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How To Write a Good Introduction

Loads of writing instructors and posts you find on the internet say something about "hooking your reader" in your introduction. But what does that really mean? How do you "hook" someone into reading further? 

EssayJack
EssayJack 11.09.2019

Loads of writing instructors and posts you find on the internet say something about "hooking your reader" in your introduction. But what does that really mean? How do you "hook" someone into reading further? 

Often we like to say that a good introduction is like a good trailer to a movie: it grips you and gives you enough information to want more. 

 

Introductions offer first impressions. If you make a good one then you’ve got the reader’s attention. 

 

So how do you make a good first impression? By knowing what your readers are looking for of course! Expository or argumentative essays usually have three parts to the introduction: an opening statement, background information (the names of these two parts may vary depending on where you learned English academic writing, but the information remains the same), and a thesis statement. Anyone grading your essay will look for these elements in that order because this is the conventional structure of an essay and it creates a smooth flow leading into your body paragraphs.

 

The Opening Statement

The opening statement (or topic sentence) should quickly, succinctly, and accurately state the broad topic of the essay, without yet giving the particular thesis statement. The key is that the more specific and precise this opening sentence can be, the better it will focus your reader (and hence, begin "hooking" them).

 

Here's an example of an opening statement for an essay topic with the title "Folklore inspired video games:"

"Through generations, the transmission of European folklore has been affected by technological advances, first being shared as oral stories, then being transformed to the written word, and more recently being disseminated in digital formats."

This statement introduces the topic to readers and gives a brief hint as to where the essay is going to go. But at this point, we don't yet know specifically what you are going to say about either digital formats or the move from oral to digital transmission.

 

The Background Information

The background information leads to the thesis statement. It usually comprises information (history, facts, overview details, specific vocabulary, etc) that is important for readers to know before they move on to your thesis statement. In other words, it creates some context for the argument that will follow, focusing the readers' attention on a specific area of the topic that you will be looking into. Here, it is useful to know who your audience is and how much they would know about the topic so that you can make the background information relevant to them.

 

Example of background information: 

"The stories we think of when we think of European folklore are usually those fairy tales or stories that detail fantastical characters. In places like Ireland and Wales, the folklore may tell stories of supernatural fairies and elves; in places like central Europe the tales may take a darker turn, focusing on revenants and vampires; in places further East, such as the Ukrainian and Russian steppes, the monsters may be more gendered such as the fearsome witch, Baba Yaga."

The specific statement gives a brief history and explanation on the topic while establishing a specific context - in this case sweeping through various geographies of Europe, providing an overview summary of "folklore" as being stories about fantastical characters.

 

The Thesis Statement

The thesis statement is the heart of any essay, because it provides the direction for an essay and allows readers to understand what will be discussed in the body paragraphs of an essay. The thesis statement is your claim about the topic, which will be supported by the main ideas and detailed descriptions in the body paragraphs. Usually, the way a thesis statement is written depends on whether you want to persuade, instruct, or inform readers of a certain take on a topic. Ultimately a thesis statement is the stand you want to take; it is the argument you will make; it is the main point that you will try to prove to your reader.

 

Example of an academic thesis statement that aims to inform:

Stories of fearful and fantastical characters that form the backbone of European folklore have evolved to inspire video game scenarios and frightening villains."

We know that this thesis is debatable, because you are creating a link between European folklore - and its scary characters - and video games, suggesting an evolution or causal connection between the two types of stories. Now it's up to the rest of the essay to prove this claim!

 

Pulling it all together in an Introductory Paragraph

So here's what your introductory paragraph for an essay about "Folklore inspired video games" (which is a topic, by the way, that we got from a real lecturer in a university):

"Through generations, the transmission of European folklore has been affected by technological advances, first being shared as oral stories, then being transformed to the written word, and more recently being disseminated in digital formats. The stories we think of when we think of European folklore are usually those fairy tales or stories that detail fantastical characters. In places like Ireland and Wales, the folklore may tell stories of supernatural fairies and elves; in places like central Europe the tales may take a darker turn, focusing on revenants and vampires; in places further East, such as the Ukrainian and Russian steppes, the monsters may be more gendered such as the fearsome witch, Baba Yaga. Stories of fearful and fantastical characters that form the backbone of European folklore have evolved to inspire video game scenarios and frightening villains."

A good introduction has three separate but ultimately complementary parts: topic, background, and thesis. They will form the structure of your introduction.

When writing the introduction, remember that language also counts, so keep your sentences clear and concise and your diction appropriate. Edit, rewrite, and edit again if you need. Come back to it after you’ve finished your entire essay to edit again but make sure it’s good!

 

After all, you do want to leave a good first impression!

 

 

 

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