Words not to start an essay with
The beginning of the essay is a crucial first step in this process.
In order to engage readers and establish your authority, the beginning of your essay has to accomplish certain business. Your beginning should introduce the essay, focus it, and orient readers. For instance, in an essay about the First Amendment guarantee of freedom of speech, the context may be a particular legal theory about the speech right; it may be historical information concerning the writing of the amendment; it may be a contemporary dispute over flag continue reading or it may be a question raised by the text itself.
The point here is that, in establishing the essay's context, you are also limiting your topic.
The face is the jewel in the crown of the body, and so we give it a setting. Why would anyone put something extra around their neck and then invest it with special significance? It's worse if your title is the same thing as the sentence, as in: But as far as using the one-word sentence at all, I think it depends on your audience. I just don't know what class it would be. It is time, at last, to speak the truth about Thanksgiving, and the truth is this. Orienting readers, locating them in your discussion, means providing information and explanations wherever necessary for your readers' understanding. Topic and context are often intertwined, but the context may be established before the particular topic is introduced.
That is, you are framing an approach to your topic that necessarily eliminates other approaches. Thus, when you determine your context, you simultaneously narrow your topic and take a big step toward focusing your essay. But as you can see, Chopin's novel the topic is introduced in the context of the critical and moral controversy its publication engendered.
Beyond introducing your topic, your beginning must also let readers know what the central issue is. What question or problem will you be thinking about? You can pose a question that will lead to your idea in which case, your idea will be the answer to your questionor you can make a thesis statement. Or you can do both: Here's an example from an essay about Memorial Hall.
Further analysis of Memorial Hall, and of the archival sources that describe the process of building it, suggests that the past may not be the central subject of the hall but only a medium. What message, then, does the building convey, and why are the fallen soldiers of such importance to the alumni who built it? Part of the answer, it seems, is that Memorial Hall is an educational tool, an attempt by the Harvard community of the s to influence the future by shaping our memory of their times. The commemoration of those students and graduates who died for the Union during the Civil War is one aspect of this alumni message to the future, but it may not be the central idea.
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The fullness of your idea will not emerge until your conclusion, but your beginning must clearly indicate the direction your idea will take, must set your essay on that road. Orienting readers, locating them in your discussion, means providing information and explanations wherever necessary for your readers' understanding. Orienting is important throughout your essay, but it is crucial in the beginning.
Readers who don't have the information they need to follow your discussion will get lost and quit reading. Your teachers, of course, will trudge on. Supplying the necessary information to orient your readers may be as simple as answering the journalist's questions of who, what, where, when, how, and why. It may mean providing a brief overview of events or a summary of the text you'll be analyzing. If the source text article source brief, such as the First Amendment, you might just quote it.
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If the text is well known, your summary, for most audiences, won't need to be more than an identifying phrase or two: Often, however, you will want to summarize your source more link so that readers can follow your analysis of it. Questions of Length and Order.
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How long should the beginning be? The length should be proportionate to the length and complexity of the whole essay. For instance, if you're writing a five-page essay analyzing a single text, your beginning should be brief, no more than one or two paragraphs. On the other hand, it may take a couple of pages to set up a ten-page essay.
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Does the business of the beginning have to be addressed in a particular order? No, but the order should be logical. Usually, for instance, the question or statement that focuses the essay comes at the end of the beginning, where it serves as the jumping-off point for the middle, or main body, of the essay. Topic and context are often intertwined, but the context may be established before the particular topic is introduced. In other words, the order in which you accomplish the business of the beginning is flexible and should be determined by your purpose.
There is still the further question of how to start. What makes a good opening? You see more start with specific facts and information, a keynote quotation, a question, an anecdote, or an image. But whatever sort of opening you choose, it should be directly related to your focus. A snappy quotation that doesn't help establish the context for your essay or that later plays no part in your thinking will only mislead readers and blur your focus.
- The fullness of your idea will not emerge until your conclusion, but your beginning must clearly indicate the direction your idea will take, must set your essay on that road.
- They should be a big help.
- A sickly light, like yellow tinfoil, was slanting over the high walls into the jail yard.
Be as direct and specific as you can be. This means you should avoid two types of openings: The history-of-the-world or long-distance opening, which aims to establish a context for the essay by getting a long running start: The funnel opening a variation on the same themewhich starts with something go here and general and "funnels" its way down to a specific topic. If your essay is an argument about state-mandated prayer in public schools, don't start by generalizing about religion; start with the specific topic at hand.
After working your way through the whole draft, testing your thinking against the evidence, perhaps changing direction or modifying the idea you started with, go back to your beginning and make sure it still provides a clear focus for the essay. Then clarify and sharpen your focus as needed.
One dark and stormy night, words not to start an essay with ghost of General Oglethorpe grabbed me by the goolies and hurled me down the castle stairs. Stories A story can be an interesting way to start an academic paper, but it can be tricky to insert into the paper, so that it sounds smooth. Stay Away from Too Many Statistics Numbers are hard to visualize, so if you plan on starting with a statistic or date, make sure it has the greatest significance. What You Should Avoid Academic essays have evolved much in the last years. Use this list of tips when you cannot decide how to begin your next academic essay. In some of them brown silent men were squatting at the inner bars, with their blankets draped round them. According to field guides the only sounds they make are grunts and hisses, though the Hawk Conservancy in the United Kingdom reports that adults may utter a croaking coo and that young black vultures, when annoyed, emit a kind of immature snarl.
Clear, direct beginnings rarely present themselves ready-made; they must be written, and rewritten, into the sort of sharp-eyed clarity that engages readers and establishes your authority. CopyrightPatricia Kain, for the Writing Center at Harvard University.