In this video I’ll talk about a very common way to write an opening paragraph of an essay or a term paper, why this way makes your life difficult, and what to do instead.
Time and time again college students come to me for help with their writing assignments, and I always ask them what their professors want. And when it comes to writing the opening paragraph, the instruction the students get is usually to state their thesis as the last sentence of the opening paragraph.
I NEVER teach my students to do it this way, for two reasons. First, as a reader, I want to know your main point as soon as possible. I mean, think about it, why would you as a reader want to wait till you’ve gone through a long preamble to finally learn the writer’s main point? It is much more desirable to learn the main point as soon as possible so as to avoid wasting time.
Second, when you start out writing without having a very clear idea of what you’ll be arguing and how you’ll be supporting your argument, THAT’S when you hit writer’s block – exactly – right in the beginning of the first paragraph.
Remember, if you’re not sure what exactly your main point is, meaning your thesis, then your first task is to find out what exactly it is and to put it up front – ideally in the first sentence. Which brings us to HOW you can write a perfect opening paragraph so as to make your life writing the essay super easy.
How to Write the Opening Paragraph
First, decide on your main point. For example, if you’ve discovered that college life is a lot of fun, then state that as a thesis simply: College life rocks! That’s a very clear thesis statement.
Next, you should explain how you plan to support your thesis. You should briefly enumerate the reasons you believe your main point is true.
Now, I don’t know if you’re familiar with my technique I call The Power of Three, but essentially you could find three reasons – no more and no fewer – why college life rocks. And then you should state these reasons immediately after your thesis statement.
This way, your main point is in the first sentence, and your outline of support is in the rest of the opening paragraph. If you want, you can add an introductory sentence before the main point – that’s fine, but make it brief.
If you can’t stand getting to the point quickly because you were conditioned not to do so by your teachers and professors, fine – introduce your thesis with another sentence.
So, what does this method do for you?
Well, first, now you know what your essay will be about, because you’ve decided on your main point. And this gives you tremendous power because it helps you focus.
Second, you now have an outline of your entire paper. If you have three reasons why college life rocks, then guess how many main sections your paper will have.
Exactly – it will have three sections. And each section helps you focus even more within it because you know exactly WHAT goes WHERE in your essay.
Hope this was helpful!