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Introduction: The perfect start to your essay

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How to Write an Essay Introduction

In this Article: Article Summary Sample Essay Hooks & Introductions Hooking Your Reader Creating Your Context Presenting Your Thesis Bringing It All Together Community Q&A

The introduction of your essay serves two important purposes. First, it gets your reader interested in the topic and encourages them to read what you have to say about it. Second, it gives your reader a roadmap of what you’re going to say and the overarching point you’re going to make – your thesis statement. A powerful introduction grabs your reader’s attention and keeps them reading. [1]

Steps

Sample Essay Hooks & Introductions

Part 1

Hooking Your Reader

  1. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 1

    1
    Identify your audience. The first sentence or two of your introduction should pull the reader in. You want anyone reading your essay to be fascinated, intrigued, or even outraged. You can’t do this if you don’t know who your likely readers are. [2]

    • If you’re writing a paper for a class, don’t automatically assume your instructor is your audience. If you write directly to your instructor, you’ll end up glossing over some information that is necessary to show that you properly understand the subject of your essay.
    • It can be helpful to reverse-engineer your audience based on the subject matter of your essay. For example, if you’re writing an essay about a women’s health issue for a women’s studies class, you might identify your audience as young women within the age range most affected by the issue.
  2. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 2

    2
    Use the element of surprise. A startling or shocking statistic can grab your audience’s attention by immediately teaching them something they didn’t know. Having learned something new in the first sentence, people will be interested to see where you go next. [3]

    • For this hook to be effective, your fact needs to be sufficiently surprising. If you’re not sure, test it on a few friends. If they react by expressing shock or surprise, you know you’ve got something good.
    • Use a fact or statistic that sets up your essay, not something you’ll be using as evidence to prove your thesis statement. Facts or statistics that demonstrate why your topic is important (or should be important) to your audience typically make good hooks.
  3. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 3

    3
    Tug at your reader’s heart-strings. Particularly with personal or political essays, use your hook to get your reader emotionally involved in the subject matter of your story. You can do this by describing a related hardship or tragedy. [4]

    • For example, if you were writing an essay proposing a change to drunk driving laws, you might open with a story of how the life of a victim was changed forever after they were hit by a drunk driver.
  4. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 4

    4
    Offer a relevant example or anecdote. In your reading and research for your essay, you may have come across an entertaining or interesting anecdote that, while related, didn’t really fit into the body of your essay. Such an anecdote can work great as a hook. [5]

    • For example, if you’re writing an essay about a public figure, you might include an anecdote about an odd personal habit that cleverly relates back to your thesis statement.
    • Particularly with less formal papers or personal essays, humorous anecdotes can be particularly effective hooks.
  5. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 5

    5
    Ask a thought-provoking question. If you’re writing a persuasive essay, consider using a relevant question to draw your reader in and get them actively thinking about the subject of your essay. [6]

    • For example: “What would you do if you could play God for a day? That’s exactly what the leaders of the tiny island nation of Guam tried to answer.”
    • If your essay prompt was a question, don’t just repeat it in your paper. Make sure to come up with your own intriguing question.
  6. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 6

    6
    Avoid clichés and generalizations. Generalizations and clichés, even if presented to contrast with your point, won’t help your essay. In most cases, they’ll actually hurt by making you look like an unoriginal or lazy writer. [7]

    • Broad, sweeping generalizations may ring false with some readers and alienate them from the start. For example, “everyone wants someone to love” would alienate someone who identified as aromantic or asexual.

Part 2

Creating Your Context

  1. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 7

    1
    Relate your hook to a larger topic. The next part of your introduction explains to your reader how that hook connects to the rest of your essay. Start with a broader, more general scope to explain your hook’s relevance. [8]

    • Use an appropriate transitional word or phrase, such as “however” or “similarly,” to move from your specific anecdote back out to a broader scope.
    • For example, if you related a story about one individual, but your essay isn’t about them, you can relate the hook back to the larger topic with a sentence like “Tommy wasn’t alone, however. There were more than 200,000 dockworkers affected by that union strike.”
  2. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 8

    2
    Provide necessary background information. While you’re still keeping things relatively general, let your readers know anything that will be necessary for them to understand your main argument and the points you’re making in your essay. [9]

