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General Essay Writing Tips

 

 

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Introduction Paragraphs ..

.

It is true that the first impression—whether it’s a first meeting with a person or the first sentence of a paper—sets the stage for a lasting impression. The introductory paragraph of any paper, long or short, should start with a sentence that peaks the interest of readers. In a typical essay, that first sentence leads into two or three other statements that provide details about the writer’s subject or process. All of these sentences build up to the essay’s thesis statement.

The introduction paragraph typically has:

  • Attention-Getter (Lead-in)
  • Set Up for the Thesis
  • Thesis/Essay Map

Attention Getters & Lead-ins

To get a paper off to a great start, writers should try to have a first sentence that engages their reader. This first sentence should be broadly related to the topic of the essay.

Ways writers can begin:
Paradoxical or Intriguing Statement
Shocking Statement or Statistic
Rhetorical Question
Anecdote
Statement of the Problem
Proverb, Maxim, or Strong Statement

Set Up for a Thesis

After the attention getter or lead-in, writers need to gradually narrow the broad subject towards the thesis.

Gradually narrowing can:
provide background information,
explain underlying information,
describe the complexity of the issue,
introduce various layers of the subject, and

help transition from these more broad ideas to the narrow thesis.

Thesis Statements

A thesis statement manages to encapsulate an essay’s main argument in a succinct, one-sentence comment. Beginner writers often times find it useful to create an essay map thesis, where the thesis briefly lists the areas that will be discussed in the essay.

A Thesis Statement:
has a clearly stated opinion,

but does not bluntly announce the opinion ("In this essay I will…"),
is narrow enough to write a focused essay,
but is also broad enough to write at least 3 body paragraphs,
is clearly stated in specific terms,
is easily recognized as the main idea,
is forceful and direct,
is not softened with token phrases ("in my opinion" or "I think"), and
can list the 3 main points that will be made
.

In the Introduction Paragraph
NEVER EVER EVER. . .

bluntly announce the essay’s intent ("In this essay I will…),
make unreasonable statements,
apologize for the material that is being written ("In my humble opinion…"),
go into a detailed account of the writing,
include random information that has nothing to do with the essay,

use an encyclopedia or dictionary definition ("According to Webster’s…), and
dilly-dally. Get to it. Move confidently into the essay.

Question: How is this a graphical representation of an introduction Paragraph?

Answer: Because it starts broad, and gradually narrows towards a focused, but not overly specific thesis. The thesis is specific enough to fully explore the essay, but it’s not so specific that there is nothing more to write about.

Sample Introduction Paragraph

……..[Attention-Getter] After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Towers and the Pentagon, the debate surrounding racial profiling in airports intensified. Many people believed that profiling was the best way to identify possible terrorists, but many others worried about violations of civil liberties. While some airports began to target passengers based solely on their Middle Eastern origins, others instituted random searches instead. [Begin setting-up the thesis] Neither of these techniques seems likely to eliminate terrorism. Now many experts in the government and in airport security are recommending the use of a national ID card or Safe Traveler Card. [Thesis] If every US citizen had such a card, airlines could screen for terrorists more effectively than they do now and avoid procedures that single out individuals solely on the basis of race.

Taken from College Writers pg. 727

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How to Write an Essay Introduction

Five Parts: Sample Essay Hooks & Introductions Hooking Your Reader Creating Your Context Presenting Your Thesis Bringing It All Together Community Q&A

The introduction of your essay serves two important purposes. First, it gets your reader interested in the topic and encourages them to read what you have to say about it. Second, it gives your reader a roadmap of what you’re going to say and the overarching point you’re going to make – your thesis statement. A powerful introduction grabs your reader’s attention and keeps them reading. [1]

Steps

Sample Essay Hooks & Introductions

Part 1

Hooking Your Reader

  1. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 1

    1
    Identify your audience. The first sentence or two of your introduction should pull the reader in. You want anyone reading your essay to be fascinated, intrigued, or even outraged. You can’t do this if you don’t know who your likely readers are. [2]

    • If you’re writing a paper for a class, don’t automatically assume your instructor is your audience. If you write directly to your instructor, you’ll end up glossing over some information that is necessary to show that you properly understand the subject of your essay.
    • It can be helpful to reverse-engineer your audience based on the subject matter of your essay. For example, if you’re writing an essay about a women’s health issue for a women’s studies class, you might identify your audience as young women within the age range most affected by the issue.
  2. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 2

