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10 Great Essay Writing Tips

how to start you essay

Knowing how to write a college essay is a useful skill for anyone who plans to go to college. Most colleges and universities ask you to submit a writing sample with your application. As a student, you’ll also write essays in your courses. Impress your professors with your knowledge and skill by using these great essay writing tips.

Prepare to Answer the Question

Most college essays ask you to answer a question or synthesize information you learned in class. Review notes you have from lectures, read the recommended texts and make sure you understand the topic. You should refer to these sources in your essay.

how to start you essay

Plan Your Essay

Many students see planning as a waste of time, but it actually saves you time. Take a few minutes to think about the topic and what you want to say about it. You can write an outline, draw a chart or use a graphic organizer to arrange your ideas. This gives you a chance to spot problems in your ideas before you spend time writing out the paragraphs.

Choose a Writing Method That Feels Comfortable

You might have to type your essay before turning it in, but that doesn’t mean you have to write it that way. Some people find it easy to write out their ideas by hand. Others prefer typing in a word processor where they can erase and rewrite as needed. Find the one that works best for you and stick with it.

how to start you essay

View It as a Conversation

Writing is a form of communication, so think of your essay as a conversation between you and the reader. Think about your response to the source material and the topic. Decide what you want to tell the reader about the topic. Then, stay focused on your response as you write.

how to start you essay

Provide the Context in the Introduction

If you look at an example of an essay introduction, you’ll see that the best essays give the reader a context. Think of how you introduce two people to each other. You share the details you think they will find most interesting. Do this in your essay by stating what it’s about and then telling readers what the issue is.

how to start you essay

Explain What Needs to be Explained

Sometimes you have to explain concepts or define words to help the reader understand your viewpoint. You also have to explain the reasoning behind your ideas. For example, it’s not enough to write that your greatest achievement is running an ultra marathon. You might need to define ultra marathon and explain why finishing the race is such an accomplishment.

how to start you essay

Answer All the Questions

After you finish writing the first draft of your essay, make sure you’ve answered all the questions you were supposed to answer. For example, essays in compare and contrast format should show the similarities and differences between ideas, objects or events. If you’re writing about a significant achievement, describe what you did and how it affected you.

how to start you essay

Stay Focused as You Write

Writing requires concentration. Find a place where you have few distractions and give yourself time to write without interruptions. Don’t wait until the night before the essay is due to start working on it.

how to start you essay

Read the Essay Aloud to Proofread

When you finish writing your essay, read it aloud. You can do this by yourself or ask someone to listen to you read it. You’ll notice places where the ideas don’t make sense, and your listener can give you feedback about your ideas.

how to start you essay

Avoid Filling the Page with Words

A great essay does more than follow an essay layout. It has something to say. Sometimes students panic and write everything they know about a topic or summarize everything in the source material. Your job as a writer is to show why this information is important.


how to start you essay

How to Start an Essay: 7 Tips for a Knockout Essay Introduction

Lindsay Kramer

Sometimes, the most difficult part of writing an essay is getting started. You might have an outline already and know what you want to write, but struggle to find the right words to get it going. Don’t worry; you aren’t the first person to grapple with starting an essay, and you certainly won’t be the last. 

Writing an essay isn’t the same as writing a book. Or writing a poem. Or writing a scientific research paper. Essay writing is a unique process that involves clear sequencing, backing up your positions with quality sources, and engaging language. But it’s also got one important thing in common with every other type of writing: You need to hook your reader’s attention within the first few sentences. 

Give your essays extra polish Grammarly helps you write with confidence Write with Grammarly

Intriguing ways to start an essay

There are many different ways to write an essay introduction. Each has its benefits and potential drawbacks, and each is best suited for certain kinds of essays . Although these essay introductions use different rhetorical devices and prime the reader in different ways, they all achieve the same goal: hooking the reader and enticing them to keep reading.

To “hook” a reader simply means to capture their attention and make them want to continue reading your work. An essay introduction that successfully hooks readers in one essay won’t necessarily hook readers in another essay, which is why it’s so important for you to understand why different types of essay openings are effective. 

Take a look at these common ways to start an essay:

Share a shocking or amusing fact

One way to start your essay is with a shocking, unexpected, or amusing fact about the topic you’re covering. This grabs the reader’s attention and makes them want to read further, expecting explanation, context, and/or elaboration on the fact you presented. 

Check out these essay introduction examples that use relevant, engaging facts to capture the reader’s attention:

“More than half of Iceland’s population believe that elves exist or that they possibly can exist. Although this might sound strange to foreigners, many of us have similar beliefs that would sound just as strange to those outside our cultures.”

“Undergraduate students involved in federal work-study programs earn an average of just $1,794 per year. That’s just slightly more than the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in our city.”

Relevance is key here. Make sure the fact you choose directly relates to the topic you’re covering in your essay. Otherwise, it will feel random, confusing, or at best, shoehorned into the essay. In any case, it will undermine your essay as a whole by making it seem like you don’t have a full grasp on your topic. 

If you’re writing an expository or persuasive essay , including a shocking or amusing fact in your introduction can be a great way to pique your reader’s curiosity. The fact you present can be one that supports the position you argue in the essay or it can be part of the body of data your expository essay explains. 

Ask a question

By asking a question in your essay opening, you’re directly inviting the reader to interact with your work. They don’t get to be a passive consumer; they’re now part of the conversation. This can be a very engaging way to start an essay. 

Take a look at these examples of essay openings that use questions to hook readers:

“How many times have you been late to class because you couldn’t find parking? You’re not alone—our campus is in desperate need of a new parking deck.”

“How frequently do you shop at fast fashion retailers? These retailers include H&M, Zara, Uniqlo and other brands that specialize in inexpensive clothing meant for short-term use.” 

Asking a question is an effective choice for a persuasive essay because it asks the reader to insert themselves into the topic or even pick a side. While it can also work in other kinds of essays, it really shines in any essay that directly addresses the reader and puts them in a position to reflect on what you’re asking. 

Dramatize a scene

Another effective way to write an essay introduction is to dramatize a scene related to your essay. Generally, this approach is best used with creative essays, like personal statements and literary essays. Here are a few examples of essay introductions that immerse readers in the action through dramatized scenes:

“The rain pounded against the roof, loudly drowning out any conversations we attempted to have. I’d promised them I’d play the latest song I wrote for guitar, but Mother Earth prevented any concert from happening that night.”

“Imagine you’ve just gotten off an airplane. You’re hot, you’re tired, you’re uncomfortable, and suddenly, you’re under arrest.”

Beyond creative essays, this kind of opening can work when you’re using emotional appeal to underscore your position in a persuasive essay. It’s also a great tool for a dramatic essay, and could be just the first of multiple dramatized scenes throughout the piece. 

Kick it off with a quote

When you’re wondering how to write an essay introduction, remember that you can always borrow wisdom from other writers. This is a powerful way to kick off any kind of essay. Take a look at these examples:

“‘The past is never dead. It’s not even past.’ —William Faulkner. In his novel Requiem for a Nun , our changing perspective of the past is a primary theme.”

“‘It always seems impossible until it’s done.’ —Nelson Mandela. Before I joined the military, boot camp seemed impossible. But now, it’s done.”

Just as in choosing a fact or statistic to open your essay, any quote you choose needs to be relevant to your essay’s topic . If your reader has to perform a web search for your quote to figure out how it relates to the rest of your essay, it’s not relevant enough to use. Go with another quote that your text can easily explain. 

State your thesis directly

The most straightforward kind of essay introduction is one where you simply state your thesis. Take a look at these examples:

“Fraternity culture is dangerous and contrary to campus values. Banning it is in the campus community’s best interest.”

“We can’t afford to ignore the evidence any longer; we need climate action now.”

By starting your essay like this, you’re cutting right to the chase. Think of it like diving into the deep end of a pool—instead of wading to that deep end, slowly getting acclimated to the water’s temperature along the way, you’re dropping your whole body right into the cold water. An introduction that directly states your thesis can be a great choice for an analytical essay. 

