How to Write an Introduction
An introduction for an essay or research paper is the first paragraph, which explains the topic and prepares the reader for the rest of the work. Because it’s responsible for both the reader’s first impression and setting the stage for the rest of the work, the introduction paragraph is arguably the most important paragraph in the work.
Knowing how to write an introduction paragraph is a great skill, not just for writers, but for students and researchers as well. Here, we explain everything you need to know to write the best introduction, such as what to include and a step-by-step process, with some introduction paragraph examples.
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What is an introduction?
Your introduction is a way of preparing your reader for your paper. As the first paragraph of your writing , it makes the first impression and sets the reader’s expectations for tone, voice, and writing style. More importantly, your introduction provides the necessary background for your reader to understand your paper’s purpose and key points.
The introduction is also a way to engage and captivate your reader. An interesting, thought-provoking, or generally entertaining introduction makes your reader excited to keep reading—and an eager reader is an attentive reader.
What to include in an introduction
Introductions generally follow the writing style of the author and the format for the type of paper—for example, opening with a joke is appropriate for some essays, but not research papers . However, no matter what your writing style is or what kind of paper you’re writing, a good introduction includes at least three parts:
- A hook to capture the reader’s attention
- Background for context
- A clearly defined thesis statement or main point of your paper
How to write a hook
The hook refers to anything that grabs (or “hooks”) your reader’s attention and makes them interested. This could be a mystery, such as posing a question and only answering it at the end of your paper. Or it could be a shocking statistic, something that makes your reader rethink what they thought they knew and become curious for more information.
Hooks can be even more creative. Some papers start with an analogy or parable to present complicated topics in a way that someone with little experience can understand. Likewise, many writers opt to use personal anecdotes to show a more human side and spark an emotional connection with the reader.
When all else fails, you can use a poignant quote. If you’re having trouble putting your thoughts into words, maybe one of the great minds from history has already said it well.
You can read all about how to write a hook here, including more detailed instructions and examples.
How to add background information
Not every paper requires background knowledge, but sometimes your reader needs to catch up or understand the context before you make your original points.
If you’re writing about something factual, such as a scientific or historical paper, you may need to provide a small lesson on the basics. For example, if you’re writing about the conflict between ancient Egypt and Nubia, you might want to establish the time period and where each party was located geographically.
Just don’t give too much away in the introduction. In general, introductions should be short. If your topic requires extensive background to understand, it’s best to dedicate a few paragraphs to this after the introduction.
How to write a thesis statement
Every good introduction needs a thesis statement , a sentence that plainly and concisely explains the main topic. Thesis statements are often just a brief summary of your entire paper, including your argument or point of view for personal essays. For example, if your paper is about whether viewing violent cartoons impacts real-life violence, your thesis statement could be:
Despite the rhetoric and finger-pointing, no evidence has connected live-action role-play violence with real-world violence, but there is plenty of evidence for exoneration, as I explain here.
Learning to write a good thesis statement is an essential writing skill, both in college and the world of work, so it’s worth taking the time to learn. The rule of thumb for thesis statements is not to give everything away all at once. Thesis statements, and more broadly introductions, should be short and to the point, so save the details for the rest of the paper.
How to write an introduction paragraph in 6 steps
1 decide on the overall tone and formality of your paper.
Often what you’re writing determines the style: The guidelines for how to write an introduction for a report are different from those for how to write an English essay introduction. Even the different types of essays have their own limitations; for example, slang might be acceptable for a personal essay, but not a serious argumentative essay.
Don’t force yourself to write in a style that’s uncomfortable to you. If you’re not good at making jokes, you don’t need to. As long as your writing is interesting and your points are clear, your readers won’t mind.
2 Write your thesis statement
At the beginning of writing a paper, even before writing the research paper outline , you should know what your thesis is. If you haven’t already, now is the time to put that thesis into words by writing your thesis statement.
Thesis statements are just one sentence, but they are usually the most important sentence in your entire work. When your thesis is clearly defined, your readers will often use it as an anchor to understand the rest of the writing.
The key to writing a good thesis statement is knowing what to ignore. Your thesis statement should be an overview, not an outline. Save the details, evidence, and personal opinions for the body of the paper.
If you’re still having trouble, ask yourself how you’d explain this topic to a child. When you’re forced to use small words and simplify complex ideas, your writing comes across more clearly and is easier to understand. This technique also helps you know which details are necessary up front and which can wait until later .
3 Consider what background information your reader needs
Don’t take your own experience for granted. By this point in the writing process , you’ve probably already finished your research, which means you’re somewhat of an expert on the topic. Think back to what it was like before you learned: What did you wish you had known then?
Even if your topic is abstract, such as an ethical debate, consider including some context on the debate itself. How long has the ethical debate been happening? Was there a specific event that started it? Information like this can help set the scene so your reader doesn’t feel like they’re missing something.
4 Think of a good hook
Writing a hook can be the most difficult part of writing an introduction because it calls for some creativity. While the rest of your paper might be presenting fact after fact, the hook in your introduction often requires creating something from nothing.
Luckily, there are already plenty of tried-and-true strategies for how to start an essay . If you’re not feeling very creative, you can use a method that’s already been proven effective.
Just remember that the best hooks create an emotional connection—which emotion is up to you and your topic.
5 Write a rough draft of your introduction without pressure
It’s normal to clam up when writing a rough draft of your introduction. After all, the introduction always comes first, so it’s the first thing you write when you finally begin.
As explained in our guide to writing a rough draft , the best advice is not to pressure yourself. It’s OK to write something that’s messy—that’s what makes this draft rough . The idea here is to get words on paper that make your point. They don’t have to be the perfect words; that’s what revisions are for.
At the beginning, just worry about saying what needs to be said. Get down your hook and thesis statement, and background information if necessary, without worrying about how it sounds. You’ll be able to fix the problems later.
6 Revise your introduction after you’ve written your whole paper.
We recommend finishing the first draft of your entire paper before revising the introduction. You may make some changes in your paper’s structure when writing the first draft, and those changes should be reflected in the introduction.
After the first draft, it’s easier to focus on minutiae like word choice and sentence structure, not to mention finding spelling and grammar mistakes.
