1. Education





The opening of an essay or speech, which typically identifies the topic, arouses interest, and prepares the audience for the development of the thesis.

See also:




From the Latin, "to bring in"

Examples and Observations:

  • "In addition to appealing to readers and helping them to anticipate tone and substance, the opening passage can also help readers read by helping them to anticipate the structure of what will follow. In classical rhetoric, this was called the division or partition because it indicates how the piece of writing will be divided in parts."
    (Richard Coe, Form and Substance: An Advanced Rhetoric. Wiley, 1981)

  • Methods of Introducing an Essay
    Here are a few possible ways to open an essay effectively:
    • State your central idea, or thesis, perhaps showing why you care about it.
    • Present startling facts about your subject.
    • Tell an illustrative anecdote.
    • Give background information that will help your reader understand your subject, or see why it is important.
    • Begin with an arresting quotation.
    • Ask a challenging question. (In your essay, you'll go on to answer it.)
    (X.J. Kennedy et al., The Bedford Reader. Bedford/St. Martin's, 2000)

  • Examples of Introductory Paragraphs in Essays
    - "Bill Clinton loves to shop. On a March day in an elegant crafts store in Lima, the Peruvian capital, he hunted for presents for his wife and the women on his staff back home. He had given a speech at a university earlier and just came from a ceremony kicking off a program to help impoverished Peruvians. Now he was eyeing a necklace with a green stone amulet."
    (Introduction to "It's Not About Bill," by Peter Baker. The New York Times Magazine, May 31, 2009)

    - "There were strangers on our beach yesterday, for the first time in a month. A new footprint on our sand is nearly as rare as in Robinson Crusoe. We are at the very edge of the Atlantic; half a mile out in front of us is a coral reef, and then nothing but 3,000 miles of ocean to West Africa. It is a wild and lonely beach, with the same surf beating on it as when Columbus came by. And yet the beach is polluted."
    (A.B.C. Whipple, "An Ugly New Footprint in the Sand." Life, March 20, 1970)

  • Introductions to Speeches
    - "An effective introduction has four basic goals:
    - Catch the audience's attention and focus it on your topic.
    - Motivate the audience to listen by pointing out how your topic will benefit them.
    - Establish credibility and rapport with your audience by creating a common bond and letting them know about your expertise and experience with the topic.
    - Present your thesis statement, which includes clarification of your central idea and main points.
    (Cheryl Hamilton, Essentials of Public Speaking, 5th ed. Wadsworth, 2012)

    - "'Webster’s Dictionary defines . . .'? That’s the Jim Belushi of speech openings. It accomplishes nothing but everyone keeps using it and nobody understands why."
    (Alison Brie as Annie in Community, March 2012)

    - "How can you effectively capture attention, present your topic, establish credibility, and preview your major points in just a few minutes? Try one of these eight tried-and-true techniques: (1) using a startling statement, (2) asking a question, (3) telling a story, (4) using a quote, (5) using suspense, (6) talking about personal experience, (7) referring to the audience, and (8) using humor. Not every one of these techniques is appropriate for every speech or occasion. However, among these eight techniques you're sure to find at least one that will work well for your next speech."
    (Courtland L. Bovée, Contemporary Public Speaking, 2nd ed. Collegiate Press, 2003)

  • Examples of Introductions to Speeches
    - "The first thing I would like to say is ‘thank you.’ Not only has Harvard given me an extraordinary honour, but the weeks of fear and nausea I have endured at the thought of giving this commencement address have made me lose weight. A win-win situation! Now all I have to do is take deep breaths, squint at the red banners, and convince myself that I am at the world’s largest Gryffindor reunion."
    (J.K. Rowling, commencement address at Harvard University, June 2008)

    - "Africa is rich. Why then are Africans poor?"
    (Mercy Amba Oduyoye, keynote address at the All Africa Conference of Churches in Addis Ababa, 1997; quoted by Peter J. Paris in Religion and Poverty, 2009)

    - "I would like to thank the Secretary General for inviting me to be part of this important United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women. This is truly a celebration, a celebration of the contributions women make in every aspect of life: in the home, on the job, in the community, as mothers, wives, sisters, daughters, learners, workers, citizens, and leaders.

    "It is also a coming together, much the way women come together every day in every country. We come together in fields and factories, in village markets and supermarkets, in living rooms and board rooms. Whether it is while playing with our children in the park, or washing clothes in a river, or taking a break at the office water cooler, we come together and talk about our aspirations and concerns. And time and again, our talk turns to our children and our families. However different we may appear, there is far more that unites us than divides us. We share a common future, and we are here to find common ground so that we may help bring new dignity and respect to women and girls all over the world, and in so doing bring new strength and stability to families as well. . . ."
    (Hillary Rodham Clinton, introduction to an address delivered in Beijing, China, at the U.N. 4th World Conference on Women Plenary Session, Sep. 5, 1995)

  • Quintilian on the Appropriate Time to Compose an Introduction (or Exordium)
    "I do not, on these accounts, agree with those who think that the exordium is to be written last; for though it is proper that our materials should be collected, and that we should settle what effect is to be produced by each particular, before we begin to speak or write, yet we ought certainly to begin with that which is naturally first. No man begins to paint a portrait, or mold a statue, with the feet; nor does any art find its completion where the commencement ought to be. Else what will be the case if we have no time to write our speech? Will not so preposterous a practice disappoint us? The orator's materials are, therefore, to be first contemplated in the order in which we direct, and then to be written in the order in which he is to deliver them."
    (Quintilian, Institutes of Oratory, 95 AD)


Pronunciation: in-tre-DUK-shun

Also Known As: opening, introductory paragraph

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