How to write an essay introduction

Pick the right tone for your essay.

You probably shouldn’t use a funny quote to start a persuasive essay on a serious subject. Similarly, a statistic that can evoke strong emotions in the reader might not be the right choice for an expository essay because it could potentially be construed as your attempt to argue for a certain viewpoint, rather than state facts. 

Read your essay’s first paragraph aloud and listen to your writing’s tone. Does the opening line’s tone match the rest of the paragraph, or is there a noticeable tone shift from the first line or two to the rest? In many cases, you can hear whether your tone is appropriate for your essay. Beyond listening for the right tone, use Grammarly’s tone detector to ensure that your essay introduction—as well as the rest of your essay—maintains the right tone for the subject you’re covering.   

When you’re stuck, work backwards

Starting an essay can be difficult. If you find yourself so caught up on how to write an essay introduction that you’re staring at a blank screen as the clock ticks closer to your deadline, skip the introduction and move onto your essay’s body paragraphs . Once you have some text on the page, it can be easier to go back and write an introduction that leads into that content. 

You may even want to start from the very end of your essay. If you know where your essay is going, but not necessarily how it will get there, write your conclusion first. Then, write the paragraph that comes right before your conclusion. Next, write the paragraph before that, working your way backwards until you’re in your introduction paragraph. By then, writing an effective essay introduction should be easy because you already have the content you need to introduce. 

Polish your essays until they shine

Got a draft of a great essay? Awesome! But don’t hit “submit” just yet—you’re only halfway to the finish line. Make sure you’re always submitting your best work by using Grammarly to catch misspelled words, grammar mistakes, and places where you can swap in different words to improve your writing’s clarity. 

how to start you essay

8 Ways to Start an Essay (with examples)

8 Ways to Start an Essay (with examples)

This is one of my most popular posts, and for good reason.

Writing a strong essay opening is important.

It’s the first impression you make on your professor and that impression will carry over into their grading decision.

What’s more, the opening of your essay sets the tone for your entire structure.

I like to think of your introductory paragraph as a map for the rest of your project.

Some of the best advice I give my first year composition students is to focus on creating a strong opening.

You’re more likely to get an a on your essay if you write a strong introduction..

Frustratingly, writing an essay introduction can often be the hardest part. That’s why this post exists.

Stumped on how to write the start to your academic essay for a college class?

This list will help you write the opening sentence to a class essay faster, with an added professionalism that normally takes years of essay writing to master!

I’ve included the most most common styles as well as some more creative models for writing a compelling essay hook.

Bookmark this post so you can refer back to it whenever you need to write a class paper to get inspiration for writing your introduction!

Every opening sentence in an essay introduces the topic .

The opening to an essay is different from your essay’s thesis (if you’re looking for a way to write a complex thesis for your essay, this is the post for you ).

Some essays start with creative hooks, while some get straight to the point. This a stylistic choice that should match the subject matter you’re exploring.

If you’re writing about the climate crisis, for example, you may want to opt for a hook that highlights the magnitude of the situation.

If you’re writing about children’s nutrition and the impact of commercials on their behavior or beliefs, you may choose to open with an attention-grabbing statistic.

If you’re writing an essay for a clinical psychology class, you may choose to not write a hook but just lead-in with a classic introduction to your topic.

As a college writing instructor, I value essays that start with hooks that capture my attention.

What is an essay hook and why do you want to write one?

The essay hook is meant to both introduce your topic and get your reader interested in what you have to say.

Which means you need to explain the value in what you’re writing about.

One of the biggest mistakes I see in student writing is when students don’t explain why their essay topic is significant.

A hook lets you impart the significance without having to lengthily explain why your topic matters.

As you read through this list, notice how the writers are presenting the topic to stimulate interest in the topic.

I ntroduce your topic

This is the most common way to start an essay.

Simply introduce your topic and why it matters.

As an option, you can also include some of your essay’s sub-points or examples you’ll be using.

It’s an introduction to your essay topic, not a thesis statement , so no need to go too heavy on your argument.

Mention the core topic your essay will discuss and (optional) the essay’s focus as well .

“Reading is inevitably a complex, comparative process.” - Edward W. Said

“Teaching, more even than most other professions, has been transformed during the last hundred years from a small, highly skilled profession concerned with a minority of the population, to a large and important branch of the public service.” - Bertrand Russell

“Aristotelian courage involves two distinct feelings, fear and confidence.” - David Pears

“In White Teeth, Zadie Smith demonstrates the problems of living in a post-modern world, as her characters constantly collide with each other in the pursuit of meaning and truth.” - Tracey Lorraine Walters

“Issues relating to land and land rights of the dispossessed tribes in India have become environmental, social, cultural, and political issues today.” - R. Sreelatha 

“Lesbian scholarship has not had much use for psychoanalysis.” - Teresa de Laurentis

“In Sherman Alexie’s short story, “The Trial of Thomas-Builds-the-Fire,” Thomas breaks a vow of silence he took twenty years earlier.” - Jeff Berglund

Related Post : The exact strategy I use to write an A+ essay in a day

Start your essay with a quote

Quotes are a fun way to start because they take some of the pressure off you as a writer.

Let someone else do the hard part of hooking your reader’s attention!

Quotes have a narrative element that will lend your essay an engaging, creative opening.

Make sure the quote you choose is relevant to your topic and argument.

“‘Our problem is that we don’t learn our history!’ One often hears that said in the black community.” - John McWhorter 

“‘Doctor, does not the cleaning of the teeth by dental instruments ruin them?’ ...Questions such as these are constantly asked the practicing dentist.” - Victor Charles Bell

Set up a mystery

The human brain hungers for curiosity to be satisfied.

When you write an opening sentence that includes a mystery that’s asking to be solved, your reader will want to close the curiosity loop.

This is a slightly more advanced way to start your essay, but take guidance from these authors as they show you how to add a little mystery to your hook.

“In an inventory of American ideas, the thematic of the “tragic mulatto/a” seems to disappear at the end of the nineteenth century.” - Hortense J. Spillers 

“We are in the midst of the planet’s sixth great extinction, in a time when we are seeing the direct effects of radical global climate change via more frequent and ferocious storms, hotter and drier years accompanied by more devastating wildfires, snow where there didn’t used to be snow, and less snow where permafrost used to be a given.” - Camille T. Dungy

“In the midst of the 1950s recasting of femininity, the image of the madwoman took a startling new form in American popular culture: the female multiple personality.” - Marta Caminero-Santangelo

Related Post : How to Outline Your Essay (So Your Essay Writes Itself)

Tell a story

Even beginning essay writers can add a little flair to their paper by treating the opening as if it were a story.

I tell my writing students to pretend they’re a film director setting the stage. What elements does your viewer need to see in order to understand what’s about to happen?

Consider playing around with different elements like time, place, characters, conflict, a recurring keyword/image/theme, or mysterious objects can all be a part of the “opening scene.”

“In July 1861, as his army consolidated its hold on northwestern Virginia, Union Gen. George B. McClellan assured Confederate leaders of his hope for a limited war.” - Kenneth W. Noe

“Colorado’s mountains can be treacherous in the winter, and in December 1961 a bus crashed on an icy road in the middle of the night.” - Carole McGranahan

Begin your essay with “ I ”

 In high school I remember be taught never to include “I” in my essays, as if they were being written by some formless being. In college my professors were more permissible.

In some cases, we were even encouraged to use the “I” in our essays, to claim ownership over our ideas and experiences.

This signals a move away from the beginner essayist.

I believe you should be held responsible for what you write , and distancing yourself by removing the “I” from your essays isn’t a way to create strong arguments, nor does it add value to your scholarship.

Nearly all published authors will refer to themselves in an essay, so I encourage you to where it’s appropriate!

Some classes and essay types still discourage including yourself in them. When in doubt - as your professor if it’s acceptable!

