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What To Include In The Introduction Of An Essay

SUMMARY:

  • A good introductory paragraph 1. gets your reader’s attention, 2. introduces your topic, and 3. presents your stance on the topic (thesis).

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Right after your title is the introductory paragraph. Like an appetizer for a meal, the introductory paragraph sets up the reader’s palate and gives him a foretaste of what is to come. You want start your paper on a positive note by putting forth the best writing possible.

Like writing the title, you can wait to write your introductory paragraph until you are done with the body of the paper. Some people prefer to do it this way since they want to know exactly where their paper goes before they make an introduction to it. When you write your introductory paragraph is a matter of personal preference.

Your introductory paragraph needs to accomplish three main things: it must 1. grip your reader, 2. introduce your topic, and 3. present your stance on the topic (in the form of your thesis statement). If you’re writing a large academic paper, you’ll also want to contextualize your paper’s claim by discussing points other writers have made on the topic.

There are a variety of ways this can be achieved. Some writers find it useful to put a quote at the beginning of the introductory paragraph. This is often an effective way of getting the attention of your reader:

“Thomas Jefferson’s statement in the Declaration of Independence that “all men are created equal” seems contrary to the way he actually lived his life, bringing into question the difference between the man’s public and private lives…”

Hmm. Interesting…Tell me more. This introduction has set off the paper with an interesting quote and makes the reader want to continue reading. How has Jefferson’s public life differed from his private life? Notice how this introduction also helps frame the paper. Now the reader expects to learn about the duality of Thomas Jefferson’s life.

Another common method of opening a paper is to provide a startling statistic or fact. This approach is most useful in essays that relate to current issues, rather than English or scientific essays.

“The fact that one in every five teenagers between the ages of thirteen and fifteen smokes calls into question the efficacy of laws prohibiting advertising cigarettes to children…”

The reader is given an interesting statistic to chew on (the fact that so many children smoke) while you set up your paper. Now your reader is expecting to read an essay on cigarette advertising laws.

When writing English papers, introducing your topic includes introducing your author and the aspect of the text that you’ll be analyzing.

“Love is a widely felt emotion. In The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas uses the universality of love to develop a connection with his reader…”

Here, the reader is introduced to the piece of text that will be analyzed, the author, and the essay topic. Nice.

The previous sample introduction contains a general sentence at the beginning that bring up a very broad topic: love. From there, the introductory paragraph whittles down to something more specific:
how Dumas uses love in his novel to develop a connection with the reader. You’d expect this paragraph to march right on down to the thesis statement,
which belongs at the end of the introductory paragraph. Good introductory paragraphs often have this ‘funnel’ sort of format–going from something broad (such as love) to something more specific until the thesis is presented.

Try to avoid the some of the more hackneyed openers:

  • “Have you ever wondered why…”
  • “Webster’s dictionary defines…”
  • “X is a very important issue facing America today…”

 


5.2 Structuring and introduction

 

An introduction is like a guidebook to your whole assignment. It gives background information into your topic area and outlines all the ideas you are going to present. Remember that most introductions will be about 10% of the final essay and will include some or all of the following:

  • An introduction to the context or background of the topic (you could include interesting facts or quotations)
  • The reason for writing about this topic
  • Definitions of any complex terminology that will be referred to throughout the assignment (note that definitions are not always necessary)
  • Introduce the main ideas that stem from your topic/title and the order in which you will discuss them?

You may want to use the grid below to help you structure your introduction; you can use the right-hand column to jot down your own ideas.

 

Structuring an introductory paragraph

Introduce the context or background to the topic: Perhaps you could explain the title in your own words or use a quotation from an author who offers a supporting or contradictory statement about your topic area.                                                                     
What is the purpose of writing about this topic? Is there a problem or controversy with the topic?  
Definitions: Are you using any complex terminology or acronyms that need defining? Try to use a working definition from an expert in your subject area rather than referring to a general dictionary definition. 
Introduce the main ideas that stem from your topic: You cannot write about everything; for a 2,000 word assignment, select between 3-5 key ideas and introduce them in the precise order in which they will be discussed.  

 

Structuring a paragraph in the main body of your assignment

 

What is a paragraph?

 

Paragraphs in the main body of your assignment usually contain a number of sentences which develop new ideas or expand upon existing ones. You may also need to construct paragraphs which offer contrasting views on the ideas you have already developed. A succession of well-structured paragraphs can help to create a coherent and logical argument. You need to consider the purpose of each paragraph:

  • Is it developing a new idea?
  • Is it expanding on an idea already mentioned?
  • Is it offering a contrasting view on an idea already mentioned?

You may wish to use the grid below to record your ideas for each of your paragraphs.

 

Structuring a paragraph in the main body of your assignment

An introductory sentence (this is sometimes called a topic sentence): This tells the reader the purpose of your paragraph and introduces the main idea you are developing, expanding upon or contrasting with another.                                                                    
Examples/evidence/quotations: You will usually need to include evidence that develops/contrasts an idea. This informs and strengthens your argument. Try and introduce your evidence clearly and remember to reference the source (either as a citation in the body of your text or as a footnote/endnote). 
Evaluative sentence/s: You may need to offer some explanation on the relevance of your examples/evidence/quotations. Why is this evidence useful? What does the author say that supports the idea you are developing? Does this evidence have any limitations? 
Concluding sentence: This draws together the main idea being made in your paragraph. 

 

Structuring a conclusion

 

Your conclusion is the final paragraph of writing in an assignment. It must summarise (very briefly) every important idea you have discussed in your work as well as draw conclusions based upon the evidence you have presented. You need to make sure that you have directly answered the question. It is always useful to link your conclusions back to the essay title.

 

You can use the grid below to help you structure your conclusion. The right-hand column can be used for you to make a note of your own ideas.

 

Structuring a conclusion

Summarise each of your points in the order in which you have presented them..                                                                    
State your main conclusions based upon the evidence you have presented. 
Link your conclusions back to the title – make sure you have directly answered the question and that your reader finishes your essay with a clear sense of your viewpoint on the topic (you must do this without saying 'I').  

Tips to remember:

  • Your conclusion will be about 10% of the whole assignment
  • You should not include any new information in your conclusion.

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