How to Write an Essay Introduction in 5 Steps

Our academics share their profound experience with you

The introduction is your opening gambit, your chance to impress! So, it’s worth spending some time on.

But, what should you include in an essay intro? Well, it should summarise the key arguments that you’ll be making in the body of your essay.

Having said that, the introduction is more than just a summary! It should also grab the reader’s attention and leave them wanting more. That said, experts from our essay writing service will show you how to write a powerful essay introduction in 5 simple steps.

5 features of a good essay introduction

A good essay introduction should:

  • Show an awareness of the subject area
  • Assure the reader that you’ve understood the essay question
  • Outline the basic structure of the essay
  • Highlight the main argument(s)
  • Leave the reader wanting more

If you can squeeze all the above into your essay introduction, you’re heading towards a first-class grade. Not sure how to do this? Read on!

1. How to show an awareness of the subject area

In the first few lines of your intro, you should try and convince your reader that you’re an expert on this topic. This will help to build trust in your readership. There are several ways you can appear as an ‘expert’. Here are some of the simplest:

  • Briefly define the main theory or concept from the essay question
  • Place the essay topic in its historical context
  • Introduce a key debate that is relevant to your essay question

So, let’s say the essay question is, ‘Does free trade help or harm the world’s poorest?’. Here are some ways you could begin your introduction:

  • Definition: Free trade is the largely unrestricted movement of goods between countries (Smith, 2010) …
  • Historical context: In Britain, free trade policies began as early as the 19th Century, though it was not until after the Second World War that trade openness increased significantly worldwide (Bagwati, 2003) …
  • Key debate: When free trade occurs between richer and poorer countries, there is a debate as to whether this relationship is mutually beneficial (Poster, 2002), or whether it widens the gap between rich and poor (Hunter-Wade, 2005).

You’ll notice that each of the above examples includes a reference. Citing references in your introduction shows that you know your stuff. It also demonstrates that you’ve done wider reading, which is bound to keep your tutor happy.

2. How to show that you understand the question

Often, essays lose marks because they don’t focus on the essay question. To retain a clear focus, you should clearly state what the aim and purpose of the essay is. The easiest way to do this is to slightly rephrase the essay question.

So, if your essay question is, ‘Does free trade help or harm the world’s poorest?’, you could say, ‘With reference to existing literature, this essay will evaluate whether free trade agreements are beneficial or damaging to the world’s poorest’.

It might seem a bit unnecessary to re-iterate the essay question. After all, the tutor set the question, so surely, they don’t need to be told what it is, right? Wrong! Your tutor will want to see clear evidence that you’ve understood the essay question, so you need to clearly state it in your introduction.

3. How to outline the structure of the essay

In your intro, you should briefly describe the structure of your essay (particularly if your essay is more than 2000 words). This will tell the reader exactly what to expect from reading your essay. The clearer you can make it, the better.

As an example,

This essay is split into four main sections. It begins with a brief overview of free trade agreements. Then, it critically evaluates the suggestion that free trade agreements help the world’s poorest by equalising global wealth. The third section then critically evaluates the opposing side of the argument. Finally, conclusions are offered regarding the ethical status of free trade and its impact on the world’s poorest.

As mentioned, you should write the introduction last as you’ll have a better appreciation of the structure of your essay by that point. Unsure of how to structure an essay? Check out our guides on how to structure an essay and how to write an essay plan.

4. How to highlight the key argument(s)

Want to achieve top grades in your essays? Make sure the introduction clearly explains what you’re going to be arguing in your essay. This shows you can think independently and organise your thoughts into an argument.

As an example,

Whilst it is recognised that free trade has clawed millions of people out of extreme poverty, this essay argues that free trade can also be exploitative, and that in some respects, it sustains rather than challenges global wealth inequality.

Then, when writing your essay conclusion, you’ll be able to revisit this statement and re-affirm your key argument(s).

5. How to leave the reader wanting more

You may wish to end your conclusion by outlining the key argument (as above). However, sometimes it can be effective to add another sentence or two to ‘hook’ the reader’s interest.

For example, you might hint at something important that’s going to be covered in your essay. The aim is to intrigue the reader and make them want to read on and learn more.

As an example,

Above all, it is recognised that free trade agreements impact industries in different ways, thus generalisations cannot be made. Instead, it is important to consider which workers stand to gain and which ones stand to lose from free trade agreements. Only then can the impact of free trade upon the world’s poorest be truly understood.

As mentioned, you should try to come across as an ‘expert’ in your essay introduction. In this last sentence, try to convince the reader they’re going to learn something new and interesting from your essay.

How long should the introduction be?

When it comes to writing the introduction, word count is important. Make it too long and it’ll be difficult to follow, but make it too short and you’ll struggle to convince the reader that you’re an expert on the topic.

So, what is the ideal length? Well, generally speaking, the introduction should be between 5 and 10% of the total word count. So, if your essay is 2000 words, aim for between 100 and 200 words. That’s about half a page.

As mentioned, a strong introduction is crucial because it helps to guide the reader. If you don’t guide the reader, they’re bound to get lost, and you don’t need telling how that could affect your grade.

So, help your tutor out by writing a clear and compelling introduction!

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