The “Funnel” Introductory Paragraph

H o w    t o    W r i t e    a n    I n t r o d u c t i o n    P a r a g r a p h

Give a general opening statement, possibly with an interesting “hook”. This statement can be about the novel in general, about the character you’re writing about, or about something from real life that is somehow related to your essay (3-5 sentences).

Body Sentences: State the main ideas of your essay.
These should be similar to your topic
sentences (3-4 sentences).

State your thesis
in a single
sentence.

OPENING STATEMENT: The first sentence is the wide end of the funnel – the least specific statement in the paragraph. It is a focused generalization about your topic that provides necessary context and introduces the main idea. The opening serves two purposes:  to identify your subject, and to attract your readers’ attention. You want to invite your readers into the rest of your essay. Typically, these opening statements are either hooks, or main idea statements.

HOOK: The purpose of a hook is to grab your readers’ attention, to pique their curiosity about what you have to say. A hook relates to the readers’ experiences or knowledge, or engages their emotions in some way. The hook opening works best in argumentative and other expository essays. Some standard hook openings include: question, dramatic statement, shocking or interesting fact or statement, humorous statement.

For example, if you are writing a persuasive piece to convince your friends to watch Iron Man 3, you might consider the following openings:

  1. Question: Is it possible to portray humiliating weakness and admirable strength at the very same moment? In the case of Tony Stark, the answer is yes.
  2. Dramatic Statement:  One man, Tony Stark, holds the possibility of world peace in his hands; his actions define the future safety, security, and happiness of an entire population.
  3. Shocking or Interesting Statement: What Iron Man 3 makes most clear is that we are our technology; how we use it defines humanity.
  4. Humorous Statement: Tony Stark, like any other geek, hangs out in his basement thinking about girls and gadgets.

PLEASE AVOID the “dictionary definition” hook, as in, “The dictionary definition of hero is ‘a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.'” Not only does this turn your very first sentence over to somebody else’s words, but it is a flat, and avoidable cliché.

MAIN IDEA STATEMENT: The purpose of this opening is to express the heart of the essay – to present a main idea about the subject of the essay.  Main idea statements are often used in analytical writings like character analysis or essays exploring the development of theme.

Examples:

  1. If the purpose of your essay is to analyze Tony Stark as a flawed character, you might open with a statement about man’s fallibility. Something as simple as: People are flawed; Tony Stark is no exception.
  2. If you are writing an essay analyzing the significance of the main female character in Iron Man 3, Pepper Potts, you might open with a statement about typical portrayals of women in action films. Something like: While audience members are accustomed to viewing a damsel in distress saved by the action hero, they want more from female characters than just a pretty face in need of some rescuing. Pepper Potts in Iron Man 3 gives them what they want. 

BODY SENTENCES: Next, transition from the opening statement into the body sentences. The body sentences, sentences between the opening and the thesis, are used to clarify and narrow the subject. Additionally, this space should be used to introduce subtopics – the subjects that will be covered in the body paragraphs of the essay. This section gets more and more specific as the paragraph progresses. The goal is to lead into the thesis statement, to move from general idea to specific point. By the end of the body sentences in the introduction, the writer needs to bridge to the thesis.

THESIS: The thesis statement is the narrow end of the funnel, the most specific point. It is the driving assertion for the essay, the sentence that expresses what you will prove in the body of paragraphs of your essay.

POINTS TO KEEP IN MIND WHEN WRITING YOUR INTRODUCTION

  • Do not announce what you will be writing about in the essay. Avoid statements like, “In this essay, I will explore_________.” Just explore the subject.
  • Italicize titles of books, movies, and other major works.
  • Put quotation marks around the titles of pieces that are part of a larger, major work. For example, you would italicize an album title, but put quotation marks around the song titles included on that album. You would italicize the title of a collection of essays or poems, and put quotation marks around the titles of essays or poems in that collection.  You italicize the title of a magazine, but put quotation marks around titles of articles included in that magazine.
  • Give an author’s full name in the introduction paragraph. Once you provide the full name, you should refer to him/her by last name only. Never refer to an author by first name.

Here is a sample funnel intro paragraph:

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, thousands of Americans lost their jobs and their homes when farms and businesses failed and unemployment and poverty exploded. As a result, many were “set adrift” to wander and to seek work in strange places. This rootlessness created a jarring contrast to the ideal of the American Dream that so many Americans had been led to believe was within everybody’s reach: that if you work hard enough, you can create your own fortune, no matter what. In his novel, Of Mice and Men, set in the 1930s, John Steinbeck portrays several of these lonely, drifting characters who are struggling under the difficult times of the Great Depression. Characters are skeptical of companionship and are reluctant to make connections to any person or place. The novel illustrates the emotions, hopes, and disappointments of these characters, who opt out of the belief in owning property and being a member of a community because of the miseries that they suffer every day. In Of Mice and Men, Steinbeck uses the emptiness of the ranchers’ lives to show the American Dream to be nothing more than a myth that is impossible to achieve.

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