Titles and Introductory Paragraphs

One Chance to Make a First Impression:

Writing Effective Titles and Introductory Paragraphs

There are few people who like to read essays, and there are fewer still that enjoy writing them. However, finding a creative way to present a topic will help both reader and writer share in a quality academic experience.

Basic Ingredients

Title –A good title should grab the attention of the reader—think newspaper headlines. Titles should be unique, forecast the content to follow, and reflect the tone of the writing.

  • Weak Ex.: Marijuana Should Be Legalized
  • Stronger Ex.: Peace, Love, and Legalized Marijuana

Hook – Sometimes called the “attention getter,” a hook pulls the reader into reading your entire first paragraph (and hopefully more). A few “tricks” to grab the reader’s attention are:

  • Surprising fact – 16 states allow the use of medicinal marijuana
  • Startling statistic – Just under 40% of high school students in the U.S. report using marijuana at least once in their life, and 20% report using it regularly.
  • Humor – Why do girl hippies wear yellow slacks? To tell them apart from the boy hippies.
  • Quote – “Herb is the healing of a nation, alcohol is the destruction” – Bob Marley.
  • Narrative – “I got our drinks and sat down on the sofa with him. Then I rolled us two fat numbers. I lit one and passed it. I brought it to his fingers. He took it and inhaled. ‘Hold it as long as you can,’ I said. I could tell he didn’t know the first thing.” —-From Raymond Carver’s “Cathedral”

Transition – Logically connect a creative concept to an academic thesis statement. Remember that this is called the “introductory” paragraph for a reason. Massive amounts of background information or analysis should not show up in your introductory paragraph—simply lay out the main idea.

Thesis Statement – A thesis statement is the heart of an essay. It should be both interesting and debatable, and all information should relate back to it (see also the writing center’s handout on “Thesis Statements”).

While not all topics may be as polarizing or interesting as the legalization of marijuana, following the basic ingredients to create an effective title and an introductory paragraph can help convince the reader that it is worth the effort to read the entire paper.

Sample Title and Introductory Paragraph

Peace, Love, and Legalized Marijuana

            Why do girl hippies wear yellow slacks? To tell them apart from the boy hippies. While both hippies and cannabis culture have been the butt of many a joke over the past few decades, marijuana is beginning to make a credible name for itself. According to the New York Times, sixteen states in the United States allow the use of medicinal marijuana (“Marijuana and Medical Marijuana”). There are also six more states with pending legislation to legalize medical marijuana (Procon.org). With an economy in dire straits and a drug battle raging on the border between Mexico and the United States, the legalization of marijuana would help to provide a revenue stream while helping to reduce the casualties caused by the war on drugs.

Copyright (C)2013 by Garrett Faylor. All rights reserved.This document may be distributed as long as it is done entirely with all attributions to organizations and authors. Commercial distribution is strictly prohibited. Portions of this document may be copyrighted by other organizations.