How To Start An Essay
Last updated on: Jan 5, 2023
By: Nova A.
15 min read
Reviewed By: Jacklyn H.
Published on: Jan 6, 2023
The thing about writing an essay is that it can be difficult to know where to start. For many students, the first few opening sentences of their essay are most challenging. As essay introductions need the reader's attention and persuasion from early on.
The introduction can make or break an academic essay, so it must accomplish two things: grab readers' interest and convince them to read till the end. Good essay writing includes a lot of things
If you want your reader to keep reading and understand everything in your essay, these introductory lines need to be done well.
So, are you struggling with how to start an essay? Check out this blog post that provides easy ways to start an essay effectively and examples of good introductions with helpful tips.
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How do you start a good introduction for an essay?
An interesting and engaging opening is the only chance you have in academic writing to keep readers engaged. So it’s time to make your introduction catchy and interesting. To start on the right foot, use a hook to inspire readers.
Writing an essay introduction or an introductory paragraph can seem tough at first, but specifying the purpose is key to making it compelling. If you want your opening as strong and engaging as possible, make sure that's clear from early on!
Here’s a simple and easy step guide for how to start essay writing. In the following section, you will find a complete description of each step.
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1. Come Up With an Interesting Hook
The opening statement of an essay is called the hook. It strives to grab people’s interest and attention. So, always start with a catchy phrase or question to keep them reading more.
The perfect introduction paragraph should be both engaging and informative. There are many different hooks that you can use for this, but here are some examples:
What hook to use in your essay depends on the topic of your paper. For example, if addressing a serious and sad issue, don't be casual or funny - instead, focus on being light-hearted while setting the tone for what you're discussing. Likewise with other topics; if it's supposed to make people laugh, try opening up with some jokes.
Here are some examples of interesting hooks you can refer to.
Example: Almost two-thirds of American adults at some point in their life lived in a home with at least one gun.
The Pew Research Center, “America’s Relationship With Guns: An In-Depth Look at the Attitudes and Experiences of US Adults”
Related: Hook Example - Interesting Ideas To Help You Start an Essay
2. Give Some Background Information
After you have decided on your hook comes the part where you provide background information. Introduce your essay with the background information that clarifies what they are about to read to readers.
It is important to provide background knowledge, but you should not spoil your reader's surprise by sharing excess information. It will bore them and make them stop reading for sure! Just explain what you are talking about, then move on before revealing too much at once.
Look at this to know how writers provide background to pique their reader’s interest.
Example: Blind people have long been excluded from society, but Louis Braille was the first person to create a writing system specifically for them. Many existing systems were difficult to learn or use by those with no sight, and these individuals had very limited opportunities in school, work, and life.
In an era where disability wasn't valued at all, being blind made it even harder for someone struggling through everyday tasks like reading basic words on signs or greeting cards.
3. Create a Thesis Statement
It is important to know your audience’s needs and wants from you as a writer. Your thesis statement provides this information in one sentence so the readers can follow along.
A thesis statement is like a road map in that it provides your reader with direction and motivation to follow.
Thesis statements are important for presenting an argument and summarizing the main points in your introduction. It is a sentence that gives the audience an idea of what your argument will be about before diving into more detail.
The body of your essay should contain all the reasons and shreds of evidence that support or back up your thesis statement.
It's better to choose what other people think are good thesis statements. Try coming up with some new, creative thoughts instead so they'll stay interested!
Put your unique spin on the information that is being presented to readers. Try not to use cliche or mainstream words to be more interesting and engaging.
Below is an example of a thesis statement in an introduction that will help you understand better.
Example: For the first time, blind people could communicate with others without relying on sight. The Braille writing system is one of a kind. It provided practical benefits and helped change the cultural status of blindness in society by allowing visually impaired people to feel more included and less alienated.
4. Make a Map of Your Essay
This is where you need to give your readers a clear direction. The introduction is the perfect place to paint a clear picture of what you plan on discussing in each section. Keep it concise and point-to-point so that they know exactly what's coming next!
The mapping will help you map out the entire essay for readers to understand what it is all about. It’s an excellent way of showing your readers the layout and flow of information.
Refer to this example to get a clear idea of how to structure your introduction.
Example: This essay discusses how difficult life was for blind people during the nineteenth-century European period, where there wasn't any braille technology yet. It then describes "braille" - an alphabet made up entirely out of small dots on paper so that one can read when touching them without sight. In the end, it discusses how groundbreaking the invention was and how it helped alleviate the status of the blind and deaf in society.
5. Edit and Revise at the End
When you're writing an academic paper, every word matters, so be sure to read what you've written carefully and edit it with the appropriate tone of voice for your audience.
The next step after your introduction is to construct the essay’s main body. It will contain all the information and detailed explanations about introducing the topic. This should then be followed by a conclusion summarizing everything to overview your essay.