“I’m going to start this discussion of forms and influences by returning to some early influences for a couple of reasons.” - Lydia Davis

“My title is a bilingual acrostic of the name of our author.” - Douglas Hofstadter (an essay about language)

“I have never yet known, or indeed known of, a contemporary American writer who did not admire The Great Gatsby .” - George Garrett

“In this essay I examine the location of rural dwellers in the political economies of the post-independence states of Africa.” - Robert Bates

Open your essay with a question

Questions are nice essay introductions because they ask the reader to think about your topic.

Engaging your reader is the goal of your opening essay paragraph: if they are not engaged right out of the gate, the rest of your essay, no matter how well-written will feel boring.

Spending more time writing your introduction is smart, and leading with a question can help you immediately snap up your readers attention.

They will want to see how you answer the questions (close the curiosity loop) and will be more compelled to keep reading with interest.

“Is there violent protest music music in the United States today that leads to social activism?” - Cameron White and Trenia Walker

“The ‘big picture’ question that this paper takes only a small step towards answering is: ‘How important is income as a factor in promoting the preservation of biodiversity?” - David Martin

Related: Get the Free Straight A’s in 10 Days Email Course

Stamp of authority

Worried about writing a powerful opening for your essay?

Let someone more experienced than you do the talking!

Calling on an authoritative figure to open your essay is a perfect way to set up your topic and removes the pressure from you needing to sound “smart.”

This is a very common and easy way to write the hook for your paper – especially for science classes, philosophy, and psychology.

“According to Emile Bréhier, the distinguished philosopher and historian of philosophy, the major task faced by French thinkers of the early twentieth century was to re-situate man in what he aptly describes as the ‘circuit of reality.’” - Edward W. Said 

“Psychologists speak of movement responses to the Rorschach inkblot cards.” - Rudolf Arnheim

Short Startling Statement

Introducing your essay topic with a short, startling statement can be extremely powerful.

This is a more creative essay opening that requires some skill.

Sometimes the shorter sentences are the hardest to write well!

“No one has perhaps ever felt passionately towards a lead pencil.” - Virginia Wolf

“A single line is a naked thing.” - Robert Hass 

“Lists can be tyrannical.” - Sasha Su-Ling Welland

Start your essay with a “contrary to” or “fill the gap” sentence

Like introducing the topic in the opening sentence of an essay, setting yourself up to contradict a common belief is another common way to begin your paper.

It allows you to position yourself against other critics and can add a lot of clout to your argument if used well.

You can find countless examples of this set up in essays online; do some research and see how authors use contradiction and fill in the gap techniques to write strong essay openings.

Then, try using this technique in your next paper!

“Sherman Alexie’s novel Indian Killer (1996) has been described as a detective novel and a suspense thriller; however, these classifications are too simplistic.” - Jan Roush

“While much effort has gone into attempts to date the Edda poems from their language and vocabulary, and there have been considerable arguments as to their age and place of origin, rather less attention to the nature of their subject matter and the particular methods of presentation.” - H.R. Ellis Davidson

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Have another favorite way to open an essay? Let me know in the comments!

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The Beginner's Guide to Writing an Essay | Steps & Examples

An academic essay is a focused piece of writing that develops an idea or argument using evidence, analysis, and interpretation.

There are many types of essays you might write as a student. The content and length of an essay depends on your level, subject of study, and course requirements. However, most essays at university level are argumentative — they aim to persuade the reader of a particular position or perspective on a topic.

The essay writing process consists of three main stages:

Table of contents

Essay writing process, preparation for writing an essay, writing the introduction, writing the main body, writing the conclusion, essay checklist, lecture slides, frequently asked questions about writing an essay.

The writing process of preparation, writing, and revisions applies to every essay or paper, but the time and effort spent on each stage depends on the type of essay .

For example, if you’ve been assigned a five-paragraph expository essay for a high school class, you’ll probably spend the most time on the writing stage; for a college-level argumentative essay , on the other hand, you’ll need to spend more time researching your topic and developing an original argument before you start writing.

Before you start writing, you should make sure you have a clear idea of what you want to say and how you’re going to say it. There are a few key steps you can follow to make sure you’re prepared:

Once you’ve got a clear idea of what you want to discuss, in what order, and what evidence you’ll use, you’re ready to start writing.

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

The introduction sets the tone for your essay. It should grab the reader’s interest and inform them of what to expect. The introduction generally comprises 10–20% of the text.

1. Hook your reader

The first sentence of the introduction should pique your reader’s interest and curiosity. This sentence is sometimes called the hook. It might be an intriguing question, a surprising fact, or a bold statement emphasizing the relevance of the topic.

Let’s say we’re writing an essay about the development of Braille (the raised-dot reading and writing system used by visually impaired people). Our hook can make a strong statement about the topic:

The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability.

2. Provide background on your topic

Next, it’s important to give context that will help your reader understand your argument. This might involve providing background information, giving an overview of important academic work or debates on the topic, and explaining difficult terms. Don’t provide too much detail in the introduction—you can elaborate in the body of your essay.

3. Present the thesis statement

Next, you should formulate your thesis statement— the central argument you’re going to make. The thesis statement provides focus and signals your position on the topic. It is usually one or two sentences long. The thesis statement for our essay on Braille could look like this:

As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness.

4. Map the structure

In longer essays, you can end the introduction by briefly describing what will be covered in each part of the essay. This guides the reader through your structure and gives a preview of how your argument will develop.

The invention of Braille marked a major turning point in the history of disability. The writing system of raised dots used by blind and visually impaired people was developed by Louis Braille in nineteenth-century France. In a society that did not value disabled people in general, blindness was particularly stigmatized, and lack of access to reading and writing was a significant barrier to social participation. The idea of tactile reading was not entirely new, but existing methods based on sighted systems were difficult to learn and use. As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness. This essay begins by discussing the situation of blind people in nineteenth-century Europe. It then describes the invention of Braille and the gradual process of its acceptance within blind education. Subsequently, it explores the wide-ranging effects of this invention on blind people’s social and cultural lives.

Write your essay introduction

The body of your essay is where you make arguments supporting your thesis, provide evidence, and develop your ideas. Its purpose is to present, interpret, and analyze the information and sources you have gathered to support your argument.

Length of the body text

The length of the body depends on the type of essay. On average, the body comprises 60–80% of your essay. For a high school essay, this could be just three paragraphs, but for a graduate school essay of 6,000 words, the body could take up 8–10 pages.

Paragraph structure

To give your essay a clear structure , it is important to organize it into paragraphs . Each paragraph should be centered around one main point or idea.

That idea is introduced in a  topic sentence . The topic sentence should generally lead on from the previous paragraph and introduce the point to be made in this paragraph. Transition words can be used to create clear connections between sentences.

After the topic sentence, present evidence such as data, examples, or quotes from relevant sources. Be sure to interpret and explain the evidence, and show how it helps develop your overall argument.

Lack of access to reading and writing put blind people at a serious disadvantage in nineteenth-century society. Text was one of the primary methods through which people engaged with culture, communicated with others, and accessed information; without a well-developed reading system that did not rely on sight, blind people were excluded from social participation (Weygand, 2009). While disabled people in general suffered from discrimination, blindness was widely viewed as the worst disability, and it was commonly believed that blind people were incapable of pursuing a profession or improving themselves through culture (Weygand, 2009). This demonstrates the importance of reading and writing to social status at the time: without access to text, it was considered impossible to fully participate in society. Blind people were excluded from the sighted world, but also entirely dependent on sighted people for information and education.

See the full essay example

The conclusion is the final paragraph of an essay. It should generally take up no more than 10–15% of the text . A strong essay conclusion :

A great conclusion should finish with a memorable or impactful sentence that leaves the reader with a strong final impression.

What not to include in a conclusion

To make your essay’s conclusion as strong as possible, there are a few things you should avoid. The most common mistakes are:

Braille paved the way for dramatic cultural changes in the way blind people were treated and the opportunities available to them. Louis Braille’s innovation was to reimagine existing reading systems from a blind perspective, and the success of this invention required sighted teachers to adapt to their students’ reality instead of the other way around. In this sense, Braille helped drive broader social changes in the status of blindness. New accessibility tools provide practical advantages to those who need them, but they can also change the perspectives and attitudes of those who do not.