Introduction for an essay example
While other kids’ memories of circuses are happy and fun, what I recall most from my first time at a circus was feeling sorry for the animals—I can still remember the sadness in their eyes. [HOOK] Although animal rights in the circus have come a long way, their treatment of animals even under the new laws is still cruelty plain and simple. [BACKGROUND] The way circuses abuse animals needs to be abolished immediately, and we need to entirely rethink the way we use animals for entertainment. [THESIS STATEMENT]
Introduction for a research paper example
What would happen to humanity if everyone just stopped having babies? [HOOK] Although more endemic in some places than others, the global decline in birth rates has become a major issue since the end of the pandemic. [BACKGROUND] My research here shows not only that birth rates are declining all over the world, but also that unless the threats are addressed, these drastic declines will only get worse. [THESIS STATEMENT]
An introduction is the first paragraph in an essay or research paper. It prepares the reader for what follows.
What’s the purpose of an introduction?
The goal of the introduction is to both provide the necessary context for the topic so the reader can follow along and also create an emotional connection so the reader wants to keep reading.
What should an introduction include?
An introduction should include three things: a hook to interest the reader, some background on the topic so the reader can understand it, and a thesis statement that clearly and quickly summarizes your main point.
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- How to write an essay introduction | 4 steps & examples
How to Write an Essay Introduction | 4 Steps & Examples
Published on February 4, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 23, 2023.
A good introduction paragraph is an essential part of any academic essay . It sets up your argument and tells the reader what to expect.
The main goals of an introduction are to:
- Catch your reader’s attention.
- Give background on your topic.
- Present your thesis statement —the central point of your essay.
This introduction example is taken from our interactive essay example on the history of Braille.
The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability. The writing system of raised dots used by visually impaired people was developed by Louis Braille in nineteenth-century France. In a society that did not value disabled people in general, blindness was particularly stigmatized, and lack of access to reading and writing was a significant barrier to social participation. The idea of tactile reading was not entirely new, but existing methods based on sighted systems were difficult to learn and use. As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness. This essay begins by discussing the situation of blind people in nineteenth-century Europe. It then describes the invention of Braille and the gradual process of its acceptance within blind education. Subsequently, it explores the wide-ranging effects of this invention on blind people’s social and cultural lives.
Table of contents
Step 1: hook your reader, step 2: give background information, step 3: present your thesis statement, step 4: map your essay’s structure, step 5: check and revise, more examples of essay introductions, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about the essay introduction.
Your first sentence sets the tone for the whole essay, so spend some time on writing an effective hook.
Avoid long, dense sentences—start with something clear, concise and catchy that will spark your reader’s curiosity.
The hook should lead the reader into your essay, giving a sense of the topic you’re writing about and why it’s interesting. Avoid overly broad claims or plain statements of fact.
Examples: Writing a good hook
Take a look at these examples of weak hooks and learn how to improve them.
- Braille was an extremely important invention.
- The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability.
The first sentence is a dry fact; the second sentence is more interesting, making a bold claim about exactly why the topic is important.
- The internet is defined as “a global computer network providing a variety of information and communication facilities.”
- The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education.
Avoid using a dictionary definition as your hook, especially if it’s an obvious term that everyone knows. The improved example here is still broad, but it gives us a much clearer sense of what the essay will be about.
- Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a famous book from the nineteenth century.
- Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement.
Instead of just stating a fact that the reader already knows, the improved hook here tells us about the mainstream interpretation of the book, implying that this essay will offer a different interpretation.
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Next, give your reader the context they need to understand your topic and argument. Depending on the subject of your essay, this might include:
- Historical, geographical, or social context
- An outline of the debate you’re addressing
- A summary of relevant theories or research about the topic
- Definitions of key terms
The information here should be broad but clearly focused and relevant to your argument. Don’t give too much detail—you can mention points that you will return to later, but save your evidence and interpretation for the main body of the essay.
How much space you need for background depends on your topic and the scope of your essay. In our Braille example, we take a few sentences to introduce the topic and sketch the social context that the essay will address:
Now it’s time to narrow your focus and show exactly what you want to say about the topic. This is your thesis statement —a sentence or two that sums up your overall argument.
This is the most important part of your introduction. A good thesis isn’t just a statement of fact, but a claim that requires evidence and explanation.
The goal is to clearly convey your own position in a debate or your central point about a topic.
Particularly in longer essays, it’s helpful to end the introduction by signposting what will be covered in each part. Keep it concise and give your reader a clear sense of the direction your argument will take.
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As you research and write, your argument might change focus or direction as you learn more.
For this reason, it’s often a good idea to wait until later in the writing process before you write the introduction paragraph—it can even be the very last thing you write.
When you’ve finished writing the essay body and conclusion , you should return to the introduction and check that it matches the content of the essay.
It’s especially important to make sure your thesis statement accurately represents what you do in the essay. If your argument has gone in a different direction than planned, tweak your thesis statement to match what you actually say.
To polish your writing, you can use something like a paraphrasing tool .
You can use the checklist below to make sure your introduction does everything it’s supposed to.
Checklist: Essay introduction
My first sentence is engaging and relevant.
I have introduced the topic with necessary background information.
I have defined any important terms.
My thesis statement clearly presents my main point or argument.
Everything in the introduction is relevant to the main body of the essay.
You have a strong introduction - now make sure the rest of your essay is just as good.
- Literary analysis
This introduction to an argumentative essay sets up the debate about the internet and education, and then clearly states the position the essay will argue for.
The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts is on the rise, and its role in learning is hotly debated. For many teachers who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its critical benefits for students and educators—as a uniquely comprehensive and accessible information source; a means of exposure to and engagement with different perspectives; and a highly flexible learning environment.
This introduction to a short expository essay leads into the topic (the invention of the printing press) and states the main point the essay will explain (the effect of this invention on European society).
In many ways, the invention of the printing press marked the end of the Middle Ages. The medieval period in Europe is often remembered as a time of intellectual and political stagnation. Prior to the Renaissance, the average person had very limited access to books and was unlikely to be literate. The invention of the printing press in the 15th century allowed for much less restricted circulation of information in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation.
This introduction to a literary analysis essay , about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein , starts by describing a simplistic popular view of the story, and then states how the author will give a more complex analysis of the text’s literary devices.
Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale. Arguably the first science fiction novel, its plot can be read as a warning about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, and in popular culture representations of the character as a “mad scientist”, Victor Frankenstein represents the callous, arrogant ambition of modern science. However, far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to gradually transform our impression of Frankenstein, portraying him in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as.
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Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:
- An opening hook to catch the reader’s attention.
- Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
- A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.
