How to Write an Introduction Paragraph to an Essay

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Writing an effective introduction paragraph to an essay involves using your words to encourage your audience to continue reading. This is done by explaining what your essay intends to accomplish without explicitly stating your intent or giving away too much information. The "hook" -- the catchy part of the paragraph that makes your audience want to continue -- is the most difficult part of the paragraph to write. Announcing what the essay is about without directly saying "My essay will do this ..." is done more easily.

  • Create an outline for the introduction paragraph. The outline should contain information similar to an outline of the entire essay, including the main idea of the essay and two or three supporting ideas. Once you have created the outline, you'll have all the information you need to put into the introductory paragraph except the opening sentence and the closing sentence (which leads into the body of the essay).

  • Write an attractive first sentence that allows for the information in your outline to follow. For example, if you're writing an essay about William Shakespeare's use of gratuitous violence in his tragedies, you could use a reference to gratuitous violence in popular cinema to hook the audience:

            Quentin Tarantino's critically-acclaimed film "Pulp Fiction" (1994) and the "Kill Bill" films use mindless violence to thrill the audience as their shuffled plots invite viewers to piece together the stories, which all but declare Tarantino's fanaticism for William Shakespeare's revenge tragedies that use similar storytelling methods.
  • Write the body of the introduction paragraph as a preview of the essay. Here you'll include information that emphasizes your stance as stated in your main idea.

    Using the Quentin Tarantino example, you'll continue the paragraph:

    Evidence of mindless violence and plot make-up patterned after "Hamlet" and "Titus Andronicus" appear in many of Tarantino's films, but perhaps it's most apparent in the aforementioned films, indicating that Tarantino has studied the components of Shakespeare's revenge tragedies extensively and modeled what he has found to suit his audience.

  • Close the deal and open the door for the essay. You want to end the introduction paragraph with a conclusion that provides an entrance into the first paragraph of the body of the essay. At this point, you have told your audience what your essay is about and given a hint of what brought you to your thesis. Now, you have to lead your audience into the meat of the essay.

    Here's your finished sample introduction paragraph:

    Quentin Tarantino's critically-acclaimed film "Pulp Fiction" (1994) and the "Kill Bill" films use mindless violence to thrill the audience as their shuffled plots invite viewers to piece together the stories, which all but declare Tarantino's fanaticism for William Shakespeare's revenge tragedies that use similar storytelling methods. Evidence of mindless violence and plot make-up patterned after plays like "Hamlet" and "Titus Andronicus" appear in many of Tarantino's films, but perhaps it's most apparent in the aforementioned films, indicating that Tarantino has studied the components of Shakespeare's revenge tragedies extensively and modeled what he has found to suit his audience. Comparing and contrasting Shakespeare's works with Tarantino's may lead us to an understanding of, and critical appreciation for, the means by which Tarantino has translated the revenge tragedy from Shakespeare's stage to the silver screen.

    Now readers know that the essay is primarily meant to compare and contrast the works of two artists from two different time periods. At the same time, readers will anticipate the secondary objective of the essay, which is to persuade them to applaud Tarantino for his ability to make Shakespeare's bloody revenge tragedies his own modern art. Now they are ready to keep reading.

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