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SKills

Writing the Introduction

A good introduction sets your essay up for success. With just a few sentences, it shows that you not only understand the issue at hand, but are also are arguing for a stand — one based on careful evaluation of the key tensions and perspectives of stakeholders involved in the issue.

This is what a good introduction looks like:

Can the use of animals for scientific research ever be justified? (GCE A Levels, 2017)

In April 2019, 400 protestors marked World Day for Animals in Laboratories by calling for an end to animal research. This event highlighted the ongoing controversy in animal experimentation. Is it more important to advance our understanding of diseases, or to prevent the suffering of animals? Die-hard animal activists do not believe that animals should be used for scientific research, regardless of how beneficial the outcomes. They argue that animals are also living beings that have as much right to life and dignity as humans. Most scientists, however, argue that such use is justified to ensure humans’ safety, even if it is means subjecting animals to pain and death. They believe that human life is more valuable than animal life. Given that our world current faces a pandemic and many other diseases for which there are currently no cures, I believe that the use of animals in research is definitely justified. We should prioritise better understanding of diseases and cures even if it comes at the expense of animals.

Writing a good introduction might look intimidating, but you can write a good introduction in three simple steps:

First, figure out the issue. What are people arguing about and why are they arguing about it? Who are the people taking different sides in the issue? 

Second, decide on your thesis. Where do you stand on the issue?

And third, think about the hook. What will grab your reader’s attention?

Step 1: Figure out the issue

If you jump into writing your introduction without first figuring out the issue, you (and your reader!) will probably end up getting confused and frustrated.  

Start by asking these questions:

  • What is the subject matter? 
  • What has happened that has disrupted the status quo?
  • Who are the people who have a stake in this? 
  • What are their reactions to the disruption? 

These questions will quickly help you establish:

  • The broader global context 
  • The specific key players, their sides on this issue, and why they have taken their stand
  • The tensions generated by their conflicting perspectives on the subject matter  

Step 2: Figure out your thesis

Your thesis states where you stand on the issue. After you give a preview of the different arguments in the issue, it is important to wrap up your introduction with your overall stand.

At its core, your thesis should clearly answer the essay question. For a nuanced thesis that showcases evaluation, write a thesis statement that: 

  • Acknowledges the opposing view
  • Clearly sets out your overall position on the issue
  • Provides a key supporting reason for your overall position. 

Step 3: Figure out the hook

Good hooks are not just there to grab the reader’s attention. They are there to show how the essay question is a real-life dilemma that people in the world have different perspectives about. All essay questions in General Paper are relevant to our lives, and are inspired by events in the world.

Your hook can be anything: actual events, key trends, facts or statistics, quotes, questions or anecdotes. You can even start by calling out the perspective that opposes your stance. 

Putting it all together

When you apply all three steps to an essay prompt, you should be able to write an introduction that draws your reader in – starting with the hook, then the issue, and finally your thesis.

Assess the view that traditional buildings have no future in your society. (GCE A Level, 2018)

Hook

Highlight a key event

When the old National Library was demolished in 2004 to make way for the Fort Canning Tunnel, there was a groundswell of dissent from some. However, others welcomed the move, arguing that the authorities were right to ease traffic congestion in the city.

Issue

Link to
the issue

This illustrates the debate about the value of traditional buildings.

Identify a stakeholder and their status quo position

The romantic among us may argue that these buildings have great nostalgic value because they hold precious memories of one’s growing-up years. 

Highlight a disruption

However, the desire to transform Singapore into an innovation-driven, future-oriented hub has bred a pragmatic culture

Identify another stakeholder and their status quo position 

in which city planners value the commercial value of buildings more than their economic and historical significance.

Thesis

State the context of the disruption to justify your thesis

Given Singapore’s land scarcity, I would agree with the view that traditional buildings in Singapore, unless they are repurposed to generate greater commercial value, do not have a future

Acknowledge the opposing viewpoint

despite their nostalgic or historical value.

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