The length of each part depends on the length and complexity of your essay .
The “hook” is the first sentence of your essay introduction . It should lead the reader into your essay, giving a sense of why it’s interesting.
To write a good hook, avoid overly broad statements or long, dense sentences. Try to start with something clear, concise and catchy that will spark your reader’s curiosity.
A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.
The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:
- It gives your writing direction and focus.
- It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.
Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.
The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.
The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.
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What this handout is about.
This handout will explain the functions of introductions, offer strategies for creating effective introductions, and provide some examples of less effective introductions to avoid.
The role of introductions
Introductions and conclusions can be the most difficult parts of papers to write. Usually when you sit down to respond to an assignment, you have at least some sense of what you want to say in the body of your paper. You might have chosen a few examples you want to use or have an idea that will help you answer the main question of your assignment; these sections, therefore, may not be as hard to write. And it’s fine to write them first! But in your final draft, these middle parts of the paper can’t just come out of thin air; they need to be introduced and concluded in a way that makes sense to your reader.
Your introduction and conclusion act as bridges that transport your readers from their own lives into the “place” of your analysis. If your readers pick up your paper about education in the autobiography of Frederick Douglass, for example, they need a transition to help them leave behind the world of Chapel Hill, television, e-mail, and The Daily Tar Heel and to help them temporarily enter the world of nineteenth-century American slavery. By providing an introduction that helps your readers make a transition between their own world and the issues you will be writing about, you give your readers the tools they need to get into your topic and care about what you are saying. Similarly, once you’ve hooked your readers with the introduction and offered evidence to prove your thesis, your conclusion can provide a bridge to help your readers make the transition back to their daily lives. (See our handout on conclusions .)
Note that what constitutes a good introduction may vary widely based on the kind of paper you are writing and the academic discipline in which you are writing it. If you are uncertain what kind of introduction is expected, ask your instructor.
Why bother writing a good introduction?
You never get a second chance to make a first impression. The opening paragraph of your paper will provide your readers with their initial impressions of your argument, your writing style, and the overall quality of your work. A vague, disorganized, error-filled, off-the-wall, or boring introduction will probably create a negative impression. On the other hand, a concise, engaging, and well-written introduction will start your readers off thinking highly of you, your analytical skills, your writing, and your paper.
Your introduction is an important road map for the rest of your paper. Your introduction conveys a lot of information to your readers. You can let them know what your topic is, why it is important, and how you plan to proceed with your discussion. In many academic disciplines, your introduction should contain a thesis that will assert your main argument. Your introduction should also give the reader a sense of the kinds of information you will use to make that argument and the general organization of the paragraphs and pages that will follow. After reading your introduction, your readers should not have any major surprises in store when they read the main body of your paper.
Ideally, your introduction will make your readers want to read your paper. The introduction should capture your readers’ interest, making them want to read the rest of your paper. Opening with a compelling story, an interesting question, or a vivid example can get your readers to see why your topic matters and serve as an invitation for them to join you for an engaging intellectual conversation (remember, though, that these strategies may not be suitable for all papers and disciplines).
Strategies for writing an effective introduction
Start by thinking about the question (or questions) you are trying to answer. Your entire essay will be a response to this question, and your introduction is the first step toward that end. Your direct answer to the assigned question will be your thesis, and your thesis will likely be included in your introduction, so it is a good idea to use the question as a jumping off point. Imagine that you are assigned the following question:
Drawing on the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass , discuss the relationship between education and slavery in 19th-century America. Consider the following: How did white control of education reinforce slavery? How did Douglass and other enslaved African Americans view education while they endured slavery? And what role did education play in the acquisition of freedom? Most importantly, consider the degree to which education was or was not a major force for social change with regard to slavery.
You will probably refer back to your assignment extensively as you prepare your complete essay, and the prompt itself can also give you some clues about how to approach the introduction. Notice that it starts with a broad statement and then narrows to focus on specific questions from the book. One strategy might be to use a similar model in your own introduction—start off with a big picture sentence or two and then focus in on the details of your argument about Douglass. Of course, a different approach could also be very successful, but looking at the way the professor set up the question can sometimes give you some ideas for how you might answer it. (See our handout on understanding assignments for additional information on the hidden clues in assignments.)
Decide how general or broad your opening should be. Keep in mind that even a “big picture” opening needs to be clearly related to your topic; an opening sentence that said “Human beings, more than any other creatures on earth, are capable of learning” would be too broad for our sample assignment about slavery and education. If you have ever used Google Maps or similar programs, that experience can provide a helpful way of thinking about how broad your opening should be. Imagine that you’re researching Chapel Hill. If what you want to find out is whether Chapel Hill is at roughly the same latitude as Rome, it might make sense to hit that little “minus” sign on the online map until it has zoomed all the way out and you can see the whole globe. If you’re trying to figure out how to get from Chapel Hill to Wrightsville Beach, it might make more sense to zoom in to the level where you can see most of North Carolina (but not the rest of the world, or even the rest of the United States). And if you are looking for the intersection of Ridge Road and Manning Drive so that you can find the Writing Center’s main office, you may need to zoom all the way in. The question you are asking determines how “broad” your view should be. In the sample assignment above, the questions are probably at the “state” or “city” level of generality. When writing, you need to place your ideas in context—but that context doesn’t generally have to be as big as the whole galaxy!
Try writing your introduction last. You may think that you have to write your introduction first, but that isn’t necessarily true, and it isn’t always the most effective way to craft a good introduction. You may find that you don’t know precisely what you are going to argue at the beginning of the writing process. It is perfectly fine to start out thinking that you want to argue a particular point but wind up arguing something slightly or even dramatically different by the time you’ve written most of the paper. The writing process can be an important way to organize your ideas, think through complicated issues, refine your thoughts, and develop a sophisticated argument. However, an introduction written at the beginning of that discovery process will not necessarily reflect what you wind up with at the end. You will need to revise your paper to make sure that the introduction, all of the evidence, and the conclusion reflect the argument you intend. Sometimes it’s easiest to just write up all of your evidence first and then write the introduction last—that way you can be sure that the introduction will match the body of the paper.
Don’t be afraid to write a tentative introduction first and then change it later. Some people find that they need to write some kind of introduction in order to get the writing process started. That’s fine, but if you are one of those people, be sure to return to your initial introduction later and rewrite if necessary.
