Writing Introductions

Writing introductions is hard.

It can even be infuriating because of the time spent sitting in front of a blank page or computer screen. Why is this the typical introduction-writing experience? Because students typically try to write their introductions first. This is absolutely the wrong way to approach it. Even if you don’t necessarily struggle with introductions, I guarantee you that yours aren’t as strong as they could be if you’re writing it first.

In the same way that you can’t effectively introduce a person you don’t know well, you can’t effectively introduce an essay you don’t know well.

What is the most effective and least infuriating way to write an introduction? Write it last! That’s right–when first sitting down to compose a draft of your essay, go straight to the body paragraphs.

Although the introduction is the first paragraph in an essay, it should be written last. Why? Because, in the same way that you can’t effectively introduce a person you don’t know well, you can’t effectively introduce an essay you don’t know well. Your introduction of a person you don’t know well would be short and bland. Similarly, your introduction of an essay you don’t know well (because you haven’t written it yet) would be a short, bland paragraph comprised of vague generalities.

Your introduction should be engaging and also appropriate for the full essay, not just the topic

You have to really know your essay, not just your topic and its main ideas, in order to craft an effective and engaging introduction that is appropriate for your essay. To really know your essay, your main ideas—and even your conclusion—must be developed. The drafting of your main ideas leads naturally to a conclusion because your thoughts have moved forward. With these paragraphs drafted (and preferably also revised a time or two), you’re in a much stronger position to compose your introduction.

How does the conclusion help? Sometimes the seed of an effective introduction is planted in the conclusion. Even if that’s not the case, getting to the end of your essay means that you have spent a good amount of time with your essay, so you know it well. It also means that any unanticipated change in the way you end up developing your topic is done, so you can write an introduction that reflects this change–and is thus appropriate for the essay.

Here’s a visual of the development of an introductory paragraph:

an-introduction-for-an-essay

When you’re ready to compose a draft of your essay,
remember to write your support/body paragraphs, and even your conclusion, first.

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