8 Ways to Start an Essay (with examples)

8 Ways to Start an Essay (with examples)

This is one of my most popular posts, and for good reason.

Writing a strong essay opening is important.

It’s the first impression you make on your professor and that impression will carry over into their grading decision.

What’s more, the opening of your essay sets the tone for your entire structure.

I like to think of your introductory paragraph as a map for the rest of your project.

Some of the best advice I give my first year composition students is to focus on creating a strong opening.

You’re more likely to get an a on your essay if you write a strong introduction..

Frustratingly, writing an essay introduction can often be the hardest part. That’s why this post exists.

Stumped on how to write the start to your academic essay for a college class?

This list will help you write the opening sentence to a class essay faster, with an added professionalism that normally takes years of essay writing to master!

I’ve included the most most common styles as well as some more creative models for writing a compelling essay hook.

Bookmark this post so you can refer back to it whenever you need to write a class paper to get inspiration for writing your introduction!

Every opening sentence in an essay introduces the topic .

The opening to an essay is different from your essay’s thesis (if you’re looking for a way to write a complex thesis for your essay, this is the post for you ).

Some essays start with creative hooks, while some get straight to the point. This a stylistic choice that should match the subject matter you’re exploring.

If you’re writing about the climate crisis, for example, you may want to opt for a hook that highlights the magnitude of the situation.

If you’re writing about children’s nutrition and the impact of commercials on their behavior or beliefs, you may choose to open with an attention-grabbing statistic.

If you’re writing an essay for a clinical psychology class, you may choose to not write a hook but just lead-in with a classic introduction to your topic.

As a college writing instructor, I value essays that start with hooks that capture my attention.

What is an essay hook and why do you want to write one?

The essay hook is meant to both introduce your topic and get your reader interested in what you have to say.

Which means you need to explain the value in what you’re writing about.

One of the biggest mistakes I see in student writing is when students don’t explain why their essay topic is significant.

A hook lets you impart the significance without having to lengthily explain why your topic matters.

As you read through this list, notice how the writers are presenting the topic to stimulate interest in the topic.

I ntroduce your topic

This is the most common way to start an essay.

Simply introduce your topic and why it matters.

As an option, you can also include some of your essay’s sub-points or examples you’ll be using.

It’s an introduction to your essay topic, not a thesis statement , so no need to go too heavy on your argument.

Mention the core topic your essay will discuss and (optional) the essay’s focus as well .

“Reading is inevitably a complex, comparative process.” - Edward W. Said

“Teaching, more even than most other professions, has been transformed during the last hundred years from a small, highly skilled profession concerned with a minority of the population, to a large and important branch of the public service.” - Bertrand Russell

“Aristotelian courage involves two distinct feelings, fear and confidence.” - David Pears

“In White Teeth, Zadie Smith demonstrates the problems of living in a post-modern world, as her characters constantly collide with each other in the pursuit of meaning and truth.” - Tracey Lorraine Walters

“Issues relating to land and land rights of the dispossessed tribes in India have become environmental, social, cultural, and political issues today.” - R. Sreelatha 

“Lesbian scholarship has not had much use for psychoanalysis.” - Teresa de Laurentis

“In Sherman Alexie’s short story, “The Trial of Thomas-Builds-the-Fire,” Thomas breaks a vow of silence he took twenty years earlier.” - Jeff Berglund

Related Post : The exact strategy I use to write an A+ essay in a day

Start your essay with a quote

Quotes are a fun way to start because they take some of the pressure off you as a writer.

Let someone else do the hard part of hooking your reader’s attention!

Quotes have a narrative element that will lend your essay an engaging, creative opening.

Make sure the quote you choose is relevant to your topic and argument.

“‘Our problem is that we don’t learn our history!’ One often hears that said in the black community.” - John McWhorter 

“‘Doctor, does not the cleaning of the teeth by dental instruments ruin them?’ ...Questions such as these are constantly asked the practicing dentist.” - Victor Charles Bell

Set up a mystery

The human brain hungers for curiosity to be satisfied.

When you write an opening sentence that includes a mystery that’s asking to be solved, your reader will want to close the curiosity loop.

