Dec 22 2021

Starting an Essay: How to Write an Essay Introduction

Adela Belin photo Adela Belin Content strategist and writer
Knowledge Cell

Starting an essay is simple, but not easy. Though the purpose of your introduction may be to give readers a clear idea of what your paper will be about, it can go beyond that.

First impressions matter. Your essay introduction is the very first paragraph of your paper making it the first thing your reader will see in your essay.

Original: SourceFor some professors, your introductory paragraph may be what they base their grading decision on. So, if you plan to write an essay that stands out, you need to start your essay on a strong note.

A good introduction sets up your argument and tells readers what they can expect, but a solid essay introduction should also show readers why they should be expecting it. This is important to capture your reader’s attention and get them to read further.

When writing an introduction, the general rule is to use a broad to a specific structure. Here’s a quick guide to starting an essay and the steps to writing a solid introduction.

5 Key Elements of an Introduction

Slap a few lines together and voila, you might think but that’s not how you should approach writing introductory paragraphs. Here are some key elements of a good introduction.

1. Engaging hook

The very first sentence of your essay matters. It decides if the readers will continue reading, so you want to keep it intriguing to make for an interesting essay.

Ideally, you want to start your essay by having the first sentence relate directly to the issue, question or problem highlighted by the essay topic.

Use a punchline that talks about your topic directly. As a rule of thumb, you want to write something clear and concise that tells your reader why it’s interesting.

Avoid starting your essay with broad claims or general statements of fact. Make sure your first statement is able to evoke emotions while getting right to the point.

Further in the article, we’ve shared a few creative ways to start your essay.

2. Deliver context and background information

Your introduction must include some background information on the particular topic. This is because, for readers, context shapes the meaning of where the work is situated.

Having the definition and explanation of specific vocabulary will let readers better understand what your topic and subject matter is about.

Here, you should explain it to let readers understand the fundamental problems being addressed and why it is an important issue we should discuss.

Provide only relevant information that is interesting or related to the scope of your issue.

3. Limit the scope of your discussion

It’s impossible to cover everything in a topic. That’s why your introduction also needs to tell your readers - what is the main focus of your essay.

Highlight the parameters of your topic by noting the extent that you will be exploring in your paper, and define what your essay is not going to cover.

This is important to make sure your essay has a central focus. Because if your scope is too broad, your work might be too messy or not feasible. Likewise, if it is too narrow, your paper may not be able to address your main argument adequately.

To get a better idea about the scope of your topic, look at your outline. See if there is an excess of material or lack thereof.

4. Provide a clear thesis statement

One of the key elements in any introduction is the thesis statement. This is the main argument to your essay prompt and should inform the rest of your essay.

Stating your idea or argument can be a single sentence to the essay question but you should also include 2 to 3 sentences explaining the answer in more detail.

In any case, your thesis should be easy to spot and is commonly placed as the last sentence of your introduction.

5. Outline the structure of your essay

If your essay will be covering different segments and parts of a topic, it would be helpful to be providing an overview of how you are approaching the essay.

Mapping your essay is especially helpful in longer pieces as it can give a clear sense of the direction your argument will take.

Now that you understand the important elements of an essay, let’s look into some creative ways you can adopt when starting an essay.

7 Creative Ways to Start an Essay

There is no one formula for writing a good introduction but here are some of the best ways you can write an engaging hook.

1. Open your essay with a question

One of the most common ways of starting an essay is by asking a question. When you ask the reader something, they will tend to visualize and start thinking about it.

However, make sure it’s a question where the audience needs to read more of the essay to get an answer. For example, “Do you want to know the secrets of writing a Grade A essay?” Students who are interested will definitely continue reading to find out more.

On another hand, you can also begin your essay with a rhetorical question like “What is the world without connection?” Using a rhetorical question can prompt your readers to reflect and show where you are headed with your essay.

2. Starting an essay with a quote

Beginning your essay with a memorable quote is also another good idea, especially if it is from a profound or influential person. However, make sure the quote fits your purpose and the framework of your essay.

Avoid overused quotes and cliches that everyone is familiar with because it does not contain an element of surprise and may let them think this is just another one of those essays. Similarly, don’t choose a quote that is so overly complicated your audience can’t understand or relate to it.

Instead, find quotes from reputable resources and make sure to explain or connect them in a way that supports your thesis statement.

3. Use numbers or statistics

Quoting numbers or statistics derived from related studies and research can also make for a strong opening.

For example: “Do you know that one-third of adults are still sleeping with a comfort object?”.

These are just some of the more surprising examples, but using statistics and numbers is an easy way to show readers the bigger picture of the situation or scenario.

That is in other words, how important or severe the case is.

4. Start with storytelling

A fantastic story or personal narrative is one of the most effective hooks. Set the scene of your story by providing a compelling description talking about the who, when, where, and what.

If you are writing a creative or descriptive essay, you can also include sensory details like what you smell or feel from your touch to further captivate your audience.

However, if it is not a necessary part of your essay, keep your story short.

Though readers may love a good story, long narratives can take up a considerable chunk of your essay word count, so make sure to use it moderately.

5. Reveal a common misconception

“The Chinese did not invent fortune cookies!”.

Revealing a common misconception can pique people’s interest in learning more. We can hardly resist our curiosity, especially when a statement describes a contrast between beliefs and reality.

That’s why if your topic presents a standard view that is wrong, you can use this as a chance to write an engaging hook.

6. Use a literary device

Good for avoiding bland, boring essays — literary devices can add a lot of colour to your article, especially if you are working on a piece of creative writing.

It is one of the more engaging hooks because it makes your readers view the topic from a different perspective. For example, linking the community to the human body to describe the interdependent components in a society.

The best way to use this technique is by introducing a metaphor or simile in the introduction and then weaving connections between the symbol and the subject throughout the entire essay.

You can eventually bring the idea back together in the conclusion paragraph to add a circular structure to the writing, making for an exceptional essay.

7. Use a joke or riddle

How many students does it take to write an interesting essay? Just one, and that’s you.

Last but not least, one of the hardest but arguably most effective ways of starting an essay is through using a joke or riddle.

By introducing a clever joke or riddle into your introductory paragraph, your readers or lecturer will likely laugh and feel good about your essay.

You can easily find a joke by doing a web search of your topic with the word ‘joke’. An important note to take when doing this is making sure your readers can relate to it or find it humorous, or else it will just likely become awkward.

Conclusion

Ultimately, how you go about starting an essay will set the tone for the whole essay, so make sure you spend more time on writing an effective introduction.

At last, both introductions and conclusions are important components of an essay.

Now that we are done with the ways you can consider starting an essay, the next chapter will teach you all about closing an essay.

last edit at Jan 13 2022