Open with something that will draw readers in. Consider these options (remembering that they may not be suitable for all kinds of papers):
- an intriguing example —for example, Douglass writes about a mistress who initially teaches him but then ceases her instruction as she learns more about slavery.
- a provocative quotation that is closely related to your argument —for example, Douglass writes that “education and slavery were incompatible with each other.” (Quotes from famous people, inspirational quotes, etc. may not work well for an academic paper; in this example, the quote is from the author himself.)
- a puzzling scenario —for example, Frederick Douglass says of slaves that “[N]othing has been left undone to cripple their intellects, darken their minds, debase their moral nature, obliterate all traces of their relationship to mankind; and yet how wonderfully they have sustained the mighty load of a most frightful bondage, under which they have been groaning for centuries!” Douglass clearly asserts that slave owners went to great lengths to destroy the mental capacities of slaves, yet his own life story proves that these efforts could be unsuccessful.
- a vivid and perhaps unexpected anecdote —for example, “Learning about slavery in the American history course at Frederick Douglass High School, students studied the work slaves did, the impact of slavery on their families, and the rules that governed their lives. We didn’t discuss education, however, until one student, Mary, raised her hand and asked, ‘But when did they go to school?’ That modern high school students could not conceive of an American childhood devoid of formal education speaks volumes about the centrality of education to American youth today and also suggests the significance of the deprivation of education in past generations.”
- a thought-provoking question —for example, given all of the freedoms that were denied enslaved individuals in the American South, why does Frederick Douglass focus his attentions so squarely on education and literacy?
Pay special attention to your first sentence. Start off on the right foot with your readers by making sure that the first sentence actually says something useful and that it does so in an interesting and polished way.
How to evaluate your introduction draft
Ask a friend to read your introduction and then tell you what he or she expects the paper will discuss, what kinds of evidence the paper will use, and what the tone of the paper will be. If your friend is able to predict the rest of your paper accurately, you probably have a good introduction.
Five kinds of less effective introductions
1. The placeholder introduction. When you don’t have much to say on a given topic, it is easy to create this kind of introduction. Essentially, this kind of weaker introduction contains several sentences that are vague and don’t really say much. They exist just to take up the “introduction space” in your paper. If you had something more effective to say, you would probably say it, but in the meantime this paragraph is just a place holder.
Example: Slavery was one of the greatest tragedies in American history. There were many different aspects of slavery. Each created different kinds of problems for enslaved people.
2. The restated question introduction. Restating the question can sometimes be an effective strategy, but it can be easy to stop at JUST restating the question instead of offering a more specific, interesting introduction to your paper. The professor or teaching assistant wrote your question and will be reading many essays in response to it—he or she does not need to read a whole paragraph that simply restates the question.
Example: The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass discusses the relationship between education and slavery in 19th century America, showing how white control of education reinforced slavery and how Douglass and other enslaved African Americans viewed education while they endured. Moreover, the book discusses the role that education played in the acquisition of freedom. Education was a major force for social change with regard to slavery.
3. The Webster’s Dictionary introduction. This introduction begins by giving the dictionary definition of one or more of the words in the assigned question. Anyone can look a word up in the dictionary and copy down what Webster says. If you want to open with a discussion of an important term, it may be far more interesting for you (and your reader) if you develop your own definition of the term in the specific context of your class and assignment. You may also be able to use a definition from one of the sources you’ve been reading for class. Also recognize that the dictionary is also not a particularly authoritative work—it doesn’t take into account the context of your course and doesn’t offer particularly detailed information. If you feel that you must seek out an authority, try to find one that is very relevant and specific. Perhaps a quotation from a source reading might prove better? Dictionary introductions are also ineffective simply because they are so overused. Instructors may see a great many papers that begin in this way, greatly decreasing the dramatic impact that any one of those papers will have.
Example: Webster’s dictionary defines slavery as “the state of being a slave,” as “the practice of owning slaves,” and as “a condition of hard work and subjection.”
4. The “dawn of man” introduction. This kind of introduction generally makes broad, sweeping statements about the relevance of this topic since the beginning of time, throughout the world, etc. It is usually very general (similar to the placeholder introduction) and fails to connect to the thesis. It may employ cliches—the phrases “the dawn of man” and “throughout human history” are examples, and it’s hard to imagine a time when starting with one of these would work. Instructors often find them extremely annoying.
Example: Since the dawn of man, slavery has been a problem in human history.
5. The book report introduction. This introduction is what you had to do for your elementary school book reports. It gives the name and author of the book you are writing about, tells what the book is about, and offers other basic facts about the book. You might resort to this sort of introduction when you are trying to fill space because it’s a familiar, comfortable format. It is ineffective because it offers details that your reader probably already knows and that are irrelevant to the thesis.
Example: Frederick Douglass wrote his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave , in the 1840s. It was published in 1986 by Penguin Books. In it, he tells the story of his life.
And now for the conclusion…
Writing an effective introduction can be tough. Try playing around with several different options and choose the one that ends up sounding best to you!
Just as your introduction helps readers make the transition to your topic, your conclusion needs to help them return to their daily lives–but with a lasting sense of how what they have just read is useful or meaningful. Check out our handout on conclusions for tips on ending your paper as effectively as you began it!
We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.
Douglass, Frederick. 1995. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself . New York: Dover.
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How to Write an Introduction: A Simplified Guide
Updated: July 12, 2021
Published: July 01, 2021
You only get one chance to make a first impression on your website or blog — which means you need an introduction that stands out. But what do you say? How do you say it? Should it be long? Short? Funny? Serious? For many of us, the stress of creating a great introduction drives the dreaded cursor feedback loop: Blink. Blink. Blink. The cursor-on-a-blank-screen sits, waiting for your brilliance but you just can’t find the words. It’s something that all writers — amateur or professional, aspiring or experienced — know and dread. And of all times for it to occur, it seems to plague us the most when trying to write an introduction.
I mean, you already have a blog post you want to write. Can't you just dive in and write it? Why all the focus on getting the introduction right?
Here's the thing: Intros set the stage. They establish the tone and let visitors know what to expect.
And it’s not all bad — introductions don’t have to be long or complex. In fact, most people prefer them to be quite quick. They also don't have to be so difficult.
Let's break down exactly how to write an introduction that's short, effective, and relatively painless. And if you're ever having trouble churning out those intros, come back here and re-read this formula to lift yourself out of that writing rut.
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Tell us a little about yourself below to gain access today:, how to write an introduction.
