How to Write an Introduction

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Essays, as you know, contain an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Each element functions in a unique, yet unified way. For example, the body of the essay contains all of the important evidence that supports your thesis. However, it won’t make any sense unless the introduction first sets the stage. Clearly, a great introduction is important.

Strong introductions should present the main idea, as well as set the tone, the style, and the voice of the entire essay. Here are a few tips to help make that happen.

Guide Overview

Spring is here—a good time for beginnings (and introductions)! The resources at can help you with research paper ideas and a free grammar check to make sure your paper starts off on the right foot. There are also free guides if you need help with helping verbs, are curious about gender neutral pronouns, or have other grammar questions.


1. Prepare before you write

In the same way that an architect wouldn’t break ground for a new building without a blueprint, you shouldn’t write the intro until you have a solid idea of your topic and information you’ll be introducing. This could mean first doing preliminary research, an outline, and, most importantly, choosing a thesis that you can state in one or two sentences.

2. Determine your thesis

You thesis is the center of your entire paper. It should concisely and clearly communicate the main idea and purpose of your paper.

For those stuck on building your thesis, here’s a template to help you focus:


This essay about __________ will [argue/illustrate/defend/support/etc.—you choose the verb] the following main ideas; __________, __________, and __________.

It’s also a good idea to write many different drafts until you have a concise statement that sums up what you want your essay to accomplish. Feel free to experiment with the template, and to edit it for flow or continuity once you have the basic ideas in place:


This essay will illustrate that the novel Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is the quintessential coming of age story, that it’s still relevant over 50 years later, and finally, that Salinger remains an important voice in American literature.

3. Build around your thesis

Now imagine that, like an architect, it’s time to lay the foundation. The thesis statement, or the foundation, is the final sentence(s) of the introduction. It works as a bridge to the body of the essay, and informs your reader what to expect.

But what comes before the thesis? Obviously, the intro is more than just one or two sentences, so what else is in the first paragraph? Here’s the trick. Ask yourself: What is the best introduction to my thesis, or what is the best context for it?

You have many ways to do this. For example, using the Catcher in the Rye example above, you could provide a:

  • Brief definition of the genre “coming of age stories”
  • Short FAQ about the widespread influence of Salinger
  • Brief summary of a movie that is also a coming of age story
  • etc.

Use your imagination and try different approaches! It doesn’t hurt to do several drafts before you discover the perfect introduction for your thesis.


Coming of age is often defined as crossing the threshold from childhood to adulthood. In literature and in film, it is often a very fraught process—after all, it’s a defining moment of our lives. It is usually accompanied by a loss of some kind, but also a gain of wisdom. We see this in our own lives; our first kiss, our first job, or even experiencing grief for the first time. Since coming of age is a universal experience, it helps us, as a culture, to have narratives that explain the process as a kind of guide or template, or even to just let us know we aren’t alone. This essay will illustrate that the novel, Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, is still the quintessential coming of age story, that it’s still relevant over 50 years later, and finally, that Salinger remains an important voice in American literature.

Be sure to allow yourself the luxury of time to be creative, and experiment until you have the perfect introduction to your essay.

Your intro is strong, your body is on point, and your conclusion rocks—don’t forget to cite your sources! offers free guides on the MLA bibliography format, how to create an APA citation, and what a Chicago in-text citation is.

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