    2
    Use the element of surprise. A startling or shocking statistic can grab your audience’s attention by immediately teaching them something they didn’t know. Having learned something new in the first sentence, people will be interested to see where you go next. [3]

    • For this hook to be effective, your fact needs to be sufficiently surprising. If you’re not sure, test it on a few friends. If they react by expressing shock or surprise, you know you’ve got something good.
    • Use a fact or statistic that sets up your essay, not something you’ll be using as evidence to prove your thesis statement. Facts or statistics that demonstrate why your topic is important (or should be important) to your audience typically make good hooks.
  3. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 3

    3
    Tug at your reader’s heart-strings. Particularly with personal or political essays, use your hook to get your reader emotionally involved in the subject matter of your story. You can do this by describing a related hardship or tragedy. [4]

    • For example, if you were writing an essay proposing a change to drunk driving laws, you might open with a story of how the life of a victim was changed forever after they were hit by a drunk driver.
  4. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 4

    4
    Offer a relevant example or anecdote. In your reading and research for your essay, you may have come across an entertaining or interesting anecdote that, while related, didn’t really fit into the body of your essay. Such an anecdote can work great as a hook. [5]

    • For example, if you’re writing an essay about a public figure, you might include an anecdote about an odd personal habit that cleverly relates back to your thesis statement.
    • Particularly with less formal papers or personal essays, humorous anecdotes can be particularly effective hooks.
  5. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 5

    5
    Ask a thought-provoking question. If you’re writing a persuasive essay, consider using a relevant question to draw your reader in and get them actively thinking about the subject of your essay. [6]

    • For example: “What would you do if you could play God for a day? That’s exactly what the leaders of the tiny island nation of Guam tried to answer.”
    • If your essay prompt was a question, don’t just repeat it in your paper. Make sure to come up with your own intriguing question.
  6. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 6

    6
    Avoid clichés and generalizations. Generalizations and clichés, even if presented to contrast with your point, won’t help your essay. In most cases, they’ll actually hurt by making you look like an unoriginal or lazy writer. [7]

    • Broad, sweeping generalizations may ring false with some readers and alienate them from the start. For example, “everyone wants someone to love” would alienate someone who identified as aromantic or asexual.

Part 2

Creating Your Context

  1. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 7

    1
    Relate your hook to a larger topic. The next part of your introduction explains to your reader how that hook connects to the rest of your essay. Start with a broader, more general scope to explain your hook’s relevance. [8]

    • Use an appropriate transitional word or phrase, such as “however” or “similarly,” to move from your specific anecdote back out to a broader scope.
    • For example, if you related a story about one individual, but your essay isn’t about them, you can relate the hook back to the larger topic with a sentence like “Tommy wasn’t alone, however. There were more than 200,000 dockworkers affected by that union strike.”
  2. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 8

    2
    Provide necessary background information. While you’re still keeping things relatively general, let your readers know anything that will be necessary for them to understand your main argument and the points you’re making in your essay. [9]

    • For example, if your thesis relates to how blackface was used as a means of enforcing racial segregation, your introduction would describe what blackface performances were, and where and when they occurred.
    • If you are writing an argumentative paper, make sure to explain both sides of the argument in a neutral or objective manner.
  3. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 9

    3
    Define key terms for the purposes of your essay. Your topic may include broad concepts or terms of art that you will need to define for your reader. Your introduction isn’t the place to reiterate basic dictionary definitions. However, if there is a key term that may be interpreted differently depending on the context, let your readers know how you’re using that term. [10]

    • Definitions would be particularly important if your essay is discussing a scientific topic, where some scientific terminology might not be understood by the average layperson.
    • Definitions also come in handy in legal or political essays, where a term may have different meanings depending on the context in which they are used.
  4. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 10

    4
    Move from the general to the specific. It can be helpful to think of your introduction as an upside-down pyramid. With your hook sitting on top, your introduction welcomes your readers to the broader world in which your thesis resides. [11]

    • If you’re using 2 or 3 sentences to describe the context for your thesis, try to make each sentence a bit more specific than the one before it. Draw your reader in gradually.
    • For example, if you’re writing an essay about drunk driving fatalities, you might start with an anecdote about a particular victim. Then you could provide national statistics, then narrow it down further to statistics for a particular gender or age group.

