What is an Introduction?

Learning to craft an interest-provoking introduction is a key to creating an engaging and insightful essay. Instructors should spend as much time teaching the elements of a strong introduction as they do in crafting the body of the essay. Students, likewise, should devote much practice to crafting introductions and should be willing to experiment with different techniques as they learn to form credible "gateways" to their papers.


The function of an introduction is to "welcome" readers to your essay. Aside from your title, the introduction is where your readers first discover what your paper will be about. It should serve as a readable and concise piece of writing that acquaints its audience to what will come and the scope in which your subject matter will be covered. When used effectively, the introduction whets the appetites of readers who become engaged with the promise of the paper and seek to sate themselves by continuing to read it in full.


A good introduction has many features. The first of these is the "hook" which draws the reader into the paper. Hooks come in many forms such as a dramatic statement ("We must take action now"), a startling statistic, an engaging anecdote or a thought provoking quote. Another necessary feature of the introduction is the thesis statement. The thesis is a sentence which combines the subject of the paper plus an opinion about it. For instance, "Pit bulls are dangerous to have as pets" is a thesis in that it introduces the subject of pit bulls and puts forth the opinion that these dogs are dangerous pets. An introduction is also the place in the essay which can house any necessary background information readers will need. Finally, many introductions are used to give a small preview of the points which will be developed fully in the body of the paper.


The type of introduction a student constructs will likely depend upon the subject and tone of the essay. If you are writing about butterflies, for example, the type of introduction will likely be even in tone and contain a scientific background suitable for a classification essay. If you are writing a persuasive essay on the dangers of global warming, however, your introduction may have a dark and urgent tone as you will want your readers to listen to your warning and take it seriously. Another type of paper, such as the biographical essay, may be endearing in tone and require a warm introduction if you are writing about a person who has these qualities himself.


When writing an introduction, the student should consider her audience. Is she writing for her teenage peers? If so, the introduction should be crafted to appeal to that particular audience. The tone will likely be familiar and congenial. Another paper written for a college application will need to be more formal in tone. Another thing to consider, aside from audience, is the length of the introduction. This should be based on the length of the essay itself. For most student papers, the introduction should be one to two paragraphs long. It should be measurably shorter than the body parts of the essay and at least as long as the paper's conclusion.


Students should use the introduction to their essays as their jumping off point, meaning it should be a solid position from which to craft the rest of their paper. An introduction has the potential to garner an audience, but it can just as easily sedate one. Students need to take the time to make sure their introduction is effective and not used simply as a means of starting a paper. Treated with forethought and care, an introduction orients and prepares readers for the excitement to come.

About the Author

Lisa Mooney has been a professional writer for more than 18 years. She has worked with various clients including many Fortune 500 companies such as Pinkerton Inc. She has written for many publications including Woman's World, Boy's Life and Dark Horizons. Mooney holds bachelor's degrees in both English and biology from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.