How to Start an Essay
Having Problems Starting an Essay?
Wondering how to start an essay? Have you been procrastinating starting your essay writing process because you dread typing that first paragraph or simply do not know how or where to begin? Well, you are not alone. Many people including inexperienced writers as well as veteran writers face challenges starting an essay and end up wasting a lot of time before typing that first word in the introductory paragraph. If you want to start an essay effectively, read on for a review of the different effective approaches to beginning an essay.
The Importance of an Introductory Paragraph
In virtually everything you may want to write; the introductory paragraph will influence the reader’s motivation to read through the entire essay. In this respect, the introduction to an essay is closely similar to the beginning of a movie or narrative story. In academic essays, how well the introductory paragraph and essay introduction is written is often the difference between getting an A or a lower grade. A properly written introductory paragraph to an essay should:
• Attract and hold your readers’ attention
• Introduce your topic by giving some background information
• Give your readers some point of view
• Highlight the primary argument you make in the essay
• Identify the points you will use to justify your argument
Components of an Intro Paragraph
A good introduction paragraph should do a number of things. Most importantly, the introductory paragraph should grab the attention of the reader, provide some background to the essay, and highlight the main argument. To achieve these, the introduction paragraph should have the following components as a minimum:
A hook is a sentence that attracts the attention of the reader and makes him/her desire to read on to discover the conclusion. Mostly, the hook is the first sentence in the introduction paragraph. You can use a question, an anecdote, an interesting fact, a joke, or a description of interesting events (more on these later) as your essay hook. When you write, choose a hook that is relevant to your topic.
The essay introduction should provide some background to the essay topic. This is usually achieved by terse descriptions of the essay context. For instance, if you are writing about the humanitarian effects of the Syrian war, your background information could be facts about the war. Examples of these could be when the war started, what sparked the war, the parties involved, and the number of deaths among others.
Finally, and perhaps most important, every essay introduction should have a thesis statement. This is a comprehensive statement that outlines the main argument in your essay. The common best practice is to put your thesis statement in the last sentence in the introductory paragraph.
Key Things to Think About Before Starting an Essay
Before you type that first word in your essay introduction, there are few things you should consider. These include:
• First things First, Pick a Good Topic
A good topic is one that you are interested in, are passionate about, or is relevant to your area of study. In academics, it is often best to choose a current topic. A current topic is one that researchers, other academicians, and the public in general, are interested in at present. Choosing such a topic makes your writing relevant in your specific field of study.
• The Beginning of Good Writing is Reading
Research for current writings about your topic and read. Conducting background research will help you to understand what is known about your topic, and identify any gaps in the existing literature. This research will make it easy for you to place your essay into the right context and, therefore, make credible arguments. Through background research, you will learn interesting facts regarding your topic that you can use to begin your essay introduction.
• Outline your Essay
Background research will give you an idea of the existing arguments for and against your topic. Soon as you are comfortable that you have researched and read enough materials to have enough points to support your argument, make a clear and concise outline of your main points. Subdivide your essay into chapters, subchapters, sections, and subsections. If you have done your background research well, you will have enough points to outline a complete essay that makes a strong argument about a given topic. Outlining your essay comes in handy when you are writing the thesis statement because you can simply summarize the main points outlined in one statement that highlights your overarching argument.
Good Ways to Start an Essay
How exactly should I start an essay? What should my first sentence be? These are common questions that most writers ask themselves during their preparation to start writing. The first sentence in your introductory should be a relevant hook that grabs the attention of your readers. You can start a good essay in one or a combination of the different types of hooks described below among others.
1. Start with a quote, or joke
To start your essay in this way, look for a quote, or joke that says something important about your topic. The quote can be a famous saying that most readers in your target audience are likely to know. A humorous joke is also effective as a start to an essay because it relieves some tension in your readers and stimulates their interest to know how the joke fits in with your topic. If you choose to start your essay this way, avoid using clichés or irrelevant jokes or quotes that are not related to your topic. To use a joke or quote effectively at the beginning of your essay, always consider how your intended audience is likely to react to the joke or quote.
