How to Start an Essay: 7 Tips for a Knockout Essay Introduction

Lindsay Kramer

Sometimes, the most difficult part of writing an essay is getting started. You might have an outline already and know what you want to write, but struggle to find the right words to get it going. Don’t worry; you aren’t the first person to grapple with starting an essay, and you certainly won’t be the last. 

Writing an essay isn’t the same as writing a book. Or writing a poem. Or writing a scientific research paper. Essay writing is a unique process that involves clear sequencing, backing up your positions with quality sources, and engaging language. But it’s also got one important thing in common with every other type of writing: You need to hook your reader’s attention within the first few sentences. 

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Intriguing ways to start an essay

There are many different ways to write an essay introduction. Each has its benefits and potential drawbacks, and each is best suited for certain kinds of essays . Although these essay introductions use different rhetorical devices and prime the reader in different ways, they all achieve the same goal: hooking the reader and enticing them to keep reading.

To “hook” a reader simply means to capture their attention and make them want to continue reading your work. An essay introduction that successfully hooks readers in one essay won’t necessarily hook readers in another essay, which is why it’s so important for you to understand why different types of essay openings are effective. 

Take a look at these common ways to start an essay:

Share a shocking or amusing fact

One way to start your essay is with a shocking, unexpected, or amusing fact about the topic you’re covering. This grabs the reader’s attention and makes them want to read further, expecting explanation, context, and/or elaboration on the fact you presented. 

Check out these essay introduction examples that use relevant, engaging facts to capture the reader’s attention:

“More than half of Iceland’s population believe that elves exist or that they possibly can exist. Although this might sound strange to foreigners, many of us have similar beliefs that would sound just as strange to those outside our cultures.”

“Undergraduate students involved in federal work-study programs earn an average of just $1,794 per year. That’s just slightly more than the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in our city.”

Relevance is key here. Make sure the fact you choose directly relates to the topic you’re covering in your essay. Otherwise, it will feel random, confusing, or at best, shoehorned into the essay. In any case, it will undermine your essay as a whole by making it seem like you don’t have a full grasp on your topic. 

If you’re writing an expository or persuasive essay , including a shocking or amusing fact in your introduction can be a great way to pique your reader’s curiosity. The fact you present can be one that supports the position you argue in the essay or it can be part of the body of data your expository essay explains. 

Ask a question

By asking a question in your essay opening, you’re directly inviting the reader to interact with your work. They don’t get to be a passive consumer; they’re now part of the conversation. This can be a very engaging way to start an essay. 

Take a look at these examples of essay openings that use questions to hook readers:

“How many times have you been late to class because you couldn’t find parking? You’re not alone—our campus is in desperate need of a new parking deck.”

“How frequently do you shop at fast fashion retailers? These retailers include H&M, Zara, Uniqlo and other brands that specialize in inexpensive clothing meant for short-term use.” 

Asking a question is an effective choice for a persuasive essay because it asks the reader to insert themselves into the topic or even pick a side. While it can also work in other kinds of essays, it really shines in any essay that directly addresses the reader and puts them in a position to reflect on what you’re asking. 

Dramatize a scene

Another effective way to write an essay introduction is to dramatize a scene related to your essay. Generally, this approach is best used with creative essays, like personal statements and literary essays. Here are a few examples of essay introductions that immerse readers in the action through dramatized scenes:

“The rain pounded against the roof, loudly drowning out any conversations we attempted to have. I’d promised them I’d play the latest song I wrote for guitar, but Mother Earth prevented any concert from happening that night.”

“Imagine you’ve just gotten off an airplane. You’re hot, you’re tired, you’re uncomfortable, and suddenly, you’re under arrest.”

Beyond creative essays, this kind of opening can work when you’re using emotional appeal to underscore your position in a persuasive essay. It’s also a great tool for a dramatic essay, and could be just the first of multiple dramatized scenes throughout the piece. 

Kick it off with a quote

When you’re wondering how to write an essay introduction, remember that you can always borrow wisdom from other writers. This is a powerful way to kick off any kind of essay. Take a look at these examples:

“‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’ —William Faulkner. In his novel Requiem for a Nun , our changing perspective of the past is a primary theme.”

“‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’ —Nelson Mandela. Before I joined the military, boot camp seemed impossible. But now, it’s done.”

Just as in choosing a fact or statistic to open your essay, any quote you choose needs to be relevant to your essay’s topic . If your reader has to perform a web search for your quote to figure out how it relates to the rest of your essay, it’s not relevant enough to use. Go with another quote that your text can easily explain. 

State your thesis directly

The most straightforward kind of essay introduction is one where you simply state your thesis. Take a look at these examples:

“Fraternity culture is dangerous and contrary to campus values. Banning it is in the campus community’s best interest.”

“We can’t afford to ignore the evidence any longer; we need climate action now.”

How to write an essay introduction

Pick the right tone for your essay.

You probably shouldn’t use a funny quote to start a persuasive essay on a serious subject. Similarly, a statistic that can evoke strong emotions in the reader might not be the right choice for an expository essay because it could potentially be construed as your attempt to argue for a certain viewpoint, rather than state facts. 

Read your essay’s first paragraph aloud and listen to your writing’s tone. Does the opening line’s tone match the rest of the paragraph, or is there a noticeable tone shift from the first line or two to the rest? In many cases, you can hear whether your tone is appropriate for your essay. Beyond listening for the right tone, use Grammarly’s tone detector to ensure that your essay introduction—as well as the rest of your essay—maintains the right tone for the subject you’re covering.   

When you’re stuck, work backwards

Starting an essay can be difficult. If you find yourself so caught up on how to write an essay introduction that you’re staring at a blank screen as the clock ticks closer to your deadline, skip the introduction and move onto your essay’s body paragraphs . Once you have some text on the page, it can be easier to go back and write an introduction that leads into that content. 

You may even want to start from the very end of your essay. If you know where your essay is going, but not necessarily how it will get there, write your conclusion first. Then, write the paragraph that comes right before your conclusion. Next, write the paragraph before that, working your way backwards until you’re in your introduction paragraph. By then, writing an effective essay introduction should be easy because you already have the content you need to introduce. 

Polish your essays until they shine

Got a draft of a great essay? Awesome! But don’t hit “submit” just yet—you’re only halfway to the finish line. Make sure you’re always submitting your best work by using Grammarly to catch misspelled words, grammar mistakes, and places where you can swap in different words to improve your writing’s clarity. 

best ways to start an essay

How to Begin an Essay: 13 Engaging Strategies

ThoughtCo / Hugo Lin

  • Ph.D., Rhetoric and English, University of Georgia
  • M.A., Modern English and American Literature, University of Leicester
  • B.A., English, State University of New York

An effective introductory paragraph both informs and motivates. It lets readers know what your essay is about and it encourages them to keep reading.

There are countless ways to begin an essay effectively. As a start, here are 13 introductory strategies accompanied by examples from a wide range of professional writers.

State Your Thesis Briefly and Directly

But avoid making your thesis a bald announcement, such as "This essay is about...". 

"It is time, at last, to speak the truth about Thanksgiving, and the truth is this. Thanksgiving is really not such a terrific holiday...." (Michael J. Arlen, "Ode to Thanksgiving." The Camera Age: Essays on Television . Penguin, 1982)

Pose a Question Related to Your Subject

Follow up the question with an answer, or an invitation for your readers to answer the question.

"What is the charm of necklaces? Why would anyone put something extra around their neck and then invest it with special significance? A necklace doesn't afford warmth in cold weather, like a scarf, or protection in combat, like chain mail; it only decorates. We might say, it borrows meaning from what it surrounds and sets off, the head with its supremely important material contents, and the face, that register of the soul. When photographers discuss the way in which a photograph reduces the reality it represents, they mention not only the passage from three dimensions to two, but also the selection of a point de vue that favors the top of the body rather than the bottom, and the front rather than the back. The face is the jewel in the crown of the body, and so we give it a setting." (Emily R. Grosholz, "On Necklaces." Prairie Schooner , Summer 2007)

State an Interesting Fact About Your Subject

" The peregrine falcon was brought back from the brink of extinction by a ban on DDT, but also by a peregrine falcon mating hat invented by an ornithologist at Cornell University. If you cannot buy this, Google it. Female falcons had grown dangerously scarce. A few wistful males nevertheless maintained a sort of sexual loitering ground. The hat was imagined, constructed, and then forthrightly worn by the ornithologist as he patrolled this loitering ground, singing, Chee-up! Chee-up! and bowing like an overpolite Japanese Buddhist trying to tell somebody goodbye...." (David James Duncan, "Cherish This Ecstasy." The Sun , July 2008)

Present Your Thesis as a Recent Discovery or Revelation

"I've finally figured out the difference between neat people and sloppy people. The distinction is, as always, moral. Neat people are lazier and meaner than sloppy people." (Suzanne Britt Jordan, "Neat People vs. Sloppy People." Show and Tell . Morning Owl Press, 1983)

Briefly Describe the Primary Setting of Your Essay

"It was in Burma, a sodden morning of the rains. A sickly light, like yellow tinfoil, was slanting over the high walls into the jail yard. We were waiting outside the condemned cells, a row of sheds fronted with double bars, like small animal cages. Each cell measured about ten feet by ten and was quite bare within except for a plank bed and a pot of drinking water. In some of them brown silent men were squatting at the inner bars, with their blankets draped round them. These were the condemned men, due to be hanged within the next week or two." (George Orwell, "A Hanging," 1931)

Recount an Incident That Dramatizes Your Subject

"One October afternoon three years ago while I was visiting my parents, my mother made a request I dreaded and longed to fulfill. She had just poured me a cup of Earl Grey from her Japanese iron teapot, shaped like a little pumpkin; outside, two cardinals splashed in the birdbath in the weak Connecticut sunlight. Her white hair was gathered at the nape of her neck, and her voice was low. “Please help me get Jeff’s pacemaker turned off,” she said, using my father’s first name. I nodded, and my heart knocked." (Katy Butler, "What Broke My Father's Heart." The New York Times Magazine , June 18, 2010)

Use the Narrative Strategy of Delay

The narrative strategy of delay allows you to put off identifying your subject just long enough to pique your readers' interest without frustrating them. 

"They woof. Though I have photographed them before, I have never heard them speak, for they are mostly silent birds. Lacking a syrinx, the avian equivalent of the human larynx, they are incapable of song. According to field guides the only sounds they make are grunts and hisses, though the Hawk Conservancy in the United Kingdom reports that adults may utter a croaking coo and that young black vultures, when annoyed, emit a kind of immature snarl...." (Lee Zacharias, "Buzzards." Southern Humanities Review , 2007)

Use the Historical Present Tense

An effective method of beginning an essay is to use historical present tense to relate an incident from the past as if it were happening now. 