Part 3

Presenting Your Thesis

  1. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 11

    1
    Make your point. After you’ve set up the context within which you’re making your argument, tell your readers the point of your essay. Use your thesis statement to directly communicate the unique point you will attempt to make through your essay. [12]

    • For example, a thesis for an essay on blackface performance might be “Because of its humiliating and demoralizing effect on African American slaves, blackface was used less as a comedy routine and more as a way of enforcing racial segregation.”
    • Be assertive and confident in your writing. Avoid including fluff such as “In this essay, I will attempt to show….” Instead, dive right in and make your claim, bold and proud.
    • Your outline should be specific, unique, and provable. Through your essay, you’ll make points that will show that your thesis statement is true – or at least persuade your readers that it’s most likely true.
  2. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 12

    2
    Describe how you’re going to prove your point. Round out your introduction by providing your readers with a basic roadmap of what you will say in your essay to support your thesis statement. In most cases, this doesn’t need to be more than a sentence. [13]

    • If you’ve created an outline for your essay, this sentence is essentially the main subjects of each paragraph of the body of your essay.
    • For example, if you’re writing an essay about the unification of Italy, you might list 3 obstacles to unification. In the body of your essay, you would discuss details about how each of those obstacles was addressed or overcome.
    • Instead of just listing all of your supporting points, sum them up by stating “how” or “why” your thesis is true. For example, instead of saying, “Phones should be banned from classrooms because they distract students, promote cheating, and make too much noise,” you might say “Phones should be banned from classrooms because they act as an obstacle to learning.”
  3. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 13

    3
    Transition smoothly into the body of your essay. In many cases, you’ll find that you can move straight from your introduction to the first paragraph of the body. Some introductions, however, may require a short transitional sentence at the end to flow naturally into the rest of your essay. [14]

    • To figure out if you need a transition sentence, read the introduction and the first paragraph out loud. If you find yourself pausing or stumbling between the paragraphs, work in a transition to make the move smoother.
    • You can also have friends or family members read your easy. If they feel it’s choppy or jumps from the introduction into the essay, see what you can do to smooth it out.

Part 4

Bringing It All Together

  1. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 14

    1
    Read essays by other writers in your discipline. What constitutes a good introduction will vary widely depending on your subject matter. A suitable introduction in one academic discipline may not work as well in another. [15]

    • If you’re writing your essay for a class assignment, ask your instructor for examples of well-written essays that you can look at. Take note of conventions that are commonly used by writers in that discipline.
    • Make a brief outline of the essay based on the information presented in the introduction. Then look at that outline as you read the essay to see how the essay follows it to prove the writer’s thesis statement.
  2. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 15

    2
    Keep your introduction short and simple. Generally, your introduction should be between 5 and 10 percent of the overall length of your essay. If you’re writing a 10-page paper, your introduction should be approximately 1 page. [16]

    • For shorter essays under 1,000 words, keep your introduction to 1 paragraph, between 100 and 200 words.
    • Always follow your instructor’s guidelines for length. These rules can vary at times based on genre or form of writing.
  3. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 16

    3
    Write your introduction after you write your essay. Some writers prefer to write the body of the essay first, then go back and write the introduction. It’s easier to present a summary of your essay when you’ve already written it. [17]

    • As you write your essay, you may want to jot down things you want to include in your introduction. For example, you may realize that you’re using a particular term that you need to define in your introduction.
  4. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 17

    4
    Revise your introduction to fit your essay. If you wrote your introduction first, go back and make sure your introduction provides an accurate roadmap of your completed paper. Even if you wrote an outline, you may have deviated from your original plans. [18]

    • Delete any filler or unnecessary language. Given the shortness of the introduction, every sentence should be essential to your reader’s understanding of your essay.
  5. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 18

    5
    Structure your introduction effectively. An essay introduction is fairly formulaic, and will have the same basic elements regardless of your subject matter or academic discipline. While it’s short, it conveys a lot of information. [19]

    • The first sentence or two should be your hook, designed to grab your reader’s attention and get them interested in reading your essay.
    • The next couple of sentences create a bridge between your hook and the overall topic of the rest of your essay.
    • End your introduction with your thesis statement and a list of the points you will make in your essay to support or prove your thesis statement.

