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How to Write an Introduction Paragraph for an Essay

Essay paper writing

Academic writing

7755

What is an Introduction Paragraph?

An introduction is the first paragraph of your essay and the most important part of the whole paper. It aims to introduce your topic to the reader and bring them to your key statement, which should end the paragraph. The above definition is the answer to the question: what is the purpose of the introduction in an essay, which gives you a general idea of how to write it.

Since this purpose is very specific, you need to create an engaging and concise paragraph, as it would be inappropriate to expatiate in this part of the essay. Just present your viewpoint on a particular matter and make sure your introduction fulfills the following functions:

  • It captures the attention of your audience and convinces them to read further with due interest;
  • It demonstrates your knowledge of the subject;
  • It shows your dedication and your interest in the topic.

The importance of the introductory paragraph for the overall success of an essay can hardly be overestimated. Even fairly good and meaningful body paragraphs may not deliver your message and support the thesis statement in case the introduction paragraph falls flat. Unfortunately, there are many ways to fail your essay, no matter how good it may seem at first glance, and a wrong introduction is just one of the handiest ways of doing it.

Essay Introduction Structure

Your essay introduction structure is essential for the logical expression of ideas and for making your essay clear to the reader. Structure your thoughts first, ensure they go from one conceptual block to another, and this is the best way how to write a good introduction for an essay.

Block 1: Hook or Attention Grabber

This is the part intended to catch your reader’s attention. Further, we will consider how to reach this goal with a startling fact, joke, dialogue, or an appropriate quote.

Block 2: Transition

It’s a good idea to outline in general what you are going to talk about, gradually getting more specific as you approach the thesis statement (Block 3). You can list your main points or proceed with a set of questions, narrowing your ideas and leading straight to the thesis statement. “Who, what, where, and when” is a good line of points for connecting your hook with your thesis.

The blocks 1-2 represent the optimal essay introduction format. However, sometimes, it can be quite difficult to follow. Without knowing how to write a good introduction for an essay, but having heard that it should be broad, some people go too wordy and fail to establish the connections between the hook and the thesis.

An extensive introduction can give your reader a misleading clue, confusing them about the direction your narration will take and what to expect from it. A useful tip on how to write an introduction for an essay is to begin with relatively general statements and then to narrow your writing to the thesis statement. Hold this line and don’t go off-topic; this will help you to stay within the format guidelines. Also, try to avoid such phrases as “In this essay, I am going to tell/prove/explain...” in this block of your intro. Such phrases have nothing to do with connecting your hook with the thesis.

Block 3: Thesis Statement

Thesis statement is a sentence, which serves as a cornerstone of your introduction and a foundation for the entire essay. A huge mistake is to miss it in the introduction, or to cut it into smaller pieces, scattered here and there, especially in the body of your writing.

How to Write an Essay Introduction - The First Sentence

Everything can go wrong from the very beginning. It is necessary to remember that the first sentence of your intro is meant to attract the reader’s attention and give them a general idea of your work. Strangely enough, but a lot of good students or people who can write almost perfect in-depth studies and high-quality essays do exactly the opposite thing. They start their paper with dull, boring, or meaningless statements.

Let us delve into how to start an essay introduction. Imagine the task of writing an essay about the environmental problems of a certain region. What dull distractors, instead of useful attention-grabbers, can you see in the first sentence?

“Environmental problems raise public alertness…”

“Environment is important...”

"Environmental agenda comes into focus...”

Some other writers preferring to take the bull by the horns would probably start their introductory paragraph with something like:

“Environmental situation in the region…”

Your main goal is to engage your readers to get acquainted with your essay, so you should handle the intro part properly. Here some ideas and helpful tips on how to grab the attention of your audience.

Startling info

The information you provide in your first sentence must be startling for your reader. This fact should not be a revelation or something totally new. It can be just a pertinent statement, perhaps, little known but accurate and verifiable, and explicitly introducing the further narration.

It is advisable to immediately follow up this startling info with a sentence or two of elaboration.

Anecdote

A short and funny story to illustrate your point can be a perfect attention-grabber when it is relevant and well-placed. Use this kind of openings very carefully and with a good taste, bearing in mind that anecdote you want to use is indeed appropriate.