"Ben and I are sitting side by side in the very back of his mother’s station wagon. We face glowing white headlights of cars following us, our sneakers pressed against the back hatch door. This is our joy—his and mine—to sit turned away from our moms and dads in this place that feels like a secret, as though they are not even in the car with us. They have just taken us out to dinner, and now we are driving home. Years from this evening, I won’t actually be sure that this boy sitting beside me is named Ben. But that doesn’t matter tonight. What I know for certain right now is that I love him, and I need to tell him this fact before we return to our separate houses, next door to each other. We are both five." (Ryan Van Meter, "First." The Gettysburg Review , Winter 2008)

Briefly Describe a Process That Leads Into Your Subject

"I like to take my time when I pronounce someone dead. The bare-minimum requirement is one minute with a stethoscope pressed to someone’s chest, listening for a sound that is not there; with my fingers bearing down on the side of someone’s neck, feeling for an absent pulse; with a flashlight beamed into someone’s fixed and dilated pupils, waiting for the constriction that will not come. If I’m in a hurry, I can do all of these in sixty seconds, but when I have the time, I like to take a minute with each task." (Jane Churchon, "The Dead Book." The Sun , February 2009)

Reveal a Secret or Make a Candid Observation

"I spy on my patients. Ought not a doctor to observe his patients by any means and from any stance, that he might the more fully assemble evidence? So I stand in doorways of hospital rooms and gaze. Oh, it is not all that furtive an act. Those in bed need only look up to discover me. But they never do." ( Richard Selzer , "The Discus Thrower." Confessions of a Knife . Simon & Schuster, 1979)

Open with a Riddle, Joke, or Humorous Quotation

You can use a riddle , joke, or humorous quotation to reveal something about your subject. 

" Q: What did Eve say to Adam on being expelled from the Garden of Eden? A: 'I think we're in a time of transition.' The irony of this joke is not lost as we begin a new century and anxieties about social change seem rife. The implication of this message, covering the first of many periods of transition, is that change is normal; there is, in fact, no era or society in which change is not a permanent feature of the social landscape...." (Betty G. Farrell, Family: The Making of an Idea, an Institution, and a Controversy in American Culture . Westview Press, 1999)

Offer a Contrast Between Past and Present

"As a child, I was made to look out the window of a moving car and appreciate the beautiful scenery, with the result that now I don't care much for nature. I prefer parks, ones with radios going chuckawaka chuckawaka and the delicious whiff of bratwurst and cigarette smoke." (Garrison Keillor, "Walking Down The Canyon." Time , July 31, 2000)

Offer a Contrast Between Image and Reality

A compelling essay can begin with a contrast between a common misconception and the opposing truth. 

"They aren’t what most people think they are. Human eyes, touted as ethereal objects by poets and novelists throughout history, are nothing more than white spheres, somewhat larger than your average marble, covered by a leather-like tissue known as sclera and filled with nature’s facsimile of Jell-O. Your beloved’s eyes may pierce your heart, but in all likelihood they closely resemble the eyes of every other person on the planet. At least I hope they do, for otherwise he or she suffers from severe myopia (near-sightedness), hyperopia (far-sightedness), or worse...." (John Gamel, "The Elegant Eye." Alaska Quarterly Review , 2009)

  • 'Whack at Your Reader at Once': Eight Great Opening Lines
  • What Is a Compelling Introduction?
  • How to Structure an Essay
  • Hookers vs. Chasers: How Not to Begin an Essay
  • Development in Composition: Building an Essay
  • Examples of Great Introductory Paragraphs
  • How To Write an Essay
  • How to Write a Good Thesis Statement
  • How to Write a Great Essay for the TOEFL or TOEIC
  • Write an Attention-Grabbing Opening Sentence for an Essay
  • How to Develop and Organize a Classification Essay
  • 6 Steps to Writing the Perfect Personal Essay
  • A Guide to Using Quotations in Essays
  • What Is Expository Writing?
  • The Introductory Paragraph: Start Your Paper Off Right

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Virtual Writing Tutor Blog

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October 10, 2018

30 Kickass Ways to Start an Essay

by Nicholas Walker , under IELTS and TOEFL , Writing skills


30 kickass ways to start an essay

The purpose of the first sentence in your essay is to make your reader want to read your next sentence. In truth, every sentence you write has the same purpose: to keep them reading to the end.  

So, you have to start off strong. Your first sentence has to have some impact on the reader or you risk your essay being tossed aside never to be picked up again.

Try to feel my pain. As your reader, the last thing I want to read is some dry announcement about your plan for your essay, “ In my essay, I will blah blah blah .” Yuck! I would rather read a grocery list!

And you can do better than that. 

A martial artist once told me, “If you want to win a fight, hit first and hit hard.” With that in mind, here are 30 sentence types that will hit your reader hard at the beginning of your fight for his or her attention. 

My advice to you is to take 30 minutes to compose 30 of your own sentences using each structure and example to guide you. Don’t labour over each one. Some will be easy. Some not so much. 

Once you have your list of 30 kickass sentences, copy and paste your own sentences into the Virtual Writing Tutor grammar checker to check for errors .

Of course, you should become a member  of the Virtual Writing Tutor first–if you aren’t one already–because then the system will save your sentences to your profile for you to review later. (Yes, membership is 100% free, and no, we don’t send spam.)

1. Not this, but that.

Example: A moral code is not a hindrance to true success– it’s a necessity.

Structure :   ____ is not a ______ — it’s a _______.

Comment:   Say what something is not (or should not be) so that you can say what it is (or should be). Notice the dash. It joins two short sentences, one negative and one affirmative. You can join your sentences with a semicolon or a comma* if you prefer.

*Strictly speaking, using a comma to join two sentences is usually called a comma splice error, but because the sentences are short, your reader will will interpret the sentence as a stylistic sentence rather than a comma splice error.

2.  Use “ better off than ” to highlight an advantage.

Example : A society with minimal restrictions on the expression of ideas and opinions is better off than a society with a propensity to censor.

Example : A person with talent is better off than a person with training.

Structure : ________is better off than __________.

Comment:   The phrase “better than” compares two things directly, whereas the phrase “better off than” compares starting points. It tells the reader that one has an advantage the other doesn’t have. 

3. Compare adjectives with “ being ___ is better than being ___ “

Example : Being realistic is better than being heedlessly optimistic.

Structure:   Being _______ is better than being ________.

Comment: Nouns are easy to compare, but when we compare adjectives we need the word “being” in front of them.  This structure makes short, punchy claims easy to write, which make it easy for your reader to keep reading. 

4. Show equality with “ just as .”

Example : Apathy is just as harmful to humans as a physical disease .

Structure : ____ is just as _______ as _______.

Comment : If you are asked to discuss to two things and give your opinion, it can be a good idea to show how two things are equal in way before getting into their differences.  

5. Introduce alternatives with “ between ___ and ___ .”

Example : Between the nation state and the individual, the nation state is more important by far.

Structure: Between X and Y, X is best .

Comment: By offering two alternatives and then naming the first alternative again with a claim to its superiority, you create a sentence with a repeated element. The repetition creates an impact by making the repeated element more memorable. Poetry and song lyrics use repetition with this same intention.

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6. Announce your plan to categorize with “ fit into a range of .”

Example : Courageous deeds fit into a range of categories.

Structure:   Xs fit into a range of categories.  

Comment: After an opening sentence like this, you must keep your promise to categorize examples of “courageous deeds” into multiple types. 

7. Say how something resists categorization with “ go beyond .”

Example : Dreams go beyond career choices and material desires .

Structure: Xs go beyond Ys and Zs.  

Comment:  Notice how the three items in the example are all plurals. Keep your items parallel when using this sentence structure. Also, notice how saying dreams go beyond  make dreams bigger and more important than the other items mentioned. Readers will be curious how. Don’t disappoint. 

8. Say where concepts originate.

Example: Established values in a society originate in culture, religion, and the hopes and dreams that a country was founded upon.

Plural Structure:   Xs originate in Y and Z. 

Singular Structure:   X originates in Y and Z.

Comment : Saying where something originates opens the door to illustrations from the past. An essay with a first sentence like this will practically write itself.

9. Show surprising resilience with “ even with .”

Example:   Even with the divorce rate of 50% Americans remain dedicated to the idea of family and community.

Example : Despite a string of serious allegations, voters continue to support their president. 

Structure : Even with / Despite _______,   Xs remain _________.

Comment : Sentences that show us the surprising resilience of a state of affairs despite a factor that works against it make readers curious about why it is so.  Make no mistake. Notice “even with” introduces past and present situations, while “even if” tells the reader about the future.   

10. Virtually disappeared .

Example: Good manners have virtually disappeared from our self-centered world.

Structure: ___ has virtually disappeared. 

Comment: “Virtually” means “nearly or almost.”  If you say that good manners have disappeared, your reader may say to him or herself, “Nonsense! I have good manners.” If this happens, you will have an uphill battle on your hands. Your reader will resist you. But if you say  that good manners have virtually disappeared, that is much harder to contradict and should arouse curiosity instead.

11. Imagine a world without something.

Example: Imagine a world without the light bulb, without civil rights, or without the personal computer.

Structure: Imagine a world without ___, without ___, or without ___. 

Comment: Imagining a different world arouses the reader’s imagination and curiosity. All you have to do after a sentence like this is to offer illustrations how life would be different. Easy. 

12. Say what is important to do before taking action.

Example: It is very important to attempt to understand people’s motivations and circumstances before judging their actions.

Structure:   It is very important to ____ before _____.

Comment:   This is a way of telling your reader what to do without directly telling your reader what to do. You merely point out what to do first. 

13. Say what someone did and how he or she did it with “ through .”

Example: Lincoln, through the force of his character and his knack for politics, kept the United States united and ended 250 years of slavery.

Structure:  X, through the ______ of his/her character, ________.

Comment: This sentence is very useful for making claims about people who have shown leadership or talent in the past. By painting a portrait of a great person, you will activate your reader’s memory and imagination. 

14. Say how most people agree that…

Example: Most people agree that the amount of preparation is proportional to the degree of success for any endeavor.

Structure:    Most people agree that ____.

Comment: If you say, “all people agree that” or “all people know that,” your reader will resist you because it will sound like an exaggeration. Using the words “most people” still sounds bold, but it makes your claim sound less extreme.

15. Say how an idea “ manifests itself .”

Example: Nowadays, creativity manifests itself endlessly, in all fields of study.

Structure: Nowadays, _________ manifests itself, in _______.

