An introduction sounds deceptively simple.
It’s easy to forget about the intro and give all your attention to the body of the paper because that’s where the meat is, right? But truthfully, the introduction is what gets your reader engaged. It’s the first impression, and it sets up your essay for success.
If your paper doesn’t have a solid introduction, the rest of your paper may fall apart, and your reader might stop after the first couple of sentences (ouch)! And as you know, writing papers takes a lot of effort, so you want your reader to make it to the end.
We’ve broken down the introduction into three parts, each with strategies to help you create an excellent introduction of your own.
1. The hook
When you’re sitting down to write a paper, knowing where to begin is mind-boggling. The first couple of sentences should “hook” the reader in and “bait” them to be interested in the rest of your paper. If your paper has a dull first sentence, the reader’s motivation diminishes. That’s why you need an adequate hook.
What’s a hook? It’s the first couple of sentences of your paper, and a good one entices your reader to keep reading.
How can you “hook” your reader? One standard technique is to use a question (like the one above).
Let’s say you’re writing an essay about how nutrition affects health. Which sentence grabs your attention?
- Nutrition is essential for your health.
- What do you think of when you hear the phrase “balanced diet?”
You’re probably much more inclined to continue reading past the second one.
You also can use a bold statement to engage your reader. That could range from stating an interesting fact, sharing a personal anecdote, or talking about a common belief you will be challenging.
Here’s another possible hook with an engaging statement AND anecdote:
“When I was young, I frequently ate cake for breakfast, but now as a dietician, I know that I could have made wiser choices for my heart.”
One note of caution: Be aware of who your audience is. For instance, the above example would be great for a personal essay, but would not be up to snuff for an academic journal.
In any case, you’re probably eager to learn about the next part of the introduction.
2. Background information
After hooking your reader, provide background information on the topic. After all, your introduction sets the tone and purpose for what you’re writing about. You need to make sure there’s enough information for the reader to understand and follow your thesis (that’ll come up next).
It’s tempting to get wordy and type your stream-of-consciousness onto the page, but you need to condense those awesome thoughts into one to four sentences. Try to be clear and introduce the main topics organically without going into too much detail—the details should be saved for the body of your paper.
It’s helpful to brainstorm a couple of keywords and identify critical ideas when forming these few sentences. Here’s an examples of some background text for that nutrition paper we keep talking about:
“Many people don’t know that diet affects not only your weight, but also your heart.”
Theses rock, why? Because a strong thesis not only provides the entire foundation of your paper, but it also gives you points to address in the rest of your paper.
What’s a thesis anyway? The thesis is your primary argument that’s usually found at the end of your introduction.
It’s the point of your paper, and what you will reference throughout the rest of your essay. The thesis is like a keystone—it holds everything together.
You may struggle with the thesis because you’re taking the whole theme and argument of your paper and wrapping it up into one or two sentences. That’s tough! But if we can do it, so can you!
Here’s an example thesis on nutrition:
“Improper nutrition can dramatically increase your risk of having a heart attack, while a proper diet promotes cardiovascular health.”
For more resources on how to write a thesis, click here.
Putting it all together
Now check out what our complete introduction looks like. And note that the tone of introductions vary based on your audience, but the essential components don’t change, no matter what the assignment.
Hook: What do you think of when you hear the phrase “balanced diet?”
Background info: Most of us know that diet affects not only your weight, but also your heart.
Thesis: In fact, improper nutrition can dramatically increase your risk of having a heart attack, while a proper diet promotes cardiovascular health.
A solid introduction engages the reader and informs them about what they’ll be reading. It also introduces your thesis, which is the backbone of your entire paper.
When sitting down to tackle your next writing assignment, try taking your time on that intro. And after, don’t forget to cite your sources in your works cited page. Also, note if your essay has to be in MLA, APA, Chicago style format, or another citation style.
Now get to that essay “write” away!