Chapter 5: The Essay

5.1 The Introduction

Essay introductions are longer versions of the introductory sentences you practised in Chapter 3: Paragraph Structure. Remember how, in Chapter 3.3: Expository Paragraphs, an expository paragraph was described as being like a house? The introductory sentence functioned as the door, inviting readers into the paragraph as well as indicating its general framework.

The introduction to your essay functions in much the same way. Your introduction is organized just like the introductory sentences you practised writing in Chapter 3. Your introductory paragraph does the same four things:

  • Introduces the issue and gives a preview of your claim.
  • Presents the topic and its explanation or clarification.
  • Provides the categories used to explain the topic.
  • Provides the thesis statement.

Organizing your introduction is important because it primes the reader to understand your topic more clearly and to learn any background information they might need to follow your explanation. You can think of the introductory paragraph of your essay as the door to and framework of a house, but you can also think of it as a road map for both your reader and yourself, indicating where the essay will go.

Part of that road map involves introducing your point of view. In the introduction, you’ll only briefly indicate your point of view, but it will signal to your reader the direction you’re going. See Chapter 5.5: Your Point of View for more on this.

The introduction to your essay also introduces your tone and style. These topics are covered in Chapter 11: Tone and Style. For now, you simply need to know that your introduction establishes an academic (as opposed to informal) tone. Your introduction’s style—the way you structure your sentences, the order in which you present information to the reader—also establishes the reader’s trust in you.

Basically, your tone and style convey that you are a trustworthy academic writer—worth reading, in other words.

You have one final job to do in your introduction: you need to capture your reader’s interest. You can think of this as “hooking” your reader. Stimulating your reader’s curiosity will make it more likely your essay will be read to the end.

Table 5.1 Examples of gripping introductions
Topic Type of Hook Example
Residential schools apology Quote “This should never have happened to Canadians,” proclaimed John Doe, in …
Odd phobias Interesting fact Did you know that one in ten adults suffers from a fear of opening envelopes?
How to find a good job Anecdote When my friend applied for a tech internship, she was startled when the interviewer wanted to know how she would reorganize the company.
Essay-writing story Humorous “Nobody is interested in what you think,” my father told me when I asked him whether I should use “I” in my writing, as my instructor had suggested.

Review Questions

  1. Write an introduction to an essay that will do one of the following:
    1. Describe a meaningful object that you had when you were younger.
    2. Narrate the life of someone and the lessons you learned from that person.
    3. Explain why a certain type of art or a certain sport is your favourite.
    4. Persuade the reader that the current approach to preventing vaping among youth is wrong.
  2. Exchange introductions with a classmate. See if you can find each other’s “hook” in the introductory paragraph. Can you help each other sharpen the hook?

Points to Consider

  1. How would your first sentence change if you used a different hook? Practice the five different types of hook, making up the quote, fact, etc., as needed.


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Building Blocks of Academic Writing Copyright © 2020 by Carellin Brooks is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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