Write your essay conclusion

Checklist: Essay

My essay follows the requirements of the assignment (topic and length ).

My introduction sparks the reader’s interest and provides any necessary background information on the topic.

My introduction contains a thesis statement that states the focus and position of the essay.

I use paragraphs to structure the essay.

I use topic sentences to introduce each paragraph.

Each paragraph has a single focus and a clear connection to the thesis statement.

I make clear transitions between paragraphs and ideas.

My conclusion doesn’t just repeat my points, but draws connections between arguments.

I don’t introduce new arguments or evidence in the conclusion.

I have given an in-text citation for every quote or piece of information I got from another source.

I have included a reference page at the end of my essay, listing full details of all my sources.

My citations and references are correctly formatted according to the required citation style .

My essay has an interesting and informative title.

I have followed all formatting guidelines (e.g. font, page numbers, line spacing).

Your essay meets all the most important requirements. Our editors can give it a final check to help you submit with confidence.

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An essay is a focused piece of writing that explains, argues, describes, or narrates.

In high school, you may have to write many different types of essays to develop your writing skills.

Academic essays at college level are usually argumentative : you develop a clear thesis about your topic and make a case for your position using evidence, analysis and interpretation.

The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.

The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.

Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:

The length of each part depends on the length and complexity of your essay .

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

A topic sentence is a sentence that expresses the main point of a paragraph . Everything else in the paragraph should relate to the topic sentence.

At college level, you must properly cite your sources in all essays , research papers , and other academic texts (except exams and in-class exercises).

Add a citation whenever you quote , paraphrase , or summarize information or ideas from a source. You should also give full source details in a bibliography or reference list at the end of your text.

The exact format of your citations depends on which citation style you are instructed to use. The most common styles are APA , MLA , and Chicago .

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How to Begin an Essay: 13 Engaging Strategies

ThoughtCo / Hugo Lin

An effective introductory paragraph both informs and motivates. It lets readers know what your essay is about and it encourages them to keep reading.

There are countless ways to begin an essay effectively. As a start, here are 13 introductory strategies accompanied by examples from a wide range of professional writers.

State Your Thesis Briefly and Directly

But avoid making your thesis a bald announcement, such as "This essay is about...". 

"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)

Pose a Question Related to Your Subject

Follow up the question with an answer, or an invitation for your readers to answer the question.

"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)

State an Interesting Fact About Your Subject

" 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)

Present Your Thesis as a Recent Discovery or Revelation

"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)

Briefly Describe the Primary Setting of Your Essay

"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 Incident That Dramatizes Your Subject

"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 Strategy of Delay

The narrative strategy of delay allows you to put off identifying your subject just long enough to pique your readers' interest without frustrating them. 

"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)

Use the Historical Present Tense

An effective method of beginning an essay is to use historical present tense to relate an incident from the past as if it were happening now. 

"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)

Briefly Describe a Process That Leads Into Your Subject

"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 or Make a Candid Observation

"I spy on my patients. Ought not a doctor to observe his patients by any means and from any stance, that he might the more fully assemble evidence? So I stand in 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)

Open with a Riddle, Joke, or Humorous Quotation

You can use a riddle , joke, or humorous quotation to reveal something about your subject. 

" 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)

Offer a Contrast Between Past and Present

"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)

Offer a Contrast Between Image and Reality

A compelling essay can begin with a contrast between a common misconception and the opposing truth. 

"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)

how to start you essay

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How To Start a College Essay: 9 Effective Techniques

How To Start a College Essay: 9 Effective Techniques

How do you start a college essay? In this post, we’ll discover ways to start a college essay, with tips and examples for making your college essay beginning stand out.

This post was co-written by me (Ethan) and Luci Jones (Brown University, CO ‘23).

How to start a college essay TABLE OF CONTENTS

The full hemingway, the mini hemingway, the philosophical question, the confession, the trailer thesis, the fascinating concept, the random personal fun fact, the shocking image.

In anything you do, there’s a special, pivotal moment. 

I don’t mean the moment when inspiration strikes or the last brushstroke is painted or the audience oohs and ahs over the final product. The point in time we’re talking about here is the Moment When You Do The Darn Thing (DTDT for short). It’s when you get off the couch, stop binging Netflix , and take action. It’s when you put pencil to paper, fingers to keyboard, or *insert whatever other analogy feels applicable here.* 

For many, getting started is the hardest part of anything. And that’s understandable. First, because it turns whatever you’re doing into a reality, which raises the stakes. Second, because where you start can easily dictate the quality of where you end up.

College essays have their own special brand of DTDT. Knowing how to begin a college essay is daunting. It can be hard to write an engaging, authentic opener. But without an interesting hook, you risk getting lost in a vast sea of applications. To this end, we’ve put together some techniques about how to start a college essay to make your DTDT moment a little smoother and a little less stressful.

I say “probably” because I’m about to share a few overused techniques that I don’t recommend. Having said that, it is possible to pull them off—they’re just really hard to do well.

The Overly Grand Ambiguous Statement: From a distance, it might seem nice to talk about why all of humankind has felt some type of way for as long as history has existed. (Examples: “Many great thinkers have existed in our nation’s history” or “The key to a successful endeavor is perseverance.”) But these kinds of overly generalized or impersonal grand statements get lost easily in the crowd because they don’t tell the reader much about you. And without a connection to you, there’s not much reason for them to continue reading.

Going Meta: As cool as it may seem to demonstrate to your audience that you are aware of how you’re writing your essay in the moment you’re writing it, it’s less cool to college admissions officers who read meta stuff like that all the time. There are other, more subtle ways to demonstrate self-awareness in your intro rather than to open your essay with some variation of, “I stare at the blank screen...” or, worse, “When I was asked to write this personal statement, at first I wasn’t sure how to begin.”  Note that the meta essay can sometimes work (you’ll see a couple examples below), but has a higher degree of difficulty.

The Quote: While quoting famous people who have said something cool in the past may seem like an appealing way to start your essay, remember that colleges want to hear YOUR thoughts. Don’t use the words of another person to stand in for your own opinions or insights. You have cool things to say. It may just take a little while to discover what those things are.

The Too-Obvious Thesis That Spoils the Ending of the Movie (i.e. Your Essay): What if Avengers: Infinity War had opened with a voiceover from the director saying, “This is a film about how Thanos collects all the infinity stones and destroys half the population.” (Aaaaaand this is your too-late spoiler alert. Sorry. But don’t worry, they go back in time and undo it in Endgame . Oh, also spoiler.) That would’ve sucked. That’s what it feels like, though, if you start your essay with something like, “I want to be a veterinarian because I care about animals and the environment.” I read a sentence like that and I go, “Cool, thanks, now I can save myself the three minutes it would’ve taken to read the essay. Thank you, next.” While you may want to have that sentence in mind so you know what you’re trying to get across (this is called a logline), just don’t give away the whole thing. Instead, start your essay with something to pique our interest. How? We’re about to share 9 ways. 

Want to read a few more college essay tips? Check out this huge list from admissions experts. 


An image-based description that focuses on a particular moment and doesn’t explain much—at least not right away. This technique lets dialogue, actions, or details speak for themselves.

(Note that there are many other authors that do this — it’s part of great writing — but my little brother suggested Hemingway and I kinda’ liked the sound of it.)


Every Saturday morning, I’d awaken to the smell of crushed garlic and piquant pepper. I would stumble into the kitchen to find my grandma squatting over a large silver bowl, mixing fat lips of fresh cabbages with garlic, salt, and red pepper.

Why It Works: In this intro, the author paints a very visceral picture of waking up in the morning to the smell of her grandmother’s traditional Korean cooking. Through the careful word choice (“piquant pepper,” “fat lips of fresh cabbages,” etc.), we get a sense that something important is happening, even if we don’t know what it is yet. But this one can be difficult to pull off if you don’t help the reader understand why you’ve described what you’ve described. Read the rest of the essay here .