Comment: “Manifests itself” is just another way of saying “appears,” but it sounds more active and impressive. The adverb “endlessly” isn’t an essential part of this structure. It is not an exaggeration in the example sentence. I think it is true. We live in a very creative age. 

16. Say what experts have observed  or noticed.

Example: Philosophers and scientists have observed that perspective colors perception.

Structure:  ______ have observed _____.

Comment:   This is a useful alternative to the word “said.” When you say that experts have observed something, they have seen it and talked about it.  Notice how “to observe” is a little ambiguous. It can mean strictly “to watch and see,” but it is often used to mean “said.” The ambiguity prevents the reader from thinking, “Oh, yeah? Really? Where have they said that? Cite your sources!” Ambiguity at the beginning of your essay reduces resistance to your initial claim and keeps your reader reading. 

17. Say how reflecting on something often leads to something else.

Example: Reflecting on the condition of modern society often leads to the question, have we become overly cynical and desensitized?

Structure: Reflecting on _____ often leads to the question ______?

Comment: When you tell your reader reflection leads to curiosity about something, your reader will reflect and become curious. Kickass!

18. Claim that a virtue leads to harm.

Example: Sometimes the realization of one’s personal goals can cost another theirs.

Structure:  Sometimes  _______ leads to ________. 

Comment: The irony that a good thing leads to a bad thing for others will arouse your reader’s sympathy and moral indignation. This sentence structure is a powerful first sentence in an essay. 

19. Say that the world once believed something.

Example: The world once believed in things that we now find either horrifying or ridiculous.

Structure:   The world once believed ______.

Comment:   This sentence flatters your reader that he or she is not so stupid as the stupid people in the past, with their ridiculous ideas. Your readers will like the way you make them feel good about themselves. 

20. Say how the greater part of something depends upon something.

Example: The greater part of our happiness or misery depends more upon disposition than circumstances.

Structure:    The greater part of _____ depends more upon _____ than _____.

Comment:  This is a very versatile structure that immediately spurs thought-provoking reflection. You could start an essay about success by saying, “ The greater part of success depends more upon luck than skill. ” AN essay about happiness could begin, “ The greater part of happiness depends more upon a hopeful sense of progress than upon the satisfaction of past achievement.”

21. Introduce a criticism by saying X is often accused of something.

Example: The media is often accused of sensationalism and outright bias.

Structure: _______ is often accused of ________.

Comment:  This sentence makes the accusation sound unfair. It will arouse sympathy and moral indignation in your reader. 

22. State a universal need.

Example: The need to belong is universal.

Structure: _______ is universal. 

Comment: There are many things that are universal. Use this structure to tell your reader. 

23. Claim that something “ seems straightforward .”

Example: The purpose of education these days seems to be a straightforward one.

Structure: _____ seems straightforward. 

Comment:  These are two useful words that when placed side-by-side become even more useful. “Seem” suggests that things could be different than they appear. This arouses curiosity. “Straightforward” suggests simplicity. We all want to be rescued from confusion and excessive complexity. 

24. Declare that something “ has been debated for ages .”

Example: The role of government has been debated for ages without any concrete answer being offered.

Structure:  _____ has been debated for ages.

Comment: When you start an essay like that, I’m expecting that you will settle the debate. Keep your promise. 

25. Reflect on “ an inherent part of the human psyche .”

Example: The search for answers to all of life’s mysteries is an inherent part of the human psyche.

Structure:   _____  an inherent part of the human psyche. 

Comment:  There are lots of things that are inherent to the human psyche. Memorise this structure. It could be useful to you.

26. Claim that there is little or no correlation to something.

Example: The truth and facts have little or no correlation to what is popular or mainstream.

Structure:  _____ have little or no correlation to ______.

Comment:  Oh, really? Not connected? Do tell. This sentence is bold and arouses my curiosity. It will arouse your reader’s curiosity also. 

27. There can be no doubt .

Example: There can be no doubt that problems will continue to plague humanity far into the future, problems as diverse as the people they afflict.

Structure:   There can be no doubt that ______.

Comment: People are attracted to certainty. Offer some to your reader. 

28. Tell us that “ nobody is free from ” something.

Example: Today, nobody is free from the demands or expectations of others, whether one is a toddler and expected to walk by certain age or a father expected to provide a comfortable life for his family.

Structure:   Nobody is free from _______.

Comment:  Everybody wants to be free. It is unfair that people should be unfree. Every reader will want to keep reading after the first four words. 

29. What forever remains ? Tell us.

Example: Two opposing ideals remain forever in competition.

Structure:  _____ remain forever _____.

Comment:  Putting the word “forever” after the word “remain” seems a little old-fashioned and formal. It will make you sound like an authority on the subject. 

30. What “ might never have come to fruition ?”

Example: Without passion optimism and the willingness to believe in the past, many accomplishments in this world might never have come to fruition.

Structure:  Without _____, _____ might never have come to fruition. 

Comment: This blog post might never have come to fruition if I hadn’t bought “ 30 Model Essays ” and been impressed with the first lines of each essay.  I hope you found it useful. 

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best ways to start an essay

9 Powerful Ways to Start an Essay That Positively Impacts Readers

Teen girl who doesn't know how to start an essay.

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There is just something about essay assignments that seem intimidating at first, especially for beginners. 

The issue for many students is actually a question:

How do I begin writing an essay?

If starting seems to be the hardest part for you, I have a few tips to share that will help you start writing a winning essay—without the stress.

best ways to start an essay

Example of Starting with a Contrast or Deviation from the Norm:

“Contrary to popular opinion, fast food can serve as a primary component of a healthy diet.”

Do You Have a Better Grasp on How to Start an Essay?

The key to writing a good essay starts at the beginning. The introduction to your essay is arguably the most important part. 

If your introduction is boring or confusing, it will be tough to persuade your reader to stick around and read the body of your essay.  (This is especially important if you are writing a persuasive essay .)

But that’s nothing to worry about, is it? 

You are now equipped with nine ways to start an essay that hook the reader from the very beginning. 

It’s just a matter of choosing the introduction style that best suits your essay’s purpose .  

Try to relax and have fun. Your essay will be better for it!

best ways to start an essay

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How To Write An Essay

How To Start An Essay

Barbara P

Jumpstart Your Writing with These Proven Strategies on How to Start an Essay

Published on: Mar 10, 2023

Last updated on: Jul 21, 2023

how to start an essay

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Are you feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of writing an essay ? Are you struggling to come up with a clear focus, introduction, and structure for your work? 

Don't worry—you are not alone! Writing can be challenging but there are ways to make it easier. 

In this blog post, we will discuss proven strategies on how to start an essay that will help jumpstart your creativity and enhance your overall writing process. 

From figuring out which topic is best for you to create a persuasive main argument, these tips are essential tools that any student can use to write powerful essays. 

Let's get started!

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How To Start an Essay Introduction

The introduction of your essay is the first opportunity to capture your reader's attention and make a lasting impression. By following these five steps, you can create an introduction that stands out from the start.

1. Hook your reader

To engage your reader from the beginning, consider using an interesting story or anecdote that relates to your topic. 

For instance, if you are writing an essay about the importance of environmental conservation, you could begin with a compelling story. The story can be about a community coming together to save a local endangered species. 

This not only grabs the reader's attention but also provides a glimpse of what your essay will discuss and why it matters.

Check out these hook examples that you may use!

2. Provide background information

After hooking your reader, it's essential to provide some background information on the topic. This helps your readers understand the context and significance of your essay.

 You can offer relevant facts, statistics, or historical context to set the stage for the discussion that follows.

3. Present your thesis statement

A well-crafted thesis statement is the backbone of your essay. It conveys the main point or argument you will make throughout the paper. Your thesis statement should be clear, concise, and impactful, providing a roadmap for the reader to follow.

4. Outline your essay's structure

To enhance the organization and coherence of your essay, it's helpful to create an outline of the main points you will be discussing. This not only assists you in structuring your thoughts but also helps the reader anticipate the flow and content of your essay.

Read our detailed guide to learning to create a perfect essay outline !

5. Check and revise

Once you have drafted your introduction, it is crucial to carefully review it for any grammar or spelling errors that may have been missed. 

Take the time to refine your language, ensure clarity, and confirm that your introduction effectively sets the stage for the rest of your essay.

By following these steps, you can create an engaging and well-structured introduction that sets the tone for your essay and captivates your

How To Start an Essay Writing - 8 Best Ways

Writing an essay can be a daunting task, but here are the 8 best ways to start your essay that will help you create a strong introduction and body. 

Introduce your topic

Start your essay by introducing your topic and giving the reader some context. Make sure to include relevant background information so that readers understand how the topic relates to their own lives. 

For example, if you are writing about the effects of social media on modern society, you could introduce your topic with something like: 

Start Your Essay With a Quote

Begin your essay with a thought-provoking quote that relates to the topic of your essay. This will engage the reader and give them an idea of what to expect in your essay. 

For example, if you are writing about the importance of education, you could start with a quote such as: 

Set Up a Mystery

Start your essay with a mysterious scenario that will draw the reader in. You can create a sense of intrigue by leaving out important details so that readers are curious to learn more. 

For example, if you are writing about the effects of climate change, you could start with something like: 

Use Rhetorical Questions

Start your essay with a rhetorical question that will leave readers thinking and wondering what will come next. 

This can be an effective way to draw readers in and make them want to find out more. 

For example, if you are writing about the importance of standing up for your beliefs, you could start with a rhetorical question such as: 

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Provoke Emotion

Start your essay with a vivid description that will evoke emotions in the reader. This is an effective way to grab their attention and set the tone for your essay. 

For example, if you are writing about the effects of poverty, you could start with something like: 

Use An Anecdote

Start your essay with an anecdotal story that will give readers a glimpse into the topic. 

This can be an effective way to capture their attention and make them more interested in learning more about your topic. 

Check out this video to learn more about using anecdotes in your essays! 

For example, if you are writing about the impact of technology on our lives, you could start with something like:

Stamp Of Authority

Start your essay with a statement of authority that will give readers a sense of legitimacy. 

This can be an effective way to establish yourself as an expert on the topic and make readers trust you more. 

For example, if you are writing about the history of human rights, you could start with something like:

Start Your Essay With A “Contrary To” Or “Fill The Gap” Sentence

Start your essay with a sentence that introduces an idea contrary to popular opinion, or one that “fills the gap” between two competing theories. 

This can be an effective way to make readers think more deeply about the topic and challenge their preconceived notions. 

For example, if you are writing about the importance of diversity, you could start with something like: 

Interesting Essay Starting Examples for Students

These examples of how to open your essay are designed to help students craft interesting and attention-grabbing introductions.

With a few tweaks, these ideas can be adapted to any type of essay topic or style. 

