Your introduction paragraph should grab your reader's attention, introduce the topic of your essay, and present your thesis. (The thesis is the main idea of the essay.) As you introduce your topic, make sure to give the reader enough background information about the topic that the reader will be able to understand the thesis.
You can visualize the ideas in your introduction paragraph by thinking about an inverted triangle. The ideas in the beginning of your introduction paragraph are general. Then you narrow down the topic to a specific idea.
Grab the reader's attention
The very first sentence of your introduction should get your reader interested in your topic. The first sentence of an introduction is called a "hook."
The word hook is a noun for a tool you use to catch, hold, or pull something. A good example of this is the hook used for fishing. The hook is the part that catches the fish and allows the person to pull the fish out of the water.
A hook in writing fills the same purpose. It is the interesting start to your essay that gets the reader's attention, pulls them in, and keeps them reading until the end.
There are many types of hooks: facts, questions, problems, descriptions, etc.
After the hook, you will introduce the necessary background knowledge (context) that the reader will need before introducing your main points. This is the more general information that is the foundation for your thesis.
Depending on the type of essay you are writing and who your audience is, you will have to adjust the content of your introduction.
Context by Type
In this textbook, you will practice three main types of essays.
In the descriptive essay, you will practice describing and narrating about the life of a famous individual. Because you are writing about a person, you should include biographical information in your introduction. Think about where, when, and why this person had an influence on the world.
The second essay type in this book is a comparison essay. You will choose two topics and discuss either the similarities or differences. The context needed in the introduction will be about why these two topics are worth comparing in the first place? Why should the reader care?
Finally, the argumentative essay requires you to take a position on a topic. The introduction may include general information about the topic and why there are divisive opinions. It may challenge a widely-held belief. Your context is focused on establishing why you would have to take a position on this topic.
Context by Audience
Your reader has a significant impact on your introduction. Before you begin writing, think about who this essay is for.
At the most basic level, the essay audience is your teacher. Think about what your teacher would be expected to already know about this topic. If the topic you chose is closely tied to your culture or country's history, think about what the average person outside of your home would need to know to follow your organization. It may help to write a list of questions you think that your teacher would ask if you started a conversation about your topic.
Beyond your teacher, your essay should have another audience. For your descriptive essay, you could think of writing a wiki article. A comparison is often used in media to discuss differences between products, beliefs, people, places, etc. And argumentative essays have a lot in common with blogs and many opinion news articles. Besides thinking of your teacher, think about who would read your essay if you published it openly. What would that audience need to know?
Present your thesis
The thesis states the main idea, or focus, of the essay. The rest of the essay will give evidence and explanations that show why or how your thesis is true.
An effective thesis—
- addresses the prompt if there is one* (i.e., answers the question).
- is usually at the end of the introduction paragraph.
- controls the content of all of the body paragraphs.
- is a complete sentence.
- does not announce the topic (e.g., "I'm going to talk about exercise.").
- should not simply be a fact (e.g., "Many people exercise.").
- should not be too general (e.g., "Exercise is good.").
- should not be too specific (e.g., "Exercise decreases the chance of developing diabetes, heart disease, asthma, osteoporosis, depression, and anxiety.").
- may state main points (e.g., "Exercise is essential because it improves overall physical and mental health.").
- may imply main points (e.g., "Exercise is essential for improving our well-being.").
*In some essays you write, you will not have a specific question to answer. Instead, you may need to choose your own topic. Your essay should still answer a question (e.g., how are typical Japanese and Chinese diets similar or different?).
Exercise 1: Evaluating Hooks
Look at the example hooks below. What strategy does the writer use to make you interested? Which ones do you think are most effective?
- It is impossible to talk about models without mentioning Gisele Bündchen.
- The contemporary world is marked by different movements that emerged
throughout the centuries.
- What skill do you think most students would say is the most important for success in college?
- It is scientifically proven that having a pet at home can increase the quality of life of the owner in many aspects
- Golda Meir expressed the strong and vital attributes needed to be the first woman prime minister of Israel.
Exercise 2: Identify Type & Audience
Using the example writing situations below, identify the topic, the type of writing, and the audience. Practice brainstorming information for an introduction using who, what, where, when, why, and how questions.
- Describe a famous musician from your country to your American roommate.
- Compare two cellphone brands that you are considering buying.
- Your best friend posts on social media that she is voting for a politician that you dislike. Explain to her why she should vote for someone else.
- The teacher is giving you an option to take a test on Friday or during class. Before making a decision, he has asked you (the student leader) to lead the class discussion on the two choices.
- Your classmates are messaging in Whatsapp about options for a class activity this weekend. Give your opinion.
- The ELC is having an activity. You have been asked to prepare a speech to introduce your country to a group of elementary students from a nearby school.
Exercise 3: Evaluate thesis statements.
Discuss each thesis statement with a partner. Which sentences are effective thesis statements? Which sentences are not effective thesis statements? Be prepared to explain why it is not effective.
Prompt 1: What causes poverty?
- Poverty is caused by many forms of economic instability including unemployment, crop failure, and scarcity of resources.
- The causes of poverty
- Poverty is completely devastating to the people who suffer from it.
- Poverty is caused by a slow economy where people don't spend money, so stores start to fail and then the employees are laid off as well as when the weather is really extreme and farmers can't produce a good crop, so the prices of the other crops increase.
- Now I will explain the causes of poverty and the devastating effects that come when poverty is widespread in a community.
- Governmental failures including political corruption and the misuse of foreign aid can lead a country into poverty.
Prompt 2: Does advertising encourage us to buy things we do not need, or does it tell us about new products that may improve our lives?
- I agree that sometimes people buy things because they are new.
- Many shoppers are persuaded to buy things they do not need because of the convincing power of advertisements.
- The influence that the advertising has in our life, the huge information that the advertising gives us to compare with other products, and the way the advertising shows information.
- Products such as technology, clothes, and toys are the most common in advertisements.
- Advertisements play an important role in informing consumers about new products they would not know about otherwise.
- I will show how advertisements help us to know about products that we need, and those products can change our way of living because they are innovative.