The introduction is the first thing your instructor will see when grading your essay. A great introduction will help you make a good impression and improve your chances of receiving a higher score.
This post will give you several examples of how to write a good introduction for an essay, but don’t treat them as restrictive. These are just guidelines that aim to help you when you don’t know where to start. If you feel that your topic needs a different approach, go for it and be original!
How to Write an Introduction Paragraph for an Essay
There is no such thing as a “standard introduction”. Every time the particular implementation will depend on the genre of writing. However, for a college essay and other shorter academic papers, there are some typical elements that good introduction should include:
- Definitions of the key terms you are going to use in the paper. Make sure that you define the words that sound difficult and at least might be confusing for your reader.
- Background information about the topic. In a typical essay, you should cut the background information down to a couple of sentences that are closely related to what you are going to say in your essay, otherwise your reader won’t really see where all of this is going.
- Purpose of your essay (aka the thesis statement). An effective introduction will state clearly and explicitly the problem or controversy you are going to address in the essay. This is the most important sentence in your essay that should convey its main idea or claim. If your prompt is given in the form of a question, make sure your thesis statement provides a comprehensive answer to this question.
- Significance of the subject (why it’s important to study this issue)
- Summary of the main points you will cover in your essay. If shorter essays, these are sometimes incorporated as a part of the thesis statement for brevity reasons.
Your introduction should be as brief as possible. A proper introduction should not take up more than 20 percent of your essay. That is why, depending on the size of your paper, several of the above functions can be performed by a single sentence.
How to Write an Introduction for an Essay: Examples and Tips
Enough theory. How about some actionable tips for writing an introduction to an essay and examples that show how the theory can be implemented?
Include a hook
A hook is the first sentence of your essay. Its purpose is to attract the attention of the reader and “hook” them as unsuspecting little fish into reading your essay with interest. There are many types of hooks fitting for various genres of writing. For an essay, however, there are five that are the easiest to write:
- Surprising fact/statistic
- Appropriate quote
- Controversial or bold statement
- Importance of the topic/benefit to the reader
Easy on the background information
One of the most common mistakes that inexperienced writers make is giving too much information that confuses the reader and quickly kills the interest that a hook incited. For a shorter essay, you may include these types of background data:
- An interesting piece of data
- Positive/negative options
- History of the subject/research in the area
- Current trends or changes
Use definitions creatively
Remember how you shouldn’t bother with definitions of common terms and words that everybody knows? There are two exceptions to this rule. You may define a commonly known word if:
- definition itself is a subject of study; for example, it needs revision and you address this issue in your essay
- definition carries additional weight; for example, it explains the significance of your topic
Leave it for later
This is one of the most counterintuitive tips on how to write a good essay introduction: get to your introduction after you have finished writing the body of paragraphs. This way, it’s easier to come up with an appropriate hook that won’t be just an empty promise.
Moreover, you will be able to write an overview of the entire essay, which is one of the main things you should include in the introduction. For a 5-paragraph essay, you will need 3 main points – one for each of the body paragraphs in your essay. Depending on the type of your essay, these may be:
- Arguments supporting your thesis statement (reasons you are right)
- Parts of something you explore and describe in your essay
- Types of something you classify
- Steps in a process you describe
Here is how to write an introduction to an essay about the most common subject – let’s say apples:
Apple is one of the most consumed fruits in the world. [Hook + definition explaining the importance of the subject] It is so common that the word “apple” was used as a general term for any fruit in English and other European languages. Banana was known as “apple of paradise” in Middle English, orange was called “apple from China” in German, and tomato was named “golden apple” when Europeans first brought it from the Americas. In French, potato is called “earth apple” to this day. [Interesting data as background information] There are three reasons why this fruit became so ubiquitous: its nourishing value, its suitability for long storage, and comparative simplicity of cultivation. [Thesis statement + three key points to be explored in the essay]