Introductions and Conclusions--Try These

Be careful to choose an introductory device that is appropriate to your subject matter, level of formality, and genre or disciplinary conventions. In academic papers, introductions typically lead up to and present a thesis. Some writers wait until they have a rough draft and then write their introductions.  Others begin with a tentative introduction and reevaluate it as they go. Remember to pay special attention to your first sentence, your lead.  It must engage the reader.

Introductory Devices or Ways to Begin your Paper

1.              A brief general history or factual background of your topic

2.              State the major divisions of your paper or subject matter.  Then illustrate the divisions in sections in your paper.

3.              An anecdote

4.              Contrast two opposing aspects of a topic--end with the aspect to be discussed. (Usually good to dispel a popular view.)

5.              A question or questions to be answered in the body of the paper.  A variation is to put the thesis in the form of a question or questions.

6.              A quotation -- usually from the text under study, or a person described in a narrative, a famous person.  Be sure to explain how prefatory quotes relate to your topic

7.              A surprising statement of fact or statistics

8.              A statement of the view you will oppose

9.              A justification or explanation of your personal position on the topic

10.         A statement that you topic needs new examination; your essay will provide it

11.         Jump into middle of narrative scene with description and details of action  

12.    A puzzling scenario

Sample Introductions/Theses

Topic:  The Effects of Stepparents

NOTE:  Most of these "introductions" are too short to stand on their own in a student paper.  As a general rule, an introductory paragraph should cover about 1/4 - 1/3 of the first page in a 2-5 page paper.  Therefore, most of the following texts would need amplification to work as an introductory paragraph.  Many of the examples below belong more properly towards the end of the introductory paragraph because they can work as organizing theses for the paper to come.

Type 1 - Our mother remarried in Columbus, Ohio, 1980, two years after our father died of cancer.  What persuaded her to marry this surly truck driver so soon after our father's death, I'll never know.  Thank God I was soon to leave home for nurses' training, but I worried about my little sister Denise who would grow up with this man.  My worst fears became reality five years later. . .  + thesis

Type 2 - My younger sister's relationship with our stepfather went through three main stages: sadness at being treated so badly, then rebellion against his unjust restrictions on her every action and finally a resignation which wasn't to end the day she moved out of the house. . .+ thesis

Type 3 - The day my little sister Denise brought home a beautiful golden-speckled lizard she beamed with pleasure and excitement.  What fun this curious little tom-boy was going to have catching flies and mosquitoes to feed her new pet.  Then he came home and changed her mood to shame and embarrassment.  What kind of girl liked to play with lizards?  Would she never become a "lady"?  She was a sloppy, slouchy, lazy insolent thing. . .+ thesis

Type 4 - A demeaning stepparent can have two quite opposite effects on the luckless children that become their unfortunate victims.  On the one hand, years of criticism, verbal and sometimes physical abuse can prepare a person for life's inevitable defeats in later endeavors, hardening one so that these setbacks seem minor in comparison to the earlier traumas.  On the other hand, some children grow into timid and fearful adults after years of this cruel treatment and never experience the full and happy lives that result from a better nurtured psyche.

Type 5 - How would you feel if for seven long years of your most helpless childhood, a significant adult grumbled and growled at your every remark, ridiculed you in front of your friends and frequently screamed that you were a devilishly bad little fiend?  What sounds like a nightmare to most people was the wide-awake daily existence for my little sister Denise. + thesis

Type 6 - "What kind of girl likes to play with lizards?  Why don't you act like a lady?"  he screamed at my little sister Denise.  She had put up with this continual criticism for seven years, and hadnít lost her resistance to it yet.  "I hate you!" she yelled back as she ran into her room to escape.  Yet there was no real escape for her. . . + thesis

Or "The effects of stepparents are only beginning to be studied and reported in psycho-sexual journals," writes Dr. Ruth, herself a victim of four stepfathers and five stepmothers.  In the June issue of Psychology Today, she explains how her unusual childhood led to her obsessive ambition to be a radio sex authority.

Type 7 - Today 50% of all marriages will end in divorce.  Over 30% of American children are living in single parent households.  What will be the effects of these statistics on the individuals involved?. . .+ thesis

Type 8 - An important group of psychologists have argued that divorce is good for children.  They maintain that growing up around two adults who are bickering and arguing all day is more harmful to the developing child than suffering through the trauma of loss and separation.  However, these psychologists fail to consider what usually happens after divorce--remarriage.  Based on the experience of my little sister Denise, I believe that divorce is bad for children because when their parents remarry, they typically end up with stepparents--people who will never have the same regard for them that their natural parents do.

Type 9 - Someone needs to speak out for all the unhappy stepchildren of this world!  From Cinderella on down, stories abound of how they are trampled on, bullied, whipped and hated by their step-parents.  More alarmingly, non-fiction statistics prove that stepchildren are more apt to become social misfits as a result of their early traumas.  Remarriage should be avoided were children are involved.  I have seen the results of these unfortunate hybrid households firsthand in the case of my little sister Denise. + thesis  

Introductions to Avoid --  (Either because they are worn out, seem contrived, or both.)


As with introductory devices, you must use a conclusive device that is appropriate to your topic, level of formality, and genre and disciplinary conventions.

1.              Restatement or summary (Hollis suggestion:  Do not use with short papers, 2-5 pages.  Best with papers over 5 pages long or for very formal situations.)

2.              Allude back to material in the introduction--frame the essay

3.              Offer a solution

4.              End with a call to action

5.              Give the result of the topic of your paper

6.              Show topic's significance or effect(s)

7.              Personal or group reaction--explain what you or others will do in response to the topic

8.              Punchy single sentence, statistics, facts

9.              Important implications

10.         A thought provoking question about your topic

11.         Quotation

12.         Anecdote

13.         A trick some writers use is to save a point that could have been made in the body of the paper for the conclusion.  The point should obviously be one of lesser importance.

Your conclusion should be polished and emphatic.  You want to leave your reader with a striking impression of what you've written.  This is your last chance to affect the reader.