2. Open with a short description of an event leading up to your subject
Begin with a short but vivid description of an event that ultimately builds into your subject. The event could be a recent major incident that is a suitable example of the significant issues in your topic area. For instance, you might want to start by describing a recent aircraft accident if your essay is concerned with air safety. If your topic is: the role of human error in aircraft accidents, you could begin by describing a recent accident in which human error was the main factor causing the accident. In this case, the background information can also serve as your essay hook.
3. State interesting, shocking, or recently established facts or empirical research findings
Stating a fact that your target audience is unlikely to know is a great way to start a good essay. Stating such a fact can shock, interest, or puzzle your audience. Either way, it will grab their attention and create a desire in them to read more of what you have to say. Recently established facts and ground-breaking research findings have a strong appeal on the readers’ desire to learn more. To start your essay this way, ensure that you quote credible, current, and accurate research findings because quoting a biased or inaccurate source at the beginning of your essay lays a poor foundation for the rest of your argument.
4. Ask a question and provide an answer that you will justify in the rest of the essay
Why do modern businesses invest in corporate social responsibility initiatives? Because it makes perfect economic sense to do so. Asking a question and providing an answer in this manner is an effective way to start a good essay. Regardless of your field of study or topic area, you can always formulate a question relevant to your topic. Therefore, using this start is among the easiest strategies to begin a good essay that you can master effortlessly.
5. Describe the geographical, historical or other contextual settings
When you begin an essay by describing the settings in which your main ideas are set will enhance your audiences’ understanding of the essay. In addition, such a start will offer you a great way to build up to a thesis statement. For instance, a creative essay could begin as follows: “It is March 10th, 2020. Walking through Wuhan city gives me the weird feeling that I am passing through some disserted ruins. The usually buzzing Chinese city is now a silent and seemingly lifeless concrete jungle”.
6. Describe a dramatic event related to your topic
Recounting an event that dramatizes your topic is an effective way of attracting and retaining your readers’ attention. Dramatic events are often humorous. If your readers find your essay humorous, they are more likely to keep reading. In the process, you get the opportunity to hammer your points home in later sections of the essay and score highly in academic essays.
7. Use the historical present tense to begin your essay
In the historical present tense, events that occurred in the past are narrated as if they are happening in the present. For instance, you can begin an essay describing the stock market’s response to a major destabilizing event such as the 2008 financial crisis by writing: “Major stock market indices around the world are plummeting at an average rate of 0.5% per day”. While the sentence could be referring to an ongoing event, it can be used in a narrative essay where the author is describing a past event.
8. Reveal a secret about yourself
This is an excellent way to begin a personal essay such as a personal reflection. “I have always feared heights”. This is a good example of how to start an essay by revealing a secret about yourself. You can build on this statement by providing some contextual information regarding your subject. When you start by revealing a secret about yourself, your readers understand where you ‘are coming from’ and allows them to place themselves in your shoes and see things from your point of view.
Common Mistakes to Avoid when Starting an Essay
The following are important dos and don’ts when starting an essay:
• Do not miss a thesis statement in your introductory paragraph. Most teachers will deduct you some marks or give you a failed grade if your essay assignment does not have a clear thesis statement.
• Always have a creative hook to begin your essay. Without a hook, the reader or marker may not have the motivation to read the rest of your paper. This can get you lower marks than you deserve because the reader never read your paper to the end.
• Avoid grammar and spelling mistakes
• Avoid quoting sources that are inaccurate or not credible
• Do not use clichés and common truths if you can avoid them
• Do not omit contextual information that the reader needs to understand the rest of your introduction and essay
• Always consider the type of essay you are writing when choosing how to start your essay; some approaches are more formal than others
Introduction Paragraph Example
Below is an introductory paragraph broken down to the three main components of a good introduction to an essay. The paragraph is an example of how to start an essay with a quote.
Hook (a quote by a prominent person)
“Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally”.
These were the words of the great US emancipator and president Abraham Lincoln about a month before he was assassinated in 1865. Today, I am forced to contemplate the meaning of these words and apply them to our domestic situation where segregation is rife. Despite the progress we have made in areas such as science, telecommunications technology, and commerce, there is a large population of people in Canada who are treated and live like second class citizens.
This essay argues that we can stop segregation in this great nation using digital tools to promote the three As- ‘awareness, attitude, and action’.
Need Help Writing a Good Introduction Paragraph?
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