Which brings us to...

An image-based description, perhaps 1-3 sentences in length, that focuses on a particular moment and then follows up with a sentence that explains, comments on, or somehow provides context for what is being described.

Take a look at how this can happen by just adding one sentence to the example above (see bolded line below):

Every Saturday morning, I’d awaken to the smell of crushed garlic and piquant pepper. I would stumble into the kitchen to find my grandma squatting over a large silver bowl, mixing fat lips of fresh cabbages with garlic, salt, and red pepper. That was how the delectable Korean dish, kimchi, was born every weekend at my home.  

Why it Works: This single sentence hints at some of the author’s core values—culture, ritual, family—without giving too much away about where the essay is headed. Like any good intro, this one creates more questions that answers. (Read the rest of the essay here .)

Another example:

They covered the precious mahogany coffin with a brown amalgam of rocks, decomposed organisms, and weeds. It was my turn to take the shovel, but I felt too ashamed to dutifully send her off when I had not properly said goodbye. I refused to throw dirt on her. I refused to let go of my grandmother, to accept a death I had not seen coming, to believe that an illness could not only interrupt, but steal a beloved life.

Why It Works: The author drops us right into the middle of something we know nothing about, yet it invites us to care. How? The specifics. The details she notices and the resistance she’s feeling help to put us in her shoes. This means we don’t just feel sympathy, we feel empathy . And that empathetic connection heightens the stakes for us by raising questions: How did her grandmother die? Why can’t the author let her go? Why is she angry? (Spoiler: It turns out she’s more angry at herself than anyone else. Read the rest of the essay here .)

The author begins with information that creates certain expectations about them before taking us in a surprising direction. 

Growing up, my world was basketball. My summers were spent between the two solid black lines. My skin was consistently tan in splotches and ridden with random scratches. My wardrobe consisted mainly of track shorts, Nike shoes, and tournament t-shirts. Gatorade and Fun Dip were my pre-game snacks. The cacophony of rowdy crowds, ref whistles, squeaky shoes, and scoreboard buzzers was a familiar sound. I was the team captain of almost every team I played on—familiar with the Xs and Os of plays, commander of the court, and the coach’s right hand girl. But that was only me on the surface. Deep down I was an East-Asian influenced bibliophile and a Young Adult fiction writer.

Why It Works: We’re introduced to the author as a basketball superstar, the queen of the court, a sports fanatic—and at this point the reader may even be making assumptions about this author’s identity based on her initial description of herself. However, in one sentence, the writer takes us in a completely unexpected direction. This plays with audience expectations and demonstrates that she has a good degree of self awareness about the layers of her identity. After having our expectations thrown for a loop, we can’t help but wonder more about who exactly this person is (and if you want to know like I did, read the rest of this essay here ).

Another example: 

I am on Oxford Academy’s Speech and Debate Team, in both the Parliamentary Debate division and the Lincoln-Douglass debate division. I write screenplays, short stories, and opinionated blogs and am a regular contributor to my school literary magazine, The Gluestick. I have accumulated over 300 community service hours that includes work at homeless shelters, libraries, and special education youth camps. I have been evaluated by the College Board and have placed within the top percentile. But I am not any of these things. I am not a test score, nor a debater, nor a writer. I am an anti-nihilist punk rock philosopher. And I became so when I realized three things:

Why It Works: He basically tears up his (impressive) resume in the first few sentences and says, “That’s not me! Here’s the real me…” and as a result we wonder, “How does one become an anti-nihilist punk rock philosopher? And what are the three things??” (Read the rest here .)

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Ask a question that you won’t (and probably can’t) answer in your essay. This gives you a chance to show how your brilliant brain works, plus keeps us hooked as you explore possible answers/solutions. 

Does every life matter? Because it seems like certain lives matter more than others, especially when it comes to money.

Why it Works: It raises a complex, interesting question and poses a controversial idea: that we treat some lives as though they matter more than others. We wonder: “Is that true? Could it be? Say more…” Heads-up: This one can veer into the “Overly Grand Ambiguous Statement” opening if you’re not careful. Click here to read the rest of the essay mentioned above, which by the way took him a long time to refine—as this approach is not easy to pull off.

Begin by admitting something you might be judged (or judge yourself) for. 


I have been pooped on many times. I mean this in the most literal sense possible. I have been pooped on by pigeons and possums, house finches and hawks, egrets and eastern grays. (Read the rest here .)

Why it Works: Shows vulnerability, but also in many cases intrigues us to learn more. 

Here is a secret that no one in my family knows: I shot my brother when I was six. Luckily, it was a BB gun. But to this day, my older brother Jonathan does not know who shot him. And I have finally promised myself to confess this eleven year old secret to him after I write this essay.

Why It Works: This is a super vulnerable to admit and raises all sorts of questions for us: Why did he shoot his brother? Why hasn’t he confessed it to him? What will his brother say once he tells him? (Fun fact: This essay actually breaks the “don’t start with a quote” rule. Here’s the rest if you wanna’ read it.)

A contextualizing 1-2-sentences (often at the end of the first paragraph) to ground the essay by giving us a sneak peek at what’s to come in the essay—but that do NOT give away the ending.

Example (I’ve marked it in bold below at the end of the first paragraph): 

Six years ago, a scrawny twelve year old kid took his first steps into Home Depot: the epitome of manliness. As he marched through the wood section, his eyes scrolled past the options. Red Oak? No, too ubiquitous. Pine? No, too banal. Mahogany? Perfect, it would nicely complement his walls. As days went on, the final product was almost ready. 91 degree angles had been perfected to 90. Drawer slides had been lubricated ten times over. Finally, the masterpiece was finished, and the little boy couldn’t help but smile. A scrawny 12-year-old kid had become a scrawny 12-year-old man. This desk I sit at has not only seen me through the last six years, but its story and the story of the objects I keep on it provide a foundation for my future pursuits.

Why It Works: As we read the first few sentences of this paragraph we might wonder, “Where is this going?” But this sentence sets us at ease and—again, without giving too much away—gives us a sense of what’s to come. We know that we’re going to learn about the author and his future through the objects on his desk. Great! It also signals to the reader “Don’t worry, you’re in good hands. I’m still aware of the task at hand.” 

Begin with a concept that’s unusual, paradoxical, and/or marked a turning point in your thinking. This is often followed up with context explaining where the concept came from and why the author is considering it. 

Crayfish can turn their red blood cells into precursor neuronal cells, I read in shock. The scientific paper, published in Cell 2014, outlined the process where crayfish could regenerate lost eyestalks or olfactory (smell and odor) nerves with their blood – they could see and smell again! It seemed unfair from an evolutionary standpoint. Humans, who were so much larger than a 7-ounce crayfish, couldn’t use their abundant blood to fix their brain damage.

Why It Works: This opening signals to the reader that the author is: a) someone who has read quite a bit, b) curious, and c) knows, as I like to say, “some stuff about some stuff.” In this case, she knows some science stuff.

Do you know some stuff about some stuff? If so, a little geeky language can help signal this to the reader. Don’t overdo it, though, or it can seem showy.

FYI: I see this more often at the start of great essays than personal statements, as this can often lead to an essay that’s more heady/intellectual and less vulnerable/personal. A variation on this that’s a bit more personal is the...

Begin with a strange fact about yourself to grab our attention. Then go on to say why it’s meaningful. Example: 

I subscribe to what the New York Times dubs “the most welcomed piece of daily e-mail in cyberspace.” Cat pictures? Kardashian updates? Nope: A Word A Day.

(Read the rest here .)

Why It Works: It pulls us in by making us think, “Oh, that’s cool!” and then wondering, “Okay, where is this going?”

Grab our attention with an incredibly specific and arresting image or sentence. Then tell us why it matters.

Smeared blood, shredded feathers. Clearly, the bird was dead. But wait, the slight fluctuation of its chest, the slow blinking of its shiny black eyes. No, it was alive.