This is a slightly more advanced way to start your essay, but take guidance from these authors as they show you how to add a little mystery to your hook.

“In an inventory of American ideas, the thematic of the “tragic mulatto/a” seems to disappear at the end of the nineteenth century.” - Hortense J. Spillers 

“We are in the midst of the planet’s sixth great extinction, in a time when we are seeing the direct effects of radical global climate change via more frequent and ferocious storms, hotter and drier years accompanied by more devastating wildfires, snow where there didn’t used to be snow, and less snow where permafrost used to be a given.” - Camille T. Dungy

“In the midst of the 1950s recasting of femininity, the image of the madwoman took a startling new form in American popular culture: the female multiple personality.” - Marta Caminero-Santangelo

Related Post : How to Outline Your Essay (So Your Essay Writes Itself)

Tell a story

Even beginning essay writers can add a little flair to their paper by treating the opening as if it were a story.

I tell my writing students to pretend they’re a film director setting the stage. What elements does your viewer need to see in order to understand what’s about to happen?

Consider playing around with different elements like time, place, characters, conflict, a recurring keyword/image/theme, or mysterious objects can all be a part of the “opening scene.”

“In July 1861, as his army consolidated its hold on northwestern Virginia, Union Gen. George B. McClellan assured Confederate leaders of his hope for a limited war.” - Kenneth W. Noe

“Colorado’s mountains can be treacherous in the winter, and in December 1961 a bus crashed on an icy road in the middle of the night.” - Carole McGranahan

Begin your essay with “ I ”

 In high school I remember be taught never to include “I” in my essays, as if they were being written by some formless being. In college my professors were more permissible.

In some cases, we were even encouraged to use the “I” in our essays, to claim ownership over our ideas and experiences.

This signals a move away from the beginner essayist.

I believe you should be held responsible for what you write , and distancing yourself by removing the “I” from your essays isn’t a way to create strong arguments, nor does it add value to your scholarship.

Nearly all published authors will refer to themselves in an essay, so I encourage you to where it’s appropriate!

Some classes and essay types still discourage including yourself in them. When in doubt - as your professor if it’s acceptable!

“I’m going to start this discussion of forms and influences by returning to some early influences for a couple of reasons.” - Lydia Davis

“My title is a bilingual acrostic of the name of our author.” - Douglas Hofstadter (an essay about language)

“I have never yet known, or indeed known of, a contemporary American writer who did not admire The Great Gatsby .” - George Garrett

“In this essay I examine the location of rural dwellers in the political economies of the post-independence states of Africa.” - Robert Bates

Open your essay with a question

Questions are nice essay introductions because they ask the reader to think about your topic.

Engaging your reader is the goal of your opening essay paragraph: if they are not engaged right out of the gate, the rest of your essay, no matter how well-written will feel boring.

Spending more time writing your introduction is smart, and leading with a question can help you immediately snap up your readers attention.

They will want to see how you answer the questions (close the curiosity loop) and will be more compelled to keep reading with interest.

“Is there violent protest music music in the United States today that leads to social activism?” - Cameron White and Trenia Walker

“The ‘big picture’ question that this paper takes only a small step towards answering is: ‘How important is income as a factor in promoting the preservation of biodiversity?” - David Martin

Related: Get the Free Straight A’s in 10 Days Email Course

Stamp of authority

Worried about writing a powerful opening for your essay?

Let someone more experienced than you do the talking!

Calling on an authoritative figure to open your essay is a perfect way to set up your topic and removes the pressure from you needing to sound “smart.”

This is a very common and easy way to write the hook for your paper – especially for science classes, philosophy, and psychology.

“According to Emile Bréhier, the distinguished philosopher and historian of philosophy, the major task faced by French thinkers of the early twentieth century was to re-situate man in what he aptly describes as the ‘circuit of reality.’” - Edward W. Said 

“Psychologists speak of movement responses to the Rorschach inkblot cards.” - Rudolf Arnheim

Short Startling Statement

Introducing your essay topic with a short, startling statement can be extremely powerful.

This is a more creative essay opening that requires some skill.

