In a nutshell, the introduction paragraph of an essay is the first paragraph of the paper. Therefore, it is also the first thing your reader will see in your essay.
What is the purpose of an introduction paragraph? A good introduction performs two functions. Firstly, it tells the reader what you are going to be talking about in your paper; simply put, it should identify the essay topic and give some insight about the essay’s main point. Secondly, it has to evoke interest and motivate the audience to read the rest of your paper.
How Long Should an Introduction Be?
Generally, there are no strict rules about how long an introductory paragraph should be. Experienced essay writers will usually shape the lengths of their introductions with the overall length of the paper in mind. For example, if you are writing a paper following the standard five-paragraph essay structure, you would want to keep your opening clause concise and have it fit into a single paragraph. However, when writing longer papers, let’s say a 30-page paper, your introduction can take up multiple paragraphs, and even several pages.
Although no strict rules apply, experienced writers recommend that your introductory paragraph(s) be between 8% and 9% of your essay’s total word count.
What Makes a Good Introduction
A powerful introductory paragraph should meet all of these requirements:
- Have a hook at the beginning of the paragraph that grabs the reader’s attention.
- It should provide background information about your topic.
- It should give readers an idea about the main points and claims that will be discussed in your paper.
- It should provide all the necessary information in regards to time frames, characters, setting, etc.
- At the end of your introduction, there needs to be a clear thesis statement that reflects the main idea of your essay.
What Are the 3 Parts of an Introduction Paragraph?
What should an introduction include? It usually consists of 3 parts: a hook, connections, and a thesis statement. Let’s look at each element in detail.
Part 1: Essay Hook
A hook is one of the most effective introduction starters for an essay. A hook has the purpose of catching the reader’s attention (always in a single sentence). In other words, it is an attention grabber.
Now, let’s answer the question “how to make an interesting hook?” There are several different strategies you can use to create a powerful hook:
- A shocking fact
- An anecdote
- A question
- A short summary
- A quote
And here is what to avoid when using a hook:
- Dictionary definitions
- Sweeping statements that include words like “everywhere”, “always”, etc.
After pitching an effective hook, you should provide a broad overview of your main topic and state some background information for the subject matter of your paper. If you are wondering how to start an essay introduction, the best way to do so is by providing a broad explanation of your theme and then leading your readers into specific points. Simply put, you should first give some general information and then gradually narrow it down into your specific points.
The 5 Types of Hooks for Writing
Apart from the strategies mentioned above, there are even more types of hooks that can be used:
- A Common Misconception — a good trick is to begin with is to claim that something that your readers believe in is not true
Example: “Although many falsely believe that people working from home are less productive – employees who get such work-life benefits generally work harder.”
- Statistics — statistical data can be a perfect hook for persuasive essays and serious topics that require delving into numbers.
Example: “A recent study showed that people who are satisfied with their work-life balance work 21% harder and are 33% more likely to stay at the same company.”
- Personal Story — sometimes personal stories can be an appropriate hook, but only if they can fit into a few brief sentences (for example, in narrative essays).
Example: “When I had my first work from home experience, I suddenly realized the importance of having a good work-life balance; I saw plenty of the benefits it can provide.”
- Scenes — this type of hook requires making the readers imagine the things you are writing about. It is most suitable when used in descriptive and narrative essays.
Example: “Imagine you could have as much free time as you wish by working or studying from home—and spend more time with your loved ones.”
- Thesis Statement — some essay writers start directly with their thesis statement. The main trick here is that there is actually no trick.
Example: “I strongly believe that there is a direct correlation between a healthy work-life balance and productivity in school or at work.”
Part 2: Connections
After you have provided a hook and some background information regarding your essay topic, move on to giving readers a better understanding of what you are going to talk about throughout your paper. In this part of your introduction, you should briefly mention your key ideas in the same order in which you will go on to discuss them, and gradually lead your reader(s) to your thesis statement.
Some of the key questions to answer in this part of your introduction are:
- And so on.
