Getting started can often be difficult. Even professional writers say that the hardest part of writing is the beginning. Writing an introduction to an essay can therefore seem a daunting task, though it need not be so difficult, as long as you understand the purpose and the structure of the introduction. An example essay has been given to help you understand both of these, and there is a checklist at the end which you can use for editing your introduction.
Purpose of the introduction
When writing an introduction to an academic essay, it is useful to remember the main purpose of the introduction. In general, the introduction will introduce the topic to the reader by stating what the topic is and giving some general background information. This will help the reader to understand what you are writing about, and show why the topic is important. The introduction should also give the overall plan of the essay.
In short, the main purpose of the introduction is to:
This last purpose is perhaps the most important, and is the reason why many writers choose to write the introduction last, after they have written the main body, because they need to know what the essay will contain before they can give a clear plan.
Structure of the introduction
Although essays vary in length and content, most essays will have the same overall structure, including the introduction. The structure is related to the purpose mentioned above. The introduction to an essay should have the following two parts:
The general statements will introduce the topic of the essay and give background information. The background information for a short essay will generally just be one or two sentences. The general statements should become more and more specific as the introduction progresses, leading the reader into the essay (some writers talk about "attracting the readers' attention", though for an academic essay, this is less important). For longer essays, the general statements could include one or more definitions, or could classify the topic, and may cover more than one paragraph.
The following is an example of background statements for a short essay (given below):
Although they were invented almost a hundred years ago, for decades cars were only owned by the rich. Since the 60s and 70s they have become increasingly affordable, and now most families in developed nations, and a growing number in developing countries, own a car.
These sentences introduce the topic of the essay (cars) and give some background to this topic (situation in the past, the situation now). These sentences lead nicely into the thesis statement (see below).
The thesis statement is the most important part of the introduction. It gives the reader clear information about the content of the essay, which will help them to understand the essay more easily. The thesis states the specific topic, and often lists the main (controlling) ideas that will be discussed in the main body. It may also indicate how the essay will be organised, e.g. in chronological order, order of importance, advantages/disadvantages, cause/effect. It is usually at the end of the introduction, and is usually (but not always) one sentence long.
In short, the thesis statement:
Here is an example of a thesis statement with no subtopics mentioned:
While cars have undoubted advantages, they also have significant drawbacks.
This thesis statement tells us the specific topic of the essay (advantages and disadvantages of cars) and the method of organisation (advantages should come first, disadvantages second). It is, however, quite general, and may have been written before the writer had completed the essay.
In the following thesis statement, the subtopics are named:
While cars have undoubted advantages, of which their convenience is the most apparent, they have significant drawbacks, most notably pollution and traffic problems.
This thesis gives us more detail, telling us not just the topic (advantages and disadvantages of cars) and the method of organisation (advantages first, disadvantages second), but also tells us the main ideas in the essay (convenience, pollution, traffic problems). This essay will probably have three paragraphs in the main body.
Below is a discussion essay which looks at the advantages and disadvantages of car ownership. This essay is used throughout the essay writing section to help you understand different aspects of essay writing. Here it focuses on the thesis statement and general statements of the introduction (mentioned on this page), topic sentences, controlling ideas, and the summary and final comment of the conclusion. Click on the different areas (in the shaded boxes to the right) to highlight the different structural aspects in this essay.
Although they were invented almost a hundred years ago, for decades cars were only owned by the rich. Since the 60s and 70s they have become increasingly affordable, and now most families in developed nations, and a growing number in developing countries, own a car. While cars have undoubted advantages, of which their convenience is the most apparent, they have significant drawbacks, most notably pollution and traffic problems.
The most striking advantage of the car is its convenience. When travelling long distance, there may be only one choice of bus or train per day, which may be at an unsuitable time. The car, however, allows people to travel at any time they wish, and to almost any destination they choose.
Despite this advantage, cars have many significant disadvantages, the most important of which is the pollution they cause. Almost all cars run either on petrol or diesel fuel, both of which are fossil fuels. Burning these fuels causes the car to emit serious pollutants, such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and nitrous oxide. Not only are these gases harmful for health, causing respiratory disease and other illnesses, they also contribute to global warming, an increasing problem in the modern world. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (2013), transportation in the US accounts for 30% of all carbon dioxide production in that country, with 60% of these emissions coming from cars and small trucks. In short, pollution is a major drawback of cars.
A further disadvantage is the traffic problems that they cause in many cities and towns of the world. While car ownership is increasing in almost all countries of the world, especially in developing countries, the amount of available roadway in cities is not increasing at an equal pace. This can lead to traffic congestion, in particular during the morning and evening rush hour. In some cities, this congestion can be severe, and delays of several hours can be a common occurrence. Such congestion can also affect those people who travel out of cities at the weekend. Spending hours sitting in an idle car means that this form of transport can in fact be less convenient than trains or aeroplanes or other forms of public transport.
In conclusion, while the car is advantageous for its convenience, it has some important disadvantages, in particular the pollution it causes and the rise of traffic jams. If countries can invest in the development of technology for green fuels, and if car owners can think of alternatives such as car sharing, then some of these problems can be lessened.
