How to Write an Introduction to an Argumentative Essay


SPEAKER 1: Every essay, if
it’s following standard form, will have an introduction. In this tutorial, we will look
at what should and shouldn’t go into the introductory section
of an argumentative essay. To write a good
introduction, you need to know what
functions an introduction is supposed to serve. An introduction has
several distinct functions, but they all come down to
making life easier for readers. First, an introduction needs
to tell the reader what the general subject
matter of the essay is, what the issue
is that you’ll be discussing in the essay. Second, unless the
issue is well known to everyone in
your audience, you might also need to provide
additional background information to help explain
and set up the issue. How much background
will depend on the issue and what you assume about
your intended audience. The key is that when you do
finally state your main thesis, the reader has a good
idea of what you’re saying and what the issue is about. That gets us to
the third function, to state your main thesis. By main thesis, all we
mean is the conclusion of the overall argument
of the essay, what you’re trying to argue for. One of the most common
problems with student essays is a failure to be
clear about what the main thesis of the essay is. This needs to be
stated as clearly as possible in the
introduction, before you get into the main body. Finally, if your argument
has any kind of complexity to it all, then it can be very
helpful to let the reader know what to expect in the remainder
of the essay, how it’s going to be structured and organized. You can think of it as
providing a road map or plan or outline of how the
argument is going to proceed. For smaller, simpler
essays, these road maps may not be vital. But they become more and more
important for both the reader and an essay writer
as an essay becomes longer and more complicated. Something to watch
out for if you’re going to give a
roadmap of this kind is to make sure
that you actually do in the essay
what you said you would do in the introduction. The introduction sets up
expectations for the reader, and you want to do your best
to fulfill those expectations. That’s what goes into
the introductory section of an argumentative essay. It’s also important to
remember what doesn’t go in. Another common
mistake that students make with introductions
is to begin describing arguments
or providing other kinds of information
that really belong in the main body of the essay. The introduction is for
setting up the main argument, providing background and
context so the reader is prepared to
understand and follow the arguments in the main body. But that’s it. Once you start giving premises
and considering objections that pertain to the main
thesis of your essay, you’re not introducing
your essay anymore. One last point, in
essay-writing guides, people often refer to the
introductory paragraph of the essay. It’s true that
sometimes you can state what you need to state
in one paragraph, especially if the essay
is short and simple, but more often you’ll need
more than one paragraph to introduce the issue,
state your thesis, and sketch the
outline for the essay. So it’s more accurate
and more helpful to talk about the introductory
section of an essay, where it’s understood that
this introductory section can include more than one paragraph. OK, let’s look at an example. Here is the
introductory paragraph of a student essay on the
ethics of fighting in hockey. Rather than me read
this, I’m going to recommend that you
pause the video here and read it for yourself. And then ask yourself what
you think it does right and what it does wrong
as an introduction. Then restart the video
when you’re done. OK, the first thing
to say is, yes, there are some style and
sentence structure issues that could be improved. But it’s important to
distinguish issues of style from issues of
function, so for now let’s ignore the style issues. In terms of function, what does
this introduction do right? Does it clearly
introduce the issue? Is there a clear
thesis statement? Does it tell the
reader what to expect in the remainder of the essay? This introduction actually
does a pretty good job on all three counts. It’s clear that the
issue is about the ethics of fighting in hockey. Mind you, there’s still
some room for clarification. Someone might read
this and wonder whether the issue is about
whether fighting in hockey should be banned,
or whether it’s about fighting in hockey
as a general moral issue. These two aren’t
necessarily the same thing. I might judge an
action or a practice to be morally wrong,
but not necessarily agree that the practice
should be banned. And it’s also
unclear whether this is about professional
hockey or whether it’s meant to include amateur
hockey, and if so, what age range of players
is being considered. So there’s room for
improvement in clarifying precisely what the issue is,
but it’s still not too bad. Now, does this introduction
have a clear thesis statement? Yes, it does. The writer makes it clear in a
couple of places what side he’s going to come down
on in this debate, but the clearest
place is right here in the yellow
highlighted sentence. In this essay, I would
argue that fighting should be allowed in hockey. There are lingering questions
about what precisely this means, but
there’s no ambiguity about what side of the
issue the writer is on. Now, does the writer give
us an idea of what to expect in the rest of the essay? Yes, he does, especially
in the last sentence. Some people object
that fighting in hockey sends the message to children
that violence is acceptable, but I will argue that
fighting actually prevents more injuries
than it causes. This tells us something about
the argumentative structure of the essay. We know what the writer is
going to consider an objection and present a reply
to the objection, and we’re told what issues
the objection and their reply are going to address. Does an introduction need
this kind of outlining? For a shorter essay
like this, maybe not. This is partly
matter of preference, but you’ll never
go wrong by adding some discussion of how the
argument is going to proceed. It’s a good habit to pick up. So this intersection gets a
few important things right. Does it do anything wrong? Well, if I were
editing this, I’d recommend that the writer
rethink that second sentence. This sentence tells
us a lot about how the argument of the
essay is going to go. I think it tells us too much. It’s actually giving an argument
for the main conclusion, and that’s not what an
introduction is for. This belongs in the
main body of the essay. In an introduction, you can talk
about the argumentative issues that you’re essay
is going to address, but you want to reserve the
presentation of those arguments for the main body. And the reason
for this is simply to avoid confusing the reader. You don’t want to start arguing
for one side of an issue before you finished
explaining what the issue is. So if I were to summarize
my editorial comments on this introduction,
the key suggestions would be to move this
argumentative bit to the main body and to spend
a little more time clarifying the issue. Is the claim just that fighting
in hockey shouldn’t be banned, or that fighting is actually a
good thing, a desirable feature of the game? Is it about fighting
only at the higher levels of amateur and
professional hockey, or at all levels? And so on. I’m not going to
bother rewriting this introduction here. The example is meant
simply to illustrate the thought process that goes
into writing introductions. The main idea is to
think about the functions than an introduction is supposed
to serve and to make sure that your introduction
fulfills those functions.

