Attention Getting Strategies For Essays On Global Warming

When Vox.com launched last month, the site's editor-in-chief, Ezra Klein, had a sobering message for us all: more information doesn't lead to better understanding. Looking at research conducted by a Yale law professor, Klein argued that when we believe in something, we filter information in a way that affirms our already-held beliefs. "More information...doesn’t help skeptics discover the best evidence," he wrote. "Instead, it sends them searching for evidence that seems to prove them right."

It's disheartening news in many ways—for one, as Klein points out, it cuts against the hopeful hypothesis set out in the Constitution and political speeches that any disagreement is merely a misunderstanding, an accidental debate caused by misinformation. Applied to our highly polarized political landscape, the study's results make the prospect of change seem incredibly difficult.

But when applied to science, the results become more frightening. Science, by definition, is inherently connected to knowledge and facts, and we rely on science to expand our understanding of the world around us. If we reject information based on our personal bias, what does that mean for science education? It's a question that becomes especially relevant when considering global warming, where there appears to be an especially large chasm between scientific knowledge and public understanding.

"The science has become more and more certain. Every year we’re more certain of what we’re seeing," explains Katharine Hayhoe, an atmospheric scientist and associate professor of political science at Texas Tech University. 97 percent of scientists agree that climate change is happening, and 95 percent of scientists believe that humans are the dominant cause. Think of it another way: over a dozen scientists, including the president of the National Academy of Sciences, told the AP that the scientific certainty regarding climate change is most similar to the confidence scientists have that cigarettes contribute to lung cancer. And yet as the scientific consensus becomes stronger, public opinion shows little movement. 

"Overall, the American public’s opinion and beliefs about climate change haven’t changed a whole lot," says Edward Maibach, director of George Mason University's Center for Climate Change Communication. "In the late 90s, give or take two-thirds of Americans believed that climate change was real and serious and should be dealt with." Maibach hasn't seen that number change much—polls still show about a 63 percent belief in global warming—but he has seen the issue change, becoming more politically polarized. "Democrats have become more and more convinced that climate change is real and should be dealt with, and Republicans have been going in the opposite direction."

It's polarization that leads to a very tricky situation: facts don't bend to political whims. Scientists agree that climate change is happening—and Democrats and Republicans alike are feeling its effects now, all over the country. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) keeps reiterating that things look bleak, but avoiding a disaster scenario is still possible if changes are made right now. But if more information doesn't lead to greater understanding, how can anyone convince the public to act?

***

In the beginning, there was a question: what had caused the glaciers that once blanketed the Earth to melt? During the Ice Age, which ended around 12,000 years ago, glacial ice covered one-third of the Earth's surface. How was it possible that the Earth's climate could have changed so drastically? In the 1850s, John Tyndall, a Victorian scientist fascinated by evidence of ancient glaciers, became the first person to label carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas capable of trapping heat in the Earth's atmosphere. By the 1930s, scientists had found an increase in the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere—and an increase in the Earth's global temperature.

In 1957, Hans Suess and Roger Revelle published an article in the scientific journal Tellus that proposed that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere had increased as a result of a post-Industrial Revolution burning of fossil fuels—buried, decaying organic matter that had been storing carbon dioxide for millions of years. But it wasn't clear how much of that newly released carbon dioxide was actually accumulating in the atmosphere, versus being absorbed by plants or the ocean. Charles David Keeling answered the question through careful CO2 measurements that charted exactly how much carbon dioxide was present in the atmosphere—and showed that the amount was unequivocally increasing.

In 1964, a group from the National Academy of Sciences set out to study the idea of changing the weather to suit various agricultural and military needs. What the group members concluded was that it was possible to change climate without meaning to—something they called "inadvertent modifications of weather and climate"—and they specifically cited carbon dioxide as a contributing factor.

Politicians responded to the findings, but the science didn't become political. The scientists and committees of early climate change research were markedly bipartisan, serving on science boards under presidents both Democrat and Republican. Though Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, which warned of the dangers of synthetic pesticides, kicked off environmentalism in 1962, the environmental movement didn't adopt climate change as a political cause until much later. Throughout much of the '70s and '80s, environmentalism focused on problems closer to home: water pollution, air quality and domestic wildlife conservation. And these issues weren't viewed through the fracturing political lens often used today—it was Republican President Richard Nixon who created the Environmental Protection Agency and signed the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act and a crucial extension of the Clean Air Act into law.

