How to write an introductory paragraph for an essay

How to write an introductory paragraph for an essay

The introductory is not simply the “first” paragraph in your essay; it is the “hook,” preview, and thesis.

Usually no longer than about four or five sentences, the introductory paragraph always has an attention-getter that guides the reader to the thesis statement via a quick preview of what the essay will be about. Bring all the elements together for a nifty formula to write your introductory paragraph for that essay.


Step 1

Don’t start writing yet!

Trying to write an introductory paragraph from «scratch» is the surest road to «writer’s block.» Think your essay through and either write your thesis statement or your middle paragraphs first. If you write your thesis statement first, think of three supporting ideas that prove or support your thesis statement. Think of the thesis statement as the «spine» of your introductory paragraph. Write it first and go to Step 2.

Step 2

Write your thesis statement and supporting sentences.

Think of the thesis statement as the «spine» of your introductory paragraph and your essay: Everything hangs on it! Pause for a moment and check out our how-to article on How to write a Thesis Statement. To repeat the advice in Step 1: Do not try to write your introductory paragraph from scratch without first developing your thesis statement.

Here’s an example of a thesis statement:

Every American should be required to spend two years either in the military or in a public service project for both self- and community improvement.

Building on the above thesis, and using the following supporting sentences gets you two-thirds through the process.

For example:
(1) Serving in the military or on public service projects would increase the young citizens’ sense of belonging to a nation. (2) It would be a maturing experience that would expand their horizons. (3) Also, it would strengthen our younger generation’s sense of global and community identity.

Big hint: The supporting statements that prop up your thesis are what you write about in your body paragraphs — no more, no less. Sometimes the process occurs in reverse. You could, for example, write out the meat of your essay and do the introductory paragraph based on that.

Step 3

Write your first sentence as a “hook” or a “grabber.”

This is the final third of the process, but it will be the first sentence of your introductory paragraph. Your hook could be an anecdote:

My grandfather once told me that what really helped him relate to other Americans in our vast country was the two years he spent in the U.S. Army.

Or you could ask a provocative question:

What can we do as a nation to give our younger generation a better sense of citizenship and community responsibility?

Or you could provide some interesting historical background:

The military draft that affected every adult American male essentially went away in 1973. Since that time…

You are now ready to piece your grabber, your three supporting sentences, and your thesis into a cohesive introductory paragraph.

Things Needed
• Above all, a strong thesis statement
• An “eyeball grabber” (an interesting “hook”) that makes the reader want to expend brain cells reading your essay
• Transition or summary sentence ideas to go from the hook to the thesis

Tips & Warnings
• Think of the introductory paragraph as a “work completed,” rather than a “work in progress.” You cannot write the introduction without an idea of where your middle paragraphs are going and how they relate.
• Having trouble writing your introductory paragraph? Try writing the middle paragraphs first and see how everything hangs together.


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