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What To Write In A Essay Introduction

“I want to tell you about the time I almost died.”

I really don’t have such a tale to tell, but I bet I piqued your interest, didn’t I? Why? Because it’s a great opening line that makes you want to learn more. You keep reading because you want to know how the story ends.

This line is actually the first line of the movie Fallen(1998), and whether or not you like the movie, you have to admit that the opening line is killer.

A killer opening line and catchy introduction are exactly what you want for your essay. You want to write an essay introduction that says, “READ ME!

To learn how to write an essay introduction in 3 easy steps, keep reading!

Why You Need a Good Introduction

First impressions are important!

Think about how many times you start reading an article and don’t read more than a line or two because you lose interest just that fast.

Readers are going to approach your paper in the same way. If they aren’t interested in the first few lines, they’ll stop reading. (Of course, your professor will keep reading even if she’s not very interested, but that’s not the reaction you’re hoping for.)

Without a good introduction, your paper will fall flat.

Like anything it takes a bit of time and practice to craft the perfect introduction, but it’s worth it! So let’s talk about how to write an essay introduction in 3 easy steps.

How to Write an Essay Introduction in 3 Easy Steps

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Step 1: Write a catchy opening line

What do all good essay introductions have in common? They have memorable opening lines.

These opening lines (sometimes called hook sentences) grab readers’ attention. They provide just enough information to leave your audience wanting more.

What your opening line looks like will depend on what type of paper you’re writing.

You might try using a shocking quote, an interesting statistic, an anecdote, or a question you’ll answer in the essay.

If you’re writing a problem/solution essay, for example, you’ll likely be writing about a serious topic. Your tone and opening lines will reflect this, and a shocking quote or statistic might be your best option.

Here’s a quick example:

Bad opening line for a problem/solution essay: Parking on campus is terrible, and they definitely need to do something about it.

This broad, uninteresting statement doesn’t work well as opening line. The language is too informal, and readers aren’t sure who “they” might be.

Better opening line for a problem/solution essay: A 2014 Student Government survey revealed that 65% of commuters have been late to class in the past semester due to lack of available on-campus parking.

The opening line works much better. Not only is the tone much more serious, but it includes a statistic that reveals that the problem actually exists.

If you’re writing an evaluation essay, you’ll likely be writing in first person. Because this essay is more informal, you have more options for an opening line. You might use a personal story or anecdote, but might also find that a quote works just as well.

Let’s look at a few sample opening lines from an evaluation essay.

Bad opening line #1: I think Michael Keaton was a good Batman.

The most appropriate reaction to this line would be: So what?

This opening line tells readers almost nothing.  It isn’t interesting and doesn’t grab readers’ attention at all.

Bad opening line #2: According to dictionary.com, Batman is “a character in an American comic strip and several films who secretly assumes a batlike costume in order to fight crime”.

This is a horrible opening line! Don’t use dictionary definitions to start your paper. Dictionary definitions are dull and boring, and in most cases, readers already know the word you’re defining, so the strategy isn’t effective.

Bad opening line #3: Ever since the days of the cavemen, we’ve told stories about our heroes.

This type of introduction makes a broad, sweeping statement that doesn’t offer any connection to the real content of your paper. Avoid such statements that start with the beginning of time.

Better opening line:Even though Christopher Nolan’s Batman has been critically acclaimed, the fact remains that the most successful Batman ever made was Tim Burton’s version starring Michael Keaton (Aspen).

This opening line cites a credible source and offers readers an arguable statement.

This type of statement will work well if readers are fans of Keaton or if readers are fans of Nolan, as they’ll want to read on to see why you think Keaton is so much better.

Step 2: Introduce your topic

Think about what readers need to know to understand the focus of your paper. Think about how narrow or how broad your introduction should be and what you’ll include in your opening paragraph to help readers understand what you’re writing about.

