Home Blog An Ultimate Essay Writing Guide for Students Learn How to Start an Essay In Simple Steps

Learn How to Start an Essay In Simple Steps

How to Start an Essay - An Easy Guide

Grabbing the reader’s attention and persuading them to read until the end is a difficult task. Academic essay writing aims to persuade readers of an idea based on solid evidence, so it must accomplish this in its introduction as well.

Starting an essay isn't easy. In fact, it's one of the most challenging parts for any writer to do. Because they have to capture their reader’s attention before anything else can happen- and that is no small feat in today's digital world where everyone has a short attention span!

Academic world is no different.

Here are some ways that you can use to start your essay effectively and keep your audience engaged till the end.

How to Start an Essay Introduction?

In academic writing, the only chance to make readers stick to your paper is to start off with an interesting and engaging opening.

Make your introduction catchy and interesting to both inform and motivate your readers. In order to make your opening of the essay inspiring, use a hook.

If you want to learn how to start an essay, one key point is to specify the purpose of your paper. In this way, you can make your opening of the essay as compelling as possible.

Here are the steps that you need to follow for a perfect essay introduction.

Refer to the following section for a complete description of each step.

  1. 1. Start With an Interesting Hook

    An essay hook is an opening statement that strives to grab people’s interest and attention. Always start an essay introduction with a hook to make your essay appealing.

    Here are different types of hooks that can be used in your introduction paragraph:

    • Quotation
    • Question
    • Anecdote
    • Rhetorical Questions
    • Statistics
    • Or a random funny statement

    What hook to use in your essay totally depends on the topic of your essay. If addressing a serious and sad issue do not use a casual or funny statement. Likewise, if your topic is casual and humorous try to open your essay lightly and casually.

    You can also go through an interesting hook example and learn how to start a paragraph with interesting hooks.

    As mentioned earlier, hooks and opening statements can be of multiple types and can be used according to the topic of your essay. Start your essay using these hooks and openers to make your essay leave a lasting impression on your readers.

  2. 2. Provide Background Information

    Another ingredient to add in the introduction is the background information about the topic of your essay.

    After you have decided on your hook, comes the part where you have to provide the background information. The background information is provided to make your audience familiar with the topic and the main argument.

    Example: Blind people have long been excluded from society, but Louis Braille was the first person to create a writing system specifically for them. Many existing systems were difficult to learn or use by those with no sight and these individuals had very limited opportunities in school, work and life.

    In an era where disability wasn't valued at all, being blind made it even harder for someone struggling through everyday tasks like reading basic words on signs or greeting cards.

    Providing background knowledge in the introduction is not as easy as it seems. You have to stop yourself from sharing excess information in the introductory paragraph. This will bore your audience and they will stop reading for sure.

    Just slightly give an idea about your topic and move on. You should not spoil the surprise coming for readers in the body paragraphs.

  3. 3. Compose a Thesis Statement

    The last component of an introduction is the thesis statement. It is a 1-2 line sentence statement that sums up the main concept and an argument of your essay topic.

    A thesis statement is considered as a road map of your essay and provides your reader with a direction to follow. It is a sentence that comes in your introduction to explain your main argument to the audience.

    Example: For the first time, blind people were able to communicate with others without relying on sight. The Braille writing system is one of a kind as it did not just provide practical benefits but also helped change the cultural status of blindness in society by allowing those who are visually impaired to feel more included and less alienated.

    The rest of the paragraphs that come before the conclusion is the body of your essay and contains all the reasons and shreds of evidence that support and back your thesis statement.

    It is preferable that you not choose the cliche and mainstream information in your thesis statement. Readers already know that, so try to present new information and facts that will inspire and interest your readers

  4. 4. Map the Structure of Your Essay

    This is especially helpful for longer essays as it informs the readers about what is to come in each section of the essay. Keep this part concise and to-the-point and give your readers a clear direction of your assignment.

    Example: This essay begins by discussing how difficult life was for blind people during the nineteenth century European period where there wasn't any braille technology yet. It then describes "braille" - an alphabet made up entirely out of small dots on paper so that one can read when touching them without sight. At the end, it discusses how groundbreaking the invention was and the way it helped in alleviating the status of blind and deaf in the society.

