Essay Introductions

Essay Introductions 

Penmanship

Academic essays generally engage with topics that are…

  • debatable,
  • multi-faceted,
  • and complex.

With this in mind, creating a clear and effective introduction is critical to an essay’s success. (The more complex a topic is, the more important it becomes to be specific and precise.) The reader should finish an introduction with a strong sense of an essay’s topic and argument.

Effective introductions will identify more than just the specific topic of the essay. 
Effective introductions will also indicate a debate or an area of disagreement within that topic and will clearly communicate a position within that debate. 
It is possible to fit each of these items into a single thesis statement, but often a writer will use more than one sentence to present the whole picture of the essay’s purpose and content.
Thomas Nast Writing with a Feather Pen
  • Use the introduction to state the ISSUE and your POSITION on the issue.
  • These two things constitute your thesis.
THESIS = ISSUE & POSITION

Questions an Introduction Should Answer:

  • What is the topic of the essay?
  • What, specifically, will the essay discuss, examine or explore?
  • What are you trying to convince the reader to agree with?
    • If the essay is going to argue a point, what is the main argument?
    • If the essay is going to provide information, what is the purpose of providing it?
    • If the essay is going to respond to another writer’s ideas, what is the most important part of your response? What text are you responding to? Who wrote it?
    • If the essay is going to present a literary interpretation, what is the specific interpretation that is being made? What text is being interpreted? Who wrote it?
  • What does the reader need to know in order to understand what you have been asked to do by a teacher or editor or employer?

Specific Models of Some Introduction Options

An essay introduction is perhaps the most crucial paragraph in an academic essay, but introductions also offer some flexibility that body paragraphs do not and introductions provide an opportunity to be creative.

Here is a brief list of options to consider when crafting your essay introduction: 

  1. Get fancy. Use some poetic language.
  2. Invite the reader’s attention. Pose a rhetorical question to get the reader thinking about the issue.
  3. Set the stage. Describe the context of the argument. (How long has the issue been important or debated? Who is involved in the issue? Who, in particular, cares about this issue?)
  4. Provide background. Briefly explain your personal connection to the topic. 
  5. Clarify the stakes. Explain why this issue is important.
  6. Offer a concise summary of some of the main points you will make in the essay.
  7. Acknowledge alternative points of view. Clearly indicate that multiple view points exist on this issue.

A Few Specific Introduction Models: 

Method #1Move from broad to narrow.
  • Start with a big idea and move from there into the specific subject and argument of the essay.

Example:

The battle for equal rights has been ongoing for decades. Racial equality and gender equality have been the most prominent causes in the fight, but today the issue of gender equality seems more divisive than racial equality. Women continue to argue for the right to equal pay for equal work and for representation in leadership positions. The problem runs deep, but there are solutions available. Policies for hiring, pay, and promotion should be federally enforced as a first step toward greater gender equality in the work place.
Method #2Address counter-argument and/or alternative points of view

Example:

Some people argue that the women’s movement is unjustified and that reports of a wage gap between men and women are overstated. While there are legitimate questions about the true size of the wage gap between women and men, there is no doubt that a wage gap does exist. Policies for hiring, pay, and promotion should be federally enforced as a first step toward greater gender equality in the work place.
Method #3Address context
  • Connect the issue to a larger conversation.

Example:

There is an ongoing debate in America regarding gender equality in the work place. Prominent employers from Silicon Valley tech firms to Wall Street investment banks are routinely criticized for their lack of gender diversity and their treatment of women. Evidence of a wage gap across occupations in America is cited often as an indication that things need to change. The problem runs deep, but there are solutions available. Policies for hiring, pay, and promotion should be federally enforced as a first step toward greater gender equality in the work place.
Method #4Pose a rhetorical question to draw in the reader

Example:

Do you know any women with jobs? You almost certainly do. Do you also know that on average those women are likely to be paid less than their male counter-parts in the workplace? The issue of a gender-based wage gap is best understood as an equal rights issue and it is a problem that we should work to solve. Policies for hiring, pay, and promotion should be federally enforced as a first step toward greater gender equality in the work place.
Method #5Open with a quotation related to the topic (but not drawn from the articles or texts to be cited in the body of the essay).

Example: 

Oprah Winfrey once said that “We can’t become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” There are changes to be made in America, because we have not yet achieved a situation of true equal rights. We can no longer accept a lack of work place gender inequality that favors men over women in terms of pay and promotions. To “become what we need to be” – as a nation of equal rights and equal opportunity – policies for hiring, pay, and promotion should be federally enforced as a first step toward greater gender equality in the work place.

Essay Writing Tips

Essay Basics

Thesis Statements

Essay Introductions

Body Paragraphs

Conclusions

Do’s and Don’ts of Academic Essays

Common Essay Mistakes to Avoid

MLA Formatting Guidelines (Plus Common Mistakes & How to Avoid Them)

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Published by eric m martin

A writer, teacher and coffee shop owner living in the southern reaches of the Mojave Desert.

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