    • For example, if your thesis relates to how blackface was used as a means of enforcing racial segregation, your introduction would describe what blackface performances were, and where and when they occurred.
    • If you are writing an argumentative paper, make sure to explain both sides of the argument in a neutral or objective manner.
  3. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 9

    3
    Define key terms for the purposes of your essay. Your topic may include broad concepts or terms of art that you will need to define for your reader. Your introduction isn’t the place to reiterate basic dictionary definitions. However, if there is a key term that may be interpreted differently depending on the context, let your readers know how you’re using that term. [10]

    • Definitions would be particularly important if your essay is discussing a scientific topic, where some scientific terminology might not be understood by the average layperson.
    • Definitions also come in handy in legal or political essays, where a term may have different meanings depending on the context in which they are used.
  4. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 10

    4
    Move from the general to the specific. It can be helpful to think of your introduction as an upside-down pyramid. With your hook sitting on top, your introduction welcomes your readers to the broader world in which your thesis resides. [11]

    • If you’re using 2 or 3 sentences to describe the context for your thesis, try to make each sentence a bit more specific than the one before it. Draw your reader in gradually.
    • For example, if you’re writing an essay about drunk driving fatalities, you might start with an anecdote about a particular victim. Then you could provide national statistics, then narrow it down further to statistics for a particular gender or age group.

Part 3

Presenting Your Thesis

  1. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 11

    1
    Make your point. After you’ve set up the context within which you’re making your argument, tell your readers the point of your essay. Use your thesis statement to directly communicate the unique point you will attempt to make through your essay. [12]

    • For example, a thesis for an essay on blackface performance might be “Because of its humiliating and demoralizing effect on African American slaves, blackface was used less as a comedy routine and more as a way of enforcing racial segregation.”
    • Be assertive and confident in your writing. Avoid including fluff such as “In this essay, I will attempt to show….” Instead, dive right in and make your claim, bold and proud.
    • Your outline should be specific, unique, and provable. Through your essay, you’ll make points that will show that your thesis statement is true – or at least persuade your readers that it’s most likely true.
  2. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 12

    2
    Describe how you’re going to prove your point. Round out your introduction by providing your readers with a basic roadmap of what you will say in your essay to support your thesis statement. In most cases, this doesn’t need to be more than a sentence. [13]

    • If you’ve created an outline for your essay, this sentence is essentially the main subjects of each paragraph of the body of your essay.
    • For example, if you’re writing an essay about the unification of Italy, you might list 3 obstacles to unification. In the body of your essay, you would discuss details about how each of those obstacles was addressed or overcome.
    • Instead of just listing all of your supporting points, sum them up by stating “how” or “why” your thesis is true. For example, instead of saying, “Phones should be banned from classrooms because they distract students, promote cheating, and make too much noise,” you might say “Phones should be banned from classrooms because they act as an obstacle to learning.”
  3. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 13

    3
    Transition smoothly into the body of your essay. In many cases, you’ll find that you can move straight from your introduction to the first paragraph of the body. Some introductions, however, may require a short transitional sentence at the end to flow naturally into the rest of your essay. [14]

    • To figure out if you need a transition sentence, read the introduction and the first paragraph out loud. If you find yourself pausing or stumbling between the paragraphs, work in a transition to make the move smoother.
    • You can also have friends or family members read your easy. If they feel it’s choppy or jumps from the introduction into the essay, see what you can do to smooth it out.

Part 4

Bringing It All Together

  1. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 14

    1
    Read essays by other writers in your discipline. What constitutes a good introduction will vary widely depending on your subject matter. A suitable introduction in one academic discipline may not work as well in another. [15]

    • If you’re writing your essay for a class assignment, ask your instructor for examples of well-written essays that you can look at. Take note of conventions that are commonly used by writers in that discipline.
    • Make a brief outline of the essay based on the information presented in the introduction. Then look at that outline as you read the essay to see how the essay follows it to prove the writer’s thesis statement.
  2. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 15

    2
    Keep your introduction short and simple. Generally, your introduction should be between 5 and 10 percent of the overall length of your essay. If you’re writing a 10-page paper, your introduction should be approximately 1 page. [16]