Answering these questions in 2-3 sentences each will help you ensure that you provide your readers with complete information about the topic of your essay. However, be sure to keep these sentences concise and straight to the point.
Your main goal is to gradually move from general information about your subject matter to something more specific (i.e. your thesis statement). To make this process more simple, think of your introduction as of an upside-down triangle. In this triangle, the attention grabber (read hook) is at the top, followed by a broader explanation of the topic, and ending with a very specific claim. Here is a simple tip for how to write an essay introduction following this “upside-down triangle” strategy:
- Make each sentence in your introduction a bit more narrow and specific than each previous one. This simple trick will help you draw your reader(s) into the main part of your paper gradually.
- Let’s say you are writing a paper about the importance of a good work-life balance. In this case, you can use a question like “Have you ever thought of how a good work-life balance can influence different spheres of your life?” or another hook, then you can continue on by providing general facts and statistics, and finally, you can narrow down your topic to match your thesis statement.
Part 3: The Thesis Statement
If you are wondering how to write an introduction in the best possible way, you should pay special attention to formulating your core statement.
Without a doubt, your paper’s thesis is the most important part. It has to be included in the introductory clause of your paper—as your entire essay revolves around this statement. In a nutshell, a thesis statement provides your audience with a brief summary of the paper’s key claim. Your key claim is what you are going to be revealing or arguing about in the body section of your paper. As a rule, a good thesis statement is very concise (disclosed in one sentence), accurate, specific, clear, and focused. Your thesis should typically appear at the end of your introductory paragraph/section.
To give you an even better idea of what a good thesis should look like, here is a sample statement for an essay about the importance of an adequate work-life balance:
Thesis Statement Example: “To boost the overall productivity of employees, large corporations should create comfortable and flexible working schedules for their workers, therefore, helping them have better work-life balance.”
Catchy Introductions for Different Essay Types
Although introductory paragraphs usually follow the same set structure, the content placed within its text may differ. The differences in context are defined by the type of essay you will work on, as well as its overall purpose.
When it comes to writing an academic essay, students face four key types of papers most often. These include narrative, analytical, persuasive, and personal essays. Since the purpose of each essay type is different, it is implied that different content should appear within these introductory paragraphs. Here is a complete guide for different paper types with good essay introduction examples:
- A Narrative essay is a type of writing that requires the writer to tell a story. Basically, simple storytelling is the main purpose of such papers, which makes this type of essay much different from others.
- The hook for such paper will usually be an intriguing sneak peek into a certain part of the story that indirectly relates to the thesis statement. Additionally, when writing such an essay, a writer should ensure that every claim included in the introduction should relate to some important moments in the story that have also had a significant impact on the story’s outcome.
- The thesis in narrative writing is usually the theme or main lesson learned from the story.
Narrative introduction example: “ONCE there were four children whose names were Peter, Susan, Lucy, and Edmund. This story is about something that happened to them when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids. They were sent to the house of an old Professor who lived in the country, far, far away from everything. He had no wife and he lived in a very large house. He was a very old man with thick white hair. The children liked him at once.” The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C. S. Lewis
- Analytical Essay Writing is another common essay type. Unlike narrative papers, an analytical paper aims to dissect an idea and educate its readers about a certain topic.
- When writing such a paper, students can use any valuable information that is directly related to their thesis statement as a hook for their introductory paragraph. For example, a good hook would be a rhetorical question or a relevant and informative sentence that gives its readers clues about the paper’s main point.
- The middle part of the introduction should include three critical pieces of information that help to validate the analytical thesis.
- Since the core purpose of this paper is to analyze subject matter and educate readers, a well-researched and thought-out claim will make a perfect thesis. However, it is important to ensure that this claim should not have any actual weight at the beginning. It should be phrased factually, although technically, it will still be theoretical.
