Can you guide me through how to write an introductory paragraph?

Expert Answers
carol-davis eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The introduction is the first impression that the reader has of the rest of the essay. A well formulated introduction will entice the reader to read on.  It serves as a road map for the rest of the paper.  After reading the introduction, the reader should not have trouble following the organization of the paper. 

The introduction contains an abundance of information. There are four features of an introduction:

  1. Grab the attention of the audience.
  2. Show the relationship between the attention getter and the topic
  3. Introduce the topic.
  4. State the thesis of the paper.

Getting the reader’s attention is the first facet of the introduction.

  • A vivid or unexpected anecdote

Think of what the world would be like if there were no more polar bears, no more ice pack, and no more Arctic Circle at all.

  • A provocative quotation (possibly quoting an expert)

In a shrinking ice environment, the ability of polar bears to find food, to reproduce, and to survive will all be reduced," said Scott Schliebe, Alaskan polar bear project leader.

  • A thought provoking or startling question

Is the world willing to watch a polar bear die of starvation?

  • Present surprising facts and statistics

In 50 years, there will be no more polar bears in the world.

  • Adapt a familiar quotation or phrase

To be concerned about global warming, or not; that is the question facing every person in the world right now.

Show the relationship between the attention getter and the topic.

The next step is to connect the attention grabber to the topic.  Then, provide background information introducing the topic. 

When you write an introduction, you need to clearly indicate the topic that you will be writing about. Be careful that you do not confuse your topic with your thesis.

These sentences must serve as a bridge to connect the attention getter to the topic

  • Introduce the topic
  • Explain the importance of the topic
  • Lead into the thesis statement
  • Provide brief and germane sentences that give just enough information

State the thesis statement.

The final part of the introduction is the thesis sentence(s).  This should be the most planned sentence in the essay. The statement must be specific and clearly stated. It should be placed at the end of the introduction.

The type of thesis depends on the purpose of the essay:

Expository paper which explains something to the reader

  • Global warming has impacted polar bears by decreasing population sizes, moving sea ice platforms farther apart, and increasing the scarcity of food.

Analytical paper which breaks down an issue or an idea into its component parts, evaluates the issue or idea, and presents this analysis and assessment to the audience.

  • The polar bear population reveals one challenge: global warming effect on sea ice in the Arctic can see a loss of two thirds of the entire world’s polar bear population over the next fifty years.

Argumentative paper makes a claim about the topic, justifies the claim with specific evidence.  The goal is to convince the audience that the thesis is true based on the evidence provided.

  • Global warming has moved the polar bear to possible extinction.  Lack of food, natural habitat, and the Arctic weather will doom the polar bears’ survival.

The introduction familiarizes the reader with the subject and helps relate the purpose of the rest of the essay.  The essay will benefit by an interesting well planned introduction.

mscw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The simple formula to create a well-structured introductory paragraph is

P + (E+E) + (E+E) + (E+E) + L

This means: 

P - state the main point of your essay (your thesis or the answer to your essay question)

(E+E) - provide the first example your essay will explore (your first body paragraph Point) and elaborate on its meaning.

(E+E) - provide the second example your essay will explore (your second body paragraph Point) and elaborate on its meaning.

(E+E) - provide the third example your essay will explore (your third body paragraph Point) and elaborate on its meaning.

L - Conclude your introduction by restating your P in another, more final way OR link  to your first body paragraph in a clever way.

This example is for an analytical essay about Hayoa Miyazaki's use of film techniques to position the audience to understand his messages about growing up, the evils of materialism and the power of love in "Spirited Away". Note the underlined and annotated sections of an introduction. You will also note that the E+E sections are often made up of complex or compound sentences, and may be in a variety of orders, dependent upon the writer's intended meaning. The P sentence for the introduction does summarise the main point of the introduction, but the thesis statement is in fact contained in the L sentence. In writing, it is always a matter of choice and style, provided you understand the basics!

(P) Spirited Away is an entertaining and challenging film about the awakening of a young girl, Chihiro, to the realities of the world in which she lives, as she is stranded in a dangerous place and forced to work to save her parents. (+E)A very normal young girl, both cute and annoying, (E)Chihiro is not immediately liked by the audience. (E) Through accompanying Chihiro through horror and fear, audiences are part of a very strange journey, (+E) and there is no doubting the strength and worth of a the young protagonist. (E) Miyazaki’s use of camera angles, lighting, symbolism and sound (+E) draw the audience to empathise with Chihiro, as she discovers who Sen is,  (L) literally an unknown part of Chihiro who can save her parents and restore life to its normal patterns.

Most often, essays are written in response to a question or statement. The following can be used, in combination with the PEEL structure (above) as a guide to writing a literary criticism essay.

  1. Use key words from the question to gain the reader’s attention and explain the question in more detail
  2. State your point of view
  3. Preview / highlight main arguments of essay
  4. Concluding Sentence which sums up your main argument.
mlgendron7 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Your introductory paragraph needs to introduce your topic as well as entice your reader, so that they want to continue reading. A typical sufficient paragraph length is 5-7 sentences in secondary schools.

Your first sentence should "hook" your audience. A hook can be a startling statement, a question, an anecdote, or even a relevant quotation. Next, you want to provide your reader with background. Finally, include your thesis statement, which is your topic sentence that tells exactly what your paper is about.