    • For shorter essays under 1,000 words, keep your introduction to 1 paragraph, between 100 and 200 words.
    • Always follow your instructor’s guidelines for length. These rules can vary at times based on genre or form of writing.
  3. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 16

    3
    Write your introduction after you write your essay. Some writers prefer to write the body of the essay first, then go back and write the introduction. It’s easier to present a summary of your essay when you’ve already written it. [17]

    • As you write your essay, you may want to jot down things you want to include in your introduction. For example, you may realize that you’re using a particular term that you need to define in your introduction.
  4. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 17

    4
    Revise your introduction to fit your essay. If you wrote your introduction first, go back and make sure your introduction provides an accurate roadmap of your completed paper. Even if you wrote an outline, you may have deviated from your original plans. [18]

    • Delete any filler or unnecessary language. Given the shortness of the introduction, every sentence should be essential to your reader’s understanding of your essay.
  5. Image titled Write an Essay Introduction Step 18

    5
    Structure your introduction effectively. An essay introduction is fairly formulaic, and will have the same basic elements regardless of your subject matter or academic discipline. While it’s short, it conveys a lot of information. [19]

    • The first sentence or two should be your hook, designed to grab your reader’s attention and get them interested in reading your essay.
    • The next couple of sentences create a bridge between your hook and the overall topic of the rest of your essay.
    • End your introduction with your thesis statement and a list of the points you will make in your essay to support or prove your thesis statement.

Community Q&A

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  • Question
    How do I start a paper about extreme sports that kids play?
    Alexander Peterman
    M.A., Education

    Alexander Peterman is a Private Tutor in Florida. He received his M.A. in Education from the University of Florida in 2017.

    Alexander Peterman
    M.A., Education
    Expert Answer

    I would first narrow your subject down to one sport so you can be more focused. Note that this will likely be an informative essay. After you do this, an interesting hook statement may be an anecdote describing an intense moment in that chosen sport to get your audience interested. This can be made up or from your own experience with the sport.
    Thanks!

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  • Question
    How can I start an essay about HIV and lifestyle?
    Alexander Peterman
    M.A., Education

    Alexander Peterman is a Private Tutor in Florida. He received his M.A. in Education from the University of Florida in 2017.

    Alexander Peterman
    M.A., Education
    Expert Answer

    An effective hook statement to start your essay about this topic may be a statistic about HIV, or perhaps an anecdote about someone facing this diagnosis and trying to make positive lifestyle changes for their health.
    Thanks!

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  • Question
    How do you begin an introduction?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer

    With something interesting! This is easier said than done of course, but a good intro starts with a quote, fact, or brief story that interests the reader. If it interested you while reading or researching, it’s a great thing to start with. Just keep it short and it will be great.
    Thanks!

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  • Question
    What should I do if I’m stuck on the thesis?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer

    Skip it, write down your main points, and build the body of your essay. Once you know all the areas you want to cover, think about what links them all together, and what the main thing you’re trying to convey is.
    Thanks!

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  • Question
    How should I start a body paragraph?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer

    Start off with a mini thesis which states what the body paragraph is talking about.
    Thanks!

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  • Question
    Where do you get started with a topic and introduction?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer

    Start with the basics — what do you think about the topic? What argument can you make about it? Once you have an argument, start jotting down the evidence for the argument. This evidence will make up your paragraphs later on. If it’s easiest, just skip the introduction now and come back once you’re done — you’ll have all the ideas already drawn out.
    Thanks!

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  • Question
    My assignment is to summarize an already-written essay: could I begin by using the same introduction?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer

    To summarize, you really need to condense what’s there and put everything into your own words — this will include the introduction. It’s fine to use the content of the introduction, but make sure not to copy the writing word-for-word.
    Thanks!

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  • Question
    How can I write a short introduction about heart disease?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer

    Start with something like “Heart disease is a serious condition that takes the lives of (number) Americans every year.” Then go on to to talk about the causes of heart disease and the symptoms and warning signs, and treatment options. Maybe something about how we can encourage more people to go to the doctor to get a diagnosis before it becomes more serious.
    Thanks!