Use them as inspiration when writing your own introduction and you’ll be sure to capture readers’ interest right away. 

how to start an essay about yourself

how to start an essay sample

how to start an essay about yourself examples

how to start an essay about a person

In conclusion, crafting an effective essay introduction is essential for grabbing your reader's attention and setting the tone for your essay. 

We are sure that with the tips outlined, you can create a bold and compelling opening that will leave a lasting impression. Also, you can take help from an AI writing tool to get ideas.

And if you're still struggling, don't hesitate to seek professional help from our top essay writing service . 

With our expert assistance, you can be sure that your essay introduction will be the best it can possibly be. Whether you are writing a college essay, an expository essay, or an argumentative essay, we can help you always! 

So what are you waiting for? Order now and make your essay stand out from the crowd!

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a good introduction.

A good introduction should include a few key components: 

  • Identifying the topic 
  • Providing context 
  • Thesis statement 

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Barbara is a highly educated and qualified author with a Ph.D. in public health from an Ivy League university. She has spent a significant amount of time working in the medical field, conducting a thorough study on a variety of health issues. Her work has been published in several major publications.

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How To Start a College Essay: 9 Effective Techniques

How To Start a College Essay: 9 Effective Techniques

How do you start a college essay? In this post, we’ll discover ways to start a college essay, with tips and examples for making your college essay beginning stand out.

This post was co-written by me (Ethan) and Luci Jones (Brown University, CO ‘23).

How to start a college essay TABLE OF CONTENTS

The full hemingway, the mini hemingway, the philosophical question, the confession, the trailer thesis, the fascinating concept, the random personal fun fact, the shocking image.

In anything you do, there’s a special, pivotal moment. 

I don’t mean the moment when inspiration strikes or the last brushstroke is painted or the audience oohs and ahs over the final product. The point in time we’re talking about here is the Moment When You Do The Darn Thing (DTDT for short). It’s when you get off the couch, stop binging Netflix , and take action. It’s when you put pencil to paper, fingers to keyboard, or *insert whatever other analogy feels applicable here.* 

For many, getting started is the hardest part of anything. And that’s understandable. First, because it turns whatever you’re doing into a reality, which raises the stakes. Second, because where you start can easily dictate the quality of where you end up.

College essays have their own special brand of DTDT. Knowing how to begin a college essay is daunting. It can be hard to write an engaging, authentic opener. But without an interesting hook, you risk getting lost in a vast sea of applications. To this end, we’ve put together some techniques about how to start a college essay to make your DTDT moment a little smoother and a little less stressful.

I say “probably” because I’m about to share a few overused techniques that I don’t recommend. Having said that, it is possible to pull them off—they’re just really hard to do well.

The Overly Grand Ambiguous Statement: From a distance, it might seem nice to talk about why all of humankind has felt some type of way for as long as history has existed. (Examples: “Many great thinkers have existed in our nation’s history” or “The key to a successful endeavor is perseverance.”) But these kinds of overly generalized or impersonal grand statements get lost easily in the crowd because they don’t tell the reader much about you. And without a connection to you, there’s not much reason for them to continue reading.

Going Meta: As cool as it may seem to demonstrate to your audience that you are aware of how you’re writing your essay in the moment you’re writing it, it’s less cool to college admissions officers who read meta stuff like that all the time. There are other, more subtle ways to demonstrate self-awareness in your intro rather than to open your essay with some variation of, “I stare at the blank screen...” or, worse, “When I was asked to write this personal statement, at first I wasn’t sure how to begin.”  Note that the meta essay can sometimes work (you’ll see a couple examples below), but has a higher degree of difficulty.

The Quote: While quoting famous people who have said something cool in the past may seem like an appealing way to start your essay, remember that colleges want to hear YOUR thoughts. Don’t use the words of another person to stand in for your own opinions or insights. You have cool things to say. It may just take a little while to discover what those things are.

The Too-Obvious Thesis That Spoils the Ending of the Movie (i.e. Your Essay): What if Avengers: Infinity War had opened with a voiceover from the director saying, “This is a film about how Thanos collects all the infinity stones and destroys half the population.” (Aaaaaand this is your too-late spoiler alert. Sorry. But don’t worry, they go back in time and undo it in Endgame . Oh, also spoiler.) That would’ve sucked. That’s what it feels like, though, if you start your essay with something like, “I want to be a veterinarian because I care about animals and the environment.” I read a sentence like that and I go, “Cool, thanks, now I can save myself the three minutes it would’ve taken to read the essay. Thank you, next.” While you may want to have that sentence in mind so you know what you’re trying to get across (this is called a logline), just don’t give away the whole thing. Instead, start your essay with something to pique our interest. How? We’re about to share 9 ways. 

Want to read a few more college essay tips? Check out this huge list from admissions experts. 


An image-based description that focuses on a particular moment and doesn’t explain much—at least not right away. This technique lets dialogue, actions, or details speak for themselves.

(Note that there are many other authors that do this — it’s part of great writing — but my little brother suggested Hemingway and I kinda’ liked the sound of it.)


Every Saturday morning, I’d awaken to the smell of crushed garlic and piquant pepper. I would stumble into the kitchen to find my grandma squatting over a large silver bowl, mixing fat lips of fresh cabbages with garlic, salt, and red pepper.

Why It Works: In this intro, the author paints a very visceral picture of waking up in the morning to the smell of her grandmother’s traditional Korean cooking. Through the careful word choice (“piquant pepper,” “fat lips of fresh cabbages,” etc.), we get a sense that something important is happening, even if we don’t know what it is yet. But this one can be difficult to pull off if you don’t help the reader understand why you’ve described what you’ve described. Read the rest of the essay here .

Which brings us to...

An image-based description, perhaps 1-3 sentences in length, that focuses on a particular moment and then follows up with a sentence that explains, comments on, or somehow provides context for what is being described.

Take a look at how this can happen by just adding one sentence to the example above (see bolded line below):

Every Saturday morning, I’d awaken to the smell of crushed garlic and piquant pepper. I would stumble into the kitchen to find my grandma squatting over a large silver bowl, mixing fat lips of fresh cabbages with garlic, salt, and red pepper. That was how the delectable Korean dish, kimchi, was born every weekend at my home.  

Why it Works: This single sentence hints at some of the author’s core values—culture, ritual, family—without giving too much away about where the essay is headed. Like any good intro, this one creates more questions that answers. (Read the rest of the essay here .)

Another example:

They covered the precious mahogany coffin with a brown amalgam of rocks, decomposed organisms, and weeds. It was my turn to take the shovel, but I felt too ashamed to dutifully send her off when I had not properly said goodbye. I refused to throw dirt on her. I refused to let go of my grandmother, to accept a death I had not seen coming, to believe that an illness could not only interrupt, but steal a beloved life.

Why It Works: The author drops us right into the middle of something we know nothing about, yet it invites us to care. How? The specifics. The details she notices and the resistance she’s feeling help to put us in her shoes. This means we don’t just feel sympathy, we feel empathy . And that empathetic connection heightens the stakes for us by raising questions: How did her grandmother die? Why can’t the author let her go? Why is she angry? (Spoiler: It turns out she’s more angry at herself than anyone else. Read the rest of the essay here .)

The author begins with information that creates certain expectations about them before taking us in a surprising direction. 

Growing up, my world was basketball. My summers were spent between the two solid black lines. My skin was consistently tan in splotches and ridden with random scratches. My wardrobe consisted mainly of track shorts, Nike shoes, and tournament t-shirts. Gatorade and Fun Dip were my pre-game snacks. The cacophony of rowdy crowds, ref whistles, squeaky shoes, and scoreboard buzzers was a familiar sound. I was the team captain of almost every team I played on—familiar with the Xs and Os of plays, commander of the court, and the coach’s right hand girl. But that was only me on the surface. Deep down I was an East-Asian influenced bibliophile and a Young Adult fiction writer.

Why It Works: We’re introduced to the author as a basketball superstar, the queen of the court, a sports fanatic—and at this point the reader may even be making assumptions about this author’s identity based on her initial description of herself. However, in one sentence, the writer takes us in a completely unexpected direction. This plays with audience expectations and demonstrates that she has a good degree of self awareness about the layers of her identity. After having our expectations thrown for a loop, we can’t help but wonder more about who exactly this person is (and if you want to know like I did, read the rest of this essay here ).

Another example: 

I am on Oxford Academy’s Speech and Debate Team, in both the Parliamentary Debate division and the Lincoln-Douglass debate division. I write screenplays, short stories, and opinionated blogs and am a regular contributor to my school literary magazine, The Gluestick. I have accumulated over 300 community service hours that includes work at homeless shelters, libraries, and special education youth camps. I have been evaluated by the College Board and have placed within the top percentile. But I am not any of these things. I am not a test score, nor a debater, nor a writer. I am an anti-nihilist punk rock philosopher. And I became so when I realized three things:

Why It Works: He basically tears up his (impressive) resume in the first few sentences and says, “That’s not me! Here’s the real me…” and as a result we wonder, “How does one become an anti-nihilist punk rock philosopher? And what are the three things??” (Read the rest here .)

Ask a question that you won’t (and probably can’t) answer in your essay. This gives you a chance to show how your brilliant brain works, plus keeps us hooked as you explore possible answers/solutions. 

Does every life matter? Because it seems like certain lives matter more than others, especially when it comes to money.

Why it Works: It raises a complex, interesting question and poses a controversial idea: that we treat some lives as though they matter more than others. We wonder: “Is that true? Could it be? Say more…” Heads-up: This one can veer into the “Overly Grand Ambiguous Statement” opening if you’re not careful. Click here to read the rest of the essay mentioned above, which by the way took him a long time to refine—as this approach is not easy to pull off.

Begin by admitting something you might be judged (or judge yourself) for. 


I have been pooped on many times. I mean this in the most literal sense possible. I have been pooped on by pigeons and possums, house finches and hawks, egrets and eastern grays. (Read the rest here .)

Why it Works: Shows vulnerability, but also in many cases intrigues us to learn more. 

Here is a secret that no one in my family knows: I shot my brother when I was six. Luckily, it was a BB gun. But to this day, my older brother Jonathan does not know who shot him. And I have finally promised myself to confess this eleven year old secret to him after I write this essay.

Why It Works: This is a super vulnerable to admit and raises all sorts of questions for us: Why did he shoot his brother? Why hasn’t he confessed it to him? What will his brother say once he tells him? (Fun fact: This essay actually breaks the “don’t start with a quote” rule. Here’s the rest if you wanna’ read it.)

A contextualizing 1-2-sentences (often at the end of the first paragraph) to ground the essay by giving us a sneak peek at what’s to come in the essay—but that do NOT give away the ending.