If you’re writing an evaluation essay about Michael Keaton’s portrayal of Batman, including details about the entire Batman franchise is too broad. Instead, focus your introduction more closely on only Michael Keaton’s interpretation of Batman.

Here’s an example.

Bad strategy to introduce the topic: Batman debuted in comic books in 1939 and has been popular ever since. Batman was a television show in the 1960’s and was also remade into many feature-length movies. These movies include Batman & Robin, Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, and The Dark Knight Trilogy.

This example discusses the history of Batman and lists various movies, but the focus is broad, and it doesn’t even mention Michael Keaton. Remember, you’re writing an evaluation essay about Michael Keaton, so he should probably be mentioned in the introduction!

Better strategy to introduce the topic: Since Batman’s comic book debut in 1939, Batman has been portrayed in the 1960’s hit television show (starring Adam West) and in a number of feature-length movies, with A-list actors such as Michael Keaton, George Clooney, and Christian Bale starring in the lead role. Though all of these actors brought their own unique style to the caped crusader, Michael Keaton’s performance stands out among the others.

This example still includes an overview of the history, but it focuses on the men who starred as Batman. This strategy narrows the focus of your introduction and tells readers that you’ll be focusing on Michael Keaton, rather than the history of Batman or the other actors.

Step 3: Write a clear, focused thesis statement

A thesis statement is essentially a mini-outline of your paper. It tells readers what your paper is about and offers your opinion on the topic.

Without a strong thesis, your essay introduction pretty much falls apart.

It’s like putting together a TV stand but deciding to not use all 500 tiny screws in the plastic bag. Without all of those screws in place, the stand will fall apart once you put your TV on it.

So take the time to write a focused thesis. It will help hold your paper together.

Check out this example.

Bad thesis statement: In this paper, I’ll prove that Michael Keaton is the best Batman.

There are so many things wrong with this thesis that I don’t even know where to start.

First, in most types of writing there’s really no need to announce statements like, “In this paper…” Readers should understand the thesis without such announcements.

Second, your essay won’t “prove” the Michael Keaton is the best, so avoid such absolute wording.

Finally, the thesis is vague. How will you define “best”? What does it mean to be the “best” Batman? A thesis needs to be far more specific.

Better thesis statement: Michael Keaton’s comedic timing, on-screen presence, and ability to deliver flawless lines makes Keaton’s version of Batman one of the most effective on-screen portrayals of the character to date.

This thesis statement is much better because it gives readers a quick overview of the paper. It also tells readers that you’re writing about Michael Keaton’s portrayal of Batman, and you’re evaluating Keaton on three specific criteria.

It’s strong enough to stand on its own and strong enough to hold your paper together.

Here’s what your completed essay introduction looks like.

Even though Christopher Nolan’s Batman has been critically acclaimed, the fact remains that the most successful Batman ever made was Tim Burton’s version starring Michael Keaton (Aspen). Since Batman’s comic book debut in 1939, Batman has been portrayed in the 1960s hit television show (starring Adam West) and in a number of feature-length movies, with A-list actors such as Michael Keaton, George Clooney, and Christian Bale starring in the lead role. Though all of these actors brought their own unique style to the caped crusader, Michael Keaton’s performance stands out among the others. Michael Keaton’s comedic timing, on-screen presence, and ability to deliver flawless lines makes Keaton’s version of Batman one of the most effective on-screen portrayals of the character to date.

Not bad, is it? It hooks readers with a catchy opening line, provides a brief introduction to your topic, and includes a strong, focused thesis to let readers know what your paper is about.

Write the Introduction Last (and Other Crazy Ideas)

Even though the introduction is the first thing your audience reads, the introduction doesn’t have to be the first thing you write.

You should always start with a solid focus for your paper, but you can start writing the body of your paper first. Sometimes it can be easier to think of a clever line and strong thesis once you’ve written the main arguments of your paper.

