Write a College Paper: 3 Tips for Writing a Good Essay Introduction

Many college students struggle with writing an essay, and often have no clear idea how to proceed. Almost all good academic essays follow the same rough outline, and it begins with a strong, easily understood introduction. While a weak, rambling introduction will usually mean the following essay also lacks clarity, a good introduction will let the reader know exactly what is going to happen through the paper. This article will provide you with three tips that will help you create a top-notch introduction that will help ensure your essay is the best it can be.

TIP 1: Define Your Paper With A Clear Question

When writing a paper, one of the best things you can do is to spend time clearly defining what question you wish to answer. Compare the following two essay topics:

1. ‘Does height affect the way people move around and do head injuries happen to tall people more than short people?’

2. ‘Do tall people bump their heads more often than short people?’

Regardless of your opinion on the topic, the first question would be much harder to write about than the second. The enormous variety of related issues, concepts and positions would make it very hard to draw any clear conclusions, and you would spend most of your time merely defining the various issues and concepts.

The second question, however, would give you a specific question to answer. You could focus your attention on answering that one question, and ensure that every word in your essay exists in support of that question.

Of course, many classes will assign your question, or give you a list of questions to choose from. As much as possible, you need to find a narrowly defined question to which you can find and present clear answers. If you do not have any clear questions to choose from, I strongly recommend trying to create one out of the choices you have (i.e. by narrowing the focus of an existing question). Make sure to discuss it with an instructor before you get too far.

TIP 2: Write a Clear, Strong Thesis Statement

A good academic essay will be defined by its thesis statement, which should be in the first two or three sentences of the introduction. The simpler and more direct you can make it the better. Compare the following two thesis statements:

1. ‘This paper will show that tall people bump their heads more often than short people.’

2. ‘This paper is about height and how it can affect head injuries for some people, especially if they are tall.’

Both statements are about the same topic, and even say roughly the same thing. The first statement is very clear, and states exactly what the paper will demonstrate. A reader will know without any doubt what the paper is going to say. Your writing will be much clearer as well, because it will be defined by that simple, clear statement. Anything that does not relate to that statement or that goes on a tangent away from your key point can be deleted. Your entire paper will be much better as a result, and your grades will follow.

TIP 3: Summarize What Your Paper Will Say

The next key aspect of a good introduction is to briefly outline how you intend to prove your thesis statement. If you have a good outline for your paper this should be easy enough. Again, keep your sentences clear and simple. Leave the seven syllable words and complex sentences to the graduate students, keep your paper as accessible and understandable as possible and you will get solid grades.

A strong introduction will summarize the paper and show a reader where they might find more details on each point. For example:

‘In the first section this paper will look at research that has been done on the effect of height on the rate of head injuries. The second section will discuss outside factors that can affect the number of people hitting their heads. The third section will summarize existing research on cultural norms and intentional head hitting. In the conclusion we will review the evidence and discuss the implications for future research.’

A reader will be able to easily understand exactly what the paper is going to tell her, and what the evidence will be. Of course, you will need to provide details and evidence through the paper, but having a strong and clear introduction will help you to ensure that your paper is easily understood and will get a good grade.

If you incorporate these three tips into creating your essay introduction you will see a significant improvement in the quality of your papers and the strength of your grades. You will thank yourself for it.

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