But as environmentalists championed other causes, scientists continued to study the greenhouse effect, a term coined by the Swedish scientist Svante Arrhenius in the late 1800s. In 1979, the National Academy of Sciences released the Charney Report, which stated that "a plethora of studies from diverse sources indicates a consensus that climate changes will result from man's combustion of fossil fuels and changes in land use."

The scientific revelations of the 1970s led to the creation of the IPCC, but they also caught the attention of the Marshall Institute, a conservative think tank founded by Robert Jastrow, William Nierenberg and Frederick Seitz. The men were accomplished scientists in their respective fields: Jastrow was the founder of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Nierenberg was the former director of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Seitz was the former president of the United States National Academy of Sciences. The institute received funding from groups such as the Earhart Foundation and the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, which supported conservative and free-market research (in recent years, the institute has received funding from Koch foundations). Its initial goal was to defend President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative from scientific attacks, to convince the American public that scientists weren't united in their dismissal of the SDI, a persuasive tactic which enjoyed moderate success.

In 1989, when the Cold War ended and much of the Marshall Institute's projects were no longer relevant, the Institute began to focus on the issue of climate change, using the same sort of contrarianism to sow doubt in the mainstream media. It's a strategy that was adopted by President George W. Bush's administration and the Republican Party, typified when Republican consultant Frank Luntz wrote in a memo:

"Voters believe that there is no consensus about global warming within the scientific community. Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate."

It's also an identical tactic to one used by the tobacco industry to challenge research linking tobacco to cancer (in fact, Marshall Institute scientist Seitz once worked as a member of the medical research committee for the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company).

But if politicians and strategists created the climate change "debate," the mainstream media has done its part in propagating it. In 2004, Maxwell and Jules Boykoff published "Balance as bias: global warming and the US prestige press," which looked at global warming coverage in four major American newspapers: the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, between 1988 and 2002. What Boykoff and Boykoff found was that in 52.65 percent of climate change coverage, "balanced" accounts were the norm—accounts that gave equal attention to the view that humans were creating global warming and the view that global warming was a matter of natural fluctuations in climate. Nearly a decade after the Charney Report had first flagged man's potential to cause global warming, highly-reputable news sources were still presenting the issue as a debate of equals.

In a study of current media coverage, the Union of Concerned Scientists analyzed 24 cable news programs to determine the incidence of misleading climate change information. The right-leaning Fox News provided misinformation on climate change in 72 percent of its reporting on the issue; left-leaning MSNBC also provided misinformation in 8 percent of its climate change coverage, mostly from exaggerating claims. But the study found that even the nonpartisan CNN misrepresented climate change 30 percent of the time. Its sin? Featuring climate scientists and climate deniers in such a way that furthers the misconception that the debate is, in fact, still alive and well. According to Maibach, the continuing debate over climate science in the media explains why fewer than one in four Americans know how strong the scientific consensus on climate change really is. (CNN did not respond to requests for a comment, but the network hasn't featured a misleading debate since February, when two prominent CNN anchors condemned the network's use of debate in covering climate change.)

Sol Hart, an assistant professor at the University of Michigan, recently published a study looking at network news coverage of climate change—something that nearly two-thirds of Americans report watching at least once a month (only a little over a third of Americans, by contrast, reported watching cable news at least once a month). Looking at network news segments about climate change from 2005 to mid-2011, Hart noticed what he perceived as a problem in the networks' coverage of the issue, and it wasn't a balance bias. "We coded for that, and we didn’t see much evidence of people being interviewed on network news talking about humans not having an affect on climate change," he explains.

What he did notice was an incomplete narrative. "What we find is that the impacts and actions are typically not discussed together. Only about 23 percent of all articles on network news talked about impacts and actions in the same story. They don’t talk about them together to create a cohesive narrative."

But is it the media's responsibility to create such a narrative? 

In the decades before the digital revolution, that question was easier to answer. Legacy media outlets historically relied on balance and impartiality; it wasn't their place, they figured, to compel their readers to act on a particular issue. But the information revolution, fueled by the web, has changed the media landscape, blurring the lines between a journalist's role as a factual gatekeeper and an activist.