Analytical introduction example: “… Hence even though presidents, CEOs, and generals still have their daily schedules full of economic crises and military conflicts, on the cosmic scale of history humankind can lift its eyes up and start looking towards new horizons. If we are indeed bringing famine, plague, and war under control, what will replace them at the top of the human agenda? Like firefighters in a world without fire, so humankind in the twenty-first century needs to ask itself an unprecedented question: what are we going to do with ourselves? In a healthy, prosperous, and harmonious world, what will demand our attention and ingenuity? This question becomes doubly urgent given the immense new powers that biotechnology and information technology are providing us with. What will we do with all that power? …” Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow, Yuval Noah Harari
- Persuasive Essay Writing has only one purpose – to persuade readers of something. You can do this by means of using persuasive techniques like ethos, pathos, and logos.
- A hook statement in such a paper can really be anything – from an interesting fact to even humor – you can use whatever strategy you wish. The key tip is to keep your hook in-line with your thesis and ensure that it can also serve as a ground for further argumentation.
- As a rule, writing a persuasive essay requires providing at least three supporting facts. Therefore, you should include a brief outline of each of your three points in the middle of your introduction to gradually guide readers into the main topic of your paper.
- Lastly, the thesis statement for such a paper should be the main claim that you are going to be arguing about. It should be a well-thought-out and confidently written sentence that briefly summarizes the point of persuasion for your entire essay.
Persuasive introduction example: “Most people know that Abraham Lincoln lived in a log cabin, wore a stovepipe hat, wrote the Gettysburg Address, and led America through a terrible war. But did you know that our sixteenth president loved to tell silly stories, read funny books, collect jokes and puns, and laugh, laugh, laugh? This unusual biography reveals many reasons why Lincoln was a towering president. It wasn’t just his speeches, his wisdom, or his height. It was his rich sense of humor, too. What better way to thrive in tough times (and to lead others through) than to laugh, loudly and long?” Lincoln Tells a Joke: How Laughter Saved the President (and the Country), Kathleen Krull
- A Personal Essay is the last type of academic writing that is often faced by students. In a nutshell, this type of essay is a creative nonfiction piece that requires the author to reflect on his or her personal experiences. The purpose of such a paper is to share a story, discuss the lessons that certain experiences taught you, etc. This is the most personal type of writing, which makes it quite different from all of the other paper types.
- A hook for such an essay can also be anything you wish. It will be appropriate to use a relevant quote, question, joke, piece of information related to the main story, or anything else. Then, you should follow it with a brief explanation of the background of your story. Finally, a thesis statement can be a short outline of how certain experiences affected you and what you’ve learned from them.
Personal introduction example: “That felicity, when I reflected on it, has induced me sometimes to say, that were it offered to my choice, I should have no objection to a repetition of the same life from its beginning, only asking the advantages authors have in a second edition to correct some faults of the first. So I might, besides correcting the faults, change some sinister accidents and events of it for others more favorable. But though this was denied, I should still accept the offer. Since such a repetition is not to be expected, the next thing most like living one’s life over again seems to be a recollection of that life, and to make that recollection as durable as possible by putting it down in writing.” The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Franklin
Tips for Writing a Winning Introduction Paragraph
As you now know how to start a good introduction and have some clear introduction examples to get you started, let’s quickly go through the key takeaways of what you should and shouldn’t do when writing your introduction.
- Keep in mind the purpose of your assignment and ensure that your introduction is in-line with it.
- Use an engaging and appropriate hook that grabs the reader’s attention from the first line.
- Be clear by letting your readers understand your stance well.
- Explain key terms related to your topic, if necessary.
- Show that you understand your subject.
- Provide your reader(s) with a metaphorical roadmap that will help them understand what you are going to cover in the paper.
- Be concise – it is recommended that you keep your introductory paragraph about 8-9 percent of the total number of words in your paper (for example, 160 words for a 2000 words essay).
- Make a clear and powerful thesis statement.
- Keep it engaging.
- Ensure that your introduction makes a logical and smooth transition into the body of your paper.
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- Include too much background information.
- Go off the topic or include unnecessary sentences.
- Make your introduction too long (unless you are writing something like a 30-page paper).
- Give it all away. Leave some things hidden so that you can keep your reader(s) engaged and then reveal them later.
- Use cliches or generalizations.
- Be too broad.
- Use too many quotes.