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  • Question
    What are some good statements to start with?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer

    Generally, one starts an essay with an interesting quote, fact, or story to make the reader want to continue reading. Ex. Did you know that every year…? Then you can begin to talk about background information and a thesis. A thesis usually lays out a brief summary of the points you want to make and includes your position on the topic. Ex. Dogs are ideal pets because of their loyalty to humans and their great trainability.
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  • Question
    How can I write the introduction for an essay on the effects of peer pressure among teenagers?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer

    Talk about the problem first, this way the reader can understand why you are talking about effects and so the reader gets a good background on the subject.
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    Tips

    • Have friends or family members read your essay and provide you with feedback. If you’re writing for a class, you might want to exchange essays with another classmate and give each other feedback on your work.
    • If you are answering or responding to an assigned question, make sure you’ve interpreted the question correctly. The quality of your writing is irrelevant if your essay doesn’t answer the question.

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    Sources and Citations

    1. http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/intros.htm
    2. https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/audience/
    3. http://advice.writing.utoronto.ca/planning/intros-and-conclusions/
    4. http://www.umuc.edu/current-students/learning-resources/writing-center/writing-resources/parts-of-an-essay/introductions.cfm
    5. http://writing.msu.edu/how-to-write-a-good-introduction/
    6. https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/introductions/
    7. http://writing.msu.edu/how-to-write-a-good-introduction/
    8. http://advice.writing.utoronto.ca/planning/intros-and-conclusions/
    9. http://www.umuc.edu/current-students/learning-resources/writing-center/writing-resources/parts-of-an-essay/introductions.cfm
    10. http://advice.writing.utoronto.ca/planning/intros-and-conclusions/
    11. http://www.umuc.edu/current-students/learning-resources/writing-center/writing-resources/parts-of-an-essay/introductions.cfm
    12. http://www.umuc.edu/current-students/learning-resources/writing-center/writing-resources/parts-of-an-essay/introductions.cfm
    13. https://unilearning.uow.edu.au/essay/4bii.html
    14. https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/transitions/
    15. https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/introductions/
    16. http://services.unimelb.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/468862/Writing_introductions_and_conclusions_for_essays_Update_051112.pdf
    17. https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/introductions/
    18. https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/introductions/
    19. https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/introductions/

    Show more… (16)

    Article Summary X

    Start your introduction with a relevant story, fact, or quote that will engage readers. Then, add 2-3 sentences of background information to give your essay context, and include important dates, locations, or historical moments where applicable. Finally, include your thesis statement, which is a specific, arguable, and provable statement that answers a question about your essay topic. For example, your thesis might read: “In the modern age, online dating apps like Tinder provide a wider variety of romantic options than young people have ever had before.” For more tips and examples on how to craft your thesis and put your introduction together, read on!

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    Expert Review By:

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    This version of How to Write an Essay Introduction was reviewed by Alexander Peterman on April 13, 2018. Learn more…

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    How to Start a Book Report

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    How to Write a Great Book Report

    Sixteen year old girl studying and writing notes next to window
    Simon Potter / Getty Images
    by
    Grace Fleming
    Updated July 23, 2018

    No matter what you’re writing, be it the next great novel, an essay for school, or a book report, you have to capture your audience’s attention with a great introduction. Most students will introduce the title of the book and its author, but there’s so much more you can do. A strong introduction will help you engage your readers, hold their attention and explain what is coming up in the rest of your report.

    Giving your audience something to look forward to, and perhaps even creating a little mystery and excitement, can be great ways to make sure your readers stay engaged with your report. How do you do this? Check out these three simple steps:

    1. Hook the Audience’s Attention

    Think about what you experience in your daily life that captures your attention. The news and radio shows “promo” upcoming stories with a little teaser, often called a hook (because it “hooks” your attention). Corporations use snappy subject lines in emails and enticing headlines in social media to get you to open their messages; these are often called “clickbait” as they get the reader to click on the content. So how can you grab your reader’s attention? Start by writing a great  introductory sentence .

    You may choose to begin by asking your reader a question to hook his or her interest. Or you may opt for a title that hints at the topic of your report with a dash of drama. Regardless of the way you choose to start a book report, the four strategies outlined here can help you write an engaging essay.