"With the advent of digital online, there’s a lot more interaction with the audience, there’s a lot more contributions from the audience, there’s citizen journalists, there’s bloggers, there’s people on social media. There are tons and tons of voices," Mark Glaser, executive editor at PBS MediaShift, explains. "It’s hard to just remain this objective voice that doesn’t really care about anything when you’re on Twitter and you’re interacting with your audience and they’re asking you questions, and you end up having an opinion."

***

For a long time, climate change has been framed as an environmental problem, a scientific conundrum that affects Arctic ice, polar bears and penguins; a famously gut-wrenching scene from Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth mentions polar bears having drowned looking for stable pieces of ice in a warming Arctic Ocean. It's a perfectly logical interpretation, but increasingly, climate scientists and activists are wondering whether or not there's a better way to present the narrative—and they're turning to social scientists, like Hart, to help them figure that out.

"Science has operated for so long on this information deficit model, where we assume that if people just have more information, they’ll make the right decision. Social scientists have news for us: we humans don’t operate that way," Hayhoe explains. "I feel like the biggest advances that have been made in the last ten years in terms of climate change have been in the social sciences."

As Hayhoe spoke about the frustrations of explaining climate change to the public, she mentioned a cartoon that circulated around the internet after the IPCC's most recent report, drawn by Australian cartoonist Jon Kudelka.

"I think that my colleagues and I are becoming increasingly frustrated with having to repeat the same information again and again, and again and again and again—and not just year after year, but decade after decade," Hayhoe says.

In other countries around the world, the climate change message appears to be getting through. In a Pew poll of 39 countries, global climate change was a top concern for those in Canada, Asia and Latin America. Looking at data from all included countries, a median of 54 percent of people placed global climate change as their top concern—in contrast, only 40 percent of Americans felt similarly. A 2013 global audit of climate change legislation stated that the United States' greenhouse gas emission reduction targets are "relatively modest when compared with other advanced economies." And "almost nowhere" else in the world, according to Bill McKibben in a recent Twitter chat with MSNBC's Chris Hayes, has there been the kind of political fracturing around climate change that we see in the United States.

To help Americans get the message, social scientists have one idea: talk about the scientific consensus not more, but more clearly. Starting in 2013, Maibach and his colleagues at GMU and the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication conducted a series of studies to test if, when presented with the data of scientific consensus, participants changed their mind about climate change. What they found was that in controlled experiments, exposure to a clear message conveying the extent of scientific consensus altered participants' estimate of the scientific consensus significantly. Other experimental studies have turned up similar results—a study conducted by Stephan Lewandowsky of the University of Bristol, for example, found that a clear consensus message made participants more likely to accept scientific facts about climate change. Frank Luntz, to the shock of veteran pundit watchers, was right: a clear scientific consensus does seem to change how people understand global warming.

Partially in response to Maibach's findings, the American Association for the Advancement of Science recently released their report "What We Know: The Reality, Risks and Response to Climate Change." The report, Maibach says, is "really the first effort...that attempted to specifically surface and illuminate the scientific consensus in very clear, simple terms." The report's first paragraph, in plain terms, notes that "virtually every national scientific academy and relevant major scientific organization" agrees about the risks of climate change. The New York Times' Justin Gillis described the report's language as "sharper, clearer and more accessible than perhaps anything the scientific community has put out to date."

And yet, the report wasn't universally heralded as the answer to climate change's communication problem—and it wasn't just under fire from conservatives. Brentin Mock, writing for Grist, wasn't sure the report would win climate scientists new support. "The question is not whether Americans know climate change is happening," he argued. "It’s about whether Americans can truly know this so long as the worst of it is only happening to 'certain other vulnerable' groups." Slate's Philip Plait also worried that the report was missing something important. "Facts don’t speak for themselves; they need advocates. And these advocates need to be passionate," he wrote. "You can put the facts up on a blackboard and lecture at folks, but that will be almost totally ineffective. That’s what many scientists have been doing for years and, well, here we are."

To some, the movement needs more a scientific consensus. It needs a human heart.