    If your essay is short or discusses fear ideas then this step may not be necessary but in case of a longer work, the mapping will inform the readers about many things.

  5. 5. Edit and Revise at the End

    Once done with the writing, edit and revise the interaction and make sure that you add everything briefly in it.

    Instruction will be different for different kinds of essays. Generally, there are different types of essays such as argumentative essay, persuasive essay, expository essay, analytical essay, and descriptive essay.

    Just like the types, there are different ways in which an essay can be started for an effective piece of writing.

    Once you are done with your introduction, the next step is to construct the main body of the essay that will contain all the information and detailed explanations of your stance which will be followed by a conclusion.

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How to Start an Essay With a Quote?

A hook in the form of a quotation can be used as an opening statement as well. In this, a quotation is used to explain and give an idea of the relevant topic. It is important to keep in mind that the quotation should be obtained from a credible and reliable source.

In order to make your point of view clear and what your personal opinion is to the readers, explain the quote in your body paragraphs to solve the conundrum in your audience’s head.

Example: "Q: What did Eve say to Adam on being expelled from the Garden of Eden? A: 'I think we're in a time of transition.' The irony of this joke is not lost as we begin a new century and anxieties about social change seem rife. The implication of this message, covering the first of many periods of transition, is that change is normal; there is, in fact, no era or society in which change is not a permanent feature of the social landscape...." (Betty G. Farrell, Family: The Making of an Idea, an Institution, and a Controversy in American Culture. Westview Press, 1999)

In order to put a quote at the start of an essay, here are some expert tips for your help.

  • Avoid adding frequently used quotes that are familiar to everyone
  • Explain how the quote relates to your main point
  • Select a quote that your target audience can easily understand and relate to

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How to Start an Essay With a Question?

The easiest way to start an introduction is to ask a question from your readers to immediately engage them. Asking questions gives an image of one-on-one conversation which is super effective.

Seeing a question first will make your audience look for the answer in the content.

Starting an essay with a rhetorical question is a good kickstart as such a type of beginning is attractive to readers.

Example: "What is the charm of necklaces? Why would anyone put something extra around their neck and then invest it with special significance? A necklace doesn't afford warmth in cold weather, like a scarf, or protection in combat, like chain mail; it only decorates. We might say, it borrows meaning from what it surrounds and sets off, the head with its supremely important material contents, and the face, that register of the soul. When photographers discuss the way in which a photograph reduces the reality it represents, they mention not only the passage from three dimensions to two, but also the selection of a point de vue that favors the top of the body rather than the bottom, and the front rather than the back. The face is the jewel in the crown of the body, and so we give it a setting." (Emily R. Grosholz, "On Necklaces." Prairie Schooner, Summer 2007)

If you start with an intriguing question to which the answer is not clear then you should provide the answer within the text. Keep in mind that the rhetorical question does not require any specific reply.

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How to Start an Essay With a Fact?

Including an interesting fact or statistics in your introduction helps you to take hold of your readers. Everyone gets entertained by the interesting and fun facts as they provide the context and background information of the topic.

For serious issues that are global, you can present shocking statistics or news to instantly grab your reader’s attention.

Example: "The peregrine falcon was brought back from the brink of extinction by a ban on DDT, but also by a peregrine falcon mating hat invented by an ornithologist at Cornell University. If you cannot buy this, Google it. Female falcons had grown dangerously scarce. A few wistful males nevertheless maintained a sort of sexual loitering ground. The hat was imagined, constructed, and then forthrightly worn by the ornithologist as he patrolled this loitering ground, singing, Chee-up! Chee-up! and bowing like an overpolite Japanese Buddhist trying to tell somebody goodbye...." (David James Duncan, "Cherish This Ecstasy." The Sun, July 2008)

Choose facts and figures from credible and trustworthy sources to answer your question and prove why your viewpoint is correct.

Starting an essay with a shocking fact from a credible source is an effective way to start an essay followed by the explanations to convince the readers.

