• Andrew

How to Write a Better Intro Paragraph (YouTube Script)

Today we're going to talk about three things to keep in mind when writing an introduction.

So if you're going to write an effective introduction, what you really want to do is write something will persuade your readers to continue reading until the end, to persuade them what you have to say is worth their time, because your readers are being really generous with you in reading and they want to be sure that you're using their time well.

1. Make Them Care

The first thing you need to do when you're writing an introduction is to show your readers why what you're writing really matters.

This is probably where other people would say you need to start with a good hook to reel your readers in. Something really energetic and flashy: Boom! Hey! Introductions! Let’s go!

But there are some problems with that strategy. First, all of the hooks I've ever seen are just cheap, flashy tricks that don’t really tell your reader anything about your paper. They’re wasted space. And, if you're trying to convince your reader that your paper is worth their time, wasting their time upfront probably isn't the best strategy.

Secondly, do you know what happens after a fish has been hooked and reeled in? Yeah, it dies.

So, I don’t support the idea that you should have a great hook because you don’t need them. If you really want the reader to keep reading, you just need to give them a reason to care. Why does your topic matter? Why should it matter to them? If your introduction helps your reader to see why your topic matters to them, that will give them a compelling reason to keep reading.

The best way to hook a reader, then, is to make them care. Don’t just dazzle them. Get them to care, and you’ll get them to keep reading.

2. Give them context

The second thing you need to do when you're writing an introduction is to give your reader context.

You know when you show up somewhere and everyone’s talking about a show you haven’t seen? You know, they’re all laughing and dropping references and having fun, and you’re like worried you’ll run out of water and lose your best excuse for not talking?

Well, it stinks. Nobody wants to be the writing teacher at the party who doesn’t know what’s going on. So it’s your job to fill the reader in, to get them up to speed so that they can also have fun at the party.

Now chances are, if you’ve been working on a paper for longer than just the night before it’s due, you’ve learned a lot about you topic. You know it left and right and every way to Sunday. You’re the expert.

But your reader isn’t. Your reader doesn’t know the sources, doesn’t know all the issues. They’ll only know what you tell them. So it’s your job give them just as much as they need to know to make sense of it all.

3. Outline your unique contribution to the topic.

there are probably several other papers you reader could read on the same topic, so you’ve got to give them a reason to stick with yours. Maybe you’ve got a new solution to a common problem. Maybe you have finally compiled a thousand different sources and summarized them in one easy to read paper. Maybe you have a unique experience that is worth hearing about. Maybe you’re only proposing a subtle change to what people are already doing—but that’s still a unique contribution.

You don’t have to do something big or earth-shaking: that's not typical of academic writing. The goal is not to do something huge, but to do something unique. You just have to be sure that you aren’t giving your reader something they could get somewhere else. (i.e., If all you’re doing is restating what your sources say, shouldn’t your reader just go read your sources?)

So, to summarize:

1. Tell your readers why the topic of your paper matters

2. Give them enough context to understand your paper

3. Introduce them to your unique contribution to the topic

Of course, there isn’t like one correct order to do these things in. It’s not like experienced writers have template or a checklist. But, many experienced writers do do these things in their introductions, so they’re worth keeping in mind if you want to write a more effective introduction and persuade your readers to continue reading to the end of your paper.