Uses of introductory paragraphs as outlines in essays

Let’s imagine that we were given this statement to defend in an essay:

Defend this statement: “The Mexican War and its aftermath was the turning point that led the US inevitably to Civil War.”

To defend this statement and support it with facts, we could generate the following specific pieces of evidence and evaluate the significance of each one: Mexican War-Civil War outline

And then, we could take what we consider to be the most important facts and generate an introductory paragraph that actually also serves as an outline for our overall essay, such as this: Intro example- Mexican War

Here are some of the benefits of this approach:

1) You create a strong introduction that actually ANSWERS THE DARN QUESTION (ATDQ).

2) Many of you, under pressure of time, consider writing an outline as a waste of that valuable time, which is a pretty big mistake to make. This method allows you to USE the outline to perform a vital function– answering the darn question, specifically and fully, at the outset of your essay.

3) This will also help your organize your thoughts., which will actually help you use your time wisely. As you move from paragraph to paragraph, you have already created a roadmap for yourself.

4) Readers– especially AP Readers– are human. They will only spend 3-4 minutes reading your entire essay, and another minute or two evaluating it. A strong, specific introductory paragraph that demonstrates the depth of your knowledge will help establish that you actually know what you are talking about at the outset, and incline them more favorably to your overall essay, making it more likely that you will get a higher score. You will have given the reader a framework through which to understand what you know.

5) If you DO run out of time while writing your essay, you have already laid out your full argument, so the reader will still see what you would have written, had you had the time. This will minimize the damage.


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