Community Q&A

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Add New Question

  • Question
    How do I start a paper about extreme sports that kids play?
    Alexander Peterman
    M.A., Education

    Alexander Peterman is a Private Tutor in Florida. He received his M.A. in Education from the University of Florida in 2017.

    Alexander Peterman
    M.A., Education
    Expert Answer

    I would first narrow your subject down to one sport so you can be more focused. Note that this will likely be an informative essay. After you do this, an interesting hook statement may be an anecdote describing an intense moment in that chosen sport to get your audience interested. This can be made up or from your own experience with the sport.
    Thanks!

    Yes
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  • Question
    How can I start an essay about HIV and lifestyle?
    Alexander Peterman
    M.A., Education

    Alexander Peterman is a Private Tutor in Florida. He received his M.A. in Education from the University of Florida in 2017.

    Alexander Peterman
    M.A., Education
    Expert Answer

    An effective hook statement to start your essay about this topic may be a statistic about HIV, or perhaps an anecdote about someone facing this diagnosis and trying to make positive lifestyle changes for their health.
    Thanks!

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  • Question
    How do you begin an introduction?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer

    With something interesting! This is easier said than done of course, but a good intro starts with a quote, fact, or brief story that interests the reader. If it interested you while reading or researching, it’s a great thing to start with. Just keep it short and it will be great.
    Thanks!

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  • Question
    What should I do if I’m stuck on the thesis?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer

    Skip it, write down your main points, and build the body of your essay. Once you know all the areas you want to cover, think about what links them all together, and what the main thing you’re trying to convey is.
    Thanks!

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  • Question
    How should I start a body paragraph?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer

    Start off with a mini thesis which states what the body paragraph is talking about.
    Thanks!

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  • Question
    Where do you get started with a topic and introduction?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer

    Start with the basics — what do you think about the topic? What argument can you make about it? Once you have an argument, start jotting down the evidence for the argument. This evidence will make up your paragraphs later on. If it’s easiest, just skip the introduction now and come back once you’re done — you’ll have all the ideas already drawn out.
    Thanks!

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  • Question
    My assignment is to summarize an already-written essay: could I begin by using the same introduction?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer

    To summarize, you really need to condense what’s there and put everything into your own words — this will include the introduction. It’s fine to use the content of the introduction, but make sure not to copy the writing word-for-word.
    Thanks!

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  • Question
    How can I write a short introduction about heart disease?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer

    Start with something like “Heart disease is a serious condition that takes the lives of (number) Americans every year.” Then go on to to talk about the causes of heart disease and the symptoms and warning signs, and treatment options. Maybe something about how we can encourage more people to go to the doctor to get a diagnosis before it becomes more serious.
    Thanks!

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  • Question
    What are some good statements to start with?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer

    Generally, one starts an essay with an interesting quote, fact, or story to make the reader want to continue reading. Ex. Did you know that every year…? Then you can begin to talk about background information and a thesis. A thesis usually lays out a brief summary of the points you want to make and includes your position on the topic. Ex. Dogs are ideal pets because of their loyalty to humans and their great trainability.
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  • Question
    How can I write the introduction for an essay on the effects of peer pressure among teenagers?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer

    Talk about the problem first, this way the reader can understand why you are talking about effects and so the reader gets a good background on the subject.
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    Quick Summary

    Start your introduction with a relevant story, fact, or quote that will engage readers. Then, add 2-3 sentences of background information to give your essay context, and include important dates, locations, or historical moments where applicable. Finally, include your thesis statement, which is a specific, arguable, and provable statement that answers a question about your essay topic. For example, your thesis might read: “In the modern age, online dating apps like Tinder provide a wider variety of romantic options than young people have ever had before.”

    Did this summary help you?

    Tips

    • Have friends or family members read your essay and provide you with feedback. If you’re writing for a class, you might want to exchange essays with another classmate and give each other feedback on your work.
    • If you are answering or responding to an assigned question, make sure you’ve interpreted the question correctly. The quality of your writing is irrelevant if your essay doesn’t answer the question.

