I think you’ll agree with me when I say that sometimes:
It’s really difficult to write a good essay introduction.
Or is it?
Well, it turns out that introductions can be much easier to write if you look at each section individually.
So, in this post, I’m going to show how to write an introduction the same way I teach my students.
(Note: this is a long post, so you might want to bookmark it or print it out! Enjoy!)
Ready? Let’s start with what an introduction is…
An introduction is the first paragraph in an essay.
Introductions are important for a few reasons:
- They grab the attention of your audience
- They say why your topic is important
- They tell your audience about your focus and give your opinion
- They tell your audience exactly what you will do in the essay
That’s a lot of things to fit into such a small section. I say small section because the overall introduction should be 10% or less of your total word count.
This means that if your essay word count is 2,000 words, then your introduction should be about 200 words.
This means that you have 200 words to:
- grab the attention of your reader
- Tell your audience why your topic is important
- Tell your audience what you’re going to focus on and what your opinion is
- Tell your audience how your essay is structured.
And it’s very possible as we’ll find out!
First, you need to divide all of these points into sections.
The way that I do it is:
- Attention + importance = background
- Focus + argument = thesis statement
- Structure = outline.
Don’t worry if this is a lot to remember, I’ve made a graphic with all the information on it. It’s at the bottom of the page!
Let’s cut the introduction into three sections
Section 1: The Background Information
In the first section of your introduction, you want to tell your audience about your topic. This is quite general.
It sounds easy enough, right?
But you don’t just want to tell them about your topic. You want to “wow” them. You want to grab their attention and show them why your topic is significant.
Let’s say our essay question is:
“Evaluate the effect of the internet on artists”.
You could give some general information about how the number of internet users has increased, or how many images are posted on Instagram or DeviantArt each month. This type of information could hint at the importance of the internet on art.
You could mention that some people believe the internet has a negative impact on artistic creation. This shows that there is an issue within the topic, and it seems to be a significant one.
But, how can you actually use this?
If we combine these two pieces of information, we can produce a background section that looks something like:
“In recent years, the number of images posted on picture-sharing social media has been growing exponentially. Some researchers believe that this internet growth is having a negative impact on artistic creativity, though.”
Note: this is just an example, so the studies aren’t real.
Let’s take a look at the first sentence of our introduction.
“In recent years
” is a time phrase
. Time phrases can be a good way to start an introduction because it gives context
. You need context to be relevant.
After the time phrase, I’ve mentioned the topic broadly: the effect of the internet on artists.
Finally, I’ve used information which shows the significance of the topic: “has been growing exponentially”
You can use a similar pattern to start your introduction:
Time phrase + topic + significant/important/surprising information.
But that’s not all…
Something is missing from our background information… statistics or a quotation! Statitisics and quotations (from credible sources) can really help to grab attention and make your topic seem significant.
Let’s use some statistics from a government website.
“According to a survey by the Office of National Statistics (2015), a staggering 99% of 16 to 34 year olds in the UK used the internet between January and March 2015.”
Show that your topic is influential and significant. Show that there’s an impact. Show that there’s an issue.
Section 2: The Thesis Statement
Next, you need to give your stance. Your stance is where you stand on the topic. This section is more specific to your essay than the background information.
So, what’s your opinion? Are you evaluating or arguing the issue?
Do you remember our essay question? “evaluate the effect of the internet on artists”.
What’s your stance? For me, I think the internet is a positive development for artists.
Because they can share their work with a larger audience, network easier and they have more employment opportunities.
Do you see what I did there?
I decided on my stance and identified the reasons why. The reasons why are really important, so we’ll save them for later.
Our thesis statement for this assignment title could be:
“Although it is believed that the internet is detrimental to artistic creativity, it is a powerful tool which artists should learn how to use correctly.”
Here, I’ve shown that there are two sides to the internet and artists issue. However, I’ve also shown my stance.
Also, I didn’t say “In my opinion” or “I think” because they are too informal.
Section 3: The Outline
Finally, we have the outline.
This is the easiest part of the introduction. All you need to do is write what your essay talks about.
Basically it’s like a map of your essay. Most people like to write this section after they’ve finished writing their essay, so they know exactly what they’ve written about.
The outline is more specific to your essay than the thesis statement.
Do you remember those reasons that we thought of in the previous section?
You know, the ones we thought of when deciding our stance?
Larger audience – easier to network – more job opportunities
Well, we can use these as paragraph topics. But that’s not all:
We can also use these in the outline!
So, let’s go ahead and write our outline:
“First, this essay will consider how access to a larger audience affects artists. Then the improved networking opportunities will be discussed. Finally, the effect of the internet on artist employment rates will be analysed.”
Let’s quickly analyse the language here. I’ve used:
- Time signals to show the order: First, then, finally. There are others you can use, too.
- Noun phrases: we don’t want to make this section too complex, so I’ve used noun phrases to give more information: access to a larger audience, improved networking opportunities, the effect of the internet on artist employment rates.
- The passive voice: in the second and third sentences, I’ve used the passive voice to make my writing more academic.
- Verb choices: I’ve used verbs which relate show what I’ll do in each paragraph: consider, discuss and analyse.
Don’t go crazy here. Just keep it simple and clear.
If you need to build your vocabulary, this post can help.
Let’s put it all together
Your introduction should be CSI:
- Clear: state your purpose and essay structure
- Short: about 10% of your total word count
- Interesting: make your audience want to read your essay
Your introduction should be made up of three parts:
- Background information: general information about your topic
- Thesis statement: give your stance
- Outline: state the structure of your essay
Here’s an infographic that shows the three parts of the introduction.
You’ll notice that it’s an upside-down triangle. This shows the progress from general to specific. The background information is the most general whereas the outline is the most specific.
Do you remember the examples that we wrote earlier?
Let’s put them all together.
Our introduction for the assignment “evaluate the effect of the internet on artists” could look something like this:
In recent years, the number of images posted on picture-sharing social media has been growing exponentially. In fact, according to a survey by the Office of National Statistics (2015), a staggering 99% of 16 to 34 year olds in the UK used the internet between January and March 2015. Some researchers believe that this internet growth is having a negative impact on artistic creativity, though. Although it is believed that the internet is detrimental to artistic creativity, it is a powerful tool which artists should learn how to use correctly. First, this essay will consider how access to a larger audience affects artists. Then the improved networking opportunities will be discussed. Finally, the effect of the internet on artist employment rates will be analysed.
All of that in 124 words!
And that’s not all… If we wanted to make it better, we could add reasons to the thesis statement.
I hope that this guide makes writing your next introduction much easier.
Do you need more help?
Click here to download my free 4-page thesis statement worksheet
And don’t forget…
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Finally, what do you think is more difficult to write: the introduction or the conclusion?
Leave your answer in the comments section below.