Quotations are a great way to open your essay with an interesting point of view. The perfect quote will let readers know exactly what you're trying to say without any unnecessary jargon. It will provide reader’s enough information about why something is relevant or worth discussing in detail. You can use ‘body paragraphs’ to explain the quote and give your own opinion.
Putting a quote at the start of an essay is not always easy. Here's how you can do it right!
Look at this example and get familiar with these types of essay introductions.
Example: "Q: What did Eve say to Adam on being expelled from the Garden of Eden? A: 'I think we're in a time of transition.' The irony of this joke is not lost as we begin a new century, and anxieties about social change seem rife. The implication of this message, covering the first of many periods of transition, is that change is normal; there is, in fact, no era or society in which change is not a permanent feature of the social landscape...." (Betty G. Farrell, Family: The Making of an Idea, an Institution, and a Controversy in American Culture. Westview Press, 1999)
To get readers engaged, you should start an introduction with a question. Asking questions gives the impression of one-on-one conversation and effectively engages the audience.
A good way to start an essay is with a rhetorical question. This type of opening will make readers curious about what you're going to say. It’s also attractive because readers want the answer right away!
Here’s an example of how you can start your essay introduction with a question.
Example: "What is the charm of necklaces? Why would anyone put something extra around their neck and invest it with special significance? A necklace doesn't afford warmth in cold weather, like a scarf, or protection in combat, like chain mail; it only decorates. We might say it borrows meaning from what it surrounds and sets off, the head with its supremely important material contents, and the face, that register of the soul. When photographers discuss how a photograph reduces the reality it represents, they mention the passage from three dimensions to two and the selection of a point de vue that favors the top of the body rather than the bottom, and the front rather than the back. The face is the jewel in the crown of the body, and so we give it a setting." (Emily R. Grosholz, "On Necklaces." Prairie Schooner, Summer 2007)
Including an interesting fact or statistics in your introduction helps you take hold of readers. Everyone loves a good story with some juicy, new information and stats. It's like giving them context on what they're about to read.
You can shock your reader by using statistics or news to present serious global issues. A good way to start an essay is with a shocking fact from reputable sources.
The facts will convince readers that your viewpoint on the topic is correct and reasonable.
Look at the example to know how to start an essay with an interesting fact.
Example: "The peregrine falcon was brought back from the brink of extinction by a ban on DDT, but also by a peregrine falcon mating hat invented by an ornithologist at Cornell University. If you cannot buy this, Google it. Female falcons had grown dangerously scarce. A few nostalgic males nevertheless maintained a sort of sexual loitering ground. The hat was imagined, constructed, and then forthrightly worn by the ornithologist as he patrolled this loitering ground, singing, Chee-up! and bowing like an over polite Japanese Buddhist trying to tell somebody goodbye...." (David James Duncan, "Cherish This Ecstasy." The Sun, July 2008)
An anecdote is an engaging, informative story that illustrates the point of your essay. It should be short and straightforward and prevent complicated sentences or paragraphs.
Starting an essay with a brief anecdote is another interesting way to grab your audience immediately. A short story is an excellent way to introduce the reader and display important aspects of your theme.
Here is an example to understand these types of introductions better.
Example: “Kendall Hill describes how he was a “nerd” at school: he wishes it was easier to be “different.” He states, “if only it were easier to be different in this country. Back then, our education system – and, by extension, most teachers and students – rejected anything unconventional”. (Refer “Habitual cruelty: maybe the bullies get screwed up the most,” The Age, 19/6/11).
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There are many ways to begin your essay on a strong and engaging footing. Here are some of the most common ones:
The use of present historic tense in storytelling is a great way to make any story more compelling.
Example: "Ben and I are sitting side by side in the very back of his mother’s station wagon. We face glowing white headlights of cars following us, our sneakers pressed against the back hatch door. This is our joy—his and mine—to sit turned away from our moms and dads in this place that feels like a secret, as though they are not even in the car with us. They have just taken us out to dinner, and now we are driving home. Years from this evening, I won’t actually be sure that this boy sitting beside me is named Ben. But that doesn’t matter tonight. I know for certain right now that I love him, and I need to tell him this fact before we return to our separate houses next door to each other. We are both five." (Ryan Van Meter, "First." The Gettysburg Review, Winter 2008)
Instead of stating your thesis statement bluntly, make it engaging and keep it short.
Example: “It is time, at last, to speak the truth about Thanksgiving, and the truth is this. Thanksgiving is really not such a terrific holiday...." (Michael J. Arlen, "Ode to Thanksgiving." The Camera Age: Essays on Television. Penguin, 1982)
Recounting an event to add drama is a fantastic way for your readership experience. It also helps you connect with readers personally, which every good writer wants their readership journey to feel like!
