Drafting an Effective Introduction

Thesis Statement

A good introductory paragraph usually provides a summary or overview of the paper. Near the end of the introduction, writers usually include a thesis statement that contains the specific point or main idea of the paper.

A strong thesis statement should:

  • Shed light on the paper topic
  • Answers the question asked or addressed the prompt
  • Makes a claim that has evidence to back it up
  • Be concise and clear (one or two sentences)


  • Original thesis: In this paper, I will discuss the relationship between fairy tales and early childhood.
  • Revised thesis: Not just empty stories for kids, fairy tales shed light on the psychology of young children.

Types of Introductions

  1. Summary – The most common in academic writing is a brief summary. This summary should provide an overview of the main points or central topics in the essay.
  2. Opening with a Narrative or Surprising Statement – A writer may choose to introduce an essay with an engaging story or a contradictory statement. The story or statement must be closely related to the topic of the paper.
  3. Opening with a Question (or a set of questions) – Sometimes writers incorporate a question or a series of questions in the introduction. These questions should not have an obvious answer and should pique the reader’s interest so that they want to continue reading.
  4. Opening with a Definition – A definition may be included in the introduction, especially when the vocabulary that will be used in the paper is confusing and requires clarification. The definition should always be paraphrased in the writer’s own words rather than a dictionary definition.
  5. Opening with Background Information – By including background information in the introduction, a writer provides readers with a context for the discussion in the essay. This type of introductory paragraph is particularly applicable when defending a surprising or controversial thesis statement.
  6. Opening with a Quotation – An introduction may also contain a quotation that is logically related to the thesis statement. When an effective quotation is selected, the writer can elicit increased interest in the essay topic.

Examples of Weak Introductions

  • The announcement: “This paper will argue…”
    • Announcements take away from the formal tone required for college writing. Simply state the point/argument of the essay without leisurely sentence openers.
  • The book report: “So and so wrote X. He talks about Y.”
    • List of facts that is neither interesting nor relevant to the thesis.
  • The epic epoch: “Since the dawn of time, people have been struggling with…”
    • Very general and overused
  • The dictionary: “According to Webster’s dictionary, morality can be defined as…”
    • Very general and overused
  • The space filler: “The issue of morality and religion brings up many important considerations…”
    • Vague statements which show you do not know much about the topic and/or you are not very interested in it
  • Essay topic echo statement: “The views of Jesus and the Dalai Lama on the value of compassion are very similar…”
    • It is good to restate the question/topic, but you need to do more than just that. Do not forget to lead the reader into the discussion that brings up the question/topic in the first place.