Sometimes the shorter sentences are the hardest to write well!

“No one has perhaps ever felt passionately towards a lead pencil.” - Virginia Wolf

“A single line is a naked thing.” - Robert Hass 

“Lists can be tyrannical.” - Sasha Su-Ling Welland

Start your essay with a “contrary to” or “fill the gap” sentence

Like introducing the topic in the opening sentence of an essay, setting yourself up to contradict a common belief is another common way to begin your paper.

It allows you to position yourself against other critics and can add a lot of clout to your argument if used well.

You can find countless examples of this set up in essays online; do some research and see how authors use contradiction and fill in the gap techniques to write strong essay openings.

Then, try using this technique in your next paper!

“Sherman Alexie’s novel Indian Killer (1996) has been described as a detective novel and a suspense thriller; however, these classifications are too simplistic.” - Jan Roush

“While much effort has gone into attempts to date the Edda poems from their language and vocabulary, and there have been considerable arguments as to their age and place of origin, rather less attention to the nature of their subject matter and the particular methods of presentation.” - H.R. Ellis Davidson

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Have another favorite way to open an essay? Let me know in the comments!

Related posts:.

Why your Profs Hate Wikipedia and How to Research Your Way to an “A”

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. 

Give your essays extra polish Grammarly helps you write with confidence Write with Grammarly

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.”

By starting your essay like this, you’re cutting right to the chase. Think of it like diving into the deep end of a pool—instead of wading to that deep end, slowly getting acclimated to the water’s temperature along the way, you’re dropping your whole body right into the cold water. An introduction that directly states your thesis can be a great choice for an analytical essay. 

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. 

can i start a essay with a question


Is It Good To Start An Essay With A Question?

can i start a essay with a question

Can I Start An Essay With A Question

An effective introductory paragraph lets the reader know what your essay is about and it encourages them to keep reading. At iWriteEssays.com we will give you some ways that you can use to start your essay effectively. We also specialize in custom essay writing and we write all essays and term papers for all academic levels.  

Different ways to start your essay include:

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Can You Ask Questions in an Essay? (What You Should Know)

antony w

by  Antony W

February 28, 2023

can you ask questions in an essay explained

Essays are argumentative in nature. You must take a stance on an issue and use evidence and reason to convince an audience that your point of view if ultimately the most convincing. But can you ask questions in an essay?

You can ask questions in an essay provided they lead to an idea or concrete answers. If you don’t intend to give an answer to a question, don’t ask. Also, instead of asking a direct rhetorical question, consider using a rhetorical statement.

We tend to shy away from asking questions in essay because it’s hardly the intention. We emphasize more on answering questions and investigating issues, as these are what readers want.

However, there may be instances when it makes sense to ask questions. So we’ll look at two things in this guide:

What is the Goal of Essay Writing?

An essay is a type of an assignment intended to draw people to engage to your argument and consider your position, even if what you stand for conflicts with their beliefs.

If you can get your audience to read your essay, you’ll have communicated and met your goal.

Essay writing is a process that starts with in-depth research, identification of relevant sources, and development of an outline to organize thoughts and ideas. Moving further, you have to grab readers’ attention with a strong and arguable hook and develop a strong statement of declaration that gives them the spark to read on.

Because essay writing is about drawing readers in on a significant issue, asking questions may add little value to the context. Still, it helps to learn when to ask a question and when not to do so at all. 

Can You Ask Questions in an Essay?

Sometimes the temptation to ask questions in an essay feels almost irresistible. However, including questions in formal writing is a bad idea and it’s therefore something you want to avoid.

From an academics standpoint, here’s why it’s a bad idea to ask questions in an essay:

1. Don’t Ask Questions You Don’t Intend to Answer

One of the biggest mistakes you can make when writing an essay is to ask questions you don’t have the intention to answer.

It leaves a reader with a why or so what question, which is annoying.

Readers need answers to the research question that you proposed to explore. Therefore, every idea you introduce, every word you write, and every answer you give must contribute toward answering the question.

2. Questions Make Readers Lose Focus

If you ask questions in an essay and not answer them, you leave every reader hanging on a cliff with no clear direction.

