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How to Write an Essay Introduction

This is a story I want to tell you about the time I almost set myself on fire in my car while going 200 miles per hour and trying to get away from the cops.” – Fortunately, I don’t have such a story to tell, but I bet that I grabbed your attention. “How did I do that?” – you may wonder. Well, that’s what we call an effective hook. Basically, it is a catchy opening line that grabs a reader’s attention and makes them want to read further. A powerful hook and an engaging introduction are two key elements for success when writing an essay. If you may also be wondering how to write an introduction for an essay, continue to read on! This is the ultimate guide for writing a perfect essay introduction to get your readers engaged.

Introduction Definition

In a nutshell, the introduction paragraph of an essay is the first paragraph of the paper. Therefore, it is also the first thing your reader will see in your essay.

What is the purpose of an introduction paragraph? A good introduction performs two functions. Firstly, it tells the reader what you are going to be talking about in your paper; simply put, it should identify the essay topic and give some insight about the essay’s main point. Secondly, it has to evoke interest and motivate the audience to read the rest of your paper.

How Long Should an Introduction Be?

Generally, there are no strict rules about how long an introductory paragraph should be. Experienced essay writers will usually shape the lengths of their introductions with the overall length of the paper in mind. For example, if you are writing a paper following the standard five-paragraph essay structure, you would want to keep your opening clause concise and have it fit into a single paragraph. However, when writing longer papers, let’s say a 30-page paper, your introduction can take up multiple paragraphs, and even several pages.

Although no strict rules apply, experienced writers recommend that your introductory paragraph(s) be between 8% and 9% of your essay's total word count.

What Makes a Good Introduction?

A powerful introductory paragraph should meet all of these requirements:

  1. Have a hook at the beginning of the paragraph that grabs the reader’s attention.
  2. It should provide background information about your topic.
  3. It should give readers an idea about the main points and claims that will be discussed in your paper.
  4. It should provide all the necessary information in regard to time frames, characters, setting, etc.
  5. At the end of your introduction, there needs to be a clear thesis statement that reflects the main idea of your essay.

What Are the 3 Parts of an Introduction Paragraph?

What should an introduction include? It usually consists of 3 parts: a hook, connections, and a thesis statement. Let’s look at each element in detail.

Part 1: Essay Hook

A hook is one of the most effective introduction starters for an essay. A hook has the purpose of catching the reader’s attention (always in a single sentence). In other words, it is an attention grabber. 

Now, let’s answer the question “how to make an interesting hook?” There are several different strategies you can use to create a powerful hook:

•    A shocking fact
•    An anecdote 
•    A question
•    A short summary
•    A quote

And here is what to avoid when using a hook:

•    Cliches
•    Dictionary definitions
•    Generalizations
•    Sweeping statements that include words like “everywhere”, “always”, etc.

After pitching an effective hook, you should provide a broad overview of your main topic and state some background information for the subject matter of your paper. If you are wondering how to start an essay introduction, the best way to do so is by providing a broad explanation of your theme and then leading your readers into specific points. Simply put, you should first give some general information and then gradually narrow it down into your specific points.

Part 2: Connections

After you have provided a hook and some background information regarding your essay topic, move on to giving readers a better understanding of what you are going to talk about throughout your paper. In this part of your introduction, you should briefly mention your key ideas in the same order in which you will go on to discuss them, and gradually lead your reader(s) to your thesis statement.

Some of the key questions to answer in this part of your introduction are:

•    Who?
•    What?
•    Where?
•    When?
•    How?
•    Why?
•    And so on.

Answering these questions in 2-3 sentences each will help you ensure that you provide your readers with complete information about the topic of your essay. However, be sure to keep these sentences concise and straight to the point.

Your main goal is to gradually move from general information about your subject matter to something more specific (i.e. your thesis statement). To make this process simpler, think of your introduction as of an upside-down triangle. In this triangle, the attention grabber (read hook) is at the top, followed by a broader explanation of the topic, and ending with a very specific claim. Here is a simple tip for how to write an essay introduction following this “upside-down triangle” strategy:

  1. Make each sentence in your introduction a bit narrower and more specific than each previous one. This simple trick will help you draw your reader(s) into the main part of your paper gradually.
  2. Let’s say you are writing a paper about the importance of a good work-life balance. In this case, you can use a question like “Have you ever thought of how a good work-life balance can influence different spheres of your life?” or another hook, then you can continue on by providing general facts and statistics, and finally, you can narrow down your topic to match your thesis statement.

Part 3: The Thesis Statement

If you are wondering how to write an introduction in the best possible way, you should pay special attention to formulating your core statement.

Without a doubt, your paper’s thesis is the most important part. It has to be included in the introductory clause of your paper—as your entire essay revolves around this statement. In a nutshell, a thesis statement provides your audience with a summary of the paper’s key claim. Your key claim is what you are going to be revealing or arguing about in the body section of your paper. As a rule, a good thesis statement is very concise (disclosed in one sentence), accurate, specific, clear, and focused. Your thesis should typically appear at the end of your introductory paragraph/section.

To give you an even better idea of what a good thesis should look like, here is a sample statement for an essay about the importance of an adequate work-life balance:

Thesis Statement Example: “To boost the overall productivity of employees, large corporations should create comfortable and flexible working schedules for their workers, therefore, helping them have better work-life balance.”

Catchy Introductions for Different Essay Types

Although introductory paragraphs usually follow the same set structure, the content placed within its text may differ. The differences in context are defined by the type of essay you will work on, as well as its overall purpose.

When it comes to writing an academic essay, students face four key types of papers most often. These include narrative, analytical, persuasive, and personal essays. Since the purpose of each essay type is different, it is implied that different content should appear within these introductory paragraphs. Here is a complete guide for different paper types with good essay introduction examples:

Narrative Introduction

  1. A Narrative essay is a type of writing that requires the writer to tell a story. Basically, simple storytelling is the main purpose of such papers, which makes this type of essay much different from others.
  2. The hook for such paper will usually be an intriguing sneak peek into a certain part of the story that indirectly relates to the thesis statement. Additionally, when writing such an essay, a writer should ensure that every claim included in the introduction should relate to some important moments in the story that have also had a significant impact on the story’s outcome.
  3. The thesis in narrative writing is usually the theme or main lesson learned from the story.

Persuasive Introduction

  1. Persuasive Essay Writing has only one purpose – to persuade readers of something. You can do this by means of using persuasive techniques like ethos, pathos, and logos.
  2. A hook statement in such a paper can really be anything – from an interesting fact to even humor – you can use whatever strategy you wish. The key tip is to keep your hook in-line with your thesis and ensure that it can also serve as a ground for further argumentation.
  3. As a rule, writing a persuasive essay requires providing at least three supporting facts. Therefore, you should include a brief outline of each of your three points in the middle of your introduction to gradually guide readers into the main topic of your paper.
  4. Lastly, the thesis statement for such a paper should be the main claim that you are going to be arguing about. It should be a well-thought-out and confidently written sentence that briefly summarizes the point of persuasion for your entire essay.
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