4d. Introduction and Conclusion Paragraphs

Introductions: Getting Readers to Bite

The first sentence of every essay, poem, or novel is perhaps the most important because a reader will immediately use the first sentence to develop impressions and make assumptions about a writer’s style, voice, and purpose. Thoughtful writers begin every piece of writing with a unique lure (or hook) that will attract the attention of readers and entice them to “bite” (read an essay or listen to an idea). Startling examples, surprising statistics, and sophisticated questions are a few effective strategies for opening sentences of academic essays. Quotations can be useful if they are relevant to the topic and will be referenced elsewhere in the essay. Generic statements like “Throughout history,” and other clichés like “according to the dictionary” should be avoided for most essays unless you are using them to make a specific point for a specific audience and purpose.


Beginning with your first sentence, the goal of an introduction is to guide readers toward your thesis. You can effectively guide readers from your opening sentence to your working thesis summarizing your topic, identifying important authors or sources you will be analyzing or referencing, and sharing the question at issue that your thesis seeks to answer.

Introductions: Developing Context and a Thesis

A thesis is a focused sentence that provides your reader with your interpretation of a topic or text and the primary reasoning or evidence that supports your position. Context is information about your topic that you want to make sure your audience knows upfront so they can understand the argument you are trying to make in your thesis. Consider the audience and purpose of your writing task and whether you are writing to a general, specialized, or very specific set of readers. Developing context forms a connection between the creative flourish of your opening lines and the clarity and concision of your thesis.

A thesis provides your reader a controlling idea and main point of focus as they read through the body paragraphs and conclusion of an essay.  What makes a thesis focused?

A thesis is focused when it is:

  • Specific. A thesis for a book may consider a broad topic but multi-paragraph essays require writers to concentrate on narrow topics in order to develop depth in their reasoning and evidence. Considering the audience and purpose of your task and developing questions at issue can help you pinpoint the one thing you really want your readers to take away from your essay.
  • Concise. A thesis statement must be concise enough to develop a complex and intellectually rigorous perspective on your topic in a coherent and efficient sentence or two. Concision in a thesis can become a tool for the writer to help them stay organized while developing arguments and counterarguments.
  • Debatable. A thesis must present a position or point of view on topic rather than a restatement of fact or observation. Ask yourself, could any reasonable reader within my discourse community reasonably disagree with my thesis? Supporting the claim of your thesis with reasoning and evidence will help you develop its debatable aspects. Sharing your working thesis with classmates and others will help you determine whether everyone already agrees with you or not.
  • Demonstrable. For any claim you make in your thesis, you must be able to show the reader the primary reason and evidence that supports your position or interpretation. Worthy arguments are backed by examples and details. Be sure you can demonstrate each reason you use to support your claim within the required length of your essay or writing task.
  • Assertive. Remember that making an argument in an essay does not prevent you from shifting your perspective at a later date. Write with the confidence that you belong and are welcome in the conversation you are entering. Take a stance that provokes your readers to shift their perspective on this topic and show that you care about your topic.
  • Readers appreciate directness and sincerity. When writing academic essays, there is no need to use phrases like I feel, I believe, or in my opinion because the they are unnecessary and may irritate your audience. Please note that this advice is not intended to discourage you from using personal examples in your essays if appropriate for your writing task.


Dog lovers, get your counterarguments ready. The three examples below provide a basic example of how to develop a focused thesis:

  • Not a thesis: Cats are smarter than dogs.

The example sentence is a claim but not a thesis because it provides no reasoning or evidence to support the claim. Opinions like “I think everyone should take the bus to work twice a week” only become thesis statements when they are supported with reasoning or evidence.  Without reasoning or evidence, a person reading this example thesis would have very little sense of how the writer will defend this claim or why the writer thinks that cats are smarter than dogs


  • Unfocused thesis: Cats are smarter than dogs because they can learn how to use a litterbox, rarely run away from home, and are less clingy and more independent than dogs.

The second example sentence is off to a better start than the first example because it makes a claim and also provides reasoning and evidence to support the claim. However, there are too many reasons to develop in a relatively short essay and some of the evidence may be difficult to research or defend.  Developing a working thesis, even at the preliminary stages of a writing project, can provide you with purpose and a place to start as you begin to outline and draft your essays.


  • A Focused Thesis: Cats are smarter dogs because they can learn how to use a litterbox.

The third example may not be perfect but presents a position on the topic and narrows the focus of the topic sufficiently to continue the writing process. In this case, there will certainly be dog-lovers ready to provide counterarguments and alternative perspectives.


Power words

Power words like because, although, therefore, since, despite, rather than, more than, less than, along with, and considering that are all examples of transitional and metacognitive word and phrases that can be used to create specificity and complexity in a thesis. Try using different kinds of power words as you draft your thesis statement to help you connect your claim with your primary reason or evidence for making the claim. While there is no singular method or formula for writing the perfect thesis for every paper, developing a solid working thesis for an academic essay can help you be more efficient while researching, outlining, drafting, and revising. A great thesis will crystalize your idea for you reader and help them remember the most important thing you want them to take away from your essays.



Conclusions merit consideration right alongside introductions because the two types of paragraphs (or sections of longer essays) perform similar functions. Conclusions and introductions both summarize, contextualize, condense, and synthesize the main ideas you hope to convey to your readers. Conclusions discuss the implications of the thesis, defend the organization of the essay, and leave the reader with something to mull over without distracting them with new information about the topic. Writers often reach the final paragraph and feel tired or stressed as the clock ticks away toward a deadline.  Having composed your introduction and body paragraphs to demonstrate your thesis, what is left to say but “That’s all folks! Thanks for reading!”  Writing effective conclusions that do not simply restate but demonstrate the significance and implications of your thesis statement can help you to leave a lasting impact on any audience. Here are some tips for ensuring that lasting impact is positive.


Effective conclusions:

  • Tie together the threads of body paragraph reasoning and evidence to help readers understand how a writer has demonstrated their thesis
  • Rephrase rather than directly restate the thesis (especially in relation to any alternative or opposing perspectives you explored)
  • Consider the broader implications and/or limitations of assertions, reasoning, and evidence
  • Circle the reader back to the opening sentence to create a sense of closure


Ineffective Conclusions:

  • Contradict or change a thesis (this can occur through awkward transition sentences or mean that you need to revise your thesis and introduction to reflect your final thoughts)
  • Restate the thesis word for word without explaining how it has been demonstrated
  • Introduce new lines of reasoning and sources of evidence
  • Demonstrate disregard for alternative or opposing perspectives on the topic
  • Begin with generic transition statements like “in conclusion”

Key Takeaways

  • Introductions and conclusions create your first and last impression on readers.
  • Academic essays require a thesis statement to provide your audience with a clear sense of your position, opinion, perspective on a topic, rather than a summary of the topic.
  • A focused thesis is specific, precise, debatable, demonstrable, assertive, and direct.
  • An effective conclusion helps your audience understand how your essay had demonstrated the thesis and fulfilled the purpose of the writing task.


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Writing as Inquiry Copyright © 2021 by Kara Clevinger and Stephen Rust is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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