How To Write A Good Essay Introduction

The introductory paragraph is the first thing your readers will read and it is the basis upon which they usually will decide whether to continue reading or not. No matter what type of essay you are writing, there are some common elements that are expected to be found in the introduction. The elements of the introduction that capture a reader’s attention, provide topic context and layout the thesis of the essay are the ones that we are going to be looking at in this article.

Though the introduction is the opening of an essay, you should write your introduction after you finish drafting your essay. This makes it easier to summarise your essay in the introduction.

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Structure of the introductory paragraph

An introduction should do the following things:

  • capture the reader’s attention
  • provide the context of the topic to the reader
  • state the thesis of the essay.

1. Capturing the reader’s attention

The introduction should begin with a "hook sentence". This is a sentence that grabs the reader’s attention, at the same time introducing the topic of the essay. This can be:

  • an interesting fact or statistic about your topic
  • a rhetorical question
  • a common misconception about the topic
  • an anecdote
  • a short summary
  • a quote

Use an interesting fact to capture the reader’s attention

One way of capturing the reader’s attention is to start with an interesting fact, statement or statistic. For example:

With recent statistics showing that, on average, a person who owns a dog lives up to 24% longer than a person who doesn’t, there’s no doubt that owning a dog can improve the quality of life of a person…

Pose a question to capture the reader’s attention

Another way to capture the reader’s attention in the introductory paragraph is to ask a rhetorical question. This is usually a good way to start an argumentative essay. The question draws forces your reader to actively think about the topic of the essay.

However, don’t just repeat the essay question as it is. Come up with your own unique and intriguing question. For example:

Global warming is a crisis that affects everyone, rich and poor, young and old. From rising ocean levels to increased daily average temperatures, the world climate is changing for the worse. How will your life be different in the coming years?

Start with a common misconception to capture the reader’s attention

Another effective trick of capturing the reader’s attention is to begin by mentioning a misconception that your readers believe to be true. For example:

Although many mistakenly believe that having a university degree is the only guarantee of getting a high paying job, there are many high paying jobs you can get without having a university degree.

Start with the thesis statement

Though we usually recommend that the introduction should end with the thesis statement, it is not punishable to open the introduction with a thesis statement. You can start directly with your thesis statement. For example:

I strongly believe that there is a direct correlation between a happiness of a family and the level of success the members of that family reach later in life.

Avoid clichés and generalizations

Generalizations and clichés can hurt your essay and put off some readers. For example, stating that "everyone to be loved" would put off someone who is aromantic or asexual.

2. Providing context

After the hook sentence comes a sentence or two about the context of your topic. This is where you answer two of the most important questions likely to be asked by the reader:

  • What is your essay about?
  • Why is this topic important?

This part of the introduction can include background information on your topic that helps to establish its context. It should connect the hook to the rest of your essay. The context can start broad and narrow down to explain the hook’s relevance.

To achieve the desired effect, use an appropriate linking words or phrases, such as "however" or "similarly," to narrow down the scope of your context.

For example, if your hook related to a story a an individual who isn’t the main point of the essay, you can narrow back to the main topic as follows: "However, Jennifer wasn’t the only one affected. There were more than…"

In this part, you can also provide the reader the background information needed to understand the topic and the points of the essay. For example, if you are writing an argumentative essay, make sure your introduction explains both sides of the argument in a neutral and objective manner.

3. State your Thesis

A thesis statement is a sentence (sometimes sentences) that summarises the objective of the essay and tells the reader what the position of the author is.

The thesis statement can be thought of as your clear and concise answer to the essay question. Use the thesis to make your point known by the reader. Avoid using phrase like, "In this essay, I am going to explain…."

This doesn’t usually have to be more than a sentence long. Since you are most likely going to create an outline for your essay before writing the introduction, use the main point of each paragraph to create a powerful thesis.

For example, if the essay question was "What were the causes of the Second Chimurenga?", your thesis statement might be something like: "There were many long term and short term causes of the Second Chimurenga, including…[the points you are going to expand in the body]."

In the body of your essay you then discuss about how each of those causes led to the Second Chimurenga.

The kind of thesis you should write depends on the type of essay you are writing, but a good thesis statement should:

  • tease the reader on what to expect in the body.
  • be short and clear.
  • be creative and unique. Try to avoid common statements such as, "This essay will talk about …."
  • create enough suspense to attract the reader to read the body of the essay.
  • be the last sentence of the introduction.

How long should an introduction be?

There are no rules as to how long an essay introduction should be. By convention, the length of the introduction should be 5-10% to the overall length of the paper by word count. This means that, for example, if you are writing a standard five-paragraph essay, the introduction may fit into a single paragraph. However, if you are writing a longer papers, let’s say a 60-page paper, your introduction might be multiple paragraphs or even several pages long.

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Sydney Chako

Mathematics, Chemistry and Physics teacher at Sytech Learning Academy. From Junior Secondary School to Tertiary Level Engineering Mathematics and Engineering Science.


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