Here are some hints and tips for crafting a terrific introduction when you’re writing a text essay.
The Qualities of a Good Introduction
Does your introduction PIERCE the topic?
Plan. A good introduction to a text essay will give a very clear direction, explaining precisely what will be covered in the body paragraphs. Remember that the introduction shouldn’t go into too much detail. By the same token, it’s a bad idea simply to list your main points.
Insight. A good introduction will also offer insight. With most essay topics, it won’t be a matter of simply agreeing or disagreeing with the topic. You might agree with parts of the essay topic and disagree with other parts. It’s important that your introduction acknowledges the complexity of the topic.
Expression. A brilliant introduction will also be expressive. When you are planning your essay, you need to think about the precise meaning of words in the essay prompt. Think of synonyms that you can use for key terms rather than just repeating them throughout the essay. Use language that is subtle and nuanced. In The Whole Business with Kiffo and the Pitbull, for example, it would be simplistic to refer to Kiffo as ‘bad’. Instead, you might call him a ‘misunderstood troublemaker’. This is much more expressive and accurate.
Relevant. Always make sure that everything in your introduction – and for that matter your entire essay – is relevant to the topic. If you include irrelevant details in your introduction, or even points that may only have slight relevance, it will weaken your overall essay.
Contention. The introduction to your essay should also feature a clear contention. Your contention is your opinion on the essay topic. Do you agree or disagree? Your position on the essay topic should be clear by reading the introduction.
Evidence. There may be a quote in the novel that you’re studying that helps to express your position on the essay topic. If the quote is short and relevant, it might be a good idea to use this quotation in the introduction of your essay.
All of these introductions are written in response to the essay topic, “‘I’ve spent my whole life dealing with people who think I’m a step below a cockroach.’ Do you agree that Kiffo lived a bleak existence?” Put them in order from best to worst, giving reasons for your order.
a. In The Whole Business with Kiffo and the Pitbull, Kiffo is a character who leads a bleak existence. The first reason why his existence is bleak is because he is treated badly at school. The second reason that his existence is bleak is that his father abuses him. There are many reasons why his existence is bleak and this is what I will explore in this essay.
b. In The Whole Business with Kiffo and the Pitbull by Barry Jonsberg, Jarryd ‘Kiffo’ Kiffing leads a “bleak existence”. At home, he is neglected and abused by his father. When Calma visits his house, she is appalled by by the way that his life is filled with “casual cruelty”. At school, Kiffo doesn’t fare much better, suffering a worse kind of violence at the hands of teachers who are gradually “breaking his spirit”. Although Kiffo’s life is full of cruelty and neglect, his friendship with Calma Harrison is one reason that it’s not entirely bleak.
c. In the book there is a character called Kiffo who is “uglier than a bucket-full of buttholes”. Kiffo isn’t treated very well at school like when the Pitbull gives him a test and he doesn’t do very well. Kiffo is kind of a bad character but it isn’t really fair that he is treated like this. This is one of the reasons it is bleak. Another reason it is bleak is that his dad hits him sometimes. In this essay I will show why this is.
d. In The Whole Business with Kiffo and the Pitbull by Barry Jonsberg, Kiffo is a character who leads a bleak existence. At school, Kiffo is given a hard time by the teachers who never really give him a chance. At home, Kiffo is abused and neglected by his father. Although there are many parts of his existence that are bleak, his friendship with Calma Harrison is one things that isn’t.
Some tips on writing a comparative essay, Dr Jennifer Minter (English Works Notes)
In a comparative essay, you will be assessed on your ability to compare and contrast shared themes in two texts. These themes typically focus on concepts such as identity, conflict, guilt, personal growth, defiance, power, authority, individual freedoms etc.
Similarities and differences
You will need to identify similarities and differences in these two texts.
To do well, you will need to be analytically precise with regards to the author’s key message and their views and values. For example, what do we mean by “visionary” leadership. What are its traits? What are its consequences? If a character has a driving sense of ambition/lust for power, you will need to analyse what really defines this ambition or lust. What are its consequences and effects? How does it transform key characters? What are the similarities and what are the differences in its manifestation in both texts?
A comparative-style paragraph: it is important to set up your (comparative) paragraph with a shared idea/concept. You will start with obvious similarities, generally on a broader scale and then move to more specific similarities and/or differences.
- Firstly, investigate the idea, person(s) or issue in Text A. Keep unpacking a certain aspect of this central idea and give examples and quotes. Be as precise and concise as possible.
- Secondly, investigate the idea, person or issue in Text B. Show similarities (and/or differences) with regards to Text A.
- Use model sentences that set up, and draw attention to, the comparison. “Likewise, X also shares the view that…” Z (Text B) also reflects the X’s mindset. He, too believes that…
- You will need to show an ability to clearly identify, and unpack/analyse the author’s key views, values and concepts and their implications as succinctly as possible. Work on condensing sentences and paragraphs to their essential points. Every word, every phrase and every sentence counts. Avoid generic/generalised statements that waste space.
- You will need to show an ability to zoom in on the most important examples of evidence and show a deep and complex interpretation.
- You will need to be able to summarise/analyse very succinctly these key moments. Avoid storytelling, so use the author’s narrative devices, where possible. You need to do as much as you can, with less.
- Practice writing shared paragraphs; some with a broader focus and some with a narrower and more specific/precise focus.
- Awkward phrases: work on sophistication of expression. Avoid clumsy verb phrases. Use nominals. Work at incorporating quotes into the grammatical construction of your sentence. Use a combination of short, snappy sentences and longer sentences. Do not lose control of the subject. See Notes on Improving Expression.
Write a one-page summary of the “most important” or key points/issues in the text and do a dot-point list of the author’s views and values and attitudes to main themes.
Often an essay topic relates to two different aspects: the author’s support for honourable people and their honourable values: and the author’s disapproval of the dishonourable people and their dishonourable views/values. In this case, think of your essay as a compare and contrast style: with the first half (2 paragraphs) focussing on one side of the equation (2 texts) and the other half, focussing on the contrasting side (2 texts)
- For example, see a Sample of Ideas-related work.
- See a sample of comparative paragraphs: the individual versus the state
- See Writing a Text Response Essay
Please see sample paragraph plan relating to specific texts: justice and abuse of power