About to start a paper and words just won’t come out? Feeling as if your mind’s empty? Do not panic, for you are not alone. Writing an introduction can be difficult, especially if you’re not familiar with what an introduction should accomplish. Fortunately, you can learn how to write an introduction, and, no, it doesn’t involve mentally commanding your word processor to magically churn out words for you. Instead, by following these tips, you can ensure that your papers will never have to be without a proper beginning.
Purpose of an introduction
To learn how to write an introduction, you first have to know its purpose. Regardless if it's a speech, an essay, or an article, the basic purpose of your introduction is to—surprise—introduce your topic. Diving right into a topic is sometimes encouraged in certain situations. But in most cases, a proper introduction is an essential component of a paper’s structure. For an introduction to effectively serve its purpose, it must accomplish three basic goals.
Goals of writing an introduction:
Draw the reader in. The first goal of your introduction is to draw the reader in. Because your introduction is the first thing that the reader encounters, it should be able to not only capture your reader’s attention but also retain it. In other words, your introduction should be interesting enough that it makes the reader want to keep on reading. The beginning of your introduction is often the best place to craft sentences that catch the attention. This part is often called the “hook,” since it “hooks” your reader. Depending on the type of your essay, there are many ways to open your introduction. Some of the more common ones include asking a question, sharing a quote, citing factual information, or narrating an anecdote. Learning how to write a good hook will help you meet this first goal.
Provide background or context. The second goal is to provide context or background information on your topic. Most of the time, your paper will have a specific claim. But before you state the main claim of your paper, you need to lead the reader towards that claim by giving a broader picture. Thus, providing background or context is your way of letting the reader know the details that will help them understand the topic. It is also your way of narrowing down the discussion to your specific topic. For example, if your paper argues why a proposed law regarding immigration should be passed or rejected, you may provide background information or context by briefly reviewing recent events that have led to the proposal of the law. You may also write about what the proposed law seeks to accomplish.
State your thesis. Finally, your introduction should also state your thesis. The thesis is your paper’s main claim. It may also be the idea, message, or primary thought that you want to communicate. The thesis can be placed anywhere in your introduction, but the best place to state your thesis is at the end of your introduction since by this time context or background information has already been provided.
Here are a few other tips to remember when writing an introduction:
- Keep information relevant. Just because your introduction should provide background information or context doesn’t mean that you can put anything that fills the space. For instance, if your paper argues that Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice is a feminist novel, it probably won’t do well to write how it has been adapted for the big screen. Writing about the social and gender norms in the early 19th century, on the other hand, is more appropriate. A good question to ask yourself when thinking of what to include is: how does this lead to my thesis?
- Keep it concise. Keep your introduction short and sweet. Do not try to lengthen your introduction by filling it with repetitive and irrelevant content. A short but complete introduction is far better than a long-winding and confusing one.
- Write it last if necessary. Although more seasoned writers can probably whip up an introduction in no time, less experienced ones may get frustrated over the struggle to complete the first part of a paper. However, although the introduction is the first part of a paper, it doesn’t have be written first. Sometimes, writing the introduction after the rest of the paper including the conclusion has been completed is easier. So don’t worry too much about completing that first paragraph. Write it last if it helps you save time and energy.
Learning how to write an introduction need not be mind-boggling. Designing your introduction so that it catches the reader’s attention, provides background and context for your topic, and states your thesis will help give your paper the opening that it deserves.