How to Write an Effective First Paragraph

There are three elements of any good essay: an introduction, a body and a conclusion. All these are arbitrary components; without one or the other, a reader will certainly find your essay lacking. However, it is the introduction that most often students find to write.

It is beneficial for students to take a look at introduction essay examples when first trying to write the beginning of an essay. In this article, we take a look at one sound example of an introductory paragraph and flesh out the components that make it effective.

Introduction Essay Examples
“For more than three hundred years, the throne of Spain laid its claim over the Philippine islands in a bid for global power. Over such a long span of time, the island natives have learned to embrace the cultural heritage brought to them  by the white conquistadores from the West. Not the least of these influences is the Roman Catholic religion, evident in the fact that the Philippines is the only Catholic nation in the predominantly Muslim Southeast Asian region. The spiritual beliefs, practices, customs and traditions of the Filipino people have been shaped by the presence of Catholicism as an institution deeply rooted in the Filipino way of life. As we will see in this paper, religion has permeated every aspect of life in the islands, including its government, policy-making system, education, media, entertainment and family.”

For us to be able to effectively analyze the introduction essay example given above, we must be aware of the objectives of an essay’s introduction. First of all, it should be interesting. It should be able to elicit excitement or curiosity out of the readers for them to read the entire length of the essay. Second, an introduction should tell the readers exactly what the essay is all about. Unlike with creative fiction writing, building up the suspense is discouraged in writing academic essays. The reader should be able to tell how you are going to conclude your essay just by reading the introduction alone. Remember, the purpose of the essay is to present a case and a clear and logical sequence of arguments that supports your case.

There are four components of an essay’s introduction. These are the following:

  1. Opening statement
  2. Background information
  3. Thesis statement
  4. Author’s point of view

Let’s examine these components according to the example given above.

1. Opening statement

The opening statement should contain a hook to lure your readers into the essay. There are several tried-and-tested techniques of doing this. Take a look at the following:

  1. Anecdotes. They may be personal or otherwise. Be sure to ask your instructor if the use of the first-person ‘I’ is allowed.
  2. Facts or Statistics. The example above makes use of this technique. Presenting a fact that is little known by most readers elicits curiosity and fascination.
  3. Question. If you begin with a question, make sure to end your essay with a satisfying answer.
  4. Quotation. Choose something interesting and pertinent to the topic of your essay. You should be able to explain in your essay why you chose to include the quotation.

2. Background information

Providing brief and relevant background information allows the reader to see your essay in a broader context. In the example above, the introduction provides a short but clear historical context that explains why Catholicism is predominant in the way of life. The first, second and third sentences show how background information can be incorporated in the essay’s introduction.

3. Thesis statement

The most important part of the introduction is the thesis statement, where the writer tells the reader what the essay is going to be about. The thesis statement can be direct or indirect. For beginners, it might help to use introductory expressions such as the following:

  • “This paper examines…”
  • “This report discusses…”
  • “This essay demonstrates…”
  • “As we will see in this essay…”

A thesis statement is typically located in the last sentence of the introduction.

4. Author’s point of view

It is generally discouraged to include expressions of personal opinion, such as “I personally believe,” “I think,” or “In my opinion,” in an academic essay. Point of view, however, is indicated when the author of the essay presents his assertion that can be easily supported by the arguments presented in the essay. In the given example, the writer asserts that “the spiritual beliefs, practices, customs and traditions of the Filipino people have been shaped by the presence of Catholicism as an institution deeply rooted in the Filipino way of life” and “religion has permeated every aspect of life in the islands, including its government, policy-making system, education, media, entertainment and family.”

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