Closed-Form Writing – Titles, Introductions, Transition Words, and Conclusions

fixed essay

These are the notes from the lecture on 10/19 and 10/20. Use them well.

Creating an Effective Title:

  • Good titles follow the principal of old before new information that we already talked about
  • Something old (a word or phrase that hook’s reader’s interest) and something new (a word or phrase that forecasts the writer’s thesis
  • Some titles state the question the essay addresses. (Will Miley Cyrus Ruin Another Generation of Young Women?)
  • Some titles abbreviate the thesis: (Miley Cyrus is Still Influencing the Generation That Watched Her in Hanna Montana)
  • Many academic titles consist of two parts separated by a colon. To the left is the key words from the essay’s issue, to the right is the essay’s question, thesis, or summary of purpose (Miley Cyrus: Why Cultural Appropriation is Never Okay)

For fun, check this out: Really. Don’t use it. Just have fun with it.

Creating Effective Introductions:

We know that the introduction provides a big-picture overview of a paper’s argument, writers often can’t compose them until they have finished at least one exploratory draft. As soon as you know the big picture of your essay, titles and intros follow some basic general principles.

What we want to grow away from: The Funnel Introduction

  • Most students have been taught an opening strategy, often called “the funnel” that encourages students to start with a broad generalization, and narrow down to the topic. We are going to learn a new technique that will help us get past this stage to write more powerful introductions.

“For thousands of years, man has looked up into the sky and wondered what the stars were. It is only recently, since the invention of the Hubble telescope, that we have begun to see the details that give us the facts we need.”

“Since the beginning of time man has pondered the meaning of life. It is only since the 1940s, after Viktor Frankel wrote Man’s Search for Meaning, that we have dared to think that we have a right to search for the meaning of life at all.”

  • The funnel often leads to vapid, low-level generalizations in opening sentences, which turns readers off.

Introductions also follow the old-to-new strategy.

  • Old information before new information is a dynamic technique for getting your reader to stay with the paper.
  • Because the writer’s thesis statement forecasts the new information the paper will present, a thesis statement for a closed-form essay typically comes at the end of the introduction.
  • What comes before the thesis is typically the old, familiar information the reader needs in order to understand the conversations the thesis joins.
  • Typical closed-form shape


(old information)


(new information)

Read examples on pp 594-595

Typical elements:

  • An opening attention-grabber – first few sentences capture your reader’s attention. Use if you aren’t sure if your reader is already interested in your problem.
  • An attention-grabber ( or hook, or lede (or “lead”) can be
    • a startling fact
    • an interesting scene
    • something else that taps into reader’s interest
  • An attention-grabber is uncommon in academic prose
  • An attention grabber is frequently used in popular prose
  • The  intro can be used as an explanation of the question to be investigated: If you know your reader already knows about the problem and cares about it, then you only need to summarize it
  • If you aren’t sure if your reader already understands, then you need to explain it in more detail, showing why it is both problematic and significant.
  • An intro can provide background information: sometimes readers need background information –
    • a definition of key terms
    • a summary of events leading up to the problem
    • in science papers, this often includes a review of pre-existing literature
  • A preview of the whole – this final element of closed-form intro sketches the big picture of your essay by giving readers a sense of the whole. This preview is the new information for your readers (which is why it comes at the end of the intro). Once stated, it becomes old information the readers will use to locate their position in their journey through your argument.
  • The easiest way to forecast the whole of your purpose is to state your thesis directly. I recommend this, at least for a few years. It makes writing easier.


  • Place them at the beginning of the paragraph.
  • Read examples page 600


Readers expect each new sentence, paragraph, and section to link clearly to what they have already read. This was the one of the biggest problems I saw with the last round of papers.

Readers need transition words to create a well-marked trail with signposts signaling the twists and turns along the way. They also need resting spots at major junctions where they can review where they have been and survey what is coming in. You need to use transition words, as well as summary and forecasting passages to keep readers securely on the trail.


Examples: therefore and nevertheless:

While on vacation, James caught the chickenpox. Therefore, _______.

While on vacation, James caught the chickenpox. Nevertheless_____________.

What does “therefore” do? It predicts an expected consequence.

While on vacation, James caught the chickenpox. Therefore he spent his vacation lying in bed, itchy, feverish, and crying for his mama.

What does “nevertheless” do? It signals an unexpected consequence.

While on vacation, James caught the chickenpox, Nevertheless, he enjoyed his vacation, thanks to calamine lotion, some good creative essays, and a marathon game of 3d Sonic the Hedgehog.

Transition words also govern transitions between ideas.


Look at the conclusion as a compliment to your introduction. The job of the conclusion is to bring a sense of completeness and closure to the profusion of detains in the body of the essay. Help the reader move from the parts back to the big picture.


  • Simple summary – recap what you have said
  • Larger significance conclusion – draw the reader’s attention to the importance or application of your argument
  • Proposal conclusion – Call for action or call for study
  • Scenic or anecdotal conclusion – Use a brief story or scene to illustrate the theme without stating it explicitly (most often used in popular writing, not academic)

*Thanks to Allyn and Bacon Guide to Writing for these class notes.


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