Grab the reader's attention. Present the reason for the post's existence. Explain how the post will help address the problem that brought your reader to it.
Writing an introduction that captures your audience can help your website traffic (and ultimately, your business) grow better, but doing it right is just as important. Here's how to write an introduction in three simple steps.
To write an introduction, be mindful of what it's supposed to achieve. The main goals here are to draw in your reader — a relative stranger, most of the time — and concisely let her know what the article is about. Generally, that consists of three key components:
Step 1) Grab the reader's attention. That looks different for every piece of writing, but we've provided some suggestions below.
Step 2) Present the reason for the post's existence.
Step 3) Explain how the post will help address the problem that brought your reader to it.
As a lover of all things meta, I will, of course, use this post's introduction as an example of how to write an intro. It contains different components that create the above introduction "formula," which you can refer to that when you get stuck with your own.
Below, we've gone into more detail on each component.
Writing an Introduction Paragraph
1. grab the reader's attention..
There are a few ways to hook your reader from the start. You can be empathetic ("Don't you hate it when...?"), or tell a story, so the reader immediately feels some emotional resonance with the piece. You could tell a joke ("Ha! This is fun. Let's read more of this."). You could shock the reader with a crazy fact or stat ("Whoa. That's crazy. I must know more!").
For this intro, I went the "empathetic" route.
Writer's block stinks. Blank screens and taunting cursors — the worst. Who's with me?
2. Present the reason for the post's existence.
Your post needs to have a purpose. The purpose of this post is to address a specific problem — the pain in the butt that is writing intros. But, we have to do it, and therein lies the approach to something important: making writing introductions easier.
Just because you know the purpose of your post, doesn't mean the reader does — not yet, anyway. It's your job to validate your post's importance and give your audience a reason to keep reading.
3. Explain how the post will help address the problem.
Now that the reader is presented with a problem that he or she can relate to — and obviously wants a solution — it's time to let the audience know what the post will provide, and quickly.
In other words, the introduction should set expectations. Take this post, for example. I don't want the reader to dive in and expect to see a list of reasons why introductions are important. I want you to expect to read about what makes a good introduction.
But if I hadn't clarified that in the introduction, you might have expected the former. After all, be honest — did you skim over or forget the title of this post already? That's okay. That's why we tell the reader exactly what the post will provide, and why it's valuable.
Of course, there are other valid ways to write introductions for your marketi ng content — don't feel the need to follow this formula for every single piece of content, as some are more casual than others. But, this guide should help provide a solid framework to follow if you're just getting started, or if it's just one of those days when the words aren't flowing.
What makes a good introduction?
While format is fundamental to consistently capture visitor attention, it’s also worth considering stylistic frameworks that can help boost engagement from the first moment users land on your site. These include:
1. Telling a compelling story.
Great stories sell books — and they’re also a fantastic way to open a website blog. Storytelling is part of the human experience and if your intro can tee up a solid story, visitors are more likely to keep reading past the first paragraph.
The caveat? Don’t give it all away up-front. Not only should intros be kept short, but the idea is to have people read all the way through to the end. Instead, start with a great hook about something interesting that happened — “The one time I…”, “It all started when…”
2. Cultivating empathy.
We’re also naturally predisposed to empathy, especially when we can relate to what someone else is saying on a personal level.
Let’s say you’re running a money-saving advice blog. By starting your post with a few of your own experiences with debt and how it impacted your life, you can cultivate empathy from those in similar positions and simultaneously lend your blog greater authority.
3. Establishing common pain points.
There’s no trait more universally human than complaining. We do it about small things — like the weather — and big things, like challenges at work or home. This creates an opportunity for content creators: Establish common ground with familiar pain points.
Consider a home maintenance and repair blog. You could introduce homeowners communally dislike — such as clogged gutters or peeling paint — quickly discuss why it’s so frustrating, and then assure readers you can offer a viable solution.
4. Crafting a human connection.
If you’re running any type of product or service website, expect natural skepticism from visitors. They know you’re trying to sell something and their guard is naturally up, especially against hyperbolic or superfluous claims.
Here, it’s worth considering calling out a company shortfall — “we’re not the best, but”, “we don’t have all the answers” — and then highlighting what sets you apart from the competition. Done right, you can disarm cynical users with honesty, craft a human connection and encourage them to consider your pitch.
5. Asking interesting questions.
You can never go wrong with questions — so long as they’re interesting. Intros that start with “did you know that…” or “ever wondered why…” are great starters if you have relevant information to share.
This can’t be overstated: If your blog doesn’t (or can’t) answer the question you pose in the introduction, choose a different approach. Nothing frustrates visitors faster than discovering that blog intro and body are a content mismatch.
5 Introduction Examples
Curious about what a great introduction looks like in the wild? Let’s break down five great examples.
Photography site PetaPixel offers news, insights, and advice about all things photo-related. In their post “This Free 2.5 Hour Tutorial Covers All Aspects of Wedding Photography,” PetaPixel uses their introduction to highlight the experience of tutorial creator Taylor Jackson, who shoots “60 to 70 weddings every year.”
This quick-hitter introduction helps establish Jackson’s credibility as an expert and cultivates confidence among readers, in turn encouraging them to read the post and click through to the tutorial.
2. Apartment Therapy
Apartment Therapy is all about helping visitors organize, clean, and streamline their apartment space, while also highlighting specific product categories. In their recent post “This Unique Tray is What Your Living Room is Missing,” the site uses one of the techniques mentioned above: Pain points.
“Even maximalists can’t stand clutter,” reads the first intro line. “The reality is that nobody likes to open a cabinet only to be faced with a messy avalanche of knick-knacks and accessories.” By establishing common grounds for complaint, the blog helps set up the benefits of the product it’s trying to sell.
Greatist is a health and wellness blog that offers advice and tips for readers. Their recent starter toolkit post — “Stop Using Your Shoe as a Hammer: 17 Items for Your Starter Tool Kit” helps cultivate a connection with a simple introductory line: “You don’t have to be a DIY pro to need a tool kit around.”
By highlighting the near-universal need for a simple, streamlined toolkit, the site sets up readers to continue on and discover which tools are critical for starter kits.
4. The Friendly Teacher
Educational advice site The Friendly Teacher opens her “10 Tips for Organizing Your Classroom at the End of the Year” with a simple question: “What do teachers do in the summer?”
