This resource was written by Jaclyn M. Wells.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on March 23, 2009 .
This resource explains how to organize your essay's introduction.
Lesson 3: Development and Details
Choosing a main idea and subpoints, creating an outline, and producing a thesis statement and topic sentences are all great first steps to writing a successful GED essay. The solid foundation you make during the planning phase of your writing process is extremely important. But what comes next? Remember the third criterion that essay readers use to score your essay: development and details. While writing your essay, you must develop and support your ideas with details. This lesson provides tips for using details develop and support the main ideas you discovered during the planning phase and to expand the outline you created while planning.
Writing a Developed and Detailed Introduction
You know your introduction needs a clear thesis statement. But what else do you put in the paragraph? To answer that question, think about the purpose of an introduction:
- Introduce your topic
- Create interest
- Provide necessary background information
- Identify your main idea
- Preview the rest of your essay
Your thesis statement will identify your main idea and preview the rest of your essay. Remember that this can be either one or two sentences. You will probably place your thesis at the end of your introduction paragraph. You can use the other sentences in your introduction to introduce your topic, create interest, and provide necessary background information.
Let's look again at the sample essay topic from Lesson 1 and Lesson 2.
Sample Essay Topic
What is one important goal you would like to achieve in the next few years?
In your essay, identify that one goal and explain how you plan to achieve it. Use your personal observations, experience, and knowledge to support your essay.
The paragraph below is an example introduction for this topic. As you read, think about what each sentence does within the paragraph. What sentence(s) introduce the topic and create interest? What sentence(s) provide background information? What sentence(s) identify the main idea and preview the rest of the essay?
"Making goals for myself and working toward them keeps me on my toes and makes my life interesting. There are many goals that I would like to achieve throughout my life. I have begun working toward many of them by looking into going back to school and thinking about what I’d like to do for a career. One major goal I would like to accomplish in the next few years is getting a better job. My plan to get a better job is to finish school, prepare a resume, and then search for jobs."
Notice how the first two sentences introduce the topic and create interest in it. The third sentence provides some background information for the reader. Although this background information might not be absolutely necessary, it gives the reader some background for the essay and also creates interest in the topic. The final two sentences identify the main idea and preview the rest of the essay. Notice also the movement from general to specific in this paragraph. When you read carefully through the paragraph, you’ll notice that each sentence is a bit more specific than the last. It’s a good idea to move from general to specific like this in your introduction.
Now try writing your own introduction. Use the sample essay topic, the brainstorming, and the outline work you completed in Lessons 1 and 2 to help you. Remember to include two or three sentences that introduce your topic, create interest, and provide necessary background information. Finally, include one or two sentences that identify your main idea and preview the rest of your essay.
In order for the first paragraph of an essay to actually be a proper introduction (in other words, for it to fulfill the requirements of a proper introduction), it must do two things. These two things are:
1) Include a thesis statement.
2) Provide a preview or essay plan for the essay.
So what do these two things mean?
1) A thesis statement is the sentence (or sometimes sentences) that tells the reader what the position of the author is. When you are given an essay question, the thesis statement is your clear and concise answer to the question. For example, if an essay question was ‘What were the causes of the Holocaust in World War II?’ then your thesis statement would be something like ‘There were many complicated and inter-related causes for the Holocaust, including the economy of Germany, the ideology of the fascists, and Hitler’s personal racism.’
A ‘thesis’ is an ‘argument’, so the thesis statement indicates what the argument of the essay is, or what argument (or point of view) the author of the essay will be putting across to readers.
2) An introduction must introduce all the main points that the essay will discuss. Argumentative essays must provide evidence in order to back up or support the thesis statement. This means you have to provide proof to back up your answer to the essay question. So if your essay is on the causes of the Holocaust, and your essay is going to discuss six main causes (two paragraphs on each), then your introduction must list (or introduce) each of these six main causes. So an essay map or preview is just a list of topics that your essay will discuss. Usually this list is linked to your thesis statement, or comes straight after it.
When writing an essay, you must use ‘topic sentences’. These are sentences that go at the beginning of each paragraph in which you are about to discuss a new topic. So in the example we have been looking at of the Holocaust essay, I mentioned that the essay will discuss six reasons for the Holocaust and each reason will have two paragraphs. So that means that every second paragraph would use a ‘topic sentence’ since it would be moving on to discuss another reason for the Holocaust. Here are some examples of topic sentences for the example essay:
‘The most significant cause for the Holocaust is the economic state of Germany.’
‘Another reason why the Holocaust occurred is due to Hitler’s personal views.’
These sentences let the reader know what the paragraph will discuss (what the next point to be discussed in the essay is) and also relate the paragraph back to the introduction. This gives the essay a nice flow, and shows that it has been well organised.
So, you can tell what the topic of the first body paragraph is by reading the topic sentence, which is the first sentence in the paragraph.
A concluding sentence goes at the end of a paragraph or topic, and sums up for the readers what has just been discussed and relates it back to the question.
So if you had used the topic sentence ‘The most significant cause for the Holocaust is the economic state of Germany’ and then written a paragraph or several paragraphs discussing this topic, a concluding sentence could be: ‘Thus it can be seen that the economic state of Germany was the most important cause for the Holocaust.’
Topic sentences and concluding sentences go before and after your paragraphs like a sandwich, leading the reader through your essay.