GP – How to write a good introduction for Paper 1?

Introduction is a crucial component for a GP essay, and many candidates do not know how to write effective introductions or simply write highly mechanical introductions that fail to engage their readers. A good introduction should contain at least three parts. First, an interesting and relevant hook, or starter. Second, an overview of the essay that contains the arguments that you are going to discuss and the expansion of keywords. Third, your thesis statement that clearly states your stand and answers the question.

Let me go through the three components in detail. If you find my opinions differ from your tutor’s, please follow your own school tutor.

For the hook, or starter, it is the first one or two sentences of your entire essay. It gives the first impression to the reader so please handle it with more care. Do not write grammatically flawed starter as it gives a really bad impression on your linguistic capability. From what I observe, many candidates give mechanical starters. They like to give dictionary definitions (parents are those who give us lives… ) which the readers obviously know or general statements describing the history of the topic (since the beginning of time…). These methods are not wrong, but they are indeed boring. Try to be creative. There are plenty of ways to start in an engaging manner. A quotation, a personal story/experience, a movie or literature plot, mythological stories, current affairs, an irony, a rhetorical question, etc. Anything that attracts your reader will do. A final warning – do not try too hard to give creative starter until it turns out to be irrelevant to the question. Also, do not be a perfectionist and spend too much time on the starter during the real examination.

Next, the middle section of your introduction. You have two tasks here. First, expand the keywords in the question and tell the reader your own understanding of the keywords. (For example, if the question contains the word arts, you may want to talk about paintings, drama, TV shows… What do they have in common? What are the characteristics of them? Different people have different preferences when they unpack key words, and there is no need to give a complete list.) The second part is more important. You need to present the arguments related to the issue. Remember that GP essay is reason-oriented. Therefore, I do not care about what you say; I care about why you say the things you say. Give reasons for both sides of the argument so that you have a nice balance in your introduction.

Last, you need a thesis statement. This is an essential part of the introduction as well as the whole essay. It has to be a very clear YES/NO answer to the question no matter how the question phrases. No ambiguity can be tolerated when writing the thesis statement. It is also better to briefly talk about your reasons for your stand in a really concise matter. (Note that this does not mean you just copy all of your topic sentences here) It is also nice if you can have a balance in your introduction where both sides are addressed. Try not to copy exact words/phrasing from the question for your thesis statement. That reflects badly on your linguistic ability. Rephrase the question instead.

Let’s analyze three examples.

Introduction A:

Every year, when we go to the cinemas, we are often greeted with walls plastered by movie titles involving a hero. The classic ‘hero and villain’ plot, though overused at times, seems to reflect society’s fervent desire for hope. This often gets expressed in the form of heroes. Probing deeper, one could ask if this is merely an avenue for us to feel good about humanity or does it provide something more? I believe that it is very important for us to recognize and celebrate heroes.

(Extracted from ‘How important is it for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes?’ from KS Bull Issue 1, 2014)

The paragraph does have a non-traditional and relevant starter. However, it subsequently fails to provide reasons for his claim. For instance, why does society have fervent desire for hope? And what can be the ‘something more’ that heroes can provide? (try not to ask questions without answering them in your GP essay) Nevertheless, the writer does include a balance in his discussion on the function of heroes and a clear thesis statement (although he copies the exact words from the question). Overall, the introduction is too brief. It has insufficient insight into the issue, and the reader has no idea what he is going to say in his body paragraphs.

Introduction B:

In a famous Hindi movie “3 idiots”, the most famous line tells us to ‘chase excellence, and success will follow”. In our world today, however, it is rapidly becoming the trend that people chase after success over everything else. This has led to a world where educated people have a never-ending list of honors and qualifications, but are not necessarily aware of the world and reality around them, much less know or want to use their skills for the betterment of society. While there are some people who are enlightened and want to use their education to help the world around them, there still exists a majority of educated people today who are self-centered and have not yet opened their eyes to the reality we exist in. 

(Extracted from ‘Qualified but not enlightened. Is this a fair description of educated people today?’ from KS Bull Issue 1, 2014)

This is a better introduction than A. It also has an interesting starter which is relevant to the question and proposed the ideal outcome of an education. Then it goes on to describe the real world situation and unpack the key words. The writer successfully sets a parameter on the meaning of ‘qualified’ (academic qualifications) and ‘enlightened’ (willingness to help others and work for the betterment of society). At last, the author has a very clear thesis statement. What can be improved is that the author needs to include more reasons in his introduction. Why do people chase success over everything else? Why are they so selfish? The reader wants to have a rough idea what the essay is going to discuss in the subsequent body paragraphs.

Introduction C:

One of the recent noteworthy achievements of the Chinese Lunar Exploration Programme is the soft landing of Chang’e 3, the spacecraft that was named after Chang’e, the goddess of the Moon in Chinese mythology. Throughout history, Chinese people have been worshipping the beauty of Chang’e, whose name is therefore probably the best representation of Chinese people’s longing for the Moon. Yet, in modern China, many question the relevance of myths and legends in the twenty-first century because of the development of science and gender bias against women inherent in Chinese mythology. Indeed, myths and legends can no longer explain natural phenomena, and some of their ideas are too superstitious for modern Chinese to follow. However, in my opinion, many moral lessons and the unique cultural identity that Chinese mythology contains are enduring. Today, myths and legends are often used to entertain, educate and provide basic cultural literacy to people, and they still have a rather significant role to play in modern China. 

(Extracted from ‘do myth and legend still have a role to play in your society?’)

This is the best introduction among the three. First, it has a nice and interesting story about Chang’e 3, which naturally brings out the topic; myth and legends. It clearly shows that they are still relevant. Then, the writer has a balanced discussion related to the issue. He includes the reasons for his claims. In his thesis statement, the writer briefly summarizes the three reasons that he is going to discuss in his body paragraphs. What can be improved is that the writer can try to differentiate between myth and legends in his introduction.

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