You have planned your essay, you pick up your pen or sit down at your computer, and then what?
If you know what you are doing, the introduction is actually relatively easy to write because for academic essays it follows a rough formula. English essays don’t necessarily follow this structure quite as rigidly but for university essays it is very useful.
Below is an elaboration from Dr. Ian Hunter’s book, Write That Essay! For an average length essay five sentences is usually enough and each of them has a specific purpose.
Sentence 1: Hook them!
Aim: Introduce the general topic to the reader.
This sentence is a neutral sentence. It contains facts and information that is generally agreed to be correct – as tempting as it may be, you do not want to spark controversy here.
Sentence 2: Set the scene
Aim: Introduce what topic(s) your essay is going to specifically focus on.
You want to start this sentence with something like “This essay will [examine/consider/discuss]…”.
While this sort of sentence might sound a little stupid, throughout your essay you need to place signposts to help the marker follow your argument and not get lost. This is the first signpost in your essay, it lets the marker know what topics to expect in the body paragraphs.
Sentence 3: Show you are smart
Aim: Mention the context of your essay.
You want to show the marker that you know what you are talking about and are not just bluffing through the essay question because you spent your research time on Facebook. However, there is a fine line between proving your intelligence and showing off. If you cross that line this early in your essay, you will have severely damaged the marker’s impression of you. Not a good move!
Sentence 4: Give the game away
Aim: State your argument.
An essay is not a thriller and you are not John Grisham. Right here in the fourth sentence of your essay you want to tell the marker your argument. Without reading any further they should know what happens at the end – suspense has no place in your essay – it is an essay after all!
Sentence 5: Sum it up
Aim: Summarise the conclusion of your argument.
Two sentences after the first ‘signpost’, we come to another one (after all no one wants to get lost in an essay!). Here, in a nutshell, you are summing up your essay. Your sentence should start with something like:
“Overall, this essay will argue…” or “In summary, this essay will suggest that…”
This is a very good guide for writing your introductions and one that I always use. Learn it, use it, then you can adapt it a little too (remember English essays don’t have to be as formulaic). Just make sure you fulfil the aims of an effective introduction.
Also, check out Dr. Hunter’s book for more help and tips on writing essays.