Writing an introduction

Contrary to what you might think, writing the introduction and the conclusion of an essay can prove to be quite difficult and time-consuming. The introduction and the conclusion provide a frame for the essay, and should give your essay a clear and effective beginning and ending. This section concerns writing introductions; for more information on writing conclusions, see Writing a Conclusion.

By providing a carefully written introduction, you offer the reader a transition into the particular world of your analysis, your take on the subject that you are writing about, and your thinking. In other words, your introduction should provide a kind of road map to reading your paper. To your reader, your paper is a foreign landscape and your introduction can offer a guide to finding the way. Often, introductions offer a wealth of information that the rest of the essay addresses in greater detail. A good introduction will do the following:

  • Present the thesis of the paper
  • Explain why it is important to you as the writer (the motive)
  • Explain how you intend to prove your points; i.e. present the order of the information provided in the paper

A possible method for writing an introduction

You don’t necessarily have to write your introduction first. As a matter of fact, you will most likely have to write (or at least re-write) your introduction once you are done with the main body of your essay. You will be in the best position to explain what your essay is about after you have written it.

After having read your assignment carefully, and after you have done some research, write a thesis statement and a preliminary explanation of what you are planning to do in your essay, and let this be your introduction for now. In this way your introduction will also serve as your own roadmap as you write your paper. As you write it is important to keep in mind that your argument might go in a different direction than you had originally planned. This is perfectly natural; actually it is to be expected. However, that is why it is necessary that you return to your introduction at the end of the writing process in order to make sure that the introduction accurately reflects the argument and structure of your paper.

Start your paper with something interesting. Avoid starting your paper with statements such as “In this paper I argue...”, “This paper explains...”, “My paper will argue that...”. Though statements such as these point to the paper’s argument, they are stiff and boring. Your introduction should grab the reader’s interest, which these statements do not do. Instead of saying

This paper will argue that many movements of the Baroque suite originated as dances.

you might want to say

Many movements of the Baroque suite originated as dances.

and then go on to explain why and how you plan to prove your assertion. This makes for a much more confident and active introduction.

Other possible ways to start your introduction:

  • Start out with a seeming contradiction.
  • Use a controversial quote that you might agree / disagree with. If you do so, be sure to use the quote in the body of your text.
  • Introduce a question that puzzles you and that you answer in your paper. If you do so, be sure to not just repeat the question from the assignment.

First Impression

Finally, always remember that your introduction is your chance to make a good first impression. If your introduction is dull, full of mistakes, too general, or without an argument, your reader is going to assume that your paper will follow that pattern. Such an introduction will make your reader approach your paper with great skepticism.

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