How to Write an Essay Introduction

Published by at November 1st, 2021 , Revised On March 9, 2022

A good essay introduction paragraph sets the stage or the context for the position you are arguing. It provides an overview of what the essay is about.

An essay introduction serves three goals:

  • Grab the attention of your reader.
  • Provide topic background information
  • Introduce the thesis statement – the central argument of your essay.

The following introduction paragraph is taken from our essay example “Donald Trump’s victory in 2016 US elections”.

Essay introduction example

Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 US election was nothing short of a revolution (Hook – start your essay with a strong opening statement that grabs readers’ attention). The Democrat’s last stand largely rested on Mrs Clinton’s strength in the Midwest. Those were states that had gone Democrat for decades, based in part on the support of black and working-class white voters. Those working-class white people, particularly ones without a college education – men and women – deserted the party in droves (Background information so you can put your main idea into perspective). The situation eased Donald Trump’s path to success as he defied all expectations from the very beginning of his presidential campaign. Few experts believed he could run for an election and win any primaries. But he proved his critics wrong by winning a sweeping victory in the presidential race (Thesis statement that presents the main point of your essay). This essay discusses the causes that resulted in working-class white voters leaving the democratic party. It then analyses why the USA’s political gurus did not consider Trump a threat to the democrats. Subsequently, it examines the republican moves that ensured Trump’s victory and its wide-ranging effects on the USA’s political system (Essay structure overview to indicate what the essay covers).

Step # 1 – A strong opening statement (hook)

Open your essay with a bold, concise and intriguing claim that would lure your reader into curiosity and capture their attention. However, avoid any claims that are too broad or purely based on facts.

The opening sentence should not be too long. Make it concise, clear and to the point. The hook or opening statement allows you to lead the reader into your essay. It provides an insight into the topic you are investigating and why the readers should continue to read it.

Here are some examples of good essay hooks.

Examples of a good essay hook

The following examples of weak hooks will help improve your essay hook.

X Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 US election was important.

Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 US election was nothing short of a revolution.

As you may notice, the first example hook is a dry fact. The second statement is more powerful and convincing as it makes a bold claim about the significance of Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 US elections.

X Sustainable living describes a lifestyle that attempts to reduce an individual’s or society using the Earth’s natural resources and one’s personal resources.

Shifting to sustainable living can heal the planet Earth that is suffering from slow carbon poisoning.

Avoid writing a simple definition of the idea you are exploring as the opening sentence. An obvious fact that everyone knows will not hook the reader. On the other hand, the improved example provides more meaningful and precise information about the essay.

X The Quran is a notable religious book from the 7th century.

The Quran is often regarded as the most popular and widely-used religious book globally, containing the central religious text of Islam.

Rather than simply writing something that your readers already know, the above-improved hook example introduces an intriguing claim about the religious significance of the book of the Holy Quran.

Step # 2 – Provide background information

Next, provide background information so your readers can comprehend the context of your topic of investigation. The background information generally includes the following information:

  • Definition of key terms
  • A brief description of the critical theories about your topic
  • An outline of the debate your essay reports
  • Social, geographic and historical relevance

The background information should be specific, clear, concise, and to the point. Any information that does not relate to the central argument of your essay should not be included here. However, avoid going Into too much detail.

The background text should refer to the main body’s important points without supporting evidence and analysis.

The length of the background information depends on your academic level, academic subject, the topic of investigation, and the scope of research. For example, in our Donald Trump essay example, we introduce the topic in a few sentences and paint the USA political picture that the essay will address.

Example background information

The Democrat’s last stand largely rested on Mrs Clinton’s strength in the Midwest. Those were states that had gone Democrat for decades, based partly on the support of black and working-class white voters. Those working-class white people, particularly ones without a college education – men and women – deserted the party in droves.

Also read: How to shorten an essay.

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Step # 3 – Write the thesis statement

Write a specific, focused, and concise thesis statement that clearly shows why your essay’s topic is of significant importance. In essence, a thesis statement sums up the essay’s central idea in one or two sentences.

The thesis statement is the most important part of the introduction section in essay writing. Your thesis statement should be a claim that is backed by supporting evidence and interpretation.

Here, the aim should present your main argument and define your independent position about the essay topic.

Example thesis statement

The situation eased Donald Trump’s path to success as he defied all expectations from the very beginning of his presidential campaign. Few experts believed he could run for an election and win any primaries. But he proved his critics wrong by winning a sweeping victory in the presidential race.

Step # 4 – Signpost the different sections of the essay

You may not need to develop this section for a short high school essay. However, in more extended pieces, especially those for undergraduate and master’s degree programmes, it will make sense to close out the introduction by mapping your essay’s structure.

Signposting the different parts of the essay will help your reader establish the key points discussed and identify your position on the issue.

Example essay structure mapping

This essay discusses the causes that resulted in working-class white voters leaving the democratic party. It then analyses why the USA’s political gurus did not consider Trump a threat to the democrats. Subsequently, it examines the republican moves that ensured Trump’s victory and its wide-ranging effects on the USA’s political system.

Step # 5 – Read and improve

Proofread, proofread, and proofread again. The central argument of your essay will likely change emphasis and direction as you continue to dig deep to uncover facts about your essay topic.

Although the introduction is the first section of an essay, it is usually written last. This is because your thoughts and ideas will continue to develop through the writing process. What you write in the introduction paragraph at the start could be completely different from what you write in it if you wait until later.

Write the main body and the conclusion before returning to the introduction to make sure it relates to the content of the rest of the essay.

When polishing your essay, it would be helpful to remember that the thesis statement should present the essay’s main idea. Check to make sure the thesis statement corresponds to the main argument, especially if your views changed or evolved during the process.

Also read: How to write an argumentative essay.

Essay introduction checklist

Use the following essay introduction checklist to ensure your introduction section aligns with the best practices.

  • My hook or opening statement is a bold and intriguing claim.
  • I have provided the necessary background information.
  • I have defined the key terms.
  • The thesis statement represents the main idea my essay argues.
  • The content of the main body relates to the introduction of my essay.

Also read: How to write a narrative essay.

The essay introduction should include the following;

  • A hook – a bold and engaging statement that forces the readers to continue to read the essay.
  • Background information to provide context the readers need to comprehend your topic and argument.
  • A thesis statement that sums up the central argument.

Your academic level, subject of study, and topic determine the length of the introduction section.

A hook is a strong opening statement that grabs the attention of your readers. It should not be a long and tedious statement or a simple definition, but rather an engaging sentence to speak your reader’s curiosity.

A thesis statement is the summary of the main argument your essay presents.

All academic essays and research papers should include a thesis statement for the reasons listed below.

  • It gives direction and clarity to your writing.
  • It summarises the central argument for the readers.

Without a concise and focused thesis statement, your readers will struggle to figure out what the essay talks about.

About Ellie Cross

I am Content Manager at this prestigious organization who has been assisting students for a long time. I have been part of Essays UK since its inception and have seen all the ups and downs it has faced in all those years. I manage a growing team of great writers and content marketers who are contributing to a great extent to help students with their academics.