How to Write a Great Introduction

By Bhalachandra Sahaj

An introductory paragraph is often underestimated as a part of an essay. People assume it is seemingly less important than other sections of an essay. This understanding is incorrect, since an introduction performs at least three crucial functions: helps persuade a reader to read the paper, provides the context in which the paper is written, and contains a thesis statement, which is the main point around which the whole paper should revolve. To write a decent introduction, you must complete the following steps.

1. Figure out what exactly you want to say.

Depending on the type of paper, the introductory paragraph may contain references to other research and authors; the general context in which the topic of your essay is included; historical and/or other background information which helps readers to understand your topic better, and so on.

2. Figure out how you want to say it.

The most common way to write an introductory paragraph is to move from general to specific information; this means you should first start from introducing some general info, and then narrowing down to the thesis statement. Or, you can be specific from the beginning.

3. Compose your thesis statement.

This is the main part of the introduction, so it should be specific and accurate in its formulation. It should be an expression of your detailed opinion on the subject, not a general statement regarding it.

4. Think of the “anchor” that would make your readers want to read on.

It is not enough simply to provide context, background, and a thesis statement; a reader might find your topic (or your approach to it) boring, and thus will not want to read your paper. Your task is to use so-called attention-grabbers. Among such attention-grabbers there are intriguing examples, rhetorical or provocative questions, controversial or absurd statements, intended generalizations, and so on—anything that can make a reader surprised.

5. Re-read what you have written and edit the introductory paragraph where needed.

Your introduction should not contain phrases like, “In this essay, I would like to discuss,” or “This essay seeks to prove that,” and so on. If there are pieces of supporting evidence, or other information directly referring to the subject of your paper (not to its context and background, though), delete or rewrite these parts.

It is acceptable to rewrite the entire introduction, some of its parts, or a thesis statement after you finish the essay. Sometimes, you can start your essay having only a thesis statement (which should still be a concise and clear expression of your opinion), and write the introduction at the end, after composing the list of references. However, keep in mind that an introduction is not something one can treat halfheartedly.


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