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!