Writing a high-quality introduction is the most important part of writing your essay. It’s also one of the toughest things to get right. In a few sentences you have to tell the reader what they’re looking at, why it’s important, why it will be interesting to them and approximate how the rest of your paper will look like. That’s all with the added pressure that, often enough, a lazy professor will read only the introduction and the conclusion before grading your paper.
Hook the reader
If you’re planning to write a good introduction to your essay, you’ll need to pique the reader’s interest. Hook them straight away by stating why what you’re discussing is an important issue. You can do this by citing a dire statistic. If your essay is on the causes of poverty, you can open up by saying that, by conservative estimates, there are 100 million homeless in the US. That’s made up, so no need to panic, but don’t be tempted in citing a made up statistic or something from a non-reputable source. If your professor knows their stuff (odds are, they do) they’ll see right through it and all your work will be dismissed before they’re finished with the first paragraph.
Quote an expert
Another way to get the readers on your side is providing a quote from someone reputable. The quote should come from an expert in the field. The best ones for this purpose are strong-worded statements that haven’t been used to death already. Make sure that the quote you’re using is highly relevant. If the quote is more than one sentence long, or it’s one sentence that’s huge, make sure it properly introduces what your essay is about.
Introduce what the essay is about
You have to do this very early in your introduction. Ideally, after reading the first two sentences the reader should be aware of the issue that you’re discussing, so don’t start too far away from the topic. If you have a predetermined title for your essay (whether it’s predetermined by you or your professor), do not reword it for the purpose of stating the issue, as if the title exists separately from your paper.
What is the bias?
By the end of reading your introduction, the reader should know what your slant is. If you’re writing about a political issue, the slant would be your own political views. In fact, when discussing anything that’s highly contested – global warming, for instance – or anything where the reader will know your opinion, it would be good form to communicate to the reader what your view is right away. We should know what your biases are before we get to the body of the essay and stumble onto them on our own.
Put the thesis statement last
Every essay should have a clear thesis statement – that much is certain. But there is no clear consensus on where it should go in the structure of the introduction: some say second sentence, some say first sentence, and we’re saying it should go last. The thesis statement is supposed to be the core concept that your entire essay exists to hold up. The entirety of the body of your essay exists solely to agree with this statement. So, it should come right before the actual arguments in favor of your position start to come up.
The thesis statement is the perfect way to finish your introductory paragraph for two reasons: first, in its best form, it is strongly worded and memorable – those who agree with it should cheer after reading it and those who don’t should go red in the face. Second, it’s the best for a smooth transition into the body of your essay – in every case, this will be logically and stylistically consistent.
Introduction comes last
This is every writer’s little trick, and successful students know it, too. Instead of starting your writing process by writing the introduction and inevitably veering into a completely separate direction during the writing of the body of your essay, write the introduction last. This will definitely make for a more coherent intro than it would have been otherwise, since you can assess the information in the rest of your essay and tailor the introduction accordingly. If you’re one of those writers who like to write the intro first to ruminate on a topic, then feel free to continue doing so. But if you’re constantly struggling, just write ‘placeholder: intro’, move on and come back to it later on.
Be wise and introduce your paper well. Your introduction is what will guide your reader down the path of your paper, and it should be informative right off the bat – introducing new ideas and the core concepts that the rest of the essay will be relying on. It should catch the reader’s attention letting them know why they should care about the topic – convey some urgency in what you’re writing.