    Starting your book report with a question is a good way to grab your reader’s interest because you’re addressing them directly. Consider the following sentences:

    • Do you believe in happy endings?
    • Have you ever felt like a total outsider?
    • Do you love a good mystery?
    • What would you do if you discovered a secret that changed everything?

    Most people have a ready answer for questions like these because they speak to common experiences we share. It’s a means of creating empathy between the person reading your book report and the book itself. For example, consider this opening to a book report about “The Outsiders” by S.E. Hinton:

    Have you ever been judged by your appearance? In “The Outsiders,” S.E. Hinton gives readers a glimpse inside the tough exterior of a social outcast.

    Not everyone’s teenage years are as dramatic as those in Hinton’s coming-of-age novel. But everyone was once an adolescent, and odds are everyone had moments when they felt misunderstood or alone.

    Another idea to hook someone’s attention is, if you’re discussing a book by a well-known or popular author, you might start with an interesting fact about the era when the author was alive and how it influenced his or her writing. For example:

    As a young child, Charles Dickens was forced to work in a shoe polish factory. In his novel, “Hard Times,” Dickens taps into his childhood experience to explore the evils of social injustice and hypocrisy.

    Not everyone has read Dickens, but many people have heard his name. By starting your book report with a fact, you’re appealing to your reader’s curiosity. Similarly, you may choose an experience from the author’s life that had an impact on his or her work. 

    2. Summarize the Content and Provide Details

    A book report is meant to discuss the contents of the book at hand, and your introductory paragraph should give a little overview. This isn’t the place to delve into details, but draw off your hook to share a little more information that is crucial to the storyline. 

    For example, sometimes, a novel’s setting is what makes it so powerful. “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the award-winning book by Harper Lee, takes place in a small town in Alabama during the Great Depression. The author draws on her own experiences in recalling a time when a small Southern town’s sleepy exterior hid a vague sense of impending change. In this example, the reviewer might include a reference to the book’s setting and plot in that first paragraph:

    Set in the sleepy town of Maycomb, Alabama during the Depression, we learn about Scout Finch and her father, a prominent lawyer, as he desperately works to prove the innocence of a black man wrongly accused of rape. The controversial trial leads to some unexpected interactions and some terrifying situations for the Finch Family.

    Authors make a deliberate choice when selecting the setting of a book. After all, the location and setting can set a very distinct mood. 

    3. Make a Thesis Statement (if applicable)

    When writing a book report, you might also include your own interpretations of the subject matter. Ask your teacher how much personal interpretation he or she wants first, but assuming that some personal opinion is warranted, your introduction should include a thesis statement. This is where you present the reader with your own argument about the work. To write a strong thesis statement, which should be about one sentence, you might reflect on what the author was trying to achieve. Consider the theme and see if the book was written in such a way where you were able to determine it easily and if it made sense. As yourself a few questions:

    • Was the book meant to be entertaining or informative? Did it accomplish that goal?
    • Did the moral at the end make sense? Did you learn something?
    • Did the book make you think about the topic at hand and assess your beliefs? 

    Once you’ve asked yourself these questions, and any other questions you may think of, see if these responses lead you to a thesis statement in which you assess the success of the novel. Sometimes, a thesis statement is widely shared, while others may be more controversial. In the example below, the thesis statement is one that few would dispute, ​and uses dialogue from the text to help illustrate the point. Authors choose dialogue carefully, and a single phrase from a character can often represent both a major theme and your thesis. A well-chosen quote included in your book report’s introduction can help you create a thesis statement that has a powerful impact on your readers, as in this example:

    At its heart, the novel “To Kill A Mockingbird” is a plea for tolerance in an atmosphere of intolerance, and is a statement on social justice. As the character Atticus Finch tells his daughter, ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.'”

    Quoting Finch is effective because his words sum up the novel’s theme concisely and also appeal to the reader’s own sense of tolerance.

    Conclusion

    Don’t worry if your first attempt at writing an introductory paragraph is less than perfect. Writing is an act of fine-tuning, and you may need several revisions. The idea is to start your book report by identifying your general theme so that you can move on to the body of your essay. After you’ve written the entire book report, you can (and should) return to the introduction to refine it. Creating an outline can help you best identify what you need in your introduction.

    Article edited by  Stacy Jagodowski


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