You might also try writing the body and conclusion of your paper (minus the introduction). Once you’ve written the conclusion, think about how you might rework your concluding ideas into an amazing introduction.

Yes, this means you’ll need to write a second conclusion, but sometimes revised conclusions make the best introductions!

If you’re one of those procrastinators and need a bit of help actually starting your paper, read How to Write an Essay Fast and Well.

You might also want to read this to help with formatting.

If you’re still not sure if you know how to write an essay introduction that works, why not have one of our Kibin editors take a look at your paper?

Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.

A classic format for compositions is the five-paragraph essay. It is not the only format for writing an essay, of course, but it is a useful model for you to keep in mind, especially as you begin to develop your composition skills. The following material is adapted from a handout prepared by Harry Livermore for his high school English classes at Cook High School in Adel, Georgia. It is used here with his permission.

Introduction:

Introductory Paragraph

See, first, Writing Introductory Paragraphs for different ways of getting your reader involved in your essay. The introductory paragraph should also include the thesis statement, a kind of mini-outline for the paper: it tells the reader what the essay is about. The last sentence of this paragraph must also contain a transitional "hook" which moves the reader to the first paragraph of the body of the paper.

Body:

Body — First paragraph:

The first paragraph of the body should contain the strongest argument, most significant example, cleverest illustration, or an obvious beginning point. The first sentence of this paragraph should include the "reverse hook" which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the introductory paragraph. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence. This topic should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional hook to tie into the second paragraph of the body.

Body — Second paragraph:

The second paragraph of the body should contain the second strongest argument, second most significant example, second cleverest illustration, or an obvious follow up the first paragraph in the body. The first sentence of this paragraph should include the reverse hook which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the first paragraph of the body. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence. This topic should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional hook to tie into the third paragraph of the body.

Body — Third paragraph:

The third paragraph of the body should contain the weakest argument, weakest example, weakest illustration, or an obvious follow up to the second paragraph in the body. The first sentence of this paragraph should include the reverse hook which ties in with the transitional hook at the end of the second paragraph. The topic for this paragraph should be in the first or second sentence. This topic should relate to the thesis statement in the introductory paragraph. The last sentence in this paragraph should include a transitional concluding hook that signals the reader that this is the final major point being made in this paper. This hook also leads into the last, or concluding, paragraph.

Conclusion:

Concluding paragraph:

This paragraph should include the following:

  1. an allusion to the pattern used in the introductory paragraph,
  2. a restatement of the thesis statement, using some of the original language or language that "echoes" the original language. (The restatement, however, must not be a duplicate thesis statement.)
  3. a summary of the three main points from the body of the paper.
  4. a final statement that gives the reader signals that the discussion has come to an end. (This final statement may be a "call to action" in an persuasive paper.)

