobs, or raising a family.

Examples of Grabbers

Startling statistics
According to LaRochelle-Cote and Gilmore (2009), “between October 2008 and October 2009, core working-age men with a high school education or less experienced the greatest employment losses (-5.2%). . .[while] women with a high school education or less also experienced relatively high job losses (-3.6%)” (“Employment changes across individual characteristics,” para. 2). Given the instability in the job market for individuals without post-secondary education, it is very important that all individuals have access to educational options that will improve their employability.

Relevant anecdotes or stories
Working full time in the field of corrections and going home every night to a house full of children limits some students’ abilities to access full-time studies. Distance learning fills that gap.

Strong questions
What are some factors that interfere with a student’s ability to access post-secondary education? How can programming choices address a student’s individual needs? Why are more and more students choosing distance learning?

Interesting comparisons
Distance learning is like a trip to a foreign country. Travelers are often nervous to go on a journey, but once there, there are many wonderful experiences to be had.

Expert quotations
According to Will Richardson’s (2008) article, “Footprints in the Digital Age,”...”students must be nomadic, flexible, mobile learners who depend not so much on what they can recall as on their ability to connect with people and resources and edit content on their desktops” (para 7). These new digital demands on distance learning students may seem daunting at first, but the benefits of being able to access post-secondary courses at anytime or from any place, make it worth the effort.

Transition

Once you grab your audience’s attention, you need to transition to your thesis statement. This transitional piece of your introduction usually provides context and background information for your thesis statement. Consider this simple colour-coded example, where there is a grabber, transition and thesis:

What are some factors that interfere with a student’s ability to access post-secondary education? How can programming choices address a student’s individual needs? Why are more and more students choosing distance learning? In our world, some students cannot physically attend classes, nor can they manage the traditional constraints of on-campus schedules. Distance learning is appealing to many because learning can happen anytime and anywhere. Students who choose distance learning benefit from the flexibility of time and space, which meets the needs of individuals who live far away from a post-secondary institution, who have full-time jobs or who are raising a family.

Creating a Thesis Statement

Explore the process of creating a thesis statement for the topic:

What are the benefits, if any, to long distance learning?


Thesis Statement Checklist

Use the following checklist to strengthen your thesis statement:

  1. Is your thesis statement a complete sentence?

    For example: Flexibility in time and space.

    In this example, the reader is left wondering what you are talking about: what about flexibility in time and space?This is a dependent clause that cannot stand alone as an answer to the question and requires more development to be a complete thought. A thesis statement cannot be a fragment or incomplete sentence.

  2. Is your thesis in the form of a statement, not a question?

    For example: Would one benefit be the flexibility of time and space, to meet the needs of individuals who live far away from a post-secondary institution, who have full-time jobs, or who are raising a family?

    Answering a question with a question is just confusing! The purpose of your assignment is to take a position on the topic, so you must take a stand and write a statement.  It is called a thesis statement, not a thesis questions. Therefore, the sentence must end in a period, not in a question mark.

  3. Does your thesis avoid unsupportable statements such as “I think” or “I believe”?

    For example: I believe that distance learning is beneficial to me because I have more time to balance the needs of my family with my learning goals.

    This is a very personal response to the topic and is supportable only by personal experience. A college paper usually requires a student to find academic research to prove a point. While you need to write about a topic that interests you, avoid framing your writing with a personal voice. Personal opinion has no place in a research paper. You need to focus on what the research says, rather than on your feelings about the topic.

  4. Does your position relate to the topic provided by your instructor? Is the connection clear?

    For example: Distance learning is neat because there are many tools available on the Internet.

    This example mentions distance learning, but it does not have a clear connection between it being “neat” and benefiting the learner, the original topic. Furthermore, while it is probably fantastic that “there are many tools available on the Internet,” it is unclear how the tools are beneficial. This writer may have something to say about how distance learning allows students to use tools to connect with his or her learning, but the position and topic cannot be identified in this example.

  5. Is your thesis statement clear? Could you make it more specific? Could you use stronger language to make your point more effectively?

    For example: Distance learning benefits individuals with a variety of schedules due to flexibility in time and space.

    This is an example of a working thesis statement. It is direct but still quite vague. Once you have written your paper, you can add more to your thesis statement to further limit your topic and direct your audience. You may want to ask yourself: Who? What? Where? Why? How?

  6. Does your thesis statement avoid informal language choices or clichés?

    For example: Distance learning benefits individuals with a variety of schedules due to flexibility in time and space and allows people who have full-time jobs to pull an all-nighter and get their degree at the same time.

    This is an example where the cliché of pulling an all-nighter is inappropriate and ineffective. Simply omit clichés and say your ideas as simply and clearly as possible. Informal language choices will weaken your thesis statement.


Sample of an Effective Thesis Statement

Distance learning students benefit from the flexibility of time and space; this meets the needs of individuals living far away from a post-secondary institution, working full-time jobs, or raising a family.


A Thesis Building Tool

If you are having difficulty generating ideas for a thesis statement, you can use a thesis building tool. The Thesis Builder will ask you to input your topic and your main thoughts.  The tool will then provide a working thesis statement.

Caution: This working thesis statement is a starting place only; you will need to revise this statement to make a complete, logical sentence that includes the major points you want to discuss in your paper. Happy thesis building!