Dialogue

Another good opening is a short suitable dialogue. There is no need to identify the speakers because what they say is more important. To make your point, you can only write two or three lines. After that, elaborate on the point further with one or two sentences.

A Quote

Sometimes it is apt to start your essay with a quote. In some cases, it can even be from a piece of classic literature or poetry, but you should be careful, as it may lead your narration too far from the matter at the very beginning, and you would need to explain how exactly this quote relates to your topic.

How Long Should an Essay Introduction be?

Classical 5-paragraph essay scheme is one paragraph for the introduction, three paragraphs for the main body, and one paragraph for the conclusion, with 5-7 sentences in each section. With this structure, your intro is about ⅕ of your entire essay, but this is not a strict rule to obey. Besides, the length of your introduction depends largely on the overall length of the paper. For instance, for a 5-page essay, your introduction should be about half a page, i.e., about 1/10. But a 30-page article may require a 2-page introduction (about 1/20 or so).

Introductions for Specific Types of Essays

The general considerations and recommendations given above are still applicable to specific types of essays. However, there are small differences that should be taken into account.

Argumentative Essay Introduction

Which statement best describes the introduction of an argumentative essay? An argumentative essay, which is also called a persuasive essay, requires the student to state their point on some controversial issue and provide well-reasoned arguments in order to convince the reader. Therefore, a good introduction for an argumentative essay can be similar to a strong opening statement a lawyer makes in court during a trial. The matter is presented with the background and main argument highlighted in a clear and logical way.

In addition to the aforementioned guidelines on your first sentence, it should be noted that the hook for argumentative essay introduction paragraph can also be an interesting question, a personal story, or a surprising/important statistics. This will give your reader a clear indication of what you are going to write about.

The transition sentence of your persuasive essay introduction, the one that should connect your hook with the thesis statement, has an additional task to provide your reader with some background. This is usually a brief explanation of the context that gives your reader a better understanding of your opinion.

The thesis of your argumentative essay asserts your position on a particular issue. That is why this kind of essay is called argumentative since your thesis is not a fact but an opinion. Your reader may disagree with you, so you should explain your standpoint and provide the necessary evidence.

Actually, opinion-based thesis requires corresponding hook and transition. All this explains the specifics of how to write an introduction for an argumentative essay.

Compare and Contrast Essay Introduction

In this type of essay, you are supposed to feature similarities and differences of a phenomenon under consideration. Nevertheless, first, you need to explain why it is important to perform this particular comparison and what to expect from it. Your introduction serves this purpose.

Do not compare and contrast points in your introduction. Leave it for the body of your writing. Instead, concentrate on why you think that such a comparison is needed, and perhaps what comparison criteria you will choose. The standard hook-transition-thesis sequence still works for the structure of such an essay.

Narrative Essay Introduction

Write the introductory paragraph of your narrative essay bearing in mind that you are going to tell a story, but not in the introduction. Here, the hook-transition-thesis structure is still applicable, though maybe not that evidently. You may use all kinds of hooks in your narrative essay introduction, being limited only by the style requirements. The same goes for the details. A narrative essay is built on and around them. Just do not start telling your story in the intro, rather introduce it to the reader and leave it for the body of your narrative essay.

Begin with attracting your reader’s attention. Use a little-known fact, quote, dialogue, or a joke. Then give some interesting background and logically present your thesis statement. The thesis is somewhat tricky in narrative essays as you do not need, at least directly, to argue, compare, judge, or defend any points. However, you still need to present your story, so think of the best ways of doing that.

When to Write an Introduction for an Essay?

introduction paragraph

You are not obliged to start the writing process from the introduction. Sometimes it is better to finish the entire body of your essay together with the conclusion, and only then come back to the introduction, as this would be the moment when you know for sure what points you are going to introduce. A lot of writers work this way. However, others would do exactly the opposite: they write the introduction first and then go ahead, creating other parts.

You can try both ways, or even a combined one: write your introduction, the remaining part, then change the thesis statement and rewrite the introduction, come back to the body with the necessary corrections, and fix the conclusion accordingly. Just make sure you are not lost in the process of constant interchanges. Nonetheless, do not get disappointed even if you find that the latter case is yours. Such situations can be useful since you will no longer ask the question “what is an introduction in an essay?” You will learn a lesson, or maybe even get valuable insight from your experience, and it will be much easier for you to come up with your future essays.

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