A Sample Paper

1Stephen King, creator of such stories as Carrie and Pet Sematary, stated that the Edgar Allan Poe stories he read as a child gave him the inspiration and instruction he needed to become the writer that he is. 2Poe, as does Stephen King, fills the reader's imagination with the images that he wishes the reader to see, hear, and feel. 3His use of vivid, concrete visual imagery to present both static and dynamic settings and to describe people is part of his technique. 4Poe's short story "The Tell-Tale Heart" is a story about a young man who kills an old man who cares for him, dismembers the corpse, then goes mad when he thinks he hears the old man's heart beating beneath the floor boards under his feet as he sits and discusses the old man's absence with the police. 5In "The Tell-Tale Heart," a careful reader can observe Poe's skillful manipulation of the senses. The introductory paragraph includes a paraphrase of something said by a famous person in order to get the reader's attention. The second sentence leads up to the thesis statement which is the third sentence. The thesis statement (sentence 3) presents topic of the paper to the reader and provides a mini- outline. The topic is Poe's use of visual imagery. The mini- outline tells the reader that this paper will present Poe's use of imagery in three places in his writing: (1) description of static setting; (2) description of dynamic setting; and (3) description of a person. The last sentence of the paragraph uses the words "manipulation" and "senses" as transitional hooks.
1The sense of sight, the primary sense, is particularly susceptible to manipulation. 2In "The Tell-Tale Heart," Poe uses the following image to describe a static scene: "His room was as black as pitch with the thick darkness . . ." Poe used the words "black," "pitch," and "thick darkness" not only to show the reader the condition of the old man's room, but also to make the reader feel the darkness." 3"Thick" is a word that is not usually associated with color (darkness), yet in using it, Poe stimulates the reader's sense of feeling as well as his sense of sight. In the first sentence of the second paragraph (first paragraph of the body) the words "sense" and "manipulation" are used to hook into the end of the introductory paragraph. The first part of the second sentence provides the topic for this paragraph--imagery in a static scene. Then a quotation from "The Tell-Tale Heart" is presented and briefly discussed. The last sentence of this paragraph uses the expressions "sense of feeling" and "sense of sight" as hooks for leading into the third paragraph.
1Further on in the story, Poe uses a couple of words that cross not only the sense of sight but also the sense of feeling to describe a dynamic scene. 2The youth in the story has been standing in the open doorway of the old man's room for a long time, waiting for just the right moment to reveal himself to the old man in order to frighten him. 3Poe writes: "So I opened it [the lantern opening]--you cannot imagine how stealthily, stealthily--until, at length, a single dim ray, like the thread of the spider, shot from out the crevice and fell full upon the vulture eye." 4By using the metaphor of the thread of the spider (which we all know is a creepy creature) and the word "shot," Poe almost makes the reader gasp, as surely did the old man whose one blind eye the young man describes as "the vulture eye." The first sentence of the third paragraph (second paragraph of the body) uses the words "sense of sight" and "sense of feeling" to hook back into the previous paragraph. Note that in the second paragraph "feeling" came first, and in this paragraph "sight" comes first. The first sentence also includes the topic for this paragraph--imagery in a dynamic scene. Again, a quotation is taken from the story, and it is briefly discussed. The last sentence uses the words "one blind eye" which was in the quotation. This expression provides the transitional hook for the last paragraph in the body of the paper.
1The reader does not know much about what the old man in this story looks like except that he has one blind eye. 2In the second paragraph of "The Tell-Tale Heart," Poe establishes the young man's obsession with that blind eye when he writes: "He had the eye of the vulture--a pale blue eye, with a film over it." 3This "vulture eye" is evoked over and over again in the story until the reader becomes as obsessed with it as does the young man. 4His use of the vivid, concrete word "vulture" establishes a specific image in the mind of the reader that is inescapable. In the first sentence of the fourth paragraph (third paragraph in the body), "one blind eye" is used that hooks into the previous paragraph. This first sentence also lets the reader know that this paragraph will deal with descriptions of people: ". . . what the old man looks like . . .." Once again Poe is quoted and discussed. The last sentence uses the word "image" which hooks into the last paragraph. (It is less important that this paragraph has a hook since the last paragraph is going to include a summary of the body of the paper.)
1"Thick darkness," "thread of the spider," and "vulture eye" are three images that Poe used in "The Tell-Tale Heart" to stimulate a reader's senses. 2Poe wanted the reader to see and feel real life. 3He used concrete imagery rather than vague abstract words to describe settings and people. 4If Edgar Allan Poe was one of Stephen King's teachers, then readers of King owe a debt of gratitude to that nineteenth-century creator of horror stories. The first sentence of the concluding paragraph uses the principal words from the quotations from each paragraph of the body of the paper. This summarizes those three paragraph. The second and third sentences provide observations which can also be considered a summary, not only of the content of the paper, but also offers personal opinion which was logically drawn as the result of this study. The last sentence returns to the Edgar Allan Poe-Stephen King relationship which began this paper. This sentence also provides a "wrap-up" and gives the paper a sense of finality.

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