Introduction: Tips for Writing the Most Important Part of the Essay
Writing tips for college students writing essays. Find methods that can help you write an attention-grabbing introductory paragraph to your essay.
by Stephanie Norman
When a student gets an essay assignment, s/he usually doesn't know where to start. Even when s/he composes a general outline, it is difficult for him/her to come up with a starting point. The introduction is the most important part of the paper, simply because it answers the main question a reader has: "why should I spend my time reading this essay?"
An effective introduction should inform the reader about the main point of the paper, but it should also encourage him to continue further. The following tips should help you write an inviting introduction that will set the tone of your essay!
1. Make the First Sentence Perfect!
You have only one chance to make a first impression. If it's special, it will encourage the reader to continue. Do not start with an obvious statement or a definition you found in the dictionary. Surprise your reader!
2. Grab the Attention of Your Reader
Once you pull the reader in with the first sentence, you should continue writing interesting arguments that will make him enthusiastic about reading the entire piece. Some of the methods that can help you write an attention-grabbing introductory paragraph:
- Quote an expert or a celebrity;
- Use a literary quote that fits the topic. If you're writing on a topic that asks for your personal opinions, a quote is a nice way to start. Of course, you're expected to link that quote to the rest of your paper. Don't leave it hanging.
- Start with an anecdote or an unexpected information! People are always interested in history and stories.
- Ask a question. If the reader starts wondering about something, he'll definitely want to discover the answers in your essay.
- Describe a scene. Even a textual paper should entice the reader to draw a clear picture in his mind. Think about the visualization your introduction would cause. You want to make it clear and vivid. Use active voice.
- Start with a fact, but don't make it too obvious. For example, when you're writing a paper about World War II, don't start with "More than 60 million people lost their lives in the World War II." Start with a less known fact that would make the reader interested in discovering what else you have to offer.
- Use statistics! This type of information makes your arguments trustworthy. Of course, you need to make sure you use a relevant source and you provide a proper reference.
3. Mention the Opinions and Misperceptions Your Thesis Will Argue Against!
Every topic has two sides. You need to take one. Do not write endless descriptions of the main concept without clarifying your own stand. Needless to say, you should prove that your main thesis is truthful. Mention the opposing arguments that you will refute. This section should not consume a huge part of your introduction, so try to sum it up within a single sentence. You'll have more space for elaborating these counter-arguments in the body of your paper.
4. Offer a Contrast!
Let's say you're describing a problem that needs solutions. Provide brief information about the issue, and then tell the reader what the ideal situation would be. Then, you can write a thesis that creates a bridge between these contrasts by proposing possible solutions.
5. Be straightforward!
No one wants to read an endless introduction that leads nowhere. If you think that the paper would read well without a particular part of the introduction, then don't hesitate to get rid of it. You can use anecdotes, stories and quotes, but that doesn't mean you can circle around the point.
6. The Introduction Doesn't Have to be the First Section you Write!
If you are stuck before you even start writing the paper, try completing the body paragraphs first. When you have the main arguments, it will be easier for you to introduce them in the first paragraph.
If you already started with the introduction, make sure to improve it once you complete the paper. Maybe your ideas led you in an unexpected direction, so you'll want to fix some points or add more information in the beginning.
7. Avoid generalizations!
It's important to be as specific as possible. Let's take the World War II topic as an example again. You shouldn't describe the entire course of events and sum up an entire history book in a single essay. Focus on a particular event or aspect of the topic and come up with a very specific title. For example, you can talk about Nietzsche's influence on Hitler.
8. End the Introduction With a Powerful Thesis Statement!
Academic writing should follow a specific form, which requires you to provide a clear thesis statement at the end of the introduction. This sentence should capture the essence of the paper. Then, you'll prove that statement with the arguments you provide in the essay's body.
Final Thoughts on Your Essay Introduction: Have a Plan!
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you cannot follow the flow of your thoughts when you're writing a paper. Casual writing is a proven recipe for a structureless introduction that leads nowhere. When you have a clear plan, it will be easy for you to find the right words! Once you compose an outline, you can follow the above-listed tips for writing the perfect introduction.
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Questions about some of the terminology used in this article? Get more information (definitions and links) on key academic terms by going to our College Success Glossary.
Stephanie Norman, from Sydney, Australia, is a professional writer with 4 years of experience. She writes academic and business essays, articles, film and literature reviews, and provides editing service to Australian Writings, a company that offers assignment help for students. You can follow her at Facebook and Google+.