***

Matthew Nisbet has spent a lot of time thinking about how to talk about climate change. He's been studying climate change from a social science perspective since his graduate studies at Cornell University in the late 1990s and early 2000s and currently works as an associate professor at American University's School of Communications. And though he acknowledges the importance of a scientific consensus, he's not convinced it's the only way to get people thinking about climate change.

"If the goal is to increase a sense of urgency around climate change, and support an intensity of opinion for climate change being a lead policy issue, how do we make that happen?" he asks. "It’s not clear that affirming consensus would be a good long-term strategy for building concern."

Nisbet wanted to know if the context in which climate change is discussed could affect people's views about climate change: is the environmental narrative the most effective, or could there be another way to talk about climate change that might engage a wider audience? Along with Maibach and other climate change social scientists, Nisbet conducted a study that framed climate change in three ways: in a way that emphasized the traditional environmental context, in a way that emphasized the national security context and in a way that emphasized the public health context. 

They thought that maybe placing the issue of climate change in the context of national security could help win over conservatives—but their results showed something different. When it came to changing the opinions of minorities and conservatives—the demographics most apathetic or hostile to climate change—public health made the biggest impact.

"For minorities, where unemployment might be 20 percent in some communities, they face everyday threats like crime. They face discrimination. Climate change is not going to be a top of mind risk to them," Nisbet explains. "But when you start saying that climate change is going to make things that they already suffer from worse, once you start talking about it that way, and the communicators are not environmentalists or scientists but public health officials and people in their own community, now you've got a story and a messenger that connects to who they are."

The public health angle has been a useful tool for environmentalist before—but it is especially effective when combined with tangible events that unequivocally demonstrate the dangers. When smog blanketed the industrial town of Donora, Pennsylvania in 1948 for five days, killing 20 people and rendering another 6,000 ill, America became acutely aware of the danger air pollution posed to public health. Events like this eventually spurred action on the Clear Air Act, which has played a large part in the reduction of six major air pollutants by 72 percent since its passage.

One voice that has begun focusing on the tangible impacts of climate change by showing its effects on everything from public health to agriculture is Showtime's new nine-part documentary series "Years of Living Dangerously." Eschewing images of Arctic ice and polar bears, the show tackles the human narrative head-on, following celebrity hosts as they explore the real-time effects of climate change, from conflict in Syria to drought in Texas. Over at the Guardian, John Abraham described the television series as "the biggest climate science communication endeavor in history."

But, as Alexis Sobel Fitts pointed out in her piece "Walking the public opinion tightrope," not all responses to the series have been positive. In a New York Times op-ed, representatives of the Breakthrough Institute, a bipartisan think tank committed to "modernizing environmentalism," argue that the show relies too heavily on scare tactics, which might ultimately harm its message. "There is every reason to believe that efforts to raise public concern about climate change by linking it to natural disasters will backfire," the op-ed states. "More than a decade’s worth of research suggests that fear-based appeals about climate change inspire denial, fatalism and polarization." "Years of Living Dangerously"'s reception, Fitts argues, reflects complex public opinion—for a subject as polarizing as climate change, you're never going to be able to please everyone.

Glaser agrees that the situation is complex, but feels that the media owes the public honesty, whether or not the truth can be deemed alarmist.

"I think the media probably should be alarmist. Maybe they haven’t been alarmist enough. It’s a tough balancing act, because if you present something to people and it’s a dire situation, and that’s the truth, they might just not want to accept it," he says. "That response, to say, 'This is just exaggerated,' is just another form of denial."

***

Climate change, some say, is like an ink blot test: everyone who looks at the problem sees something different, which means that everyone's answer to the problem will inherently be different, too. Some social scientists, like Nisbet, think that such a diversity of opinions can be a strength, helping create a vast array of solutions to tackle such a complicated issue.

"We need more media forums where a broad portfolio of technologies and strategies are discussed, as well as the science," Nisbet explains. "People need to feel efficacious about climate change—what can they do, in their everyday lives, to help climate change?"

Sol Hart, the Michigan professor, agrees that the current climate change narrative is incomplete. "From a persuasive perspective, you want to combine threat and efficacy information," he explains. "So often, the discussion is that there are very serious impacts on the horizon and action needs to be taken now, but there’s not much detail on action that could be taken."

