When you need to write an essay for an assignment at college or university, knowing how best to introduce it can make all the difference. Below, we explain how to write an excellent essay introduction. Please read on for more, including structure, frequently asked questions, and essay introduction examples.
Definition: Essay introduction
An essay should reflect your ideas in your own words. An essay introduction sets up your written piece right from the start, framing what is coming by presenting the gist of the following text. It gives the reader an idea of what to expect and – written well – makes a good impression.
Ways to start your essay introduction
You can employ various techniques to ensure your essay introduction is interesting. Depending on the topic, context and situation, consider how best to make an impact and engage the reader with one of the following:
- An exciting fact.
- A quotation.
- An important piece of information.
- A definition or explanation of a word or phrase in the question.
- A rhetorical question.
- A summary of the response(s) to the main question.
5 steps for writing an essay introduction
Before starting, it is essential to read the question carefully and underline or highlight the key points you must answer. Next, we suggest you follow the following steps to write your essay introduction.
Captivate your reader
Starting your essay with a well-written introduction makes the piece more engaging and likely to be read. Whether your composition addresses an academic, philosophical, scientific, or commercial question, generate reader interest by presenting a logical point, hook or question, and thought-through material.
Provide background information
Decide how far you agree – or disagree – with any points made in the question. Then, plan your answer and decide the topic of each paragraph accordingly. Wherever possible, back up little-known facts with details of the source to distinguish reliable information from mere opinion.
Present your statement
Remember to use your own phrasing instead of repeating the question words verbatim. You might want to use connecting words (conjunctions) such as:
Not only … but also …
In addition to…
Show your structure
Use the signposting technique with words and phrases to guide the reader. Signposting works well in introductions and throughout the essay to outline each paragraph’s main arguments and direction; you will find some examples below.1
Review and revise
Proofread your essay introduction, body and conclusion more than once. Away from examinations, you could ask someone else to read it through and check for unusual phrasing or errors. Your proofreader should not rewrite anything for you; ask them for observations and – if appropriate – suggestions.In examinations, an alternative is to proofread a second time in reverse paragraph order. This method may help you to find an otherwise elusive mistake or two.
- When writing an essay introduction
- Indicate the overall aim of the essay, with justification and quantification where applicable.
- Set the right tone and register based on the audience.
- Use signposting to guide the reader.
- Use precise language.
- If your essay introduction is in digital format, check the spelling, punctuation and grammar manually too.
- Use overly formal language or inappropriate informality.
- Use convoluted phrasing or very long sentences.
- Misuse connectives such as ‘However,’ which introduces a counter-point, usually negative. Conversely, ‘nonetheless’ and ‘nevertheless’ usually usher in something positive.2
- Rely on computerised spelling checkers; many do not detect homonym errors.
Essay introduction: example
Generically, an essay introduction might look like this:
Other ideas for your essay introduction include:
Examples of essay types and questions
Each of these types will require a different essay introduction to rephrase the question, describe the aim and briefly mention the main points you will be making.
|Type of essay||Example question|
|Compare and contrast (balanced)||What are the advantages and disadvantages of increasing cycle lanes in cities?|
|Descriptive||Discuss recent advances in educational technology, particularly videoconferencing and MOOC (massive open online courses).|
|Persuasive||How can governments persuade people to do more exercise?|
|Argumentative||Some environmentalists have called for significant tax increases on the most polluting forms of transport, even if such measures affect business and industry. What are your views?|
|Opinion||Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. Discuss.|
How you begin your essay depends on whether it balances opposing viewpoints, discusses a subject, or makes a case for one particular way of thinking.
An essay is the written version of a discussion, an opportunity to write what you know and, perhaps, how you know it. In coursework and examinations, well-structured essay introductions tend to achieve better marks.
Apart from compare and contrast or balanced essays, the task may require a descriptive, persuasive, or argumentative piece. In the table in the text, you can see example questions for each type.
Firstly, an essay introduction should describe the topic. Next, it states the main point or argument you, the writer, will be making in the text to follow. Overall, your essay introduction must briefly describe the focus of the essay. Aim to get to the point and be specific.
Break the question down into smaller questions and then answer these smaller questions as part of the main task. Decide how many paragraphs you need and the points to include in each section before finalizing the introduction.
1 University of Birmingham. “Academic Skills Gateway.” Accessed March 3, 2023. https://intranet.birmingham.ac.uk/as/libraryservices/asc/gateway/index.aspx.
2 Cambridge Dictionary. “Nevertheless.” Accessed March 3, 2023. https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/nevertheless.