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How to Start an Essay With an Anecdote?

Another interesting way to start an essay is with a brief anecdote. It is about setting a short story in the start to show how it reveals the important features of your theme.

This hook is appropriate to use if you are writing descriptive or narrative essays. The anecdote should be short, simple, and to the point. Make sure it relates to the central idea of your essay.

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Other Common Ways of Starting an Essay

Besides the ones given above, here are some common ways of beginning your essay on a strong and engaging footing.

Stating the Thesis Statement Briefly

Instead of adding your thesis statement plainly, make the tone engaging and keep it brief.

Example: “It is time, at last, to speak the truth about Thanksgiving, and the truth is this. Thanksgiving is really not such a terrific holiday...." (Michael J. Arlen, "Ode to Thanksgiving." The Camera Age: Essays on Television. Penguin, 1982)

Beginning with an Interesting Discovery

Discoveries and little-known details always interest the people. They are curious and they want to know more. This makes this kind of essay start very interesting and irresistible for your readers.

Example: "I've finally figured out the difference between neat people and sloppy people. The distinction is, as always, moral. Neat people are lazier and meaner than sloppy people." (Suzanne Britt Jordan, "Neat People vs. Sloppy People." Show and Tell. Morning Owl Press, 1983)

Describe the Setting of Your Essay

Presenting the setting of your essay to set the mood of your audience. This helps them in knowing where your essay is heading to.

Example: "It was in Burma, a sodden morning of the rains. A sickly light, like yellow tinfoil, was slanting over the high walls into the jail yard. We were waiting outside the condemned cells, a row of sheds fronted with double bars, like small animal cages. Each cell measured about ten feet by ten and was quite bare within except for a plank bed and a pot of drinking water. In some of them brown silent men were squatting at the inner bars, with their blankets draped round them. These were the condemned men, due to be hanged within the next week or two." (George Orwell, "A Hanging," 1931)

Recount an Event

Recount an event to add drama to your essay. This also helps the readers to connect with you on a deeper level.

Example: "One October afternoon three years ago while I was visiting my parents, my mother made a request I dreaded and longed to fulfill. She had just poured me a cup of Earl Grey from her Japanese iron teapot, shaped like a little pumpkin; outside, two cardinals splashed in the birdbath in the weak Connecticut sunlight. Her white hair was gathered at the nape of her neck, and her voice was low. “Please help me get Jeff’s pacemaker turned off,” she said, using my father’s first name. I nodded, and my heart knocked." (Katy Butler, "What Broke My Father's Heart." The New York Times Magazine, June 18, 2010)

Use the Narrative Delay Technique

This technique works the best in piquing your audience’s interest and keeping them on the edge of their seats. However, do not linger on it too much and use this technique carefully.

Example: "They woof. Though I have photographed them before, I have never heard them speak, for they are mostly silent birds. Lacking a syrinx, the avian equivalent of the human larynx, they are incapable of song. According to field guides the only sounds they make are grunts and hisses, though the Hawk Conservancy in the United Kingdom reports that adults may utter a croaking coo and that young black vultures, when annoyed, emit a kind of immature snarl...." (Lee Zacharias, "Buzzards." Southern Humanities Review, 2007)

Present a Historical Event in Present Tense

Use historical present tense to add weightage to your narrative. It makes the readers feel as if the event is taking place at the present moment.

Example: "Ben and I are sitting side by side in the very back of his mother’s station wagon. We face glowing white headlights of cars following us, our sneakers pressed against the back hatch door. This is our joy—his and mine—to sit turned away from our moms and dads in this place that feels like a secret, as though they are not even in the car with us. They have just taken us out to dinner, and now we are driving home. Years from this evening, I won’t actually be sure that this boy sitting beside me is named Ben. But that doesn’t matter tonight. What I know for certain right now is that I love him, and I need to tell him this fact before we return to our separate houses, next door to each other. We are both five." (Ryan Van Meter, "First." The Gettysburg Review, Winter 2008)

Describe a Process Briefly

Describe a process briefly that leads it to your main essay topic.