Adding more context to stories might help round out the current narrative. "There’s such noise and chaos around a lot of big stories, and people just take these top-line items and don’t really dig deeper into what are the underlying issues. I think that’s been a big problem," Glaser explains. Slate has been doing explanatory journalism for years with its Explainer column, and other sites, like Vox and The Upshot (an offshoot of the New York Times) are beginning to follow a similar model, hoping to add context to news stories by breaking them down into their component parts. According to Glaser, that's reason for optimism. "I think news organizations do have a responsibility to frame things better," he says. "They should give more context and frame things so that people can understand what’s going on."

But Hayhoe thinks that we need more than just scientists or the media—we need to engage openly with one another.

"If you look at science communication [in Greek and Roman times] there were no scientific journals, it wasn’t really an elite field of correspondence between the top brains of the age. It was something that you discussed in the Forum, in the Agora, in the markets," she says. "That’s the way science used to be, and then science evolved into this Ivory Tower."

One organization that's trying to bring the conversation down from the Ivory Tower and into the lives of ordinary citizens is MIT's Climate CoLab, part of the university's Center for Collective Intelligence, which seeks to solve the world's most complex problems through crowdsourcing collective intelligence. Without even signing up for an account, visitors interested in all aspects of the climate change can browse a number of online proposals, written by people from all over the world, which seek to solve problems from energy supply to transportation. If a user wants to become more involved, they can create a profile and comment on proposals, or vote for them. Proposals—which can be submitted by anyone—go through various rounds of judging, both by CoLab users and expert judges. Winning proposals present their ideas in a conference at MIT, in front of experts and potential implementers. 

"One of the things that's novel and unique about the Climate CoLab is the degree to which we're not just saying 'Here's what's happening,' or 'Here's how you should change your opinions,'" Thomas Malone, the CoLab's principal investigator, explains. "What we're doing in the Climate CoLab is saying, 'What can we do, as the world?' And you can help figure that out.'"

Climate change is a tragedy of the commons, meaning that it requires collective action that runs counter to individual desires. From a purely self-interested standpoint, it might not be in your best interest to give up red meat and stop flying on airplanes so that, say, all of Bangladesh can remain above sea level or southeast China doesn't completely dry out—that change requires empathy, selflessness and a long-term vision. That's not an easy way of thinking, and it runs counter to many Americans' strong sense of individualism. But by the time that every human on Earth suffers enough from the effects of rising temperatures that they can no longer ignore the problem, it will be too late.

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Creating an Effective Introductory Paragraph for an Essay

Learning Objectives:

  • Identify the four components of an effective introductory paragraph.
  • Create a hook for an introductory paragraph.

LESSON
The introduction is the first thing that readers will encounter when they begin reading your essayA short piece of writing that focuses on at least one main idea. Some essays are also focused on the author's unique point of view, making them personal or autobiographical, while others are focused on a particular literary, scientific, or political subject. . Just as you want to make the best impression when you first meet someone, you want to make sure that your introduction draws your reader in from the start. In this lesson, you will learn four things that a good introductory paragraph should do: hookIn writing, a device used to grab a readers' attention, often in the form of interesting, surprising, or provocative information. the reader, introduce the topicThe subject of a reading. , set the toneThe feeling or attitude that a writer expresses toward a topic. The words the writer chooses express this tone. Examples of tones can include: objective, biased, humorous, optimistic, and cynical, among many others. , and present the thesisAn overall argument, idea, or belief that a writer uses as the basis for a work..

Hook the Reader

Creating an interesting hook is essential for grabbing your reader's attention. Here are several techniques that you can use to appeal to your readers:

  • Surprising facts or statistics
  • Humor
  • A relevant quote
  • A compelling anecdoteA brief, interesting story that writers often use to demonstrate a point within a work. or story
  • An historical reference
  • A pop-culture reference
  • A thought-provoking definition

Another technique to hook the reader is to ask a question. However, think about this option carefully before using it; many writers overuse this technique and ask questions that are too simple and not provocativeDescribes something that causes interest, debate, argument, or deeper thought. enough. You will often find that replacing an introductory question with another hook technique will be more engaging for your reader.

You may find it challenging to create a hook because some topics are not as interesting as others. However, try your best to engage your reader's attention by trying different techniques until you find the right angle for your introduction.

