Whatever pattern of development we use, any essay should have a beginning (an introduction), a middle (a body), and an end (a conclusion). The introduction introduces the subject, creates interest, and often states the thesis. For introducing the subject and engaging the readers’ interest, a variety of strategies can be used. We can begin our essay with either background information, our original definition of a term, or an anecdote or story, or a question, or a quotation, or a surprising statement, or a contradiction, or a fact or statistic.
Below you can find how to start the first paragraph of your essay.
1. We Can Begin With Background Information
This approach works well when we know the audience is already interested in our topic and we can come directly to the point. This strategy is especially useful for exams, where there is no need (or time) for subtlety.
Example: With inflation low, many companies have understandably lowered prices, and the oil industry should be no exception. Consequently, homeowners have begun wondering whether the high price of home heating oil is justified given the economic climate. It makes sense, therefore, for us to start examining the pricing policies of the major American oil companies.
2.We can introduce an essay with our own original definition of a relevant term or concept.
This technique is especially useful for research papers or exams, where the meaning of a specific term is crucial.
Example: Democracy is a form of government in which power is given to and exercised by the people. This may be true in theory, but some recent elections have raised concerns about the future of democracy. Extensive voting-machine irregularities and “ghost voting” (fraud votes) have jeopardized(threatened/endangered) people’s faith in the democratic process.
3. We can begin our essay with an anecdote or story that leads readers to our thesis
Example: Three years ago, I went with my grandparents to my first auction. They live in a small town outside of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where it is common for people to auction off the content of a home when someone moves or dies. As I walked through the crowd, I smelled the funnel cakes frying in the food trucks, heard the hypnotic chanting of the auctioneer, and sensed the excitement of the crowd. Two hours later, I walked off with an old trunk that I had bought for thirty dollars and a passion for auctions that I still have today
4. We Can Begin With A Question
Example: What was it like to live through the Holocaust (disaster/destruction)? Elie Wiesel, in One Generation After, answers this question by presenting a series of accounts about ordinary people who found themselves imprisoned in Nazi death camps. As he does so, he challenges some of the assumptions we have about the Holocaust and those who survived.
5. We can begin with a quotation. If it arouses interest, it can encourage our audience to read further.
Example: “The rich are different.” F. Scott Fitzgerald said more than seventy years ago. Apparently, they still are. As an examination of the tax code shows, the wealthy receive many more benefits than the middle class or the poor do.
6. We can begin with a surprising statement. An unexpected statement catches readers’ attention and makes them want to read more.
Example: Believe it or not, most people who live in the suburbs are not white and rich. My family, for example, fits into neither of these categories. Ten years ago, my family and I came to the United States from Pakistan. My parents were poor then, and by some standards, they are still poor even though they both work two jobs. Still, they eventually saved enough to buy a small house in the suburbs of Chicago. Throughout the country, there are many suburban families like mine who are working hard to make ends meet so that their children can get a good education and go to college.
7. We can begin with a contradiction. We can open our essay with an idea that most people
believe is true and then get readers’ attention by showing that it is inaccurate or ill-advised
Example Many people think that after the Declaration of Independence was signed in 1776, the colonists defeated the British army in battle after battle. This commonly held belief is incorrect. The truth is that the colonial army lost most of its battles. The British were defeated not because the colonial army was stronger, but because George Washington refused to be lured into a costly winner-take all battle and because the British government lost interest in pursuing an expensive war three thousand miles from home.
8. We can begin with a fact or statistic
Example: According to a recent government study, recipients of Medicare will spend billions of dollars on drugs over the next ten years. This is a very large amount of money, and it illustrates why lawmakers must do more to help older Americans with the cost of medications. Although the current legislation is an important first step, more must be done to help the elderly afford the drugs they need.
(public policy essay)
Whichever strategy is selected, the introduction should be consistent (in agreement with others) in tone with the rest of the essay. If it isn’t consistent, it misrepresents our intentions, and even damages our credibility. For this reason, it is good not to write the introduction until after the rough draft is finished. For instance, the introduction of a technical report should be formal and objective in tone, while the autographical essay should have an informal and subjective tone.