Writing Your Introduction Paragraph

Many writers (perhaps you’re one of them!) struggle with an introduction paragraph for an essay, research paper, or report. Today I’ll offer some suggestions for tackling the beginning of a writing task.

Why are introductions difficult? One reason is the “blank-piece-of-paper” syndrome: Your brain freezes because the writing task seems overwhelming.

If you’re caught up in this syndrome, a good strategy is to skip the introduction altogether and work on the rest of the paper. Use a warm-up activity to get yourself going: freewriting, listing, making a mind map. (Click here for more suggestions about writer’s block.) You can always write the introduction later, when you have some momentum going and have a clear idea of what you’re saying in your paper.

Another reason introductions are difficult: You don’t know what you want to say. As an English professor, I’ve read countless student essays that say…nothing significant about a topic. The best solution here is to do some writing preparation. If you’re writing about a personal experience, look at photographs from the event or talk to someone who was there with you. Draw a sketch about the experience. In other words, have something to say before you formally tackle the writing project.

Some writers struggle with the introduction to a paper because they’re unsure how to organize it. Help is on the way! Here’s a list of what should be included:

  • An attention-getter. A short story (a sentence or two) is a great way to kick off your paper. Leaf through magazines, and you’ll see that almost every article starts this way. It’s a strategy you can (and should) use in your own writing.
  • The 5 W’s: who, what, when, where, and why. Don’t try cramming all of this in the first sentence of your paper. But do get it into your first paragraph (or second paragraph, if it’s a lengthy writing task). Make sure your reader knows the basics about what’s going on before you start exploring your topic in depth.
  • The thesis. Your paper should have an attitude or make a point, and readers should know what it is by the end of the first or second paragraph.

And there you have it!


2 thoughts on “Writing Your Introduction Paragraph

  1. Carlos Grady

    Thanks for this. I’ve written a few articles before, and I definitely agree with everything you said in your post. I have friends who are having trouble with their writing. I feel bad not being able to help them out. It’s much easier to write than to have to explain to them how it all works. It’s a good thing I found this blog fo yours. I’ll be sharing this post with them. I’m sure they’ll love it.

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