How To Write a Good Essay Introduction in 4 Simple Steps

By Jennifer Herrity

Updated October 12, 2022 | Published November 5, 2020

Updated October 12, 2022

Published November 5, 2020

Jennifer Herrity is a seasoned career services professional with 12+ years of experience in career coaching, recruiting and leadership roles with the purpose of helping others to find their best-fit jobs. She helps people navigate the job search process through one-on-one career coaching, webinars, workshops, articles and career advice videos on Indeed's YouTube channel.

A good introduction captures the attention of the reader or audience as you guide them into a topic. This applies to any written body of work, such as an essay. If you write essays or other types of material, it's helpful to understand how to write an effective introduction.

In this article, we explain how to write a good introduction for an academic essay and review the essential components with an example.


What's a good introductory paragraph?

Understanding the elements of a good introductory paragraph is important before you begin writing. This can help you craft a paragraph that successfully appeals to the audience. Here are a few things to include in a good introductory paragraph:

  • Get the reader's attention.

  • Establish your topic and tone.

  • State your thesis statement or purpose clearly.

Related: The Writing Process: Over 45 Tips on Writing

How to write a good introduction for an essay

When you write an essay, your introduction provides relevant information about your argument or the purpose of your essay. Here are four simple steps for how to write a good introduction:

1. Write a hook

The first sentence in your introduction is known as the hook. It's called a hook because it's meant to capture your audience's attention. While you don't want to be informal or colloquial in academic writing, that doesn't confine you to dry language either. You want to engage your reader. Here are some ways you can write an effective hook:

  • Say something unexpected. Get the reader's attention by sharing an unusual fact or a provocative statement in the first sentence, then follow up with more focused content.

  • Ask a question. Start your introduction with a question related to your topic requiring readers to think about their response, connecting them to the subject matter immediately.

  • Use a quote. Perhaps there is a catchy or famous phrase that can connect your readers quickly to your topic; you can use this quote to start your introduction.

Read more: 9 Tips To Write an Interesting Hook

2. Include topic sentences

After your hook statement, you can include a few topic sentences that explain how you plan to support your thesis statement in the upcoming paragraphs. These topic sentences guide your audience as they begin learning more about the purpose of your essay. The topic sentences can help you introduce your thesis statement or main argument.

Related: 4 Types of Sentences: Definitions, Examples and Tips

3. Add a strong thesis statement

Your thesis statement operates as the foundation of your entire essay. A functional thesis statement gives your essay direction. Good introductions typically start with general information, like a hook, before getting more specific with a thesis statement. Here are a few tips for writing a thesis statement:

  • Assert a point. A typical college-level thesis makes a case about something that someone could potentially disagree with, which you then prove through the rest of your essay.

  • Write your thesis first. Writing your thesis first helps you narrow down your topic and keeps you focused as you write the rest of the essay.

  • Express a singular and clear idea. Your thesis statement is best when it's easily identifiable in your introduction and clearly articulates your argument.

  • Put it in the right spot. A thesis statement is a single sentence that is usually–but not always–the last sentence of your introduction.

Read more: How To Write a Thesis Statement (With Examples)

4. Edit your introduction thoroughly

Just as a great hook can get your audience's attention, a predictable or wordy introduction can impact the success of your essay. When you edit your introduction thoroughly, you can remove sentences that are unhelpful, or add more details to clarify your argument. Here are a few things to look for when you're editing your introductory paragraph:

  • Lengthy or repetitive introductions: Make sure that your first sentence gets to the point. Short sentences are easy to read and understand.

  • Repeated title or essay prompt: Rather than repeating the title or essay prompt in your introduction, try to add new ideas. This helps you set up the rest of the essay and maintain the attention of the audience.

  • Filler words and fluff: Filler and fluff refer to words and phrases that have no meaning or add no value to your writing. They take up space you could be using in your concise introduction for more powerful and meaningful words.

  • Dictionary definitions: The dictionary definition has become a cliche tool to use in an essay introduction. As with the case with most cliches, writers have used it too many times to serve as an effective hook.

Related: 18 Forms of Essay Writing

Examples of good introductions

Here are a few examples you can reference when writing your own introduction:

Example 1: Hook using a question

When writing a hook, you may decide to use a question to stimulate the audience's mind. Here's an example of a hook in the form of a question:

Why is it that art tucked away in a museum requires a fee for the privilege of looking at it, while other art left out for all to view gets buffed away by a street cleaning team?

Example 2: Hook using a quote

If you prefer to use a quote from a famous person or author, try to choose one that's relevant to your essay. Here's an example:

The great American thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Every artist was first an amateur,” but not every artist will ever be deemed a professional.

Example 3: Introduction with topic sentences

When you write an introduction, topic sentences add details, setting you up for success in your essay. This is an example of an introduction with specific topic sentences:

Throughout history, humanity has grappled with the concept of art, for the appreciation of art is a subjective and personal experience. For centuries, Western art characterized art's legitimacy by the confines of the church.

In other eras, art was defined and owned by an elite class that dictated codes of quality. In the case of contemporary graffiti, the delineations of art are especially blurred, for street art can never truly be owned or permanent, often even defying laws of property.

Related: How To Start an Argumentative Essay (With Writing Tips)

Example 4: Thesis statement with specific details

When writing a thesis statement, try to include specific details. This can help shape your argument later in the essay. It also helps clarify the purpose of the essay to your audience. Here's an example:

Whether street art is a commissioned mural or an act of defiance by young talent, graffiti art is indeed art, its beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder no differently than that of a canvas in a museum or even on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Example 5: Thesis statement with a clear argument

The most important part of a thesis statement is clarity. Since the thesis is the foundation of the essay, it's important to clearly articulate your argument, like this:

Murals, graffiti and other art found in outdoor or otherwise public urban locations have historically been regarded separately from the fine art world as if there were an established hierarchy to what is considered worthwhile art.

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