Writing an intro is easy! If you’ll indulge me, I’m going to write an actual introduction to a real essay prompt as I go through the steps so you can understand them in context. Here’s the prompt:
Who was responsible the the sinking of the RMS Titanic and the deaths of more than 1,500 passengers?
This is a pretty typical prompt. Let’s tackle the intro.
Step One / Hook ‘em
Begin the introduction with a hook, an engaging beginning that starts a conversation with the reader. There are a number of ways you can accomplish this You can provide background information. You can share a personal anecdote. You can shock the reader with a provocative statement. In a 1,000-word essay a typical hook might range from five to eight sentences in length. The following hook gets the reader’s attention by asking a series of questions, then presenting a number of possible answers to the questions posed.
For more than 100 years now people have been asking the question, “What really caused the Titanic to sink?” and “Who was responsible for the tragedy?” This tragedy remains, perhaps, the greatest unsolved mysteries in history. Several people could probably be blamed for the tragic sinking of the legendary cruise liner. For many, the ship’s captain, Edward J. Smith is a prime and obvious suspect. After all, as the skipper, shouldn’t the buck have stopped with him? Many blame the captain of the Californian, Stanley Lord who ignored the frantic distress calls of the nearby Titanic on the night of the catastrophe. Maybe he could have saved those 1,500 victims. Still others blame non-human factors such as bad rivets, bad weather or just plain bad luck. But who or what was really to blame for the sinking of the Titanic and the loss of all those unfortunate souls?
It’s not required, nor is it always appropriate, but I do like asking a question somewhere in my hook when I can. I feel that it personalizes the writing and draws my reader in. However you do it, make your hook conversational and interesting, even if it is an academic paper that you’re writing. For a list of awesome hook strategies, go to [link to style guide]
Step Two / State your thesis
This simple sentence or two is the direction, the laser focus and the “point” of your entire essay. It announces to the reader, “I am going to be discussing something very specific and very important and THIS is what it is.”
It is clear from the evidence the Titanic’s chief architect, Thomas Andrews, was mainly responsible for the tragic event.
Short and sweet, right? It’s clear from thesis statement who I will be focusing on in this paper. I think students often go into way, way too much detail in their theses, and this is a mistake. Keep it simple and keep it uber-focused. Here’s a cool tool that’s free and will help you generate thousands of amazing thesis statements: https://www.essaypop.com/blaster
Now sometimes, especially in a structured, multiple-paragraph essay, you might need to add some sub-theses to you main thesis. This does not change your thesis, it just adds to them. Typically, these sub-theses (we call them Pops) announce body paragraphs to come later in the essay. Check out these Pops from my own introduction:
(1) Afterall, It was Andrews who made the decision to remove many of the bulkhead walls which caused the water to leak uncontrollably into the ship. (2) He also made the ill-fated decision to eliminate many of the necessary lifeboats so that the cruise ship’s deck wouldn’t appear cluttered. (3) Finally, to save money, Mr. Andrews purchased substandard materials, including rivets and steel for the hull that made the Titanic weaker than it should have been.
See what I did here? I took my main thesis statement [Andrews was to blame] and broke it into three subtopics. It’s still part of my thesis statement, it’s just that I am doing my reader the courtesy of foreshadowing what’s to come. Think of it as a table of contents for my essay. I numbered them here so they’d jump out. Obviously you wouldn’t number your own.
Step Three / Wrap it up
At this point, you’re 99% of the way there. All you have to do is apply the finishing touch. We call this the closer. The closer typically begins with a phrase like “As we will see” or “It will soon be incontrovertible that…”, and then restates or reiterates some aspect of the thesis. It’s acts as a little reminder and, more importantly, allows the introduction to feel finished.
In this analysis, we’ll see that it was the the bad decisions of the man who oversaw the construction of the Titanic and the ship’s chief architect who must be held ultimately responsible for the ship’s tragic demise.
I’ve seen writers close their intros with questions for the reader or even provocative statements, and these can work fine, but most of the time you’ll want to choose one of the many, many academic, closing statements that good writers like to use.
So that’s it! That’s how you write the introduction to your essay in three, easy steps.