What are the elements of an effective essay introduction?

This is the second of four chapter about Introductory Paragraphs. To complete this reader, read each chapter carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.   

– Introduce the concept of elements in an introduction

– Describe the seven key introductory elements

– Provide examples of each element to guide the learner

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Chapter 2

Effective introductions are often composed of a number of identifiable elements that can be used to the advantage of both the reader and the writer. It’s important that as an academic you’re able to recognise and use these elements in your own writing for the purpose they are intended. We’ve isolated seven different introductory elements that can be exemplified with the following essay question:

About Introductory Paragraphs 2.1 Essay Question

1. The Opening Sentence

One of the most important elements of an introduction is its very first sentence. This sentence must both interest and inform your reader, as well as encourage them to keep reading and point them towards the topic of your essay. Consider the following opening sentence in relation to our essay question. This sentence works to introduce and contextualise the topics of ‘technology’ and ‘education’:

About Introductory Paragraphs 2.2 Opening Sentence

2. Background Information

Once the reader has been introduced to the basic topics of the essay, the use of background information will help to inform the reader of any critical dates or statistics which are needed to better understand the content of the essay. Background information may be composed of many sentences, and we’ve provided one example sentence for you below:

About Introductory Paragraphs 2.3 Background Information

3. Defining Key Terms

Some essay topics will also require the introduction and explanation of particular subject-specific terms, such as ‘blended learning’ in the previous example. These definitions should be clear and concise, and introduced early on to the reader:

About Introductory Paragraphs 2.4 Defining Key Terms

4. Topic Importance

Sometimes, a writer may also wish to signify essay purpose to the reader by highlighting or explaining the importance of the topic being discussed:

About Introductory Paragraphs 2.5 Topic Importance

By highlighting such importance, the writer hopes to encourage the reader to feel confident about spending the time necessary to read that essay. Indeed, a reader that feels they may learn something significant about that topic, or perhaps something enlightening or relevant to their own research or daily life is much more likely to read on. 


5. Thesis Statements

One aspect of an introduction that you may hear your tutor mention often is the inclusion of a thesis statement. Because a thesis statement should first explain to the reader the purpose and direction of the essay, many basic thesis statements may be very similar to the original essay question:

About Introductory Paragraphs 2.6 Thesis Statement

6. Stance

However, in some essay types (such as evaluative essays), the writer may be required to also provide stance in their essay – which means clearly indicating to the reader the writer’s opinion on that topic. This stance is usually an aspect of the thesis statement previously mentioned:

About Introductory Paragraphs 2.7 Thesis Statement with Stance

7. Outline

Finally, one element of introductory paragraphs worth including is the outline. The aim of an outline is to not only inform the reader of the main ideas of the body section, but to also provide the reader with the order of such ideas or arguments. As can be seen in the example below, an outline may be part of the thesis statement or provided directly after it.

About Introductory Paragraphs 2.8 Thesis Statement with Stance and Outline

Once you’re able to recognise these seven different elements, the next step is to consider their arrangement in the introduction. Should you include each element every time for example, and are there any overall structures which may help you when writing essay introductions?

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