Introductory Paragraph: Examples & Structure

Instructor: Ann Casano

Ann has taught university level Film classes and has a Master's Degree in Cinema Studies.

First impressions are important, and it's no different for written material. In this lesson, we will look at how to write an engaging and well structured introductory paragraph for your essay or paper.

The Importance of a Strong Introductory Paragraph

There are two primary goals to an introductory paragraph. Perhaps the most important goal is to grab the reader's attention - to essentially say, 'Hey you! You will want to read this.' If you don't have an audience, then all the work you put into your essay will be for naught. The second goal of the introductory paragraph is to tell your reader a little bit about the topic of your essay. This task can be accomplished by writing a solid thesis statement. The thesis statement is basically a couple of sentences that introduce the subject of your essay and a quick summary of the argument you plan to make in the body of your work.

How to Get the Reader's Attention

Start with a bang! Begin your paper with an opening sentence that will hook your reader and make them want more. Be clever, be funny, be interesting, be smart - be anything that makes your reader smile or laugh or say, 'Wow, I never knew that.' There are many ways to hook your reader. For example, you can use a quote from a famous person or tell a funny story.

Let's say you're writing an essay on ways for college students to stop procrastinating. The following quote is not only humorous, but it's from the very famous American author Mark Twain: 'Never put off until tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.' Or, perhaps you're writing an essay on literature. This funny quote from Groucho Marx could provide an interesting start: 'Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.'

What about starting with an interesting fact? 'In 1938, Time magazine chose Adolf Hitler for man of the year.' This is a surprising piece of random trivia, and it might elicit a response like, 'Wow, how did that happen?' from your reader. Another interesting fact is, 'Did you know that many people who read the word yawn or yawning begin to feel the urge to yawn?' Did you yawn? I did - twice.

Of course your interesting stories, quotes or facts have to somehow relate to your essay. You wouldn't want to tell a funny anecdote about waiting in line at the grocery store if you were writing an essay on playing football, unless, of course, they were somehow related.

Crafting Your Thesis Statement

Now that you've grabbed your reader's attention, you need to let your reader in on what the essay is going to be about with a thesis. Remember your thesis will serve as a sort of road map for your essay. It lets the reader know in two or three sentences what to expect. You should structure your thesis statement in a clear and direct manner and list the sections in the order they are going to appear. Let's say that you wanted to write an essay on who you thought were the three most influential guitar players in rock 'n' roll history. First, you could let the reader know that they will be reading your opinion on what makes an influential guitar player. You might also discuss what criteria you'll be using to make your analysis. And finally, you could list your top three musicians in the order they will appear in your essay. It might look something like this:

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