How to Write an Essay Introduction

How to Write an Essay Introduction

  • A good essay introduction sets up the rest of your paper and grabs your reader’s attention.
  • All introductions should include a hook, a thesis, and an organizational plan.
  • Knowing the rhetorical situation can help you write an effective introduction and thesis.

The computer screen remains blank, and my mind freezes every time I return to my philosophy 201 assignment: “Discuss the ethics of stealing.” I know I’ll need a great introduction for my paper, but where should I start? What should I include?

Writing a college essay shouldn’t be scary, but getting started can often feel overwhelming and even intimidating at times. If you divide the essay-writing process into clearly defined steps, though, you’ll find that it’s a relatively straightforward process.

This might come as a surprise, but introductions are often crafted last, after you’ve written the main content of your essay. Even expert essayists expect to have to reframe their claims and essay organization as they write the bodies of their essays.

This article will go over how to write an effective college essay introduction and set you on the path to producing excellent and engaging papers.

The Rhetorical Situation and Why It’s Useful

The term “rhetorical situation” refers to the relationship the writer wishes to strike with their reader. Understanding the rhetorical situation is key because it should undergird your essay. To have mastery over this relationship, the writer must understand their message or text, its purpose, and the setting in which they’re writing.

The usual defaults for college writing are that the writer is a budding scholar in the field (you) and the reader is an established expert (e.g., your professor), unless the assignment expressly states otherwise.

The message or text (your claim and the essay) will vary with each assignment. The purpose (why the essay is important) is normally to improve your knowledge and skills, and the setting (the context in which you’re writing) is the field of study.

In the case of my philosophy 201 essay prompt, “Discuss the ethics of stealing,” the target reader is someone who understands the process of philosophizing about moral dilemmas. The writer could be the real me or a different persona, so long as my arguments are consistent with one another.

The message of this essay is how our society functions or how it could or should function. The purpose is to demonstrate to my professor my understanding of how ethics and ethical thought work. Finally, the setting is college-level thinking and philosophizing. Knowing this information equips me to construct a successful introduction and thesis.

Writing Your Essay’s Thesis Statement

Armed with the knowledge of what kind of essay you must write, you can now start to draft your thesis statement and determine the organization for the body of your essay. The thesis answers the following question for readers: “What will this essay prove?” The organizational plan explains how and in what order the essay will prove this claim.

Generally speaking, the thesis statement should appear near the end of your introduction. As for organizing your essay, try to lay out in the introduction the main points you’ll be discussing in the order in which they’ll appear in the body of your paper. This will facilitate not only your writing process but also your audience’s reading experience.

Get more tips on how to write an effective thesis statement in our complete guide.

The Value of Writing a Stellar Essay Introduction

Go back to the beginning of this article and look for the hook, the transition, the thesis statement, and how I establish the rhetorical situation. Consider as well the genre of this article and how I set up the organization of it.

Seasoned academic writers know a strong introduction can go a long way toward producing an effective and compelling paper. No matter what you choose to write about, you should always follow these basic rules. Not only will you earn better grades on your essays, but you’ll also become a more efficient and confident writer.


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