ENG 3U: Anecdotal Introductions

In Grade 9 and/or Grade 10, you learned how to write a general to specific introduction. In a general to specific introduction, the writer begins with a general discussion of the topic; she narrows the focus with the subsequent sentences until she reaches her thesis, her most specific sentence in the introduction.

Given the subjective nature of your taxonomies, an anecdotal introduction is a better fit. An anecdote is simply a story that we tell because it is interesting; thus, the  anecdotal introduction prepares the reader for the thesis by telling a relevant story. Because we don’t need to move from the general to the specific, the thesis in an anecdotal introduction does not have to be the last sentence.

Let’s imagine that I am writing an essay about video games and learning. The classes in my taxonomy are:

  • open world games (reward exploration and creativity, like Minecraft)
  • puzzle games (offer increasingly challenging puzzles to the player, like Portal)
  • skill-based games (constantly teach new methods of gameplay, such as new powers and abilities)
  • simulation/strategy games (require players to make decisions based on long-term implications, such as Civilization)

In order to write an anecdotal introduction, I need to tell a story that is relevant to the thesis; my anecdote also needs to last for the entire length of the paragraph.  Look at the example below:

A few years ago, I was asked to present at the Faculty of Education about video games and education. The presentation was part of a media conference featuring presenters and educators from across South-Western Ontario. I was so excited: it was not only my first presentation at a conference, but also the first time I was given any time to discuss gaming and learning with my colleagues.  Unfortunately, however, no teachers showed up for my talk; in fact, the organizers had to send up a few high school students to my room to provide an audience. Embarrassing. I consoled myself with the thought that  my colleagues were simply more interested in the other talks. After all, the other presentations were stellar; had I not been presenting, I would have gladly attended any of them. After a day or two, however, I realized that my colleague’s lack of interest may also reflect their limited understanding of the medium. Because they have had little experience with gaming, they don’t see its relevance to the classroom: in truth, video games are incredibly versatile and powerful teaching tools.

Clearly, my thesis is  video games are incredibly versatile and powerful teaching tools. The anecdote that precedes it provides context, and prepares the reader for my taxonomy.

A few things to consider about an anecdotal introduction:

it should feel somewhat personal, or at the very least, human. After all, it is a story about someone, right?

it could also be a story that you imagine. In this scenario, you ask the reader to put herself in a particular place at a particular place. (“Think back to your first day of high school. Do you remember how terrified you were when you first saw the cafeteria? It was a sprawling jungle, full of wild animals ready to pounce if you showed any fear.”)


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