The answer is easy: Relax. But as the post points out, leaving classrooms in a state of disrepair only makes more work for the following year — and she’s here to help with 10 simple tips for pre-summer cleanup. The introduction works because it helps put readers in the right frame of mind — a relaxing summer — and then offers actionable tips to reach that goal.
BloggingTips.com is exactly what you’d expect: A site dedicated to useful blogging tips that help improve your site. In their recent post, “How To Choose A Blog Name – A New Blogger’s Guide to Selecting a Domain Name And URL”, they don’t waste any time getting to the point of their introduction, noting that, “Once you’ve decided to launch a blog – whether for personal or business purposes – one of the first decisions you have to make involves your domain name selection.”
The biggest benefit of this introduction? Brevity. It gets right to the point. If you’ve got a blog, you need a domain name. This is a great approach when the subject matter you’re tackling is relevant and useful but not inherently compelling: Rather than trying to force a connection or create a convoluted narrative, straight and to the point works best.
Let's Get Started
Feeling inspired? Good. Next time you find yourself face-to-face with the dreaded blinking cursor, use these resources and compelling examples to find motivation and write simpler, smarter, and stronger introductions .
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in September 2013 and has been updated and for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
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Introduction – Definition, Overview & Examples
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In the sphere of academic writing , the introduction holds a significant section in many types of papers ranging from academic essays to historical papers, serving as a crucial framework that provides insight into the core essence of the entire paper. An ideal introduction engages the readers, sets the tone, and includes a thesis statement , which navigates the following discourse. Crafting a compelling introductory paragraph poses an essential writing skill to improve your writing style and initial impressions of a paper.
- 1 Introduction in a nutshell
- 2 Definition: Introduction
- 3 Contents of an introduction
- 4 Overview of structure and key aspects
- 6 Thesis introduction
- 7 Introduction vs. closing paragraph
- 8 Don’ts for writing a good introduction
Introduction in a nutshell
An introduction in academic papers is the initial section where the author provides a brief overview of the topic, outlines the main questions or issues to be addressed, and presents the thesis statement to guide readers on what to expect from the rest of the paper. It sets the stage for the discussion and helps engage the reader’s interest and understanding of the context and significance of the study.
There are several definitions for introductions. The general one is that is at the beginning of all kinds of papers and poses an essential framework. The functions of introductions are, among others, to smoothly transition the readers into the core of the entire paper. Therefore, it forms one of the three cornerstones of many types of paper in the academic realm, next to the main body and conclusion .
A concise, engaging, and well-written introduction skillfully makes the reader excited and draws their attention to the topic by arousing interest. The introductory paragraph also needs to describe the objective of your paper and state the methods you will use to achieve your goal. It entails a sneak peek into the theoretical or empirical framework, as well as, the methodology of the paper. Moreover, it houses the rule of thumb for thesis statements, which presents a crucial role in guiding the arguments and discourse that follow. Oftentimes, the introduction includes thesis acknowledgments regarding existing literature, i.e., it provides contrasts or alignments between the study and already existing studies surrounding the same or similar topics. This plays an imperative role in contributing to the overall academic debate on the topic.
Contents of an introduction
The background for context, sentence structure , and putting ideas in context are critical aspects to consider when aiming to draw attentive readers and composing an effective introduction. Effective strategies for a good introductory paragraph are to fulfill relevance, research topic, and procedure:
- Relevance: Why is the research topic important? Hook the reader!
- Research topic: What is the research question and/or topic matter that will be covered?
- Procedure: What effective strategy should be used to answer the research question?
In short, the introductory paragraph initiates the topic matters for the area of research, as well as the research question, derived from it. A well-written introduction tells the reader why answering the research question will lead to new, important insights.
Paper outline of methods
Equally important is the essay outline of the methods used to answer the research question.
In the introductory paragraph, you need to justify how and why you have narrowed down your topic. This will be summarized by a shorter introduction and description of your line of argument and the structure of your research paper .
Tip: Make sure not to turn your introduction into a simple reproduction of your table of contents .
Like the concluding paragraph, the introductory paragraph of your bachelor’s thesis should not represent a fragment, but a constant introduction. This means that sweeping statements should be avoided so that the reader does not need to rely on insights established within the main body to understand the topic of the paper.
Overview of structure and key aspects
Find more detailed information below by clicking on the relevant aspect.
Step 1: Leading to the topic
There are numerous ways to eager readers to your research topic:
- A provocative proposition
“Sociology can no longer be dissociated from insights and findings on women’s situation in society that have been developed by feminist scientists over the last 20 years.”
- Thought-provoking questions
- What can the differences between individuals be attributed to?
- Is it genetics or environmental factors?
- What comprises the practical relevance of this question?
- An experiential report
“Over the last few weeks I have interviewed former teachers of a primary school for girls on the immediate post-war era. Amongst other things I wanted to find out what it meant to them to have taught girls. Unanimously, the pedagogical ambition was found to be the same, regardless of the students being boys or girls.”
- A puzzling scenario
“However, while many businesses report increased visibility, there’s a surprising lack of evidence correlating social media marketing with actual sales.”
“Education and slavery were incompatible with each other.”
Note: Most of the time, well-known or famous quotes don’t work in academic papers, quote an author of a reference or source instead.
Structuring an introductory paragraph
- Introduce the general context or background: Perhaps you could explain the title in your own words or use a quotation from an author who offers a supporting or contradictory statement about your topic area.
- Definitions: Are you using any complex terminology or acronyms that need definitions ? Try to use a working definition from an expert in your subject area, rather than referring to broad statements of a dictionary.
- Introduce the ideas in context: You cannot include everything, e.g., in a 2000-word English essay introduction; select between three and five key ideas and introduce them in the order they are discussed.
Step 2: Justification of the topic’s relevance
The introductory paragraph of your thesis or research paper contextualizes your overall topic within the greater context of the area of research and establishes a connection to other studies in the general field.
The following three introduction paragraph examples are guidelines as to how you can best tie in with the most current research:
The following example illustrates how you can point the reader to your topic’s significance:
This significance of the study starts off with broad statements and gradually tapers off to a specific group or person. In essence, it delves into the general contribution of the study like the importance of this study to society as a whole, and then proceeds towards its contribution to individuals including yourself as a researcher.
Step 3: Subject of your research paper or academic essay
When writing the introduction to your research paper or your academic essay , it is crucial to touch upon what will be researched.