Why It Works: This style subtly highlights the writing talent of the author without drawing attention away from the content of the story. In this example, the staccatoed sentence fragments convey a sense of halting anxiety and also mimic the movement of the bird’s chest as it struggles to breathe. All sorts of questions come up: What happened to the bird? What will the author do? (Read the rest of the essay here .)

February 2011– My brothers and I were showing off our soccer dribbling skills in my grandfather’s yard when we heard gunshots and screaming in the distance. We paused and listened, confused by sounds we had only ever heard on the news or in movies. My mother rushed out of the house and ordered us inside. The Arab Spring had come to Bahrain.  

(Read the rest of the essay here .)

Bowing down to the porcelain god, I emptied the contents of my stomach. Foaming at the mouth, I was ready to pass out. My body couldn’t stop shaking as I gasped for air, and the room started spinning. (Read the rest of the essay here .)

There are, of course, many more kinds of openings—and I’ll add to this post as I discover new ones. 

We get it, writing a standout introduction is easier said than done. Hopefully though, after seeing some examples of dynamic and thoughtful intros that used our techniques, you’re inspired to brainstorm some of your own . You’ve got this. DTDT has never looked so good.

Have a great college essay opening or a new type of opening you’d like to suggest? Share it in the comments below!

This post was co-written by me (Ethan) and Luci Jones (Brown University, CO ‘23).  Luci took my How to Write a Personal Statement course last year. The essay that she produced was so good and her writing was so beautiful, I’ve asked her to help me co-write this blog post with me, create a few techniques for writing a great introduction, and analyze why they work so well.




Watch the lessons on your own or via the live option. 

how to start you essay

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How to Start a College Essay Like a Boss

Here’s how to start an essay:.

In this article, we’re going to tell you how to start a college essay.

Indeed, it’s the most challenging part of essay writing for many students. They doubt everything here: how many sentences to write, what to include in the very first sentence, how to mention a thesis, what essay hook to choose, etc.

It’s time to clear up this matter once and forever.

Ready? Let’s get it started!

Table of Contents:

What is an Essay Introduction?

Here’s the mistake of most students: When searching for the information on how to start a college essay, they suppose a thesis statement writing. Many overlook a helpful tool that makes essay writing easier, such as an essay maker .

Do not confuse an essay introduction with a thesis. A thesis is a part of the introductory paragraph, and it closes rather than substitutes it.

In other words, you inform readers about what they’ll see in your essay and motivate them to keep on reading to learn more about the topic and the problem you’re addressing.

Why You Need to Know How to Start a College Essay

Students write tons of essays in college, and most of their A-worthy works fail because of poor introductions. The introductory paragraph is the first thing a professor evaluates, so a mistake in the very beginning can cost you a high grade. (Even if the rest of your essay is fantastic!)

An introduction demonstrates how well you understand a topic. It shows your critical thinking skills, your ability to separate main points and emphasize on specific issues, and your writing skills. Reading your essay introduction, a teacher sees if you can logically express your thoughts.

More than that:

Once written, your essay introduction simplifies further work for you. 

Look: You’ve figured out the core issue, expressed it in a clear and brief thesis statement, overviewed the points you’ll cover – so, the following paragraphs of your paper are much easier to write now, agree?


The purpose of an introductory paragraph of your essay is to give a clear idea of what you’ll cover, provide some context (background info) on the problem you’ll address, and state your thesis (position, contention, main argument).

Yeah, we know it sounds too challenging, and that’s why some of you ask our writers for  help with essays . But believe us, it’s not that difficult as it seems. All you need to remember is what to include in the introductory paragraph.

And here it goes!

The Structure of the Essay Introduction

As a rule, an introductory paragraph of your essay should have three elements: a general opening statement (a hook) to engage readers, a  thesis statement  (your position, response to the problem), and a brief  outline  of the arguments you’ll use.


With that in mind,  here’s how to start an essay:

1. Write a Catchy Hook

It’s the first one or two sentences to grab a reader’s attention and provide them with some context on your topic. It sets the tone of your whole essay, so don’t hurry up and spend some time writing it.

Think of a statement that would give some background information to your topic so readers would understand what’s the problem and why it’s worth their attention. Stay brief and relevant yet intriguing: Your hook should make the audience want to keep on reading.

2. State Your Position

It’s a thesis statement of your essay — a sentence or two summarizing your focus and overall argument.

This part of an essay introduction is the most important one as it explains to the reader which aspect of the topic you’ll address and how you will answer to the problem.

In other words, establish your position and purpose of the essay.

3. Outline the Main Points of Your Essay

Provide a short overview of how you’ll approach the essay and what arguments you are going to use. It will show readers what to expect to see in your work.

And, next time when you think about how to write an introduction, feel free to use this template from Bid4Papers:


How NOT to Start a College Essay

The first impression is most lasting, and that is why the beginning of your essay should be compelling. Sure, you’ll say a final word in the  essay conclusion , but your hook and thesis need to be strong enough for the audience to read your work till the end.

Here we’ll cover the writing techniques to avoid in essay introductions. They aren’t that awful but overused. Most of them have become so cliched that they make teachers roll the eyes heavenward.

So, try not to start a college essay with:

A quote.  As we mentioned in  the article on essay hooks , quotes aren’t bad themselves. The problem is that students use them so often, choosing too obvious or irrelevant sayings to start essays, that teachers stop taking it seriously. They want to hear YOUR thoughts.

But, if you still want to use a quote from famous people in your essay introduction, find a rare, witty, and relevant one. Don’t copy-paste the first available from quotations websites.

A definition.  Opening your essay with a description from online dictionaries, you’ll make readers yawn. No one needs introductions such as “ Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘truth’ as…;”  most of us have Internet access after all.

But, if you still want to use a definition in the introduction, think of rephrasing it so it would sound bold, outrageous, or exaggerated. It will help to hook readers.

A too-obvious thesis.  Avoid spoilers in your essay introduction. Who needs reading a 2,000-word paper if you reveal everything in its first paragraph? Leave explanations and details for your essay body to  make it sound persuasive .

Essay Introduction Examples

Okay, it’s all good and well, but what about the real-life examples instead of a theoretical blah-blah-blah, huh?

First, let’s recap the introductory paragraph.  (Here we’d like to thank  Laura Randazzo , an experienced English teacher who shared the below template in her YouTube blog.)


Second, keep watching  her video  to find the essay introduction sample from her students with explanations. That’s the sample itself:


Third, check the example from  the University of Newcastle  experts. They took the assignment, such as  “Discuss how media can influence children. Use specific examples to support your view,”  and that’s what they have:


Frankly speaking, we disagree a bit with the type of hook they used: It’s a too general statement, not intriguing enough for a reader to become curious about the details. Also, this essay introduction could be shorter: Its outline part reveals the details about the arguments a student will use in the essay body. We would also avoid passive voice in this introduction.

But despite tiny nuances, this introduction is an excellent example to get the idea of how to start an essay.

And finally, what about the essay introduction example from the  University of Leicester ? They address the topic, “ What is the importance of imitation in early child development?”


FAQ oh How to Write an Essay Introduction

Our writers  get tons of questions from students on essay introduction writing. We’ve taken the top five most frequently asked, and here go the answers:

An introductory paragraph of your essay needs to have the following elements: a hook, a thesis, and a summary of what you’re going to discuss. Be concise, keep your summary brief (no more than three sentences), and make sure your thesis is clear and including the subject of the essay and your opinion on the topic.

The first sentence of your essay introduction is a hook. It’s a so-called attention grabber, allowing you to get readers interested in your essay topic. Types of essay hooks are many, but the most popular ones include a famous quote (relevant and rare; avoid too distinct variants which are overused and boring), a metaphor, and some interesting fact or shocking statement.

An average length of your introductory paragraph is five sentences: one for a hook, two or three for a summary (overview), and one for a thesis statement.

