Grissom's Grammar and Composition

This blog is for any student writing papers for college, for current and former students in my Communications Cluster at Lindenwood University, and my students at St. Charles Community College.

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I write for myself, for the web, and for everyone who gets me. I've been on a fasting liquid diet, traveled to Europe, and raised 2 kids. And I'm directionally challenged - I get lost a lot.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Eight Ways to Start a Paper

The introduction of your paper is what draws your reader into your subject and makes them want to continue reading. If you don’t grab them at the beginning, you may not find them later in the paper either.

Tell a Story
We like reading about people more than ideas or issues. Your audience will connect with your topic if you show them how it affects real people. If you are writing about plastic surgery for teens, tell me about Jessica’s nose job, and I will read on to find out how it turned out.

Describe Something
Draw us in to the topic by using your senses to describe something about your issue. Seeing people, organizations, or events can connect us with the subject. If your paper is on prison reform, you could start with a description of the luxury conditions you are protesting.

Use a Quotation
Find well turned phrase about your subject to get your audience’s attention. For example, Mark Twain said a man who doesn’t read good book has no advantage over a man who can’t. This might be a jumping off point for a discussion of book censorship. Check out Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations for ideas on your specific topic.

Use a Surprising Statistic or Fact
If you run across a surprising piece of information when writing or doing research, chances are it will surprise and interest your audience too. So half of all women will have heart disease? Men also have a biological clock that reduces fertility? Use these surprises as starting points for discussion.

Go for Common Ground

This method works especially well if you are trying to persuade an audience. If you can find something both sides agree on, remind them of that common belief at the beginning and they will be more willing to listen to your side. Discussing an education issue? The majority of your audience will want students to learn more, rather than less. So start with that common goal and show why your information is valuable to them.

Ask a Question

Asking a question makes your audience think deeply about your issue, just make sure you make some kind of effort to answer the question in your paper. You don’t have to have the best answer, but you should fulfill the promise you made in asking the question by contributing your opinion. Writing about internet censorship? Ask us what the internet will look like in ten years, and then talk about your issue’s impact.

Use a Controversial Thesis
If your thesis is controversial, start the paper with it. Suggest we should reinstate the draft or eliminate Social Security. Get them curious enough about your provocative position to keep reading.

Provide Background Information

If we need an update on current legislation to understand your timely topic, then gives us the background. – but only what we need. Some students use background information as space filler and bore themselves and their instructors with extended background. If you are writing about stem cells, a brief definition and explanation of their use might be in order, but I don’t need to know how they were discovered, or what cells are.

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