So if you raise a question in your assignment, ensure you tell your reader why your essay cannot resolve or give a convincing response to the question.

Don’t just give a general answer simply because you don’t want to provoke the reader. Instead, focus on giving useful insights to the arguments you’re trying to build. 

Related Reading

When to Ask Questions in an Essay

While we maintain a strong stand that you should avoid asking questions in an essay, there are instances when it makes sense to do so.

In the Introduction

An introduction is the most important part of an essay. It’s also the hardest part of the assignment.

If you think about it, the human attention span dropped from 12 to 8 seconds , which means you have a small window of opportunity to convince your audience that your essay is worth reading.

The best and the most effective way to grab their attention fast for the first 8 seconds is to start your essay with a hook. Asking a question can come in quite handy here since it can easily hook them in. Then, you can give a clear answer to the question in the body part of your essay.

If Followed by an Answer

Don’t be the student who asks questions in an essay and then leave it to the readers to figure out the answer. That can be so provocative that it forces your instructor to a point of losing the interest to read the essay. If you have to ask a question, make sure you follow it with an answer.

Remember, questions without answers are just but filler words in an essay. Not to mention that sometimes they can act as a trap that transfers the responsibility of answering the question from a writer to a reader, which is very unacceptable.

One last thing to keep in mind is that you should ask questions only if it’s necessary. Often, less is more, and given that your audience needs answers more than they expect to see questions in your essay.

Get Essay Writing Help from Help for Assessment

Do you need help with your essay and don’t know whether to start? Maybe you’ve tried a number of services but didn’t get the value for your money and ended up wasting your time in the process?

Don’t worry, because we’re here to help. Our team of professional writers and editors can help you with the following:

We have arrange of samples that you can look at here . Moreover, we’re a team that respects deadlines, so we will help you get your essay completed on time.

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About the author 

Antony W is a professional writer and coach at Help for Assessment. He spends countless hours every day researching and writing great content filled with expert advice on how to write engaging essays, research papers, and assignments.

Learning Benefits

Answering the Popular Request: Can You Start an Essay With a Question?

Captivation is the key.

You can start an essay with anything you want to; starting an essay with a question is actually one of the more popular methods of starting an essay. This is due to the question captivating the reader’s attention and wanting them to read on to see what is said. Once you have the reader’s attention than your chances of getting them to agree with what you say by the end of your essay is higher. A question is a great idea to start an essay with but it also depends on what type of question it is. Using a question that is more along the lines of being rhetorical does not work the best for catching the reader’s attention because to the general population it is not appealing and something that they more than likely have heard before. Although using a question for the start of the essay that is more appealing will grab a lot of people’s attention, something that is new and something that makes them think the second they read it.

Examples of these two types of questions

Rhetorical question:

Appealing question:

The more entertaining the question is than the better it is for you to use when starting out the essay with a question. Consider something that is popular in the news or something that is trending in the media. Once you have the reader’s attention then you know they will read your essay; they will want to know what you think and they will look to you for guidance and they will decide if they agree with you or not.

Essay Writing Tips

Copyright (c) 2015-2023 LearningBenefits.net. Learn how to write the most creative essays .

Can You Open a Narrative Essay With a Question?

M.t. wroblewski.

A narrative essay tells an interesting story and often includes lively quotes.

At some point during their academic careers, many students were told by a teacher not to open a narrative essay, or any other expository essay, with a question. This wasn’t erroneous advice; in all likelihood, the teacher was trying to steer students away from a technique that often backfires, because writers fail to use it to good effect. However, you can open a narrative essay with a question as long as the question fulfills the other obligations of a strong introduction.

Explore this article

1 Get Back to Basics

A strong introduction accomplishes two basic tasks: it grabs the reader’s attention, luring the reader into the story, and it presents the topic that will be explored within the essay. The thesis statement, or the central guiding focus of the essay, often appears as the last line in the introduction.

2 Avoid the Hazards

Essays that begin with a question often run off the rails because they say little, giving the reader little reason to continue reading. For example, a question such as, “Will it ever stop snowing?” or “Are all college freshmen party animals?” is rather flat and perfunctory and motivates the reader to answer the questions quickly, “yes” and “no.”