This can be done by addressing your research question. Keep the aspects in mind, you will be narrowing your research topic down to, and what definition of the key terms used in your research question you want to follow.
The research question is a product of your topic in research, which is why it needs to be evident and clear that there is a relationship between the question and the topic throughout your entire paper.
Step 4: Objectives of your research paper
Other vital aspects to include in the introductory paragraph are the objective you are pursuing, and the outcome you are anticipating.
The title of your research paper is not identical to your objectives. Typically, the title of your research paper or essay describes the general subject area rather than the niche you want to cover.
The introduction paragraph examples below show how to account for the objective of your paper in one sentence.
This paper reviews the problem of Pennsylvania’s dwindling landfill space, evaluates the success of recycling as a solution to this problem, and challenges the assumption that Pennsylvania will run out of landfill space by the year 2020.
As this paper will show, the fundamental problem behind the Arab-Israeli conflict is the lack of a workable solution to the third stage of partition, which greatly hinders the current
Step 5: Outline of methods
Writing an effective introduction also involves having a firm grasp of the methods you will be using to achieve your research goal. For this, you must depict the way you anticipate achieving your objectives in the introduction paragraph of your essay or research paper and how you went about to answer the research question.
Furthermore, a summary of the theoretical framework of your research paper is an essential part of the introduction, including the literature review .
In terms of empirical research like a dissertation based on empirical studies, the introduction needs to explain the methods utilized to analyze the data you gathered in your study and the proceess behind it.
Related background in the introduction paragraph, such as work experience or research stays, is a plus when it is appropriate. However, this information should only be used if relevant.
Step 6: Limitations of your research questions
Acknowledging your limitations plays a crucial factor in writing an effective introduction for your research, as they dissociate your research topic from other studies in the field.
Therefore, giving valid reasons for any limitations and restrictions makes your research unique and different from others. The introduction paragraph of your research paper clarifies why you restrict your research topic to a certain, potentially very specific research area, and why this is important to achieve the goals you set out to, whether this pertains to a bachelor’s thesis, or any other research paper.
Step 7: Differentiation and disambiguation of terms
If you use specific terminology in your research paper, it is integral to include a section explaining these fundamental terms in your introduction, so the readers can grasp a good understanding of your reseach topic.
Explanations of terms that are only relevant to individual segments of your research paper should not be part of the introduction paragraph. Focus on terms that you might use (slightly) differently than your readers might expect, and define them accordingly.
Step 8: Outline of the structure of your research paper or essay
Based on the table of contents of your paper, it is essential to provide a brief outline of the paper’s structure in the introduction. The outline should contain a clear representation of argumentative choice.
In essence, you give a short overview of how you will go about answering your research question, which is reflected in the structure of your research paper. This will also be helpful to keep the reader excited and attentive for the following discourse.
The main purposes of the investigation into children’s Internet addiction are to study the phenomenon, learn about both views, reveal the true opinion, and create a list of recommendations for parents.
I will be exploring how these POV cameras are being utilized in teaching, with a focus on science education, to gather data and provide virtual experiences – both in the lab and in the field.
Note: As a rule of thumb, the quality of the explanations depends on the length of your research paper: The shorter your research paper, the shorter your initial explanations in the introduction paragraph.
Keep in mind that the main goal is to keep the reader hooked and provide a thorough understanding of why you have chosen to proceed a certain way.
The University of Leicester gives an example of an effective essay introduction. Be aware that essays are a particular kind of research paper and differ from, e.g., articles or ‘scientific’ term papers . The example below illustrates the sections of an introduction regarding the following research question “What is the importance of imitation in early child development?”
„We want a story that starts out with an earthquake and works its way up to a climax.”
Samuel Goldwyn, film producer and publisher.
While a scientific research paper is not a film script and no professor will expect an earthquake when sitting down to read the introduction paragraph of your research paper, you still want to achieve a similar mind-blowing effect with your introduction.
Your introduction paragraph needs to captivate the reader and arouse curiosity. It is the initial impression of your paper, and therefore, should not make a negative impression. A catchy introduction guarantees that the reader will keep reading your paper with interest.
The introduction paragraph is the actual beginning of your paper, as neither the abstract, foreword, nor table of contents belong in the actual body of it.
In the introduction paragraph, you reach out to the reader for the first time, and ideally, you want to leave a good impression. Thus, the introduction poses the flagship of your research paper.
Length of the introduction paragraph
Planning your writing is quite a pragmatic endeavor. This includes deciding on how long each part of the text needs to be. The lengths of individual parts of your research paper depend on the overall length of your paper.
While the main body of your research paper should be the longest, the introduction paragraph should account for up to 15% of the scope of your text. It is advised to restrict the introduction down to only 5%, which is the equivalent of approximately one page in a 20-page research paper. Some institutional guidelines advise 10%, therefore, depending on your institution, this may vary.
In overall, the introduction paragraph of your research paper, essay, or dissertation should account for 5-15% of your paper. It is further urged to write your introduction paragraph in such a manner that it holds a sensible relation to the rest of the text. Writing an effective introduction is not an easy task just because it is comparatively short. Be brief but precise, boil everything down to its essence, and save the longer versions of explanations for the main body of the text.
Note: The introduction does not anticipate the main body. Instead, the introduction announces the content of the main body. In other words, the introduction paragraph paves the way into the main body of your paper. As an announcement, the introduction needs to be to the point by definition.
Introduction vs. closing paragraph
Where to start on that blank piece of paper in front of you? As ironic as it might sound, it is a just and well debated question. The introduction paragraph and the closing paragraph are closely linked. While the closing paragraph summarizes the main body of your research paper, the introduction paragraph prepares the reader for it. Hence, both conclusion and introduction are part of brackets that parenthesize your research paper.
Essentially, you should write the introduction paragraph at the end of your writing process. This is because you are likely to know only at the end of your work what you could actually achieve. Therefore, it is recommended to write a rough draft at first and complete the initial introduction along the way.
Writing an introduction is considered the most difficult part. Therefore, it is efficient to write a rough draft at first and finalize it once you know where you are headed. The first step of the writing process, should be the main body. This strategy can also prevent writer’s block . Adding an appropriate quote that gets the reader started and is then followed by the research discourse and a research question is an effective way of beginning your writing process.
It is also imperative that you have gained a thorough overview of your research topic prior writing your introduction, especially for more complicated topics, to captivate the reader.