Example (I’ve marked it in bold below at the end of the first paragraph): 

Six years ago, a scrawny twelve year old kid took his first steps into Home Depot: the epitome of manliness. As he marched through the wood section, his eyes scrolled past the options. Red Oak? No, too ubiquitous. Pine? No, too banal. Mahogany? Perfect, it would nicely complement his walls. As days went on, the final product was almost ready. 91 degree angles had been perfected to 90. Drawer slides had been lubricated ten times over. Finally, the masterpiece was finished, and the little boy couldn’t help but smile. A scrawny 12-year-old kid had become a scrawny 12-year-old man. This desk I sit at has not only seen me through the last six years, but its story and the story of the objects I keep on it provide a foundation for my future pursuits.

Why It Works: As we read the first few sentences of this paragraph we might wonder, “Where is this going?” But this sentence sets us at ease and—again, without giving too much away—gives us a sense of what’s to come. We know that we’re going to learn about the author and his future through the objects on his desk. Great! It also signals to the reader “Don’t worry, you’re in good hands. I’m still aware of the task at hand.” 

Begin with a concept that’s unusual, paradoxical, and/or marked a turning point in your thinking. This is often followed up with context explaining where the concept came from and why the author is considering it. 

Crayfish can turn their red blood cells into precursor neuronal cells, I read in shock. The scientific paper, published in Cell 2014, outlined the process where crayfish could regenerate lost eyestalks or olfactory (smell and odor) nerves with their blood – they could see and smell again! It seemed unfair from an evolutionary standpoint. Humans, who were so much larger than a 7-ounce crayfish, couldn’t use their abundant blood to fix their brain damage.

Why It Works: This opening signals to the reader that the author is: a) someone who has read quite a bit, b) curious, and c) knows, as I like to say, “some stuff about some stuff.” In this case, she knows some science stuff.

Do you know some stuff about some stuff? If so, a little geeky language can help signal this to the reader. Don’t overdo it, though, or it can seem showy.

FYI: I see this more often at the start of great essays than personal statements, as this can often lead to an essay that’s more heady/intellectual and less vulnerable/personal. A variation on this that’s a bit more personal is the...

Begin with a strange fact about yourself to grab our attention. Then go on to say why it’s meaningful. Example: 

I subscribe to what the New York Times dubs “the most welcomed piece of daily e-mail in cyberspace.” Cat pictures? Kardashian updates? Nope: A Word A Day.

(Read the rest here .)

Why It Works: It pulls us in by making us think, “Oh, that’s cool!” and then wondering, “Okay, where is this going?”

Grab our attention with an incredibly specific and arresting image or sentence. Then tell us why it matters.

Smeared blood, shredded feathers. Clearly, the bird was dead. But wait, the slight fluctuation of its chest, the slow blinking of its shiny black eyes. No, it was alive.

Why It Works: This style subtly highlights the writing talent of the author without drawing attention away from the content of the story. In this example, the staccatoed sentence fragments convey a sense of halting anxiety and also mimic the movement of the bird’s chest as it struggles to breathe. All sorts of questions come up: What happened to the bird? What will the author do? (Read the rest of the essay here .)

February 2011– My brothers and I were showing off our soccer dribbling skills in my grandfather’s yard when we heard gunshots and screaming in the distance. We paused and listened, confused by sounds we had only ever heard on the news or in movies. My mother rushed out of the house and ordered us inside. The Arab Spring had come to Bahrain.  

(Read the rest of the essay here .)

Bowing down to the porcelain god, I emptied the contents of my stomach. Foaming at the mouth, I was ready to pass out. My body couldn’t stop shaking as I gasped for air, and the room started spinning. (Read the rest of the essay here .)

There are, of course, many more kinds of openings—and I’ll add to this post as I discover new ones. 

We get it, writing a standout introduction is easier said than done. Hopefully though, after seeing some examples of dynamic and thoughtful intros that used our techniques, you’re inspired to brainstorm some of your own . You’ve got this. DTDT has never looked so good.

Have a great college essay opening or a new type of opening you’d like to suggest? Share it in the comments below!

This post was co-written by me (Ethan) and Luci Jones (Brown University, CO ‘23).  Luci took my How to Write a Personal Statement course last year. The essay that she produced was so good and her writing was so beautiful, I’ve asked her to help me co-write this blog post with me, create a few techniques for writing a great introduction, and analyze why they work so well.




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How To Start An Essay: Top Foolproof Techniques!

by Kerri-Anne Edinburgh | Jul 29, 2022

Often the most difficult stage of essay writing is just getting started . You’ve got a blank page, perhaps a jumble of notes, maybe even an outline. But … inspiration isn’t striking, and the words aren’t flowing.

So how can you be systematic about starting an essay?

Whether you’re struggling to start writing at all, or just can’t figure out that all-important introduction (the start ) of your essay – don’t panic! We’ve got a fool-proof technique to get you writing AND seven strategies for kicking off your intro with style.

Your essay will be complete in no time at all!

best ways to start an essay

Some tips on essay writing

There’s nothing quite like writing an essay. They demand structure, evidence, analyses, and ordered paragraphs . You’ve usually got to know what you want to say before you start writing.

It’s a unique process, sure. But it’s one you can learn the rhythms of, and soon be churning out top notch essays for your school or college in no time!

So before you start writing your essay, make sure you’re prepared and have:

  • Done your research and compiled a list of referenced sources
  • Collected all your data and made any charts or graphs you need to talk about
  • Made a list of any quotes and citations you want to include
  • Know your essay question or title inside out – it’s important to keep everything relevant!

There are several types of essays, and each comes with its own challenges, expected structures and language. Knowing what is required of you is pretty important!

But whether you’re writing an analytical, argumentative, interpretive, creative, persuasive or expository essay – we’ve got plenty of advice for you below.

If you want to learn more about how to structure an essay effectively , check out our article full of tips and tricks!

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How to get started with writing an essay in 5 easy steps

We probably all know the Sound of Music song that goes “ let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start … ”.

But when it comes to essays, that’s frankly terrible advice.

If you’re struggling to start your essay and don’t know what to write, the introduction is not what you should worry about first!

The intro of your essay should contain and set out the main thesis of your essay. So it’s often best to write it last once all your points are in place. Otherwise, you’ll risk having an unclear argument and confusing your reader.

Yep, that’s right! You should start your essay in the middle and leave the start of your essay until the end . Trust me, it sounds silly, but it will make your life much easier !

A foolproof technique to get writing:

So, if you’ve got blank page terror, what you really need to do is take a deep breath . And then follow this simple five-step technique and get those words flowing!

  • Pick the one thing you feel most confident about discussing – a fact, interesting quote, bit of data, point you want to make …
  • It really doesn’t matter if what you write ends up in the final draft – you’re just processing your thoughts and starting to form your argument .
  • Make sure cover all the essential points and note where the data fits into your burgeoning argument!
  • Go through every paragraph you’ve written and summarise the central idea. Then rearrange them to create a logical sequence for your argument !
  • You may find it helpful to explore different ways of rearranging your ideas: check out our effective note-taking article for plenty of strategies and tips!
  • Armed with your trusty outline of paragraph divisions , start your next (more polished) draft. Again, start with the body of your essay , NOT the intro!
  • Once the main part of your essay is written and you’re clear on your argument, it’s time to round it off with a punchy, concise conclusion and introduction. And hey presto: a complete essay !

Why does this technique work so well?

When you start an essay, your thoughts are probably still pretty muddled. So, working through your them as you write can be a great way to develop your argument and spot connections. Your outline, structure, signposting and paragraphing can be polished much more easily after your first draft !

Tip : If you know where your essay is headed ( the conclusion you want to make ) but not how you’re heading there, why not start right at the end with the conclusion, then develop some points for the body of your essay as your ideas develop?

How to start an essay: the introduction

Every essay should begin with a killer introduction that sets up your topic clearly for the reader and explains why it’s significant.

The introduction is often the hardest section of an essay to write. So take it slow, and ensure that you start out your essay strong !

What’s in an introduction?

So how do you actually set up your topic for your reader? What do you need to include?

There’s not an exact formula that covers every type of essay, but the essentials are the same:

  • Create a map of the sequence of events in your essay in broad strokes (you don’t have to mention every paragraph!)
  • Think about the context of your essay and its topic: in your field or within a debate, historically or socially. Key terms and relevant theories can also be useful information.
  • Don’t give too much detail!
  • Your goal is to clearly convey the position you’re taking, or your central point
  • This must be an accurate representation of your essay – so write it last!

Keep it concise and relevant – an introduction doesn’t need to be long!

Start your essay with a strong first sentence

To get top marks and really engage your audience, it’s important to really capture their attention from the first sentence . Make them care about your topic and the argument you’re making.

How, you ask?

There are several different techniques and rhetorical devices for starting an essay. Not every technique will work with every type of essay – so pick carefully!

Every first sentence ( your “hook” ) should be concise and catchy, and interestingly written to spark your reader’s curiosity. Don’t be dry, and definitely avoid dictionary definitions!

It’s all about getting the right tone . Your intro should match the tone and style of your essay – and especially that first sentence! (Hint: it’s best to avoid humour if you’re exploring a serious topic.)

Let’s explore the seven top strategies for how to start an essay introduction (with examples!):

7 techniques to help you start an essay

1.      Start your essay by stating your thesis directly

And sometimes the best way to start an essay is to simply set out your thesis, very clearly, right from the start. Be simple and direct.

This technique is great for the type of analytical essays you might write in school. It packs a no-nonsense punch that sets the tone for a concise, well-crafted essay:

This essay will explore the complex socio-political factors that contributed to the decline of the Roman Empire between the reign of Constantine (312-337AD) and the fall of Rome in 476AD.

2.      Start with an interesting fact

Shock or amuse your reader with an unexpected fact to immediately hook their attention from the first sentence.

This can work great for expository and persuasive essays, by piquing interest in the data or opinions you’ll be exploring. You can include a significant statistic, or pick a niche detail, but avoid broad claims .

But remember – it must be relevant to your topic ! Don’t shoehorn a random fact it – you’ll just confuse your reader.

Here’s an example:

If we unravelled the entire DNA of a single human, it would stretch 10 billion miles: long enough to reach Pluto and travel back again.

3.      Begin with a powerful quote

Borrow a little wisdom from an expert in your field or an influential writer!

This is a great technique for any type of essay and can make for a powerful introduction when done well. It adds a stamp of authority to the argument you’re going to make, and it’s an easy method to choose.

But remember – as with interesting facts, the quote you pick must be relevant to your topic and argument ! It’s got to add something useful to what you’re saying or provide a springboard for your main exploration.