3 Be Creative or Pose a Thought-Provoking Question

Effective question openings demand a provocative, compelling twist, so strive to write one that defies an easy answer. Question openings can be particularly effective if the nature of your essay is reflective. For example, a narrative essay on the death of a family member might begin, “Does anyone ever find a true sense of closure after the death of a loved one, or is the notion of closure just happy talk?” An essay on a family vacation gone wrong might begin, “How long might it take to forgive your sister after she has subjected you to a weeklong, uninterrupted journey into the depths of sister hell?” In both cases, the questions fulfill the two basic goals of an introduction plus set the mood of the essay.

4 An Important Word of Caution

Like a thesis statement, asking a question at the beginning of an essay is your way of making a bargain with your reader. So be sure that you leave no doubt about the answer to the question you pose.

About the Author

With education, health care and small business marketing as her core interests, M.T. Wroblewski has penned pieces for Woman's Day, Family Circle, Ladies Home Journal and many newspapers and magazines. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Northern Illinois University.

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Step 6: Introductory Paragraph

The essay introduction paragraph is the first impression that your reader has of your work, so it's important to start it off on the right foot. The main purpose of an introduction is to give the reader a brief overview of the topic at hand and then address how you plan on addressing the question or proving your point. Exactly how it's written or what needs to be in there heavily depends on the length of the essay and type. But the sample essay introduction paragraphs showed should be enough guidance to get you going in the right direction. This section of the Ultius essay writing guide is going to go over the most common and best type of introduction: the funneling method. 

When you write your essay introduction paragraph, make sure your paragraph is focused and contains just the right amount of information. To keep your writing focused, select a length for your introduction and stick to it when you draft your essay. Exactly how long should your introduction be? This will depend on the total length of your paper and the essay type. For essays that are longer than ten pages, you will most likely need a longer introduction paragraph to fully introduce your topic. Technical essays or research-intensive essays might also require additional length to clearly explain complex topics. In both cases, your introductory paragraph still should not exceed one full double-spaced page. If you are writing an essay that is shorter than five pages and that is introducing a very simple subject, it is better to limit your introduction to half of a double-spaced page. Once you have decided on your paragraph length, you can organize your paragraph so that it fits within the selected parameters. 

Tip: As a rule of thumb, your introduction should always be less than 20% of your total paper.

Writing an Essay Introduction - The Funneling Method

This style for writing an intro is exactly as it sounds: it funnels from broad to specific. The funneling method starts broadly and then narrows down the time/place, any relevant key terms or historical information and then gives the reader your main point, or thesis statement. The subject matter of each sentence therefore gets more specific as you go. If you're curious about how long your introduction should be, the rule of thumb is that it should be 20% of your total paper. So, a five page essay should have an introduction that is roughly one page. Anything less than 5 pages should not be more than 1 paragraph. It may seem tempting to include a longer introduction with more "fluff," but this isn't a good idea as your professor can sniff it out and it will reduce the overall quality of your writing. 

The Funneling Method

1. Start with a broad statement

2. Narrow down to a time and place

3. Define key terms or give important background information

4. Thesis statement

To see how the funneling method works, think about how you would write your paragraph line-by-line. When you use the funneling method, you will start with a broad statement for your opening sentence. The key is to make a general statement about the essay topic in your sentence. Here is an example of a broad sentence that could be used to introduce an essay on the War on Terrorism: 

“The War on Terror is a critical component of United States national security strategy.”  

This sentence serves as a broad opening because it addresses the topic, the War on Terror, without being too specific in its focus. The second step in the funneling method is to narrow your topic to a specific time or place. 

Tip: Use freewriting to generate ideas for topics. Write down any ideas you have that relate to the topic and just write about them for a few minutes. 

The following sentence demonstrates this step using our War on Terror example:  

“Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, counterterrorism has become a central focus of United States foreign policy.” 