Example: "One October afternoon three years ago while I was visiting my parents, my mother made a request I dreaded and longed to fulfill. She had just poured me a cup of Earl Grey from her Japanese iron teapot, shaped like a little pumpkin; outside, two cardinals splashed in the birdbath in the weak Connecticut sunlight. Her white hair was gathered at the nape of her neck, and her voice was low. “Please help me get Jeff’s pacemaker turned off,” she said, using my father’s first name. I nodded, and my heart knocked." (Katy Butler, "What Broke My Father's Heart." The New York Times Magazine, June 18, 2010)
Readers are always more interested in the unknown. Discoveries and little-known details have a way of catching attention and are irresistible to leave for readers.
Example: "I've finally figured out the difference between neat people and sloppy people. The distinction is, as always, moral. Neat people are lazier and meaner than sloppy people." (Suzanne Britt Jordan, "Neat People vs. Sloppy People." Show and Tell. Morning Owl Press, 1983)
People always want to know the truth, and there is no better way than this. Use it for yourself if writing an essay about your life story or just telling secrets in general!
Example: "I spy on my patients. Ought not a doctor to observe his patients by any means and from any stance, that he might more fully assemble evidence? So I stand in the doorways of hospital rooms and gaze. Oh, it is not all that furtive an act. Those in bed need only look up to discover me. But they never do." (Richard Selzer, "The Discus Thrower." Confessions of a Knife. Simon & Schuster, 1979)
Setting the stage for your essay is important in providing a clear, concise, and professional tone for readers. This helps them know where you are heading, so they can enjoy reading about it further!
Example: "It was in Burma, a sodden morning of the rains. A sickly light, like yellow tinfoil, was slanting over the high walls into the jail yard. We were waiting outside the condemned cells, a row of sheds fronted with double bars, like small animal cages. Each cell measured about ten feet by ten and was quite bare within except for a plank bed and a pot of drinking water. In some of them, brown silent men were squatting at the inner bars, with their blankets draped round them. These were the condemned men, due to be hanged within the next week or two." (George Orwell, "A Hanging," 1931)
Briefly explain a process that leads it to your main essay topic.
Example: "I like to take my time when I pronounce someone dead. The bare-minimum requirement is one minute with a stethoscope pressed to someone’s chest, listening for a sound that is not there; with my fingers bearing down on the side of someone’s neck, feeling for an absent pulse; with a flashlight beamed into someone’s fixed and dilated pupils, waiting for the constriction that will not come. If I’m in a hurry, I can do all of these in sixty seconds, but when I have the time, I like to take a minute with each task." (Jane Churchon, "The Dead Book." The Sun, February 2009)
This is a great technique for captivating your audience and keeping their interest. However, use this carefully as too much can be overwhelming if done incorrectly.
Example: "They woof. Though I have photographed them before, I have never heard them speak, for they are mostly silent birds. Lacking a syrinx, the avian equivalent of the human larynx, they are incapable of a song. According to field guides, the only sounds they make are grunts and hisses, though the Hawk Conservancy in the United Kingdom reports that adults may utter a croaking coo and that young black vultures, when annoyed, emit a kind of immature snarl...." (Lee Zacharias, "Buzzards." Southern Humanities Review, 2007)
Virtual reality is a technique that helps you present what's true and fake.
Example: "They aren’t what most people think they are. Human eyes, touted as ethereal objects by poets and novelists throughout history, are nothing more than white spheres, somewhat larger than your average marble, covered by a leather-like tissue known as sclera and filled with nature’s facsimile of Jell-O. Your beloved’s eyes may pierce your heart, but in all likelihood, they closely resemble the eyes of every other person on the planet. At least I hope they do, for otherwise he or she suffers from severe myopia (near-sightedness), hyperopia (far-sightedness), or worse...." (John Gamel, "The Elegant Eye." Alaska Quarterly Review, 2009)
It is an effective technique that helps the readers see how their lives have changed over time.
Example: "As a child, I was made to look out the window of a moving car and appreciate the beautiful scenery, with the result that now I don't care much for nature. I prefer parks, ones with radios going chuckawaka and the delicious whiff of bratwurst and cigarette smoke." (Garrison Keillor, "Walking Down The Canyon." Time, July 31, 2000)
The first paragraph is the most important part of any essay, and this determines whether or not readers will read your entire paper. Looking at intro examples helps you get started with a strong opening and makes your essay more interesting from the start.
Refer to these examples of starting and engaging your readers with a fantastic opening line.
These how to start an essay sample will surely help you write the perfect introduction.
The beginning of your essay is not just crucial; it’s the first impression you make on readers. Therefore, your opening sentence should be intriguing and captivating to ensure they continue reading through all pages!
Make sure you avoid these common mistakes for writing your introduction.
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Here are some words that you can use in your introduction to an essay.
As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova Allison has eight years of experience in writing both technical and scientific content. With a focus on developing online content plans that engage audiences, Nova strives to write pieces that are not only informative but captivating as well.
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