Example: "I like to take my time when I pronounce someone dead. The bare-minimum requirement is one minute with a stethoscope pressed to someone’s chest, listening for a sound that is not there; with my fingers bearing down on the side of someone’s neck, feeling for an absent pulse; with a flashlight beamed into someone’s fixed and dilated pupils, waiting for the constriction that will not come. If I’m in a hurry, I can do all of these in sixty seconds, but when I have the time, I like to take a minute with each task." (Jane Churchon, "The Dead Book." The Sun, February 2009)

Reveal a Secret

People are always interested in knowing secrets. This is what makes this technique so good. Use it to reveal some secret about yourself, if you are writing an essay about yourself.

Example: "I spy on my patients. Ought not a doctor to observe his patients by any means and from any stance, that he might more fully assemble evidence? So I stand in the doorways of hospital rooms and gaze. Oh, it is not all that furtive an act. Those in bed need only look up to discover me. But they never do." (Richard Selzer, "The Discus Thrower." Confessions of a Knife. Simon & Schuster, 1979)

Present a Comparison between the Past and Present

It is a very effective technique as it helps the readers in seeing the comparison between past and present situations.

Example: "As a child, I was made to look out the window of a moving car and appreciate the beautiful scenery, with the result that now I don't care much for nature. I prefer parks, ones with radios going chuckawaka chuckawaka and the delicious whiff of bratwurst and cigarette smoke." (Garrison Keillor, "Walking Down The Canyon." Time, July 31, 2000)

Give a Contrast between Virtual & Actual Reality

There are many things that we believe to be true, a.k.a. Virtual reality. This technique helps you in presenting what is a myth and what is reality.

Example: "They aren’t what most people think they are. Human eyes, touted as ethereal objects by poets and novelists throughout history, are nothing more than white spheres, somewhat larger than your average marble, covered by a leather-like tissue known as sclera and filled with nature’s facsimile of Jell-O. Your beloved’s eyes may pierce your heart, but in all likelihood they closely resemble the eyes of every other person on the planet. At least I hope they do, for otherwise he or she suffers from severe myopia (near-sightedness), hyperopia (far-sightedness), or worse...." (John Gamel, "The Elegant Eye." Alaska Quarterly Review, 2009)

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How to Start an Essay - Examples

The first paragraph of the essay is the most important part that determines whether the reader is going to read your paper till the end or not.

Looking at intro examples for different types of essays can help you understand how to grab the reader’s interest from the beginning.

Refer to these examples of how to start an essay and better understand how to compose strong opening lines.

How to Start an Argumentative Essay? (PDF)

How to Start an Informative Essay? (PDF)

How to Start an Analysis Essay? (PDF)

How to Start an Application Essay? (PDF)

How to Start an Expository Essay? (PDF)

How to Start an Analytical Essay? (PDF)

How to Start an Essay About a Book? (PDF)

How to start an Opinion Essay? (PDF)

How to Start an Autobiographical Essay? (PDF)

How to Start an Essay on Climate Change? (PDF)

How to Start an Essay About Your Interests? (PDF)

Mistakes to Avoid for a Perfect Start of an Essay

If the beginning is right and interesting, the chances are that your essay will leave a lasting impression on your readers.

Here are a few things that should be avoided for writing a great essay introduction.

  • If you want your starting and intro of the essay unique and amusing, try to avoid adding a monotonous definition in the first line of your essay. This will be boring and the audience will predict the entire essay.
  • Generic introductions are also boring and unamusing for the readers. Make your introductions short yet remarkable to grab your reader's interest for the entire time.
  • Don’t introduce the main purpose of your assignment at the start. It is a good idea to provide such information in between the lines without specifying the main goal of the paper.

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Frequently asked questions

What is a good introduction sentence for an essay?

To start your essay, you must capture the reader's attention with an opening hook. Then give them some context by providing background information that will help set up what is to come in later paragraphs or sections of the paper/essay.

Finally, conclude your introduction with a thesis statement that states both concisely and specifically what main point(s) are being made about this topic along with why it matters.

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