How to Write an Introduction
Advice on how to write an introduction to an essay
I once had a professor tell a class that he sifted through our pile of essays, glancing at the titles and introductions, looking for something that grabbed his attention. Everything else went to the bottom of the pile to be read last, when he was tired and probably grumpy from all the marking.
"Don't get put at the bottom of the pile," he said.
We don't want you, intrepid essay writer, to be put at the bottom of the pile because of poor essay writing. An introduction does exactly what its name implies: it introduces the subject of the paper to readers. But most importantly, it provides readers with a map to the overall paper. A good introduction captures readers' attention, tells them what the paper is about, and provides an outline of what is to come. The introduction is quite possibly the most important part of an essay, but it can also be the hardest for some writers. Don't fret though; we're here to provide you with some tips and guidelines for writing introductions and staying on the top of the pile.
Tips for writing an introduction
Start with a bang!
If you really want to draw readers in, you have to start your introduction with something attention grabbing. This can be a startling fact, an interesting anecdote, or a relevant quote from an expert. Refer to our article about front matter for more ideas for what to include at the beginning of your work. You can even present the point you are going to argue against.
Be general before you’re specific.
You must provide your readers with a little background or basic information about the topic you are covering. Start with the broader subject and lead your readers to your specific topic. This is especially important when writing a book report. Show them how your topic relates to the bigger picture.
Lay it on 'em.
After providing your readers with some background, use your essay introduction to outline what you are going to discuss. Lay out your main points and arguments, preferably in the order in which you are going to discuss them.
What's your point?
The most important thing to include when writing an introduction is your thesis! A thesis statement is the main point of your paper; it is narrow, focused, and specific. A thesis can be something you are arguing for or it can be something you are arguing against. Whatever the case, be sure to include it. The thesis can come before your outline or at the very end of your essay introduction.
There is no rule for exactly how long an introduction should be. You must consider the length of your overall paper when writing your introduction. An appropriate length for a five-page essay is about half a page, but if you are writing a 40-page paper, your introduction will span several pages and multiple paragraphs.
Check out our example introduction to an essay to get a better understanding of how to best lay out your first paragraph. One final tip: write the introduction when it's easiest for you. Some writers find introductions extremely hard to write. It may be easier for them to write the introduction last (and maybe even write the conclusion and back matter first). Other writers find introductions help them find the direction of their paper and write them very early in the writing process. If you are struggling with your essay introduction, put it aside for a while and continue with the body of the paper.
Want to learn more? Check out How to Write an Essay in 5 Easy Steps, available now on Amazon in Kindle and paperback.