Union of Concerned Scientists (2013). Car Emissions and Global Warming.www.ucsusa.org/clean vehicles/why-clean-cars/global-warming/ (Access date: 8 August, 2013)
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Below is a checklist for an essay introduction. Use it to check your own writing, or get a peer (another student) to help you.
|The essay begins with general statements, which introduce the topic|
|The introduction ends with a thesis statement|
|The thesis shows the main ideas of the essay|
|The thesis shows how the essay will be organised (e.g. chronological, compare/contrast, advantages/disadvantages)|
Find out how to structure the main body of an essay in the next section.
Go back to the previous section about essay structure.
- Length: 1014 words (2.9 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
Transportation is movement of people and goods from one location to another. Throughout history, the economic wealth and military power of a people or a nation have been closely tied to efficient methods of transportation. Transportation provides access to natural resources and promotes trade, allowing a nation to accumulate wealth and power. Transportation also allows the movement of soldiers, equipment, and supplies so that a nation can wage war.
Transportation systems and the routes they use have greatly influenced both how and where people live. Reliable transportation allows a population to expand throughout a country's territory and to live comfortably in remote areas far from factories and farms. The growth and expansion of the United States were directly related to the means of transportation available at the time. The more compact cities of the U.S. eastern seaboard are the result of early human- and animal-based transportation systems that allowed only short trips. The more sprawling cities of the western United States are the result of an automobile-based transportation system that permits much longer travel distances.
Transportation is vital to a nation's economy. Reducing the costs of transporting natural resources to production sites and moving finished goods to markets is one of the key factors in economic competition. The transportation industry is the largest industry in the world. It includes the manufacture and distribution of vehicles, the production and distribution of fuel, and the provision of transportation services. In the 1990s, approximately 11 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product and an estimated 10 percent of all jobs in the United States were related to the transportation industry.
The same transportation systems that link a nation can also be used in the nation's war efforts. The rapid movement of troops, equipment, and supplies can be a deciding factor in winning a battle or a war. Transportation is usually classified by the medium in which the movement occurs, such as by land, air, water, or pipeline. Within each of the first three media, many different methods are used to move people and goods from place to place. Pipelines are used mainly to transport liquids or gases over long distances.
Land transportation is the dominant form of transportation in the world. People can move about land under their own power, either by walking or by other forms of human-powered transportation such as the bicycle. People also use domestic animals as a means of transportation, both for riding and for pulling wheeled wagons or carts.
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The most common forms of land transportation combine the wheel with electric or fuel-powered engines to move people and freight quickly and efficiently.
Human-powered transportation, such as walking or bicycling, relies entirely on human muscle power for movement. The earliest footpaths were likely based on animal migration routes, and ancient cultures developed extensive paths and roads for both transportation and communication. The ancient Greeks and the Inca Empire of South America were just two of the cultures that employed runners to carry messages in relays over many kilometers. The Incas constructed over 16,000 km (10,000 mi) of roads in South America in the 15th century and were able to relay a message 400 km (250 mi) in one day. Today, in many countries of the world, human-powered transportation remains the main form of transportation. In African cities, two-thirds of daily trips are made by walking. Even in automobile-dominated North American and European cities, walking is an important mode of transportation.
Railroads are paths of parallel metal rails that allow a wheeled vehicle to move more easily by reducing friction. Iron rails were first used in the early 1800s to guide horse-drawn wagons. After the invention of the steam locomotive in 1804, steam engines replaced horses as the primary means of power. Modern locomotives commonly use electric motors or diesel engines and pull long trains of passenger or freight cars.
Air travel has revolutionized global transportation by dramatically reducing the time needed to travel great distances. Journeys across nations or oceans that might have taken weeks or months can now be made in a matter of hours. With large numbers of people traveling in airplanes, air transportation has become a major part of the world's transportation system
Airplanes are heavier-than-air craft that use wings to produce lift in order to fly. Airplanes transport people from place to place and also ferry shipments of mail, perishable goods, and other important cargo The airplane has also revolutionized warfare. Many aeronautical advances in technology, such as the jet engine, were achieved by military engineers and designers. Advances in technology produced faster, larger, and more durable airplanes. The introduction of the turbojet engine in 1941 helped inaugurate the jet age in world travel in the years after World War II (1939-1945). The first commercial jet flight in the United States, made by a Boeing 707, occurred in 1958. To handle ever-increasing passenger demand, jet aircraft were made bigger and faster. The Boeing 747 jumbo jet, which can carry over 300 passengers, entered service in 1970. The supersonic British-French Concorde began passenger service in 1972.
Some of the greatest achievements in transportation relate to methods of crossing water. Two-thirds of Earth's surface is covered by water, so the progress of civilization is naturally tied to the ability to move over water. Water transportation has progressed from early rafts and canoes to more complex sailing ships to today's large passenger and freight ships. Freight vessels are special oceangoing ships that are designed exclusively for carrying large amounts of cargo. Different vessels are designed for carrying different kinds of cargo, such as liquids, bulk cargo (for example, grain or ore), or containers of preloaded materials.
Of course, there are hundreds of other modes of transportation, including roller skates, hang-gliders, hydrofoils, the space shuttle, and the submarine, just to name a few. If transportation had never progressed beyond walking and domestic animals, civilization today would be totally and completely different. We would not be as nearly as advanced, nor would we have the millions of miles of roads and highways that we do. Transportation is in every facet of our daily lives.