Top Tips for Writing an Essay Introduction

Top Tips for Writing an Essay Introduction
Professors grading research essays submitted as a class requirement normally skim through the introduction and depending on its quality, often there are two possibilities - either the teacher finds the paper worth one's time reading, finishes it, and hopefully gives a good grade or due to being unimpressed with the introduction, the teacher decides to save time by not reading the paper any further, gives a low or even failing grade, and moves on to grading the next. Never forget, teachers are busy people, too.
Much has been said regarding the importance of first impressions. The introduction of an essay provides a much-needed first impression. And as the story goes, the kind of impression that a written work is able to deliver largely determines whether the reader (professor grading the work) will decide to read on and hopefully give the essay a good evaluation or grade. The primary goal of the student when writing the introduction is to make sure that it is catchy enough to hook the reader to continue reading and finish the essay. Whether the essay itself deserves to get a high grade is an entirely different story which is often based on the evaluation rubric used by the class instructor for assessing essays.

So what makes a good introduction? This is highly opinionated and the best advice I can give is to simply listen carefully to what your course instructor wants, ask questions, and understand your professor's style as a researcher and writer. Do some background check and learn more about your professor's own publications.

There are articles that tell their readers that an introduction need not be long and should be concise and straight to the point; that a paragraph or two should suffice. On the other hand, we've all met not just one but perhaps several teachers who have asked their students to write essay introductions that are anywhere from 3 to even 15 pages long.

Although an advice that fits all possible scenarios is quite difficult to give, I do recommend the following for students who are writing an introduction:

Find out the specific expectations set by the course instructor for how the introduction should be written;

Begin the first paragraph by allotting around 3-5 general statements related to the topic without giving away specific details regarding the focus of the essay nor the specific topic itself;

End the first paragraph by allotting around 2-4 concluding statements for that particular paragraph and some general questions that aim to transition into the second paragraph, which is characterized by a more focused introduction of the specific topic of the research essay;

In the second and even succeeding paragraphs, the goal is to establish the context or rationale for undertaking the research. In doing so, I strongly suggest that it be written in such a way that it presents survey reports or cases to contextualize the occurrence of a phenomenon, situation, opinion, etc., that is related to the topic. It is important to present statistical figures (percentages or ratios) that aim to provide a backdrop for the topic. Also, identify cases, scenarios, or events that made newspaper headlines. Remember, the key to writing it is to contextualize and not to give a thorough analysis or interpretation of the reports. Think of it as something similar to a news report wherein you are using numbers and specific events to (a) catch your readers' attention and (b) contextualize the issue. Focus on just reporting. Make sure to cite the survey reports and cases and present around 4-6 of them with 1-3 supporting sentences for each;

After presenting the statistical reports and cases, the concluding paragraph for the introduction should pay close attention to the following details. First, begin the paragraph with 1-3 statements that aim to transition and narrow down into the specific topic or research focus. Second, write 1-2 statements that define your thesis or research focus. Next, you can write more supporting statements that further provides a rationale why you are doing the research. End the concluding paragraph of your introduction by presenting 1-3 issue-based questions which your research will attempt to address and which transitions as a catchy ending for the introduction and hooks the readers to continue reading on.

Beyond the presentation style for the introduction discussed above, an important consideration that will likely determine whether it is a good introduction depends on the writing style of the writer(s). Remember, use a funnel style introduction wherein you begin with general statements and in the succeeding paragraphs aim to narrow down the overall feel of the section. Pay close attention to the transition between paragraphs from beginning to end within the context of the funnel style. Cite statistical reports and cases and follow the citation format prescribed in class. Use as many technical words associated with the topic that you are working on. Pay close attention to the consistency of grammar usage and do not overlook spelling errors. Lastly, ask a friend or peer to read your introduction and find out whether you were able to achieve the desired effect and solicit feedback in improving your work.

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