Writing a kick-butt essay introduction

Here are some hints and tips for crafting a terrific introduction when you’re writing a text essay.

The Qualities of a Good Introduction

Does your introduction PIERCE the topic?

Plan. A good introduction to a text essay will give a very clear direction, explaining precisely what will be covered in the body paragraphs. Remember that the introduction shouldn’t go into too much detail. By the same token, it’s a bad idea simply to list your main points.

Insight. A good introduction will also offer insight. With most essay topics, it won’t be a matter of simply agreeing or disagreeing with the topic. You might agree with parts of the essay topic and disagree with other parts. It’s important that your introduction acknowledges the complexity of the topic.

Expression. A brilliant introduction will also be expressive. When you are planning your essay, you need to think about the precise meaning of words in the essay prompt. Think of synonyms that you can use for key terms rather than just repeating them throughout the essay. Use language that is subtle and nuanced. In The Whole Business with Kiffo and the Pitbull, for example, it would be simplistic to refer to Kiffo as ‘bad’. Instead, you might call him a ‘misunderstood troublemaker’. This is much more expressive and accurate.

Relevant. Always make sure that everything in your introduction – and for that matter your entire essay – is relevant to the topic. If you include irrelevant details in your introduction, or even points that may only have slight relevance, it will weaken your overall essay.

Contention. The introduction to your essay should also feature a clear contention. Your contention is your opinion on the essay topic. Do you agree or disagree? Your position on the essay topic should be clear by reading the introduction.

Evidence. There may be a quote in the novel that you’re studying that helps to express your position on the essay topic. If the quote is short and relevant, it might be a good idea to use this quotation in the introduction of your essay.

Activity 1

All of these introductions are written in response to the essay topic, “‘I’ve spent my whole life dealing with people who think I’m a step below a cockroach.’ Do you agree that Kiffo lived a bleak existence?” Put them in order from best to worst, giving reasons for your order.

a. In The Whole Business with Kiffo and the Pitbull, Kiffo is a character who leads a bleak existence. The first reason why his existence is bleak is because he is treated badly at school. The second reason that his existence is bleak is that his father abuses him. There are many reasons why his existence is bleak and this is what I will explore in this essay.

b. In The Whole Business with Kiffo and the Pitbull by Barry Jonsberg, Jarryd ‘Kiffo’ Kiffing leads a “bleak existence”. At home, he is neglected and abused by his father. When Calma visits his house, she is appalled by by the way that his life is filled with “casual cruelty”. At school, Kiffo doesn’t fare much better, suffering a worse kind of violence at the hands of teachers who are gradually “breaking his spirit”. Although Kiffo’s life is full of cruelty and neglect, his friendship with Calma Harrison is one reason that it’s not entirely bleak.

c. In the book there is a character called Kiffo who is “uglier than a bucket-full of buttholes”. Kiffo isn’t treated very well at school like when the Pitbull gives him a test and he doesn’t do very well. Kiffo is kind of a bad character but it isn’t really fair that he is treated like this. This is one of the reasons it is bleak. Another reason it is bleak is that his dad hits him sometimes. In this essay I will show why this is.

d. In The Whole Business with Kiffo and the Pitbull by Barry Jonsberg, Kiffo is a character who leads a bleak existence. At school, Kiffo is given a hard time by the teachers who never really give him a chance. At home, Kiffo is abused and neglected by his father. Although there are many parts of his existence that are bleak, his friendship with Calma Harrison is one things that isn’t.

Photograph: Larah McElroy