As well as any other essay introduction, the one for a research paper should include a context (introduce your topic and tell about the research you are going to cover) and a thesis (state your hypothesis and rationale). Also, add a sentence about why this research is essential.

Here goes the structure of a research paper introduction from Wordvice:


In personal essays, your main goal in introductions is to hook readers and get them interested in your story. That is why focus on a killer first sentence. Ethan Sawyer,  aka  College Essay Guy, shares  nine creative techniques  on how to start a college essay, and you might want to consider some of them. For example, start a personal essay with a strange fact about yourself, a confession, a philosophical question, or a shocking image.

Your Checklist on How to Start a College Essay

So, let’s make this long story short. Here goes your step-by-step checklist on writing essay introductions :

And now, over to you:

Are there any tips or practical tricks you have on how to start a college essay? Share with your peers in the comments! And remember – you can always use a pro essay maker to get a good example 😉

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Thank you! The beginning is really important as it determines whether your essay will be read further. How about starting your essay with an intriguing question and then answering it? I think it’s quite an interesting trick that will be appropriate in some works.

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How To Start An Essay: Top Foolproof Techniques!

by Kerri-Anne Edinburgh | Jul 29, 2022

Often the most difficult stage of essay writing is just getting started . You’ve got a blank page, perhaps a jumble of notes, maybe even an outline. But … inspiration isn’t striking, and the words aren’t flowing.

So how can you be systematic about starting an essay?

Whether you’re struggling to start writing at all, or just can’t figure out that all-important introduction (the start ) of your essay – don’t panic! We’ve got a fool-proof technique to get you writing AND seven strategies for kicking off your intro with style.

Your essay will be complete in no time at all!

how to start you essay

Some tips on essay writing

There’s nothing quite like writing an essay. They demand structure, evidence, analyses, and ordered paragraphs . You’ve usually got to know what you want to say before you start writing.

It’s a unique process, sure. But it’s one you can learn the rhythms of, and soon be churning out top notch essays for your school or college in no time!

So before you start writing your essay, make sure you’re prepared and have:

There are several types of essays, and each comes with its own challenges, expected structures and language. Knowing what is required of you is pretty important!

But whether you’re writing an analytical, argumentative, interpretive, creative, persuasive or expository essay – we’ve got plenty of advice for you below.

If you want to learn more about how to structure an essay effectively , check out our article full of tips and tricks!

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How to get started with writing an essay in 5 easy steps

We probably all know the Sound of Music song that goes “ let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start … ”.

But when it comes to essays, that’s frankly terrible advice.

If you’re struggling to start your essay and don’t know what to write, the introduction is not what you should worry about first!

The intro of your essay should contain and set out the main thesis of your essay. So it’s often best to write it last once all your points are in place. Otherwise, you’ll risk having an unclear argument and confusing your reader.

Yep, that’s right! You should start your essay in the middle and leave the start of your essay until the end . Trust me, it sounds silly, but it will make your life much easier !

A foolproof technique to get writing:

So, if you’ve got blank page terror, what you really need to do is take a deep breath . And then follow this simple five-step technique and get those words flowing!

Why does this technique work so well?

When you start an essay, your thoughts are probably still pretty muddled. So, working through your them as you write can be a great way to develop your argument and spot connections. Your outline, structure, signposting and paragraphing can be polished much more easily after your first draft !

Tip : If you know where your essay is headed ( the conclusion you want to make ) but not how you’re heading there, why not start right at the end with the conclusion, then develop some points for the body of your essay as your ideas develop?

How to start an essay: the introduction

Every essay should begin with a killer introduction that sets up your topic clearly for the reader and explains why it’s significant.

The introduction is often the hardest section of an essay to write. So take it slow, and ensure that you start out your essay strong !

What’s in an introduction?

So how do you actually set up your topic for your reader? What do you need to include?

There’s not an exact formula that covers every type of essay, but the essentials are the same:

Keep it concise and relevant – an introduction doesn’t need to be long!

Start your essay with a strong first sentence

To get top marks and really engage your audience, it’s important to really capture their attention from the first sentence . Make them care about your topic and the argument you’re making.

How, you ask?

There are several different techniques and rhetorical devices for starting an essay. Not every technique will work with every type of essay – so pick carefully!

Every first sentence ( your “hook” ) should be concise and catchy, and interestingly written to spark your reader’s curiosity. Don’t be dry, and definitely avoid dictionary definitions!

It’s all about getting the right tone . Your intro should match the tone and style of your essay – and especially that first sentence! (Hint: it’s best to avoid humour if you’re exploring a serious topic.)

Let’s explore the seven top strategies for how to start an essay introduction (with examples!):

7 techniques to help you start an essay

1.      Start your essay by stating your thesis directly

And sometimes the best way to start an essay is to simply set out your thesis, very clearly, right from the start. Be simple and direct.

This technique is great for the type of analytical essays you might write in school. It packs a no-nonsense punch that sets the tone for a concise, well-crafted essay:

This essay will explore the complex socio-political factors that contributed to the decline of the Roman Empire between the reign of Constantine (312-337AD) and the fall of Rome in 476AD.

2.      Start with an interesting fact

Shock or amuse your reader with an unexpected fact to immediately hook their attention from the first sentence.

This can work great for expository and persuasive essays, by piquing interest in the data or opinions you’ll be exploring. You can include a significant statistic, or pick a niche detail, but avoid broad claims .

But remember – it must be relevant to your topic ! Don’t shoehorn a random fact it – you’ll just confuse your reader.

Here’s an example:

If we unravelled the entire DNA of a single human, it would stretch 10 billion miles: long enough to reach Pluto and travel back again.

3.      Begin with a powerful quote

Borrow a little wisdom from an expert in your field or an influential writer!

This is a great technique for any type of essay and can make for a powerful introduction when done well. It adds a stamp of authority to the argument you’re going to make, and it’s an easy method to choose.

But remember – as with interesting facts, the quote you pick must be relevant to your topic and argument ! It’s got to add something useful to what you’re saying or provide a springboard for your main exploration.

For instance:

In her seminal novel Frankenstein , Mary Shelley wrote, “nothing is so painful to the human mind as great and sudden change”.

4.      Start by suggesting the common interpretation

If you’re writing an analytical or interpretive essay ( think literary analyses ), this can be a great technique for a subtle start.

Opening your essay by alluding to the mainstream interpretation sets the stage for you to develop your critique or novel perspective.

If you want to be more direct, adding a “ contrary to popular opinion ” statement, or simple “ however ” immediately points your reader in the direction of your argument.

For example:

Shakespeare’s popular tragedy Romeo and Juliet has classically been interpreted as an exploration of love and loyalty.

5.      Open your essay by asking a question

This is a technique common to lots of writing (like blog posts!). It’s effective because directly addressing your reader it helps them to relate to your topic and feel invested in your answers.

It’s an engaging way to start a persuasive essay and get your reader to reflect on your argument and pick a side.

With such a vast and growing market for video games over the past decade, and despite evidence to the contrary, why does the myth that video games cause violence persist in popularity?

6.      Set up a mystery to be solved

A great way to pique your reader’s curiosity is by starting your essay with a mystery ( that you’re hopefully going to solve ). This is a great technique for interpretive and creative essays, although it can be tricky to get right.

It works well if your topic deals with change – has something disappeared? Have (popular) opinions altered over time?

An inventory of common phrases of the past reveals a wealth of strange gobbledegook that slowly vanished from conversational use without the public’s notice.

7.      Get started by setting up the scene and stakes

Here’s a technique that works best for creative essays ( think personal statements) .

Set the scene and tell a story with a little drama. Invite your reader to stand in your shoes (or those of your central character) in a situation directly relevant to your topic .

It’s a technique that works best if there are significant stakes or conflict in the situation. Think of it a little like the technique above (asking a question that places the reader into your topic) – but with more drama and creativity!

You’re trying to show them why this topic, and your argument , matters! Show them that your essay is not just about data and facts, but real people and situations.