For instance:

In her seminal novel Frankenstein , Mary Shelley wrote, “nothing is so painful to the human mind as great and sudden change”.

4.      Start by suggesting the common interpretation

If you’re writing an analytical or interpretive essay ( think literary analyses ), this can be a great technique for a subtle start.

Opening your essay by alluding to the mainstream interpretation sets the stage for you to develop your critique or novel perspective.

If you want to be more direct, adding a “ contrary to popular opinion ” statement, or simple “ however ” immediately points your reader in the direction of your argument.

For example:

Shakespeare’s popular tragedy Romeo and Juliet has classically been interpreted as an exploration of love and loyalty.

5.      Open your essay by asking a question

This is a technique common to lots of writing (like blog posts!). It’s effective because directly addressing your reader it helps them to relate to your topic and feel invested in your answers.

It’s an engaging way to start a persuasive essay and get your reader to reflect on your argument and pick a side.

With such a vast and growing market for video games over the past decade, and despite evidence to the contrary, why does the myth that video games cause violence persist in popularity?

6.      Set up a mystery to be solved

A great way to pique your reader’s curiosity is by starting your essay with a mystery ( that you’re hopefully going to solve ). This is a great technique for interpretive and creative essays, although it can be tricky to get right.

It works well if your topic deals with change – has something disappeared? Have (popular) opinions altered over time?

An inventory of common phrases of the past reveals a wealth of strange gobbledegook that slowly vanished from conversational use without the public’s notice.

7.      Get started by setting up the scene and stakes

Here’s a technique that works best for creative essays ( think personal statements) .

Set the scene and tell a story with a little drama. Invite your reader to stand in your shoes (or those of your central character) in a situation directly relevant to your topic .

It’s a technique that works best if there are significant stakes or conflict in the situation. Think of it a little like the technique above (asking a question that places the reader into your topic) – but with more drama and creativity!

You’re trying to show them why this topic, and your argument , matters! Show them that your essay is not just about data and facts, but real people and situations.

On the 23rd July 1944, a dedicated audience of music-lovers listened with rapt attention to the uninterrupted beauty of Schumann’s Carnaval, whilst V2 bombs fell close enough nearby to make the doors of the Lyric Theatre rattle.  

Let’s get started on that essay!

Now you’re all set to get both your essay and your introduction started with ease, it’s time to get writing!

But don’t forget to check off all the steps in the essay-writing checklist before you submit it – you might miss out on easy marks if you don’t! Luckily, we’ve got plenty of helpful writing guides to help you polish your essay at every stage. You can learn:

  • how to create effective paragraphs
  • about the ideal length(s) for your paragraphs
  • how to transition between the stages of your argument
  • the 70+ top connective words and phrases to improve your writing
  • how to signpost your essay for top marks
  • about improving clarity with easy proofreading tricks

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7 Simple Tips on How to Start an Essay

How To Start An Essay

If you’re anything like me, you often find you don’t know how to start your essay.

Have you ever sat there and stared at a blank page for 10 minutes straight?

Getting started is the hardest part of essay writing. This is the stage where procrastination can settle in and you get stuck in a rut.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had students email me in distress 6 hours before their essay is due:

“Chris, can I pleaaasse have an extension? I have just been staring at my screen for weeks. I have no idea what to write!!!”

This sort of email does not go down well with your grader. Especially within three days of the due date. You don’t want to get to this stage.

So, here are some of the strategies that you can use when you’re procrastinating and don’t know how to start your essay. These are easy, actionable tips even when you’re totally stuck about what to write!

1. Skip the Introduction

Write the introduction last. Here’s why.

The hardest part is the first few words. Students stare at their computers, procrastinating for days about what to write first. So, skip the intro. It’ll be easier to write those first few words at the end of the process, not the start.

The introduction acts as an engaging orientation and overview of your topic. You will find that it will be so much easier to write the introduction once you know more about the topic. So, write the Introduction (and Conclusion) last.

Often students procrastinate because they treat the first words they write too preciously. Get yourself in the mindset that what you write in your early draft will likely not make the cut for your final submission. This helps to:

  • Relieve the pressure. If you know what you write now doesn’t entirely matter, you’re more likely to start writing.
  • Encourage you to put words on the page. Instead of crafting an engaging, perfect opening sentence, you’ll focus on adding important points that you know you want to make somewhere in the piece.

So, skip the introduction. Forget about it entirely. Just start writing something that is relevant to the essay topic with the knowledge that you can either delete it or edit it later on.

Just remember that the introduction and conclusion will take up about 100-150 words each. So, keep an eye on your word count and leave somewhere between 200 and 300 words to write the introduction and conclusion last.

2. Brainstorm Five Key Points you want to Say

Brainstorming helps you to come up with key points to write in your essay.

If you’re totally stuck about anything to write at all, you’ll need to start brainstorming. Get yourself a blank piece of paper out of your printer tray and write the essay question in the middle. Start writing ideas around the edges of the paper.

How to Brainstorm Get out a blank piece of paper and write any ideas that come to your head – no matter how bad! Just write any ideas or little bits of knowledge you think are relevant to your topic.

Let’s take an example essay – say: “How Climate Change will Impact the Future”.

You’ll want to write that in the middle. Then, around the edges of the page write some points that are relevant to the topic:

  • What is climate change? (definition or explanation?)
  • Temperatures are rising (by how much? – Look this up)
  • Most scientists agree humans are causing temperature rise (What percentage? – Look this up)
  • Some scientists disagree (Why? – look this up)
  • Water levels might rise (Example? – Google this)
  • Some animals might be endangered (Which animals?)
  • More extreme weather conditions (Find a source that says this, eg. IPCC)
  • Humans might need to migrate away from their homes (Florida?)

I wrote those bullet points from my incomplete knowledge of Climate Change.

This information is literally just information I’ve picked up from Facebook, casual TV watching, and conversations with friends. But, it’s enough for me to get started on an essay. If you’ve been attending a class on Climate Change, you’ll probably be able to write even more points than those I’ve come up with above.

You’ll need to find scholarly sources for your brainstormed points

If you’ve read my post on writing perfect paragraphs , you’ll already know how to turn a brainstormed idea into an amazing paragraph.

One point in my paragraph writing post is that you should provide at least two academic references per paragraph. Do you see how I’ve written in brackets what additional information I will need? That’s good practice to help you signpost for yourself what more you might want to find out on your points.

So, for each of these points I’ve brainstormed on Climate Change, I’ll need to find some academic sources to back them up. The next tips outline how you might go about finding sources to add depth to the ideas you’ve brainstormed.

3. Use key points from your Lecture Slides

The lecture slides are a gold mine for getting information for your essay.

You might have had trouble brainstorming key points. Or, you might have already found several good points to write about.

Either way, your next step is to look for additional information on the topic that was provided by your teacher. Here, you’ll be able to add more points to your brainstorming page .

The first place to find more information– which you can add as brainstorming points – is the lecture slides (or your own lecture notes ). If your course has weekly lectures, your teacher will have created lecture slides.

Where to find your Lecture Slides The lecture slides are usually provided on your class’s homepage. Nearly all universities use either the Blackboard, Canvas, or Moodle learning management systems – these are the sites you’ll need to use to find your lecture slides. Have a scan around and try to find all the lecture slides your teacher has provided and download them.

You should add all the lecture slides to one folder on your computer, preferably in weekly order.

If your class has lectures but the teacher hasn’t provided the lecture slides online for you, send the professor an email … and ask for them!

You’ll want to be very respectful in this email. Before you send the email, you might want to check our page on Seven Emails that University Teachers Hate. In this post, you will learn how to write the ideal email to your teacher to get from them what you want.

Here’s a template you might want to use to send an email to your teacher:

Hi [Name] ,

I’m just working on my essay plan for our next assignment now. I really want to do well on this essay because I really need a [Insert Grade Here] in order to keep up my average grade. It’s really important to me.

I’ve looked through the class homepage but can’t find the lecture slides anywhere. They’re probably right under my nose but I just cannot find them!

I remember you made some really good points in the [Week XX] lecture and I wrote in my lecture notes to “refer to lecture slides”. But now I can’t find the slides!

I was wondering if you could please give me some guidance on where to find the lecture slides, or if they’re not online, email the relevant lecture slides for the assignment through to me so I can check what I meant when I wrote my notes?

Thank you for your help, I really appreciate it.

Regards, [Your full name] [The Class you’re in]

A few quick points about this email to keep in mind:

  • Let your teacher know what grade you’re aiming for. It will be a psychological signpost to them when they’re grading your work. If they are equivocating about your grade, it will make a big difference if you’ve told them what you’re aiming for.
  • Let your teacher know that you’ve done everything you can to help yourself. Nothing annoys a teacher more than a student who emails them every five minutes rather than putting in the effort themselves. Show that you’ve taken initiative.
  • Let your teacher know that you’ve taken lecture notes. You don’t want them to think you want the lecture slides because you missed that week’s lecture. This also dissuades the teacher from emailing back a snarky comment about how you should have taken notes.
  • Always start and end your email with a greeting and a thank you. Also, indicate what class you’re in – your teacher has several classes, and they probably don’t know your name. Make their life easy. Remind them.

Once you’ve got your lecture slides, read through them and add any new points that are relevant to your essay topic to the brainstorming page.

If your teacher has provided references to back up their slides, add them to your brainstorming points as well. You might need them when referencing the points.

4. Use the Articles your Teacher Provided

The readings are a must-use source to read when you’re stuck for ideas.

Teachers spend weeks finding readings that are relevant to their classes. I always make sure my readings are the ones that provide the clearest and most accurate information on the topics I’m teaching.

If you can’t think of anything else to say in your essay, you need to go back and find additional details from the assigned readings.

Set readings are therefore a key place to find information for your essay. Jump onto your class’s homepage to find these set or ‘recommended’ readings.

Once you’ve found the provided readings, save them onto your computer – all of them!

Just like the lecture slides, you want them saved on your computer to use at your leisure. Once you’ve downloaded them you should have a whole stack of readings to use as the foundation to fill out your essay ideas.

I mark students down who don’t reference the set readings. It gives the impression that they haven’t put the effort in. So, use them – a lot.

The set readings should add additional points to your essay. You should:

  • Take notes on any specific examples used that are relevant to your essay
  • Take down any facts and figures used that are relevant to your essay
  • List the three or four main points that the essay makes. These should be clearly accessible in any journal article’s Abstract

The set readings will help add depth to your paragraphs by giving new information and details about an idea.

The difference between the top student and the average student in the class is engagement with readings. The top student has used the readings to add details. The average student skipped this step, and their essay is clearly nowhere near as good.