Your background information should not only clarify your topic, but it should clarify your hook. Explain, for instance, quickly, why your startling statement about America's child obesity rates is connected to your thesis statement that argues all McDonald's should display not only the calorie count on their menu, but also the exercise equivalent to "walk off" those calories.

kevin0001 | Student

To write an introductory paragraph, you start out with a hook. A hook is a sentence, story, question, etc. that is used to grab a reader's attention. The hook is important to your introductory paragraph because it makes the reader interested in reading what you are writing. The next part is your thesis statement. The thesis statement shows the main idea of your piece of writing and what is the writing about. Basically, it is your entire essay written in one sentence. The last thing for your introductory paragraph are your details or reasons that describe the topic of your paragraphs. Do not include all of your information here though, because that is saved for your body paragraph. You can even use the same details/reasons later on in your writing to talk more about it. A tip to writing a introductory paragraph is to make everything you write clear so people can enjoy and understand what you are trying to say. Your introductory paragraph should be short and convincing.

taangerine | Student

To write an introductory paragraph, you will need at least 4-5 sentences. In my opinion, here are 3 important elements:


  • This could be a quote, rhetorical question, etc. Depending on what the given topic is about, make your audience/reader interested on your topic. The main point of this is to catch the reader's attention. 
  • Ex. If you are writing about dragons. Instead of saying: Dragons are mythical creatures that can breathe fire. You can start off by saying: Can you imagine yourself breathing fire or flying in the air? Unfortunately, humans can not, but dragons can. Dragons are (start stating background information, etc.)


  • Giving the reader an insight of what your entire essay is going to be about. This should be written at the introductory paragraph, referred to in every body paragraphs, and restated in the conclusion or concluding statement of your essay.
  • Ex. If you are writing about dragons and their benevolent nature.. you can say: Even though dragons look mean and scary, dragons help protect others. (Which you can try to prove in your body paragraphs) 


  • In your introductory paragraph, do not 'go around in circles.' You should try to get your point by clearly. Your introductory paragraph should be ~4-5 sentences, so don't try to squeeze all the information you want to state in your introductory paragraph. It should be saved for your body paragraphs! 
rachellopez | Student

When writing an introductory paragraph you want to include two very important things: a hook and a thesis statement. A hook is what draws the reader in and makes them want to keep reading your piece. An example of this could be a story, a statistic, a quote, or a rhetorical question. It all depends on what you are writing about.

The thesis statement will tell your readers what is discussed in your piece and what you personally believe. Depending on if your piece is informative or argumentative, it will change your thesis statement. For an argumentative piece you will need to state what side you are arguing and at least three supporting details. Make sure you don't use words like I believe, I think, should, would, or could. You want your statement to be clear and convincing. 

mchandrea | Student

For me, the most important part of an essay is the introductory paragraph. It sets the standard if I want to read more or should I just drop it and read something else. Introductions heavily affect the interest of the readers. It is also upsetting when the introduction is so beautifully thought of but the body and conclusion was not. 

The introduction should be able to attract the attention of the reader and to let him know what the entire writing is about.

For an attention catching introduction, you can choose something creative like a story, a quotation, humorous or unusual statements, or even facts and statistics. Do not apologize for not knowing the topic too well, choose a topic that you know very well and could confidently write about; if you are not confident with your topic, you might not be able to write about it excellently.Be straight to the point and don't stray out of the topic. 

chrisyhsun | Student

The three basic components of an introductory paragraph are: the hook, the thesis, and the "guidemap" of the following essay. The purpose of the introductory paragraph is to draw in the reader to continue reading and clearly define for the reader what he/she will be reading. The hook can be written in a variety of different ways. For essays that are not as serious or are more free-form (I would provide book reviews as an example), it may be appropriate to open with more of a fun statement that will actually make the reader interested. For more formal papers such as research papers, the "hook" may indeed seem slightly dry and merely be an introduction of the topic of the paper. This is not to be confused with the thesis statement, which is the argument of the paper, or your thoughts on the subject. If you are expressing an opinion, it is important to blend that into your thesis as the entire paper should be written in order to prove the thesis. The sentence following the thesis can be quite structured - for example, you can essentially say "I will be proving [this - referring to the thesis] by discussing ________, _____________, and ______. The blanks can correspond to the different reasons or topics of your body paragraphs. Though I have indicated three blanks, there is no reason why your essay has to have three body paragraphs. This number will change based on essay requirements, your organizational structure, and just how much you have to say on the topic.

CaitlynnReeves | Student

The begining is often the hardeset part of any project. In order to avoid writers block, or getting half way through your paper without really knowing what you're saying, I highly sugest prewriting. It seems like an unnecissary step, but it helps! 

To prewrite think about the topic and write down immediately what comes to your mind. Then try to expand on those things and bring in some detail. Once you feel like you have something to say on the topic organize your prewriting scribles into an outline. Your introductory paragraph is usually your first thoughts on the topic combined with a breif summary of your paper. 

Purdue OWL is a really fantastic resource for writing essays. Here's the link below! 

Lauren1234 | Student

Each essay is different in the approach you take to answer it and the style or structure must reflect the question, as stated above. But, if you are still struggling with the basic introduction, try some of these tips.

Look at the question: What type of essay are they expecting of you? (Once you know this, you can form the structure). Underline the key concepts and define the main terms.

Next: Do you agree or disagree with the question? What would be a simple answer to it? Write down at least 3 key arguments to support your belief. Then think of what could be said against it.

Write: Using the format from the above posters, start writing! But, keep it simple. Give your answer (it may be simply rephrasing the original question), then state the main structure of your essay through the main arguments.

Practise makes close to perfect! You just need to keep writing and if you are still confused, compare to other essays that are available (but try yourself first)

user3514820 | Student

you can start with the essay question and you answer it yourself in the next line .

if the essay title is one word , you could start off by giving the definition of the word 

you could also start by going straight to the point .


hope it helps ^^