Essay Writing, Part 4: How To Write An Introduction


Have you ever sat down to start writing an essay – beginning with the introduction, of course – only to find yourself starting at a cursor on a blank, white screen for minutes or even hours?

You’re not alone. For students, the introduction tends to be the most challenging part of writing an essay.

As an undergraduate student, unless I had something thought up before I began writing (which didn’t happen too often), I would write the introduction after I wrote my body paragraphs. This process was a little less daunting for me.

But enough about me.

As a marker, the introduction serves as a way for me to see how the rest of a paper will pan out, and in turn how the essay flows from start to finish. Some of the more experienced markers (i.e., professors who have been teaching for some time) can judge exactly how the rest of your paper will go and what your final grade will be just from that first paragraph.

Kind of terrifying, right? This is why it is absolutely crucial that your introduction is just as good as any other part of the essay (if not better than some others).

Every introductory paragraph should include three things:

  • An introductory statement
  • A thesis
  • A mapping statement or statements

Although the introductory statement must always come first, the placement of the thesis and mapping statements is a matter of personal preference.

How to write an introductory statement

The introductory statement and subsequent couple of sentences are one area of the introduction that students often find most challenging. Poorly written introductory sentences typically include sweeping generalizations and sometimes feature content unrelated to the rest of the paper.

As an example, if any of your first three sentences have a phrase identical or similar to “Since the beginning of time…” or “Because this always…” you’re missing the point of those first few sentences.

The introductory statement is supposed to draw the reader into the topic you are writing about. To do this, you can use a statistic, a direct quotation (with citations!), or another memorable statement.

How to write a thesis statement

Following that (again depending on your preference) is your thesis statement or statements, which were mentioned at some length in my previous article, How To Form A Proper Thesis Statement.

How to write a mapping statement

Students usually forget to include a mapping statement in their introduction altogether. Don’t let that happen to you!

A mapping statement states, in order, the x statements (x = the number of arguments you are using to support your thesis) you are including in the paper.  Depending on the complexity of your paper, you may actually have several statements, one for each of the arguments that supports your thesis.

I have also heard this method called walking the dog, where the reader is being ‘walked along’ the route the essay will take. No matter what your preference in names (or your professor’s or TA’s), make sure you include one in your papers!

Basic outline of an introductory paragraph

Introductory Statement:  In 2010, $418.6 million in sales came from comic books in North America.

Thesis Statement: Despite his status as an anti-hero, the Batman Universe can be considered the most successful comic book franchise of all time.

Mapping Statement:  The success of the Batman franchise can be attributed to the number of Batman comic books sold, the revenue gained from Batman merchandise, and lastly due to the success of the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy.


More articles in the Essay Writing series:

Essays with Rainbows by lorenzolambertino on Flickr