Now that we've gone over the finer points of how to write an introduction, let's take a look at a sample to see how it all comes together.
The beginning of an essay sets the tone for the reader and is also used to get the reader interested in your work. Having a well-written introduction is critical to a successful essay. Some academics find the introduction to be the most difficult part of writing an essay, so our editors have written this example to help guide you.
If you are still unsure about your introduction, our essay editors would love to give you some feedback.
Example essay introduction
- Attention grabbing start
- Outline of argument
- Thesis statement
The Natural Kinship of Rats and Pumpkins
 According to Paul Ratsmith, the tenuous, but nonetheless important, relationship between pumpkins and rats is little understood: "While I've always been fascinated by this natural kinship, the connection between pumpkins and rats has been the subject of few, if any, other studies" (2008).  Ratsmith has been studying this connection, something he coined "pumpkinology," since the early 1990s. He is most well-known for documenting the three years he spent living in the wild among the pumpkins and rats.  Though it is a topic of little recent interest, the relationship has been noted in several ancient texts and seems to have been well understood by the Romans. Critics of Ratsmith have cited poor science and questionable methodology when dismissing his results, going so far as to call pumpkinology "rubbish" (de Vil, 2009), "stupid" (Claw, 2010), and "quite possibly made up" (Igthorn, 2009). Despite these criticisms, there does appear to be a strong correlation between pumpkin patches and rat populations, with Ratsmith documenting numerous pumpkin–rat colonies across North America, leading to the conclusion that pumpkins and rats are indeed "nature's best friends" (2008).
Want to learn more? Check out How to Write an Essay in 5 Easy Steps, available now on Amazon in Kindle and paperback. Of course, you can always send us your essay for proofreading.
Don't let introductions scare you, use our
example about rats and pumpkins to guide you.
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Catching the Reader’s Attention
A good essay begins with an invitation into a rich discussion. The writing is crafted in such a way that it sparks anticipation and excitement in the heart and mind of the reader. Simply stating your opinion or the topic of the essay will never accomplish this. Engaging writing requires thoughtful attention to creating a hook for the reader.
Hooks can be created in an infinite number of ways, but here is a list of approaches that often prove valuable. Note that this is a list that you have likely seen before (most schools provide such a list), but be sure to read on as it is in the implementation of these ideas that they either succeed or fail:
- Start with a thought-provoking quotation.
- Start with a thought-provoking question.
- Tell a thought-provoking story.
- Make a surprising statement.
- Present a simile or a metaphor to introduce your essay topic.
Each of these options presents an approach to opening an essay that can work if it is implemented effectively. Of course, implementing them effectively is where things get tricky.
A Thought-Provoking Quotation:
Depending on the topic of your essay and the resources you have available, it can be very effective to begin with a direct quotation from a relevant source on your topic that brings up key ideas or presents controversial opinions. You, as the author, can then respond to them and establish your position in relation to this statement. Be certain the quotation you choose directly relates to your chosen topic.
A Thought Provoking Question
Opening essays with questions is dangerous because they only work if the question causes your reader to genuinely wonder about something. Simplistic or obvious questions turn your reader off, so try another approach unless you are sure you have a question that really ties your essay topic to something personal for the reader or to some intriguing idea in the world.
A Thought-Provoking Story
As a fiction writer, this is my personal favorite. There are two options available here. One approach is to tell a true story in close-up intimate detail that directly relates to your topic. The other option is to craft a story around the factual details of your topic and helps to humanize it—taking your reader into the personal human experience of someone in a given situation related to your subject. Simply be sure to tell the story well and don’t forget to craft the story in such a way that it leads directly to the central point of your essay.
Make a Surprising Statement
This one is also a tricky way to go unless you have come across a very striking fact or are dealing with a controversial subject. In order for this approach to work, the statement must include something that will genuinely surprise the reader, which is difficult to do. In addition to shock value, the statement must also have direct relevance to your topic so that a strong transition can still be made into your central argument.
Present a Simile or Metaphor
Similes and metaphors are among the most powerful linguistic devices available. When used well, they can bring profound interest and insight to a given topic. Using them well is, of course, the hard part. The trick to using them well is be sure that the nature of the symbol you use shares a great deal in common with the subtleties of the topic you are discussing. The broader and more specific those connections are, the stronger its linguistic power.
The very best way to use a simile or metaphor in an essay is to introduce it with the opening paragraph and then continue to weave the connections between the symbol and the subject throughout the entire essay, eventually bringing the idea back together in the conclusion to create a circular structure to the writing. This requires insightful thinking and hard writing work, but makes for an exceptional essay.
Clearly Establishing Your Purpose
With your reader’s attention now in place, you must be certain that you also directly address the question or prompt to which you have been asked to respond. A colorful and engaging opening story is all well and good, but it is worthless if it does not lead into a straight and clear statement of your thesis (also known as “topic sentence” or “position statement”).
Keep in mind that, contrary to what is often taught in elementary school, the opening paragraph does not necessarily require a complete listing of the main points of your essay, though that can be helpful at times. The only non-negotiable requirement for an introduction is a direct and clear statement of purpose somewhere within that first paragraph. With more creative openings, it generally occurs near the close of the first paragraph, anticipating the deeper explanations that take place in the body paragraphs of the essay. Feel free to be creative, but do not forget to directly address the question you have been asked!