How to Write a Great Introduction: The Basics

An introduction is the first paragraph in an essay. To write an introduction, you must:

  • Only begin writing after you have completed your research.
  • Answer the essay question with your thesis statement.
  • Preview the topics you will discuss in the essay.
  • Provide any brief relevant background information to the subject (optional).

What Does an Introduction Have to Do?

In order for the first paragraph of an essay to actually be a proper introduction (in other words, for it to fulfil the requirements of a proper introduction), it must do two things.

1.   Answer the essay question (i.e. include a thesis statement)
2.   List the topics you will discuss (i.e. provide a preview of the essay)

What Is a Thesis Statement?

A thesis statement is the sentence (or sometimes sentences) that tells the reader what the position of the author is. When you are given an essay question, the thesis statement is your clear and concise answer to the question.

For example, if an essay question was ‘What were the causes of the Holocaust in World War II?’ then your thesis statement might be something like:

‘There were many complicated and interrelated causes for the Holocaust, including the state of Germany’s economy, the ideology of the National Socialists, and Hitler’s personal racism.’

A ‘thesis’ is an argument, so the thesis statement indicates what the argument of the essay is, or what argument (or point of view) the author of the essay will be presenting to readers.

What Is an Essay Preview?

An introduction must also introduce all the main points that the essay will discuss. Argumentative essays must provide evidence to support the thesis statement. This means you have to provide proof to back up your answer to the essay question.

So, if your essay is on the causes of the Holocaust, and your essay is going to discuss six main causes (two paragraphs on each), then your introduction must list (or introduce) each of these six main causes.

An essay map or preview is just a list of topics that your essay will discuss. Usually, this list is linked to your thesis statement, or comes straight after it. And don’t forget to list the topics in the order you will discuss them in your essay!

You can read more on this topic, including how to write a more sophisticated introduction, on our blog.

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