If you’re struggling with engaging with readings, finding them too hard to understand, or finding you’re spending over 30 minutes on one journal article, you might want to quickly have a look at our page on How to read Journal Articles to get some tips on how to extract key information from your set readings.

5. Find Additional Articles from Google Scholar

Once you’ve used your lecture slides and assigned readings to get ideas, head over to google scholar to get more ideas.

Google Scholar has improved enormously in recent years. About 2015 the rules changed about how journal articles could be stored and accessed, making it easier to bypass journals’ paywalls. Now, authors store their articles on their institution’s research bank or sites like and . Google Scholar scours these sites and finds academic articles that everyone can access – for free!

Nowadays, you’ll be able to find tons of academic articles through Google Scholar.

What is Google Scholar? Google Scholar and Google are different search engines. Google Scholar will provide academic sources . Google will provide un-academic webpages that you should not reference. provides some great advice on what sources to use and not use in our series on finding quality sources.

In the google scholar search site, try out keywords related to your essay topic. Open up ten relevant pdf or Html links to relevant sources.

You’ll find that after reading the abstracts of the articles you’ll want to delete at least half of these sources, leaving 5 or so sources that you can reference in your essay .

Referencing additional readings is a great strategy for getting extra grades. It shows you’ve done your own independent research and pushes you to the top of the class.

Additional readings will also give you more information and details to add to your article. Find two or three key points from each additional reading and weave them into your essay in full, paraphrased paragraphs. To learn how to write full paraphrased paragraphs, you might want to take a look at our page on how to paraphrase like a pro or, better yet, take our Get Ahead in Essay Writing Masterclass course.

If you want to learn to master Google Scholar, read my long-form detailed post on Google Scholar here .

6. Write an Essay Plan

This is where the rubber hits the road.

If you’ve done points 1 to 4 above, you should have tons of points jotted down and ready to write your essay. To get started, you’ll want to quickly write an essay plan to help you structure your work. For students who really struggle with starting to write, essay plans are a great help.

The good news is that your essay plan is already half done. Those key brainstorming points you did in points 1 to 4 basically are your essay plan! All you need to do is list them in order of which one you want to say first.

Let’s look back at our key points on Climate Change:

The average paragraph is 150 words. If we include an introduction and conclusion and turn each key point into a paragraph, the essay plan will be:

  • Introduction (150 words)
  • What is climate change? (150 words)
  • Temperatures are rising (150 words)
  • Most scientists agree humans are causing temperature rise (150 words)
  • Some scientists disagree (150 words)
  • Water levels might rise (150 words)
  • Some animals might be endangered (150 words)
  • More extreme weather conditions (150 words)
  • Humans might need to migrate away from their homes (150 words)
  • Conclusion (150 words)

If your teacher wants you to write a 1500-word essay, then you’re bang on target to hit your planned word count. If not, don’t worry too much at this point. You might find that when you start writing you might end up going over or under the word count. That can be fixed later on.

Once the essay plan is done, all you need to do is start turning these key ideas into full paragraphs. The first sentence of the paragraph is easy: it’s your topic sentence. All you need to do is explain what the paragraph is about.

For example, your first sentence for your point on ‘Temperatures are rising’ will simply be: “Scientists have discovered that climate change is causing the global sea and air temperatures to rise.” Then, you’ll need to finish off that paragraph with 3 to 5 more sentences to create a full 4 to 6-sentence paragraph.

Fore advice on how to turn an idea into an amazing paragraph, check my formula for perfect paragraphs or my list of the best words to start a paragraph .

7. Email your Teacher with your Ideas

This one tip separates average students from top students.

Not sure if your ideas are correct? Email your instructor to get support. Not to worry. You can always email your teacher to get support. No matter how much teachers like to grumble about their students nagging them, it’s their job and they’re paid for it.

Furthermore, if your teacher knows your name, they’re more likely to grade your work kindly . So, it’s a good idea to send the occasional polite, constructive email letting your teacher know you are an engaged and enthusiastic student. You’ll get bonus points for the effort.

As I’ve mentioned already, the key to a good email to your teacher is to:

  • Show Initiative.  Show them you’ve taken the initiative and thought about the topic before contacting them;
  • Show You Care.  Show them that you’re contacting them because you care about getting great grades on their assignment;
  • Be Professional.  Being professional and respectful (‘Hello’, ‘Thankyou’ and ‘Regards’ are three must-use terms)

So, when you email your teacher your ideas, let them know you’ve already come up with some ideas and that you want their advice on how good your ideas are . Ask them what they think of your ideas, and whether they might have any tips on how to improve upon them.

You’ll find that most teachers have a clear idea about what they expect in your essay. They’ll tell you whether you’ve done well, and they should give a quick tip on what additional points our sources might want to use to gain extra grades.

how to write an essay

You need to start your essay early. Aim to finish up a full draft with at least a week to go before submission. This is because:

  • You want to edit your work.  You want to have time to leave your essay aside and come back to your essay with eyes to edit it. See our page on Five ways Top Students Edit their Work for more advice on this;
  • Something might come up. You want to make sure you have some grace in case something comes up – work might call you in to work double shifts, your car might break down, or you might get sick. Asking for extensions looks really bad, so give yourself time so you don’t ever have to do this.

So, let’s sum up our seven steps for starting an essay when you’ve got no idea what to write:

Seven easy steps for starting an essay when you don't know what to write.

I hope this post has been useful for all the procrastinators out there who are struggling with their essays! If you found it helpful, please share the infographic on your social media account, university website, or blog. Just remember to please include a link straight back to this page.


Chris Drew (PhD)

Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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  • How to write an essay introduction | 4 steps & examples

How to Write an Essay Introduction | 4 Steps & Examples

Published on February 4, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 23, 2023.

A good introduction paragraph is an essential part of any academic essay . It sets up your argument and tells the reader what to expect.

The main goals of an introduction are to:

  • Catch your reader’s attention.
  • Give background on your topic.
  • Present your thesis statement —the central point of your essay.

This introduction example is taken from our interactive essay example on the history of Braille.

The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability. The writing system of raised dots used by visually impaired people was developed by Louis Braille in nineteenth-century France. In a society that did not value disabled people in general, blindness was particularly stigmatized, and lack of access to reading and writing was a significant barrier to social participation. The idea of tactile reading was not entirely new, but existing methods based on sighted systems were difficult to learn and use. As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness. This essay begins by discussing the situation of blind people in nineteenth-century Europe. It then describes the invention of Braille and the gradual process of its acceptance within blind education. Subsequently, it explores the wide-ranging effects of this invention on blind people’s social and cultural lives.

Table of contents

Step 1: hook your reader, step 2: give background information, step 3: present your thesis statement, step 4: map your essay’s structure, step 5: check and revise, more examples of essay introductions, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about the essay introduction.

Your first sentence sets the tone for the whole essay, so spend some time on writing an effective hook.

Avoid long, dense sentences—start with something clear, concise and catchy that will spark your reader’s curiosity.

The hook should lead the reader into your essay, giving a sense of the topic you’re writing about and why it’s interesting. Avoid overly broad claims or plain statements of fact.

Examples: Writing a good hook

Take a look at these examples of weak hooks and learn how to improve them.

  • Braille was an extremely important invention.
  • The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability.

The first sentence is a dry fact; the second sentence is more interesting, making a bold claim about exactly  why the topic is important.

  • The internet is defined as “a global computer network providing a variety of information and communication facilities.”
  • The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education.

Avoid using a dictionary definition as your hook, especially if it’s an obvious term that everyone knows. The improved example here is still broad, but it gives us a much clearer sense of what the essay will be about.

  • Mary Shelley’s  Frankenstein is a famous book from the nineteenth century.
  • Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement.

Instead of just stating a fact that the reader already knows, the improved hook here tells us about the mainstream interpretation of the book, implying that this essay will offer a different interpretation.

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best ways to start an essay

Next, give your reader the context they need to understand your topic and argument. Depending on the subject of your essay, this might include:

  • Historical, geographical, or social context
  • An outline of the debate you’re addressing
  • A summary of relevant theories or research about the topic
  • Definitions of key terms

The information here should be broad but clearly focused and relevant to your argument. Don’t give too much detail—you can mention points that you will return to later, but save your evidence and interpretation for the main body of the essay.

How much space you need for background depends on your topic and the scope of your essay. In our Braille example, we take a few sentences to introduce the topic and sketch the social context that the essay will address:

Now it’s time to narrow your focus and show exactly what you want to say about the topic. This is your thesis statement —a sentence or two that sums up your overall argument.

This is the most important part of your introduction. A  good thesis isn’t just a statement of fact, but a claim that requires evidence and explanation.

The goal is to clearly convey your own position in a debate or your central point about a topic.

Particularly in longer essays, it’s helpful to end the introduction by signposting what will be covered in each part. Keep it concise and give your reader a clear sense of the direction your argument will take.

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

As you research and write, your argument might change focus or direction as you learn more.

For this reason, it’s often a good idea to wait until later in the writing process before you write the introduction paragraph—it can even be the very last thing you write.

When you’ve finished writing the essay body and conclusion , you should return to the introduction and check that it matches the content of the essay.

It’s especially important to make sure your thesis statement accurately represents what you do in the essay. If your argument has gone in a different direction than planned, tweak your thesis statement to match what you actually say.

To polish your writing, you can use something like a paraphrasing tool .

You can use the checklist below to make sure your introduction does everything it’s supposed to.

Checklist: Essay introduction

My first sentence is engaging and relevant.

I have introduced the topic with necessary background information.

I have defined any important terms.

My thesis statement clearly presents my main point or argument.

Everything in the introduction is relevant to the main body of the essay.

You have a strong introduction - now make sure the rest of your essay is just as good.

  • Argumentative
  • Literary analysis

This introduction to an argumentative essay sets up the debate about the internet and education, and then clearly states the position the essay will argue for.

The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts is on the rise, and its role in learning is hotly debated. For many teachers who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its critical benefits for students and educators—as a uniquely comprehensive and accessible information source; a means of exposure to and engagement with different perspectives; and a highly flexible learning environment.

This introduction to a short expository essay leads into the topic (the invention of the printing press) and states the main point the essay will explain (the effect of this invention on European society).

In many ways, the invention of the printing press marked the end of the Middle Ages. The medieval period in Europe is often remembered as a time of intellectual and political stagnation. Prior to the Renaissance, the average person had very limited access to books and was unlikely to be literate. The invention of the printing press in the 15th century allowed for much less restricted circulation of information in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation.