Don’ts for writing a good introduction
The following table summarizes important aspects you should refrain from when writing your introduction:
The introduction does not anticipate the main body, it rather announces the content of the main body. Hence, the introduction paragraph navigates the reader to the main body of your research discourse. Based on this, the introduction needs to be short and precise by definition.
How do I start my introduction?
- Understand the purpose: Background and thesis statement
- Start with a hook: Anecdote, question, quotation, statistics , bold statement
- Tailor it to your audience: What is the target group? What do they know already?
- Revise and refine: Complete it along the way, finalize it at the end of writing
What is an introduction and example?
An introduction primarily states the purpose of an academic paper. It conveys the central or main points that will be covered. The thesis statement should be placed towards the end of the introduction, with any background information given beforehand. Introductions come right after the table of contents page, but before the body of the essay or thesis.
Click here to get to the example.
What is an introduction in simple words?
An introduction of any scientific paper represents the beginning part of the paper, where you provide basic information to transition the reader to the main discourse of the paper.
What are the contents of an introduction?
Every introduction should clearly state the purpose of your paper with a summary of the main points that will be discussed. It should be enough to give the reader an overview of what to expect in the main body of the writing. It can also include an explanation of elements that are not mentioned within the scope of the remaining writing, such as background information that may be relevant to the thesis statement. The thesis statement should always be placed towards the end of the introduction.
How do you write a good introduction?
A good introduction captures the reader’s attention immediately, which in turn makes them want to read the remaining pages of the paper. It should clearly state the main topic, provide relevant context, and explain your specific area of focus. Ultimately, it should provide the most relevant and helpful information about your research topic. The reader should be informed of any background information prior to reading the body of the thesis or essay.
What is the difference between a summary and an introduction?
The main difference between an introduction and a summary is their purpose. The introduction gives the reader a brief description of the topic and the main ideas that will be covered. A summary, on the other hand, briefly explains everything that is covered in a text in a few condensed sentences. Therefore, a summary is more general while an introduction points to the main topics and relevant ideas of the academic text.
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Writing an Introduction
Writing an introduction is often seen as a relatively straightforward element of the assignment writing process. The reason for this may be that we often find typical ‘ingredients’ in an introduction that we can use, regardless of the assignment we are writing. One of the challenges of writing a good introduction, however, is to be brief, and to stay focused. A rambling or unfocussed introduction, or one that is over-lengthy, will get the essay off to the wrong sort of start and will not create a good impression. In particular, you should avoid being 'anecdotal' in your introduction (i.e. writing as if you are telling a story), and you will also need to avoid wasting words by 'stating the obvious' and writing a series of over-generalised statements. Below you will find some helpful suggestions for writing introductions to essays and assignments.
1. What are the typical ‘ingredients’ in an introduction?
2. Should I follow introduction structures closely?
3. How to write introductions for dissertations and theses?
See a sample introduction .
Download a checklist to help you edit your essays and written work.
What are the typical ‘ingredients’ of an essay introduction?
Trzeciak and Mackay (1994) have identified a number of ‘ingredients’ of an introduction. It will not always be necessary or desirable to include all of them, but they will generally be used in some combination or other, in order to introduce an academic argument.
- a statement of the importance of the subject
- mention of previous work on the subject
- a justification for dealing with the subject
- a statement of your objectives
- a statement of the limitations of the work
- a mention of some of the differing viewpoints on the subject
- a definition of the topic being discussed
Swales and Feak (2004), meanwhile, focus on the research paper in particular. They attempt to place introduction ingredients into a sequence. They identify the following series of ‘moves’ in a typical introduction to a research paper:
Move 1: Establishing a research territory
- by showing that the general research area is important, central, interesting, problematic, etc. (optional)
- by introducing and reviewing items of previous research in the area (obligatory)
Move 2: Establishing a niche
- by indicating a gap in the previous research or by extending previous knowledge in some way (obligatory)
Move 3: Occupying the niche
- by outlining purposes or stating the nature of the present research (obligatory)
- by listing research questions of hypotheses
- by announcing principal findings
- by stating the value of the previous research
- by indicating the structure of the research paper
Should I follow introduction structures closely?
The above-mentioned elements of an introduction are helpful, and could be followed quite systematically to produce a reasonably acceptable introduction. However, there might be several problems associated with an attempt to follow these introduction structures too closely and to include them in every assignment you write:
- Your introductions might become too predictable and ‘formula-written’, and may lack a sense of enthusiasm and commitment;
- Your introduction may become too lengthy in relation to the remainder of the essay (depending on the length of the paper);
- Your introduction might become too ‘detailed’ and this may spoil the ‘surprise effect’ of what you go on to say next;
- The existence of an ‘introduction’, as described above, is not self-evident or natural in all disciplines; and even within subjects that commonly require an introduction (typically, social sciences and humanities disciplines) there may be some types of question that do not especially need one (e.g. document commentaries, unseen commentaries on literary texts, business plans, some short law questions, etc.);
- One of the key aspects of writing an introduction, in many disciplines, is to attract the interest of the reader – if you give the impression that your writing is ‘formula driven’, you may fail to make the sort of impact you want on your reader. Sometimes, of course, the reader is not looking for interesting introductions (especially in fact-based or mathematical work).
Dissertations and theses
In many respects, the procedure for writing an introduction remains the same for a longer piece of writing, such as a dissertation. In particular, it is still very important:
- To write an ‘eye-catching’ opening sentence that will keep the reader’s attention focused;
- Not to say everything you have to say in the introduction – save some of your good material for later.
- To try to keep the reader in ‘suspense’ and to make them read on;
- To ensure that there is a direct relationship between the introduction and the remainder of the dissertation;
- To ensure that you do not promise what cannot be fulfilled or what goes beyond what can reasonably be expected.
At the same time, there will also be some differences in your approach. Among these differences are the following:
- As well as having an overall introduction to your dissertation or thesis, each chapter should also have an introduction (as well as a conclusion). The reason for this is that in a longer piece of writing, it becomes more important to ‘remind’ the reader of what you are doing and why you are doing it, before each chapter continues.
- Because of its length, there will be more opportunity to introduce a sense of ‘debate’ into the introduction to a thesis; and you will have time to bring in a wider range of references from outside.
- It is a good idea in a chapter introduction to remind the reader what happened in the previous chapter (e.g. In the previous chapter, the literature relating to the teaching of vocabulary was considered. From this discussion, it was seen that….).