Writing a Paper: How to Begin an Opening Statement


An opening statement must contain an attention-grabbing first sentence related to the focus of your paper. It's different from a thesis statement, which is usually the last sentence in an introduction and spells out the main point or points of the paper. The goal of an opening statement is to engage readers right from the start. Never start your paper by announcing, "In this essay, I will write about..." or "This paper is about ..." Instead, craft a compelling and informative opening that leads into your thesis statement.

Statistical or Historical Fact

  • Introduce your paper with an interesting statistical or historical fact that draws readers into the topic. For example, if your paper is about the dangers of texting while driving, use a fact about texting-and-driving accidents or fatalities as your opening statement. If your paper is about weaponry in the Civil War, start with a statistical fact about the most powerful weapons, such as cannons, used during the era.

Famous Saying or Quotation

  • Start your opening statement with a famous saying or a quotation that directly relates to your topic. Like a good lawyer, your opening statement should briefly explain your interpretation of the topic, suggests English professor Barbara Schwartz at California Polytechnic University. For example, if your paper is about socioeconomic disparities during the Industrial Revolution, start with a quotation about growing pains associated with technological advancements or the plight of the lower-class worker. If your paper is a biography of comedian Robin Williams, start your opening statement with one of his famous quotes, such as, "You're only given one little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it."

Dramatic Illustration or Anecdote

  • Use a dramatic illustration or a brief story, also known as an anecdote, to introduce your paper. An opening statement should only be a few sentences long, so keep your anecdote short and to the point. Open with a story or illustration about people, rather than vague ideas or research methods. You'll have time to explain your research methods and detail your findings in the body of your paper. For example, if you're writing about tragedies at coal mines, you might open your paper with brief details of the 2010 disaster in West Virginia or the Chilean mining accident that occurred the same year.

Contrasting Idea or Point of View

  • Create an opening statement that presents a contrasting idea or an alternate point of view that differs from what readers might normally expect on the topic. According to the Harvard College Writing Center, your opening remarks might include your "frame of reference and grounds for comparison." For example, if your paper is on the role video games play in teenagers' lives, you might start with an opening statement, such as, "Contrary to popular belief, playing video games isn't all bad -- a moderate amount of gaming can improve teens' reflexes, reaction times and ability to problem solve."


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