49 thoughts on “How to Write an Introduction to an Argumentative Essay

  1. @svue12 I'm not sure I understand the request. This video is just one of a much larger series of video tutorials on how to write an argumentative essay, which you can browse at the url link in the sidebar on the right. In the context of the other tutorials in the series it might make more sense.

  2. Great teaching,. finally after looking thru tons of vids, I find a teacher with enough fore thought to include an example 🙂

  3. This "really good" essay its very personal. Apart form some good tips the author uses pronouns like we, I etc…..folks my teacher will immediately fail you if you watch and apply to your essay this strategy. Avoid personal be more indirect and you'll be fine.

  4. For those worried about the informality in this example …. Different fields have different conventions for what counts as "proper essay form". Some forbid the use of first-person ('I will argue that …"), for example. But this is a matter of style and genre, there are plenty of literary genres where it's okay if used wisely (academic philosophy writing is full of first-person usages). Do what your teachers ask, but just know that there are very few "universal" laws of composition.

  5. thank you you've helped me so much on my argumentative writing essay on competitive sports for kids +teenagers thank you sooooooooooooo much

  6. very hepful with the example for international student like me. thank you and please do you have the same for the conclusion?

  7. I am in AP English language and composition 1 and i was assigned an essay but i could never get the into paragraph good enough in my teachers eyes, so i watched your video and i see where i went wrong in my intros but i dont know if my intro paragraph is good enough yet or not. do you mind reading it and giving me some pointers?

  8. Tomorrow in my class my team has to present an argumentative essay thx a lot it helped me very much for writing the introduction in a different manner rather than just telling the audience which side we are going to argue about.👍

  9. This is where I always have trouble when writing a good essay. usually, teachers give a mediocre example. explains why it is mediocre, very briefly. but NEVER corrects the example. so I'm here with just an idea how to write a mediocre essay and my essay turns to shit. Just give us a really good example or not at all cause it does not help. overall the video was great.

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