Below are examples of three different techniques used to create three distinct hooks for the following thesis:

Thesis: The United States needs to develop more nuclear energy plants in the next ten years to combat global warming.

Surprising facts or statistics: In his film, An Inconvenient Truth, former Vice President Al Gore claims that if the glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica continue to melt at their current rate, global sea levels will rise by 20 feet by the year 2050. If sea levels actually rise this much, large populations of people will be displaced as their homes are flooded. In fact, over half of Florida and much of Manhattan in New York will be covered with water.

A pop-culture reference: In the movie Waterworld, starring Kevin Costner, Earth is completely covered in water after polar ice caps have melted due to global warming. Although it was set in the distant future, scientists say the effects of global warming could actually submerge parts of the United States in as little as forty years.

An historical reference: In 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, located in the Soviet Union (now known as Ukraine) melted down, exploded, and released massive amounts of radioactive material into the air. It was the first Level 7 nuclear disaster in history. A second occurred in 2011 in Japan at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant, which melted down after it was flooded by a tsunami—a giant wave created by the most powerful earthquake that Japan had ever experienced.

Introduce the Topic

As you can see in the examples above, the topic can often be introduced as part of the hook. Sometimes, though, a clarifying statement needs to be included so that the reader is clear on the direction you plan on taking in your particular essay. This is most noticeable in the third example where the historical references seem to imply that the essay will be about the dangers of nuclear power plants. A transitional sentence introducing the benefits of nuclear energy as the topic would need to work as a bridge from the hook to the thesis.

Set the Tone

If you have ever received an invitation to an event like a wedding, you will notice that it sets the tone for the event. In the same way, an introduction sets the tone for the rest of your essay. Use the introduction to let your readers know whether they will be reading an academic, sarcasticDescribes a way of speaking or writing that occurs when your words to mean the opposite of what you really feel. This is done to be insulting, make a point, or express humor., ironicDescribes something that is funny or odd because it is not what is expected., or sincere piece. Formal writings tend to use third-person pronouns and avoid slang, contractionsA word that is a shorter form of a longer word or group of words that is made by leaving out sounds and/or letters. Example: can't is a contraction for cannot., and jargonTechnical language pertaining to a specific activity and used by a particular group of people.. What is appropriate for a blogA website that hosts a series of articles, photos, and other postings, sometimes by a single writer (blogger) or by a community of contributors. entry or a text message may not be appropriate for an essay.

An essay outlining the necessity of more nuclear power plants in the U.S. is a fairly serious subject. In light of a relatively recent nuclear reactor meltdown, some of your audience may be turned off if you begin your essay in a lighthearted way, so you may want to avoid using humor in such situations. Understanding your audience and subject will allow you to make the best choices as you create your introduction.

Present Your Thesis

The thesis statement is the controlling ideaThe specific idea that controls a paragraph, including the purpose, subject, and the writer's point of view. of your essay and should always be explicitlyA clear statement that is made known without leaving any room for doubt. stated in your introduction unless the assignment tells you to do otherwise. It includes both the topic you are discussing and the point you are making about it. Here is an example thesis:

Thesis: The United States needs to develop more nuclear energy plants in the next ten years to combat global warming.

In a shorter essay, you will often combine the hook, introduce your topic, and present your thesis all in one paragraphA selection of a writing that is made up of sentences formed around one main point. Paragraphs are set apart by a new line and sometimes indentation.. One paragraph is often enough as each element may only require a sentence or two. However, longer pieces of writing generally require a longer hook, introduction of the topic, and thesis. In fact, you may devote multiple paragraphs to each. Also, keep in mind that you may choose to create the introduction after you complete your essay, as you will see what you have written and know what fits best in the introduction.

+ PRACTICAL APPLICATION

In the job application process, employers first "meet" potential employees through their cover lettersA letter that is sent along with a resume that provides context and more information for the reader. and resumesA brief written history of a person's education, work, and volunteer experience, submitted for the purpose of obtaining a job.. If those documents do not represent you in the best possible manner, you may not be called in for an interview, even if you are the most capable person for the position.

