Beginning an Academic Essay

The goal of writing an academic essay is to convince the audience of a specific idea based on evidence. It is vital that the essay does so from the very beginning. So, the introduction of your essay must introduce and focus it, and orient the audience.

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Introduce the Essay

The introductory part has to provide your readers with an understanding of the topic of an essay. You should also establish its context, the limits within which you are going to approach the topic. The main thing here is that, while setting the context of your writing piece, you are also setting the frames to your topic. You are choosing an approach to the topic that necessarily eliminates other approaches. It means that when you define the context, at the same time, you narrow the topic and begin focusing on the paper.

Focus the Paper

Aside from presenting the topic, your introduction has to let the audience know about the main issue. Here, you have to describe the question or problem you are going to write about. You might want to write it in the form of a question that leads to your idea, or you might choose to write a thesis statement. You might also like to do both.

The completeness of your idea will not become obvious until the conclusion, but your introduction has to clearly specify the direction your idea will take. Whichever approach you choose, by the end of this part of your paper, the readers have to know what and why you are writing about, and they have to be interested in keeping reading.

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Orient Your Audience

Orienting the audience means presenting information with explanations wherever necessary for your readers’ understanding. While it is important throughout the whole paper, it is vital in the introduction. If your audience does not have the information required to follow the discussion, they will stop reading.

To supply the needful information for readers’ orienting, you can simply answer the journalist’s questions of who, what, where, when, how, and why. It may involve adding a short overview or a summary of the text you will be analyzing. Or, if the initial text is short, you might just quote it.

Questions of Length and Order

The length of your introduction has to be commensurate to the whole paper’s length. For example, for a five-paragraph essay, the introductory part should be one paragraph in length. If, however, you are composing a ten-page essay, it may take several pages.

There is no certain order in which you should address your introductory part of an essay. The main point is that it must be logical. Typically, the thesis statement or the question that focuses the paper comes as the last sentence of the introduction, serving as the jumping-off point for the body part of a paper. Topic and context are usually intertwined, but you might want to set the context before the topic’s presentation. Your purpose is what determines the order of accomplishing the business of the essay introduction.

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Opening Strategies

So how to start? You can begin with a particular fact, quotation, a question, or an anecdote. The main point is that it must be directly related to your topic. So make sure to be maximally direct and specific.

Avoid too long, general openings. The history-of-the-world openings are setting the paper’s context by getting a long start. The funnel openings begin with something broad and “funnel” their way down to a specific topic. Both types of openings are a bad choice.


Once you have completed the whole first draft, tested your thinking about the evidence, probably changed direction or the initial idea, check your beginning one more time to ensure it still provides a clear focus for your paper. If necessary, clarify and polish the focus. And remember that perfect introductions do not often present themselves ready-made. Instead, they have to be thought out, written, and rewritten, and then brought to perfection.