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    Sources and Citations

    1. http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/intros.htm
    2. https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/audience/
    3. http://advice.writing.utoronto.ca/planning/intros-and-conclusions/
    4. http://www.umuc.edu/current-students/learning-resources/writing-center/writing-resources/parts-of-an-essay/introductions.cfm
    5. http://writing.msu.edu/how-to-write-a-good-introduction/
    6. https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/introductions/
    7. http://writing.msu.edu/how-to-write-a-good-introduction/
    8. http://advice.writing.utoronto.ca/planning/intros-and-conclusions/
    9. http://www.umuc.edu/current-students/learning-resources/writing-center/writing-resources/parts-of-an-essay/introductions.cfm
    10. http://advice.writing.utoronto.ca/planning/intros-and-conclusions/
    11. http://www.umuc.edu/current-students/learning-resources/writing-center/writing-resources/parts-of-an-essay/introductions.cfm
    12. http://www.umuc.edu/current-students/learning-resources/writing-center/writing-resources/parts-of-an-essay/introductions.cfm
    13. https://unilearning.uow.edu.au/essay/4bii.html
    14. https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/transitions/
    15. https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/introductions/
    16. http://services.unimelb.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/468862/Writing_introductions_and_conclusions_for_essays_Update_051112.pdf
    17. https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/introductions/
    18. https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/introductions/
    19. https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/introductions/

    Show more… (16)

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    D. Introductory Paragraph

    SUMMARY:

    • A good introductory paragraph 1. gets your reader’s attention, 2. introduces your topic, and 3. presents your stance on the topic (thesis).

    LINKS:

    • UCSB – The Introductory Paragraph
    • Capital Community College – Introductory Paragraphs
    • UNC Writing Center

    Right after your title is the introductory paragraph. Like an appetizer for a meal, the introductory paragraph sets up the reader’s palate and gives him a foretaste of what is to come. You want start your paper on a positive note by putting forth the best writing possible.

    Like writing the title, you can wait to write your introductory paragraph until you are done with the body of the paper. Some people prefer to do it this way since they want to know exactly where their paper goes before they make an introduction to it. When you write your introductory paragraph is a matter of personal preference.

    Your introductory paragraph needs to accomplish three main things: it must 1. grip your reader, 2. introduce your topic, and 3. present your stance on the topic (in the form of your thesis statement). If you’re writing a large academic paper, you’ll also want to contextualize your paper’s claim by discussing points other writers have made on the topic.

    There are a variety of ways this can be achieved. Some writers find it useful to put a quote at the beginning of the introductory paragraph. This is often an effective way of getting the attention of your reader:

    “Thomas Jefferson’s statement in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” seems contrary to the way he actually lived his life, bringing into question the difference between the man’s public and private lives…”

    Hmm. Interesting…Tell me more. This introduction has set off the paper with an interesting quote and makes the reader want to continue reading. How has Jefferson’s public life differed from his private life? Notice how this introduction also helps frame the paper. Now the reader expects to learn about the duality of Thomas Jefferson’s life.

    Another common method of opening a paper is to provide a startling statistic or fact. This approach is most useful in essays that relate to current issues, rather than English or scientific essays.

    “The fact that one in every five teenagers between the ages of thirteen and fifteen smokes calls into question the efficacy of laws prohibiting advertising cigarettes to children…”

    The reader is given an interesting statistic to chew on (the fact that so many children smoke) while you set up your paper. Now your reader is expecting to read an essay on cigarette advertising laws.

    When writing English papers, introducing your topic includes introducing your author and the aspect of the text that you’ll be analyzing.

    “Love is a widely felt emotion. In The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas uses the universality of love to develop a connection with his reader…”

    Here, the reader is introduced to the piece of text that will be analyzed, the author, and the essay topic. Nice.

    The previous sample introduction contains a general sentence at the beginning that bring up a very broad topic: love. From there, the introductory paragraph whittles down to something more specific:
    how Dumas uses love in his novel to develop a connection with the reader. You’d expect this paragraph to march right on down to the thesis statement,
    which belongs at the end of the introductory paragraph. Good introductory paragraphs often have this ‘funnel’ sort of format–going from something broad (such as love) to something more specific until the thesis is presented.

    Try to avoid the some of the more hackneyed openers:

    • “Have you ever wondered why…”
    • “Webster’s dictionary defines…”
    • “X is a very important issue facing America today…”
    Continue to Body Paragraphs>>

     

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