How to write an essay introduction

The introduction to an essay is really important to get right. Many people have difficulties with these introductions and want to know how to write an essay introduction which will impress readers.

As a general rule you should use words and phrases from the essay title in your introductory sentence. This shows that you have understood what you are expected to write and helps you focus on the topic.

You need to explain in your introductory paragraph precisely what the reader can expect in the essay. It is necessary to provide the reader with a broad overview of the subject and then you should narrow this down to introduce your thesis statement or hypothesis which will be the overall point the essay is trying to make. This will come at the end, or towards the end of the introductory paragraph. Don’t over generalise in the introduction, or the reader will become confused, and don’t give too many details. You can expand on your statement in the main body of the essay.

 

You need to start with the hook or bait that will encourage the reader to read further. Tutors and lecturers really don’t want to read the same sentences or ideas over and over again, so try to come up with an original was of presenting your argument.

You may wish to provide the reader with some background information about the topic, but don’t go into your argument in depth. That will come in the later paragraphs in the main body of the essay. Sometimes it’s useful to ask yourself the following question: -

Basically, the context belongs in your introduction, while evidence should go into the main body of the essay.

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Be careful not to fall into the trap of writing a clichéd introduction. Some people use hackneyed sentences that have almost become conventions. However, they have been so overused that although they began as originality they have long since lost their appeal. One of the clichéd conventions is to begin your introduction with a definition of words or terms. This will probably bore the reader, who already knows what the word or term means. If you start in this way the reader will probably lose interest and not really want to read further. Of course, a tutor will have to read the whole of your essay, but if he or she is bored you will not get a good grade for it.

If your essay is not about a scientific subject, you could use an anecdote to attract the reader. For example, if you are writing about an author, then you could use an anecdote about his or her childhood. Anecdotes are generally interesting, especially if they are not famous ones. Having said this, it is perhaps not a very good idea to include statistics, quotations and detailed information in your introductory paragraph.

Don’t include any irrelevant information in your introduction. You can always write what you feel like writing if it helps you, but remember that you will have to edit your introduction ruthlessly when you finish the first draft of the essay.

Here, briefly, is what you actually need to include in your introduction.

  • A ‘hook’ to capture the attention (and interest) of your reader.
  • Your topic
  • How you feel about your topic or thesis.

Sometimes you might find that you are spending far too long on crafting your introduction. This may put you under pressure because you have a deadline to meet. There is no hard and fast rule which states that you must write the introduction to an essay first. Think about the introduction but write the main body of the essay and come back to it later. If you have written the main body and the conclusion of your essay, you may well find that it is easier to write the introduction. The order you write your paragraphs is immaterial as long as you do some very careful editing when the essay is finished so that the paragraphs are in order and your writing flows well.

In the introduction you could make some points that the reader will find surprising, or that he or she could disagree with, being controversial often means that the reader will become engaged with the topic and think carefully about it. The reader will want to read on to find out how you develop your argument.

Writing the ‘hook’

Draft a few attention grabbers and test them out on your fellow students, friends and/or family members. If they react to them (or at least one of them) with shock or surprise, then you have a winning first sentence for your introduction. You need never worry again about how to write an essay introduction. On the other hand, if they don’t react in the way you would like, go back and rethink your ideas.

You could use a surprising fact or a statistic that will shock or surprise to ‘set the scene’ for your essay. Don’t use something that you are thinking of using to help you justify your thesis statement. Statistics and facts that clearly show your readers why your subject is important make very good hooks.

If you are writing either a personal essay or a political one, you should use your opening sentence to hook your readers’ emotions. This can be done by narrating a tragic incident that has happened to you or a member of your family in a personal essay, or you could write about a hardship that you managed to overcome, for example how you had to struggle to find the money to pay for your tuition fees. Perhaps you had to work as well as study to get enough money to continue your studies. Whatever you write, it should really have happened to you. A real personal experience is more convincing than a made up one, because you are writing from the heart.

If you are writing a political essay, you might consider writing about an election campaign that you were a part of, or about an incident at a polling booth, or perhaps an example of intimidation. Alternatively, if you are writing about a famous politician, you could include an anecdote that is little known about him or her that directly illustrates your thesis statement.

If you are writing a less formal essay, you could include a hook that is a humorous anecdote. However, it would not be appropriate to use such an anecdote in a formal essay.

Next we come to the persuasive essay: think about asking a pertinent question at the beginning of it. For example, you might pose the question, ‘What would you do if you were stranded on a desert island? That’s what happened to some survivors of a plane crash recently.’ Be careful with the question though, as if the rubric for the essay contained a prompt question, it should not be repeated as it stands in your introduction.

You should link your hook to your topic as it must be linked in some way to the main body of the essay. You can begin with a broad overview in order to demonstrate how the hook is relevant to your essay. Use words such as ‘similarly’ or ‘however’ to home in on your broader focus and context. In other words, move from the particular to more general.

You need to ensure that your readers understand the context of your essay. This means that they need to be given some background information. You can never assume that your readers will automatically understand the whole background. Sometimes the ages of your reads will be different, and if they grew up in different times, they may not understand precisely what the era you are writing about was all about. Equally if you are writing about a culture different to that of your readers, explanations of certain aspects of that culture will need to be given.

If you are writing a scientific paper which will be read by laypeople rather than experts, you will need to define the key terms you are going to use. The sooner you do this in your paper the better. If you are writing a legal essay or a political one, you should also consider giving definitions of key terms in the introduction. This means that readers know where the definitions are, and these can easily be found when the reader needs to refer to them (not all readers will necessarily remember the meaning of a term as they read your paper). In political essays some terms have different meanings to their usual ones when used in everyday communication.

When you have established the context of your topic in your argumentative essay, you need to state the whole point of it. You should use the thesis statement to explicitly communicate this.

Establish your authority and don’t be tempted to pad out the essay or the introduction with waffle and fluff. be direct and to the point. Write assertively and with confidence. You are the expert on this topic. Don’t, for example write in the introduction that you ‘will attempt to demonstrate the connection between’ Simply make a claim or statement and continue.

The introduction is intricately connected to the main body of your essay. Throughout it you will be making points that are provable, true and very specific. Of course, your introduction should be unique, so stamp your character on it. You will be proving, or at the very least, attempting to prove that your thesis statement is true. Failing that you will need to convince your readers that it is probably true.

Writing the whole essay

You should now be more confident about how to write an essay introduction, and once you have mastered this part of the essay, you should also be able to write the main body of the essay, linking it to the introduction and your thesis statement.

However, if you are concerned that you may not be able to write a good essay, perhaps because you are not an English native speaker, there are ways to ensure that your essay gets good grades. You can contact us and have our professional writers write your essay for you. Alternatively, ask us to proof read and edit it. The choice is yours, and as we offer a completely confidential service, no one will ever know that you have used our services.

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