The introduction is probably the most difficult paragraph of your essay to write, and it is also the most important as it:
- gains the reader’s attention
- introduces your subject
- leads to your thesis statement.
Since the introduction is difficult to write, you may want to save it until you have completed your body paragraphs. This way, you know exactly what you have said and can write a dynamic introduction.
The introduction should begin generally with an eye-catching opening sentence, gradually gaining detail as it leads to your specific thesis statement. The length of your introduction will vary with the length and scope of your essay: in-class essays will have a short, three-to-four sentence introduction while a research paper might have a two-to-three paragraph intro. Whatever its length, the introduction should gain in detail and specificity as it approaches the thesis statement; the thesis will generally be the intro’s last sentence, the most detailed and precise statement of the introduction.
- Life in the twenty-third century is great. Unlike many shows on TV today, Star Trek: The Next Generation presents a view of humanity’s future that makes many of today’s social problems seem almost barbaric. In the Star Trek universe, humanity has evolved to the point where many of the difficulties facing humanity today — like racial hatred, insecurities about technology, and daily violence — have been eliminated, providing a hopeful tomorrow. Star Trek should not be cancelled because it presents a positive view of humanity in its use of technology, its focus on diplomacy over violence, and its willingness to engage complex social issues like racial relations.
The introduction here begins generally and then narrows to a more specific and manageable thesis.
Think of the essay as an hourglass, wide at the top, slowly narrowing to the center, then widening again at the bottom. The introduction begins at the top: the widest part of the hourglass — and slowly narrows to the thesis. Your body paragraphs, since they address the topic in the most detail, would be the at the neck of the hourglass, and your conclusion will flow out again to the general.
Other strategies for an introduction could include a short anecdote that leads into your subject, a brief background on the subject, an appropriate quotation, a refutation of a common belief or an argument that counters your position, or a fact or statistic. Whatever you choose, remember to make it interesting to grab attention, introduce your subject early, and lead into your thesis.
First impressions matter greatly in writing: be sure to make your introduction as strong as possible, or your reader will get bored or disinterested quickly making the rest of your essay irrelevant.