Your introduction to an essay or business report is equally essential. Your instructors generally have to read your essay no matter how poorly it starts, but a strong introduction will increase the likelihood of you receiving a good grade since the instructor will approach the rest of the essay with good expectations. However, in the professional world, your boss and clients do not need to read your writing if they do not want to. When you ensure that your writing begins as strongly as it can, you increase the odds that it will be read.

+ EXAMPLE

Read the paragraph below, and then consider the answers to the questions that follow.

In October 2013, the federal government was shut down for 16 days. During that time, large numbers of government employees were not allowed to report for work, and national parks were closed. The public was quick to blame anyone and everyone for the shutdown, from the Republicans to the Democrats and everyone in between. Of course, the president was not exempt from criticism. In one instance, a national TV news host announced as fact inflammatory information about the president that she had received from a website. Unfortunately for her, the information came from a parody news website, an organization that creates fake news stories, and the information reported was not true. The journalist's mistake demonstrates that if even experienced journalists have difficulty deciphering truth from fiction, then it is equally easy for students to use unreliable materials. High school and college writing instructors must work together to equip their students with the tools to differentiate between credible and non-credible sources and to understand the importance of using accurate information.

1. What strategy does the writer use to hook the reader?

Historical reference

2. How does the writer introduce the topic/set the background?

By demonstrating the widespread problem of untrustworthy sources.

3. What tone does the writer set?

The author uses an academic tone, third-person point of view.

4. What is the author's thesis?

High school and college writing instructors must work together to equip their students with the tools to differentiate between credible and non-credible sources and to understand the importance of using accurate information.

Now, using the same thesis as the paragraph above, notice how an effective hook is developed using a different technique.

Thesis: High school and college writing instructors must work together to equip their students with the tools to differentiate between credible and non-credible sources and to understand the consequences of using inaccurate information.

Hook using a personal anecdote:

When I was in high school, one of my friends often used Wikipedia as a resource for her essays. She then doctored her papers with fake citations and bibliographies. I couldn't understand how our teachers never figured out that she used counterfeit sources. However, I recently heard that she was removed from her college for academic dishonesty. She will be able to return next term, but only on the condition that she never conducts herself so unethically again.

+ YOUR TURN

Read the paragraph below, and then answer the following questions.

In the United States, wind turbines are responsible for the deaths of between 100,000 to 400,000 birds per year. If wind turbines continue to be built at the same rate as they are today in 2013, the American Bird Conservancy estimates that over a million birds per year will die due to wind turbines; however, with coal-fired power plants using nonrenewable fuel to power them and the recent meltdown of nuclear reactors in Japan, many believe that we must adopt wind power in order to continue to power our nation. Despite the problems with wind energy, the federal government must provide the wind energy sector with the same subsidies as they have historically given the oil and gas industry if we want to be an energy-independent nation.

  1. What strategy does the writer use to hook the reader?
  1. How does the writer introduce the topic/set the background?

    By introducing the issues with our two main energy sources.

  1. What tone does the writer set?

    The author uses an informative, persuasive, and knowledgeable tone.

  1. What is the author's thesis?

    Despite the problems with wind energy, the federal government must provide the wind energy sector with the same subsidies as they have historically given the oil and gas industry if we want to be an energy-independent nation.

Now, develop an effective hook for the same thesis used in the paragraph above using a different technique.

Thesis: Despite the problems with wind energy, the federal government must provide the wind energy sector with the same subsidies as they have historically given the oil and gas industry if we want to be an energy-independent nation.

Historical Reference:

Wind turbines are popping up all over the nation. Whether you are on the coast of New England or on the plains of Texas, wind farms are increasingly more common. While they may seem like a fairly recent invention, the first wind turbines ever recorded were used well over 2,000 years ago in Iran. With blades made of sails, they were used to grind grain and draw water up for both drinking and irrigation. Windmills continued to be used in a similar fashion until the late 1800s when they aided in the production of electricity.

+ METACOGNITIVE QUESTIONS

Which hook technique do you tend to use? Why?

Why should you sometimes avoid beginning an introduction with a question?

I generally like to begin my writing with a personal story because it is easiest for me to relate new ideas to my own experiences.

I like beginning my essays with questions; however, I realize that sometimes the questions I use are not thought provoking and compelling. Another technique may better engage my readers in the future.

Developed by The NROC Project. Copyright ©2018 Monterey Institute for Technology and Education

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