This introduction to a literary analysis essay , about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein , starts by describing a simplistic popular view of the story, and then states how the author will give a more complex analysis of the text’s literary devices.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale. Arguably the first science fiction novel, its plot can be read as a warning about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, and in popular culture representations of the character as a “mad scientist”, Victor Frankenstein represents the callous, arrogant ambition of modern science. However, far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to gradually transform our impression of Frankenstein, portraying him in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

  • Ad hominem fallacy
  • Post hoc fallacy
  • Appeal to authority fallacy
  • False cause fallacy
  • Sunk cost fallacy

College essays

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Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:

  • An opening hook to catch the reader’s attention.
  • Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
  • A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.

The length of each part depends on the length and complexity of your essay .

The “hook” is the first sentence of your essay introduction . It should lead the reader into your essay, giving a sense of why it’s interesting.

To write a good hook, avoid overly broad statements or long, dense sentences. Try to start with something clear, concise and catchy that will spark your reader’s curiosity.

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

  • It gives your writing direction and focus.
  • It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.

The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.

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Essay Writing Guide

How To Start An Essay

Last updated on: Jun 10, 2023

Learn How to Start an Essay Effectively with Easy Guidelines

By: Nova A.

13 min read

Reviewed By: Melisa C.

Published on: Feb 12, 2019

How to Start an Essay

Are you assigned to write an essay assignment for your school? Are you staring at the blank screen, not knowing where to start?

Essay writing can be tough, and knowing how to start an essay effectively is highly important.

Why? Because “the first impression is the last impression?”

Similarly, the impression you make on the reader with your introduction sets the tone for the rest of the text. This makes them decide whether or not they want to invest their time reading it further. So starting effectively is a highly critical part of any paper or essay.

If you are stuck at this stage and unsure how to begin, then this is just the right guide for you.

Let’s dive in! 

How to Start an Essay

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When writing an essay, you must know that there is no hard and fast rule for starting it. There are four main types of essays: argumentative essay , persuasive essay , descriptive essay , and expository essay .

Similar to the different types of essays, there are several different ways to start an essay. However, the most commonly followed way is the hamburger essay method.

This method is also known as the introduction, body, and conclusion. Where the hamburger buns are the introduction and the conclusion. And the main ingredients are the body paragraphs of the essay.

Follow this method to know how to start an essay.

How to Start an Essay Introduction

“How to Start an Introduction for an Essay?”

The introductory paragraphs of any piece of writing hold the most importance. They help to grab the reader’s attention and make them decide whether or not they should invest their time. Similarly, the introduction acts as a roadmap and sets the tone for the content of the rest of the essay.

As we pointed out earlier, there isn’t a set way to start an essay. But the one thing you need to be mindful of is that your introduction should be catchy as well as informative.

To make your work interesting and attract the reader’s attention with the opening line, you must use a hook sentence.

1. Hook and Engage Your Readers

An essay hook is an opening sentence used as an attention grabber for the reader, to make them read further.

However, a hook sentence doesn’t substitute for the introduction. Instead, it opens your essay in an interesting manner. There are different types of hooks that you can use. For instance, you can begin your essay with a quote or by asking some rhetorical questions.

Depending upon the nature and topic of your essay, you can use any of the following hooks:

  • Personal story
  • Common misconceptions

For example, if you are writing a literary essay on Anna Karenina, you start by posing a question like,

“Do you think Anna would still be in love with Alexei if she wouldn’t have committed suicide”? And then answer it in your essay.

Can’t write engaging opening lines for your essay? Here are some interesting hook examples to give you an idea.

2. Provide Some Background Information

After you have hooked the reader, the next step is to introduce the topic to your reader. Inform them about the main idea of your essay and present background information to make your topic clear.

However, make sure not to bombard the reader with extra information at this stage. You don’t want them to get overwhelmed with excess information and stop reading further. Depending upon your essay topic, your background information may include:

  • An outline addressing what are you debating about
  • Definition of key terms
  • Summary of your research topic or theory
  • Any historical, social, or geographical context.

Just give enough information to familiarize them with the whole idea of making it easier to understand. When looking for information on your topic, only use credible and authentic sources.

Performing exhaustive research before beginning writing is an inevitable part of the essay writing process.

3. Add a Thesis Statement

The last component of an essay introduction is a thesis statement. The thesis statement summarizes the entire concept and states the main objective of the essay.

The purpose of the thesis statement is to present your main claim about the topic.

A thesis statement should be arguable and not based on facts that the reader already believes in. Your readers want to read something interesting and engaging. And the only way to do that is to provide them with some new and arguable information.

A good thesis statement is arguable, defendable, as well as informative. You can learn more here about writing a  thesis statement , along with examples.

Once you have successfully started your essay introduction, the next section is the body.

4. Define Your Essay Structure

Ending the introduction by signposting what will be covered in each part can give your reader a clear sense of where they are headed.

It is helpful to keep it concise and not too wordy with unnecessary information that would take away from this goal. 

5. Check & Revise Your Essay

A good way to write your introduction paragraph is by waiting until the end of the writing process.

You learn more as you research, and this can change how you want to make an argument for your paper. So it’s best not to start right away with the first thing that comes out because it may be wrong later on.

After writing the essay body and conclusion, you should return to your introduction. Compare the flow of your information. Also, check if your thesis statement in the introduction coincides with justifications in your body and conclusion paragraphs.

After this, also go through your essay to figure out the grammatical mistakes and sentence structure. These seem like minor mistakes, but they can cause great damage to the overall grading of an essay.

How to Start an Essay Body?

“How to Start a Paragraph in an Essay?”

The body paragraphs of the essay hold the main content of the essay. Here you explain your point of view and present the main ideas.

The body is typically made up of three paragraphs. However, they can vary depending on the complexity of the topic and your teacher’s instructions.

The one thing that stays constant regardless of the different essay topics is that each paragraph starts with a topic sentence. The  topic sentence  explains the main idea of a particular paragraph, followed by the explanation and supporting evidence.

You can use factual evidence to prove your claim or different examples, statistics, and details from the text itself. All these paragraphs should work together to link back to your thesis and to prove it.

How to Start an Essay Conclusion?

The last section of an essay is the conclusion, and this is where most students go wrong. They start it abruptly and leave the reader confused without providing sufficient information.

When writing the  conclusion  for your essay, remember that this will be the last thing you leave your reader with. So, don’t make it vague. Use this opportunity to restate the thesis and summarize the main points.

Remind the reader why your stand on the particular topic was correct. Avoid introducing any new information at this stage.

While we have covered everything about starting your essay, to learn more about the content, here is a complete essay format .

How to Start an Argumentative Essay?

An argumentative essay is different from other kinds of essays as the writer uses it to prove his point and convince the readers of his point of view.

It clearly outlines a point, the reasoning behind it, and evidence for the reader to understand your position.

Good argumentative essays should have these key elements:

  • A thesis statement that reflects what you are trying to argue or convey.
  • Reasonable supporting points with examples/logic backing them up.
  • Evidence from experts who can prove your claims.

Below are the steps to start an argumentative essay.

1. Create an Outline

Creating an outline is the very first step of beginning your essay, whether it is an argumentative or any other essay. It will help you in maintaining a clear focus and staying close to the main theme and topic of the essay.

2. Decide the Information You will Add in the Introduction.

Your first paragraph should introduce the topic of your essay, provide background information, and outline what evidence you will present. 

In addition, this part of your paper needs a thesis statement that clearly states why readers should care about the issue at hand.

3. Formulate the Thesis Statement

This is part of your first paragraph. It summarizes the main point and claims in a concise manner, without repeating any information from the input directly.

4. Outline the Main Section of the Essay

Decide about the information that you will add and explain in the main section of the essay. Instead of having everything in your mind only, it is important that you write down everything and stick to the plan.

5. Outline the Conclusion

Make a complete and workable outline for your essay’s conclusion. Make points of the things that you will discuss in your essay’s conclusion and stay close to them.

In simple terms, make an outline of each section and make sure that you follow it completely and properly.

How to Start an Application Essay?

The college essay is not the same kind of essay that you write for your high school English teacher, so it doesn't have to include a typical intro with a thesis statement.

Many students are unaware of this fact. Just as you want to prepare answers for your college interview, here are some ways to start your essay on an engaging and interesting note.

  • Start with a question.
  • Begin your essay with a bold and striking statement.
  • Use an engaging and relevant quote.
  • Begin from the middle of the events.
  • Speak with the reader directly.

Using these ways will help you write an essay that stands out from the competition.

Different Ways To Start an Essay

Now you know the essential elements to consider when starting to write your essay. Following are some of the different ways that you can consider starting your academic essay.

How to Start an Essay With a Question?

Starting an essay with an intriguing question is one of the easiest and most effective ways to get the attention of your readers.

In this way, the reader will think about the essay subject and will want to find out how the author has answered the question.

How to Start An Essay With a Quote?

The internet has made it easy for us to access quotes from writers, historical figures, and scientists. Starting an essay with a quote will help in building the readers’ interest, and you can have their attention immediately.

Make sure to quote someone with credibility, and the quote is also important to have some association with your topic.

How to Start an Essay With a Fun/Interesting Fact?

The start of an essay is a great opportunity for you to start with an interesting fact or statistics. Everybody loves to read interesting and fun facts as they provide some relevant background information about the topic.

For serious essays, you can start with some shocking statistics to immediately grab your reader’s attention.

How to Start an Essay With an Anecdote?

You can also start an essay with an engaging anecdote. Set a short story at the start of an essay that makes your reader curious and ends it by explaining the theme of the topic. In this way, the readers will read further to know more about the topic.

They will think if the starting is this much great, there is definitely something to read in this essay. Anecdote is used more in narrative and descriptive essays. Create an anecdote that stocks the central idea of a topic.

How to Start an Essay Examples

How to Start an Essay about Yourself

How to Start an Argumentative Essay Example

How to Start an Informative Essay

How to Start an Autobiography Essay

How to Start an Essay about a Person

How to Start an Essay about a Book

Mistakes To Avoid When Starting an Essay

Following are some of the things that you should avoid if you want to start an essay in the best possible way.

  • Never start with a definition from a dictionary

The definitions taken from dictionaries or even websites are quite obvious and boring. Other than that, teachers do not recommend using such open-source encyclopedias.

  • Avoid writing a broad and generalized introduction

Set a timer and watch whether your introduction is more than 25-30 seconds long. If it is, then make it short.

If you are still facing difficulty or you’re finding yourself stuck in writer’s block, professional ‘ make my essay ’ service providers at  can help you out.

Whether you need help perfecting a rough draft or need an essay written from scratch, just reach out to our professional writers. They will handle everything for you!

Nova A.

As a Digital Content Strategist, Nova Allison has eight years of experience in writing both technical and scientific content. With a focus on developing online content plans that engage audiences, Nova strives to write pieces that are not only informative but captivating as well.

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