How to Craft an Introduction for Your Next College Paper
Even though introductions are a vital part of an essay, many students do not spend enough time on them. Instead of a boring paragraph that just summarizes what’s coming up in the essay, you should aim to grab the reader’s attention and make it clear why you’re writing about a particular topic.
To craft a strong introduction, you need to accomplish three things:
- Introduce the topic/grab the reader’s attention
- Tell us why the topic is important
- State your purpose/argument/main focus for your paper (This is called your thesis statement)
When you have a strong introduction, you have a clear roadmap and purpose for writing your essay. You’ll likely have a more focused essay as a result, and a grade that reflects your efforts.
The funnel method
One way to think about your introduction is to picture a funnel. Like a funnel, your introduction should gradually narrow in focus as you hone in on one central idea or argument.
Some students find it helpful to draw out the funnel to visualize the process. Start with an upside down triangle, and divide it into three sections. Within each of these spaces, you can add details for the three key introductory components.
Top layer: Introduce your problem or topic
Your first task is to introduce your topic and grab your reader’s attention. Avoid using lackluster phrases like, “In this paper, I will explain” for your opening statement. Instead, introduce an issue within your topic that hooks the reader and makes them want to learn more.
Take the introduction in this post for example. We didn’t just tell you that having a strong introduction is important; we explained that many students don’t know how to write a strong introduction, or they might have misconceptions about what an introduction should look like.
Middle layer: Why it’s important
You also need to explain why your topic is important. Maybe it’s something that most people don’t know about, but should. Or, maybe there are different points of view on your topic, and you’re going to settle the case. You’re not revealing your argument or your thesis just yet; you’re explaining why this topic is worth discussing. If you’re having trouble with this step, ask yourself:
- Are there different viewpoints on this topic? If so, what are they?
- Can I frame this topic within any current events or issues that make it more interesting?
- How does this topic relate to concepts/themes we have discussed in class?
Then, try to summarize these points in a sentence or two. Think of this step as “narrowing the funnel” toward your main focus for the essay.
Bottom layer: Your thesis
Your thesis is the last sentence in your introduction and it tells the reader what you intend to explore in the rest of the essay. One way to craft a thesis is to establish a point of view on your topic. Ask yourself:
- What do you want your readers to learn from reading your paper?
- What do you want them to understand about your topic?
These questions will help you focus your thesis on specific take-home messages you want to leave with your readers.
It might help you to outline your paper before crafting your thesis and your introduction. This way, you have a clear idea of the supporting points you want to discuss, and you can work backwards to determine your thesis.
Whether you’re writing a research paper or responding to an essay question on an exam, these tips will help you can craft an effective and engaging introduction that sets the tone for the rest of your essay. With a focused introduction, you’ll have a clear direction for your response and your writing will be much stronger as a result.