This sentence of the essay introduction focuses the topic by specifying that the topic addresses the time period following September 11, 2001. It also narrows down the place by signaling that the paper will focus on United States foreign policy. The third step in the funneling method is to define key terms or provide important background information. This sentence fulfills this step by defining the concept of terrorism: 

“While terrorism has many definitions, it is commonly understood as the use of violence targeting civilians to achieve a political goal.”,  

Keep in mind that it might take several sentences to provide the necessary definitions and background information to your reader. For this step, it is important to consider everything that your reader will need to know to understand your topic and appreciate the argument in your thesis. 

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Tip: Having a difficult time focusing your thoughts? Take a break and write down the main points you are trying to make and compare it to the structure of your introduction. If you're going off topic, you need to keep things concise.

After you have carefully brought your reader up to speed on the background of your topic, the final step of the funneling method is to write your thesis statement. The thesis statement, the last part of the essay introduction, simply highlights the arguments that you will make in your essay. The following sentence is a thesis statement for our War on Terror topic: 

“Though counterterrorism is critical to saving civilian lives, the War on Terror can be considered a failure in foreign policy because it precipitated unnecessary wars, galvanized pro-terrorist organizations, and alienated the United States from its allies.”   

As this example demonstrates, the thesis statement can be written in one sentence. While the thesis can be written in multiple sentences, it is advisable to keep it as short as possible to avoid confusing your reader.  

By following the four steps of the funneling method, you will introduce your reader to your topic, specify the focus of your topic, clarify any confusing terms, and present the argument of your essay. When you use the funneling method, you ensure that every sentence is put to good use in your essay introduction. 

Getting the Reader to Pay Attention

When your grade is on the line, you don’t want your professor yawning before he or she even reaches the body of your essay. A bored professor might rush through grading your essay or overlook your main points, which could cause you to receive a lower grade. Using an attention grabber will engage your reader and make your essay more enjoyable. Consider these strategies to grab your professor’s attention from the first sentence:

Ask a Question

Will asking a question grab your reader’s attention? Yes. When you begin your introduction paragraph with a thought-provoking question it forces the reader to pause and consider the answer. By asking questions in your essay introduction, you force your reader to pay closer attention to your writing. If you use this strategy, just be sure to keep your question simple and related to the topic of the essay. Though you want to slow your reader down, you also don’t want to confuse them or distract them from the rest of your essay.

Use a Quotation

A profound quote from an expert on your topic can serve the dual purposes of capturing your reader’s attention and building your credibility. Quotations in your introductory paragraph will stand out simply because the voice of the person who is quoted will contrast with your writing style. Who the quotation is from is often more important than what the quotation is saying. When you select a quotation, be sure to quote renowned figures. For example, if you were writing an essay on the Supreme Court, a quote from a Supreme Court justice would be more interesting to your reader than a quote from an unknown law professor.

Tip: Unclear on how to effectively integrate quotes and citations? Visit our page on essay quotes and citations for further explanation.

A hook is an interesting statement that piques the interest of your reader. As the name suggests, the purpose of the hook is to figuratively “hook” your reader and compel them to continue reading your essay introduction. Startling statistics are among the most effective hooks. For example, if your paper is on obesity, you might include a shocking statistic that demonstrates the high prevalence of obesity in the United States. When you open your essay with an interesting fact, you can return to your hook and refer to it in the body of your essay. An effective hook can be referred to repeatedly in order to regain the attention of your reader. It takes practice to write an effective hook, but once you get it down, you will keep your reader hanging on to your essay until the very last word.

Use an Anecdote

Many times, it is more effective to show rather than tell your reader the importance of your topic. An anecdote is a story that can be used to illustrate a point that you are trying to make in your introductory paragraph. For example, if you want to explain the importance of cancer research, you might begin your introduction with a story about a cancer survivor who benefited from treatment. An essay on the importance of fraud protection laws might begin with a story about a senior citizen who was swindled out of his retirement savings by a con artist. A carefully selected anecdote can appeal to the emotions of your reader and increase their interest in your topic.

Though any one of the attention grabbers will improve your essay introduction, you should use a combination of attention grabbers to really strengthen the impact. In longer introductions, several well-placed attention grabbers will keep your professor awake and interested in your essay.

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