On the 23rd July 1944, a dedicated audience of music-lovers listened with rapt attention to the uninterrupted beauty of Schumann’s Carnaval, whilst V2 bombs fell close enough nearby to make the doors of the Lyric Theatre rattle.  

Let’s get started on that essay!

Now you’re all set to get both your essay and your introduction started with ease, it’s time to get writing!

But don’t forget to check off all the steps in the essay-writing checklist before you submit it – you might miss out on easy marks if you don’t! Luckily, we’ve got plenty of helpful writing guides to help you polish your essay at every stage. You can learn:

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How to Start an Essay

Essay introduction is the most important part, a determinant for readers of whether they are going to read it till the end. That is why every student should know how to start an essay. There is no universal introduction template but many teachers and scholars suggest open an essay with a hook followed by background info that concerns the main idea to bring readers up-to-date. Then mention why topic under discussion is so crucial and finish with an arguable thesis statement.

Begin with Understanding of Essay Basics

If you’ve spent any amount of time around anyone over the age of forty, you’ve likely heard the phrase ‘there is more than one way to skin a cat’, meaning that there are many ways to achieve a certain goal. Same ideology may be applied to writing an essay. In fact, there are over a dozen different types of essays, most of which can be grouped into these major categories:

Just as there are multiple essay kinds, there are also multiple ways and steps to complete an essay. Hamburger essay structure is used very often. Depicted in hamburger format, concluding paragraph is simply a reiteration of introductory statement. The most pertinent information is placed in body section. Think of introduction and conclusion as of hamburger buns and meat of the burger represents crucial facts and statements found in body paragraphs.

Good Ways to Start an Essay

Prior to starting an essay, it’s necessary to create an outline as a roadmap of what you’ll write about. It helps not only stay on topic and organize thoughts but also ensure that they are touching on all of key elements and follow the right intent in delivering their message.

Here is an example of an essay outline:

As soon as you grab an idea of it, you may continue reading about how to begin an essay.

Develop Your Essay Right

Now that you’ve determined your topic and key points, it’s high time to create your essay. It might surprise that when it comes to essays and other academic papers, it may actually be a benefit – writing body before starting with an introduction. Why so? It allows developing a better grasp of content, supporting facts, create an introduction that strengthens argument and peaks readers’ interest, drawing them to the body of paper. Also, consider starting an essay way before your deadline so that there is more time for composing and revising everything. If you are not sure that you’ll cope on time or whether completed outline is correct, just ask a professional for help. There exists a professional college essay writing service that is always ready to assist students.

Essay Introduction With Ease

Purpose of an introduction is to grab readers’ attention and lays groundwork for an upcoming argument. A solid introduction should be viewed as a first impression that is significant. Consider an introduction that is riddled with misspelled words or that is a jumbled mess of disorganized information – no one would like to read it. Objective of introductory paragraph is not only to engage audience but also present viewpoint or argument on discussion topic. Here is the best way to structure an introduction:

Final sentence should help guide readers into the first body part. Most introductory paragraphs should be no longer than three or four sentences. Here you can find a guide on how to write research paper , follow requirements to achieve better results.

Introduction Writing Strategies You Should Know

There are several ways of how to start off an essay and complete an introduction. All of them are different and it’s up to you which strategy to choose and successfully implement in your text. You may try each of them and then select that very one that works the best for you and your writing style.

How to Start the Body Paragraphs

As mentioned earlier, essay’s body serves as ‘meat’ of burger and exists for clarification and support of thesis. Ideally, it consists of three paragraphs, the first paragraph should support the strongest argument. The first sentence is called topic sentence. It should provide an argument to underpin thesis and give brief description of paragraph. Then, provide evidence, from an outside source. It can be direct quote or paraphrased info but do not forget to indicate the source. Once this has been done, illustrate why exactly this particular example proves the point that you are making in your thesis. The merit of this step cannot be overlooked – this is, for all intents and purposes, why you have offered an example to start with. Interpret this evidence, explain how they are significant for your argument, how they help support your point. Finally, add paragraph with concluding sentence, summarize topic idea of paragraph.

Other paragraphs should follow the same pattern. Deliver five relevant facts about subject that clearly explain why they are crucial. Move along from the second most important to the third or least important in the second and third body paragraphs. Transitional phrases such as ‘furthermore’ or ‘in contrast’ can be used show where one paragraph, or section, ends and where the next starts. This can be helpful when introducing new sets of ideas. Essentially, they direct reader from one section to the next. But, if you really need excellent paper and cannot deal with writing on your own, do not hesitate and use Academic Essay Writing Service .

How to Start a Conclusion in an Essay

Just because conclusion, or closing statement, is at the end of paper that does not mean that it should be viewed as ‘the end’. Closing statement represents your final opportunity to prove your point and, as such, should follow a highly methodical format. More often, conclusion is reiteration of opening statement because it contains the same information. It’s easy to get carried away when writing closing remarks, ideally, conclusion should be no longer than four sentences. Remember to start concluding sentence with a transition phrase such as ‘in conclusion’ or ‘in summation’ to relate it to the hook that was used to bait reader in the opening paragraph. Next, tie everything up by restating your thesis.

Since you may have your thesis already restated four or five times, be cautious not to repeat it verbatim. Instead, use a variety of verbiage to deliver the same message but in a different format. Repeating thesis will help not only reinforce an argument but also serves as a lead into the next element of a conclusion paragraph – a brief two or three-word highlight of chief facts taken from body.

Having nearly completed conclusion, the final step is to create a ‘call to action’ that not only tells readers that argument has concluded but also leaves them with something to ponder. If you still struggle with assignments, choose a cheap essay writer and receive papers of the highest quality.

Essay Writing Tips

Now that you know how to start off an essay, check these useful tips. They’ll help make an outstanding paper and receive high grades.

Essay Introduction Examples

Given how many different essay formats there exist, understanding the best way to start your writing is key. Here is an overview of three different kinds of essays and the best structure for each.

Argumentative Essay

The argument requires author to deploy writing structure that allows them successfully argue that their stance on a controversial issue or topic is the right one. If you were working on this essay type, start by picking a topic that you can easily argue, investigate all possible reasons that are for or against an issue. Decide which position you will take, research and compile as much supporting evidence as possible and start working on your intro.

An Essay About Yourself

Writing about yourself is not as easy as it sounds. You would think you could call upon your achievements or experiences and simply start writing, but there is more to it. Start by making a list of your strengths and weaknesses; be they mental, physical, spiritual or even emotional and any special talents or qualities you may have, people you adore – all things that make you confident.

Next you should decide which format is best suited. More often five-paragraph essay will suffice. In a five-paragraph essay, there is an introduction paragraph, three body paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph. You should always check the uniqueness of your text using our free plagiarism checker .

Examples of Hooks

Here are some basic hook examples that you can use for inspiration while working on your own paper:

How to Start a Paragraph

When starting a new paragraph, it is helpful to use words or phrases for transition to alert readers that one point has ended and another has begun.

Examples of transition words are:

Learning how to start a paper is not hard. Pick your topic, research a few great introduction examples and get started! With the help of this guide, you will definitely succeed! Want a more perfect paper? Look through these essay writing services reviews from experts.

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How to Write an Essay

Last Updated: March 2, 2023 References Approved

This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD and by wikiHow staff writer, Megaera Lorenz, PhD . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. There are 13 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. This article has 37 testimonials from our readers, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 7,745,558 times.

An essay is a common type of academic writing that you'll likely be asked to do in multiple classes. Before you start writing your essay, make sure you understand the details of the assignment so that you know how to approach the essay and what your focus should be. Once you've chosen a topic, do some research and narrow down the main argument(s) you'd like to make. From there, you'll need to write an outline and flesh out your essay, which should consist of an introduction, body, and conclusion. After your essay is drafted, spend some time revising it to ensure your writing is as strong as possible.

Understanding Your Assignment

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Christopher Taylor, PhD

Christopher Taylor, PhD

Christopher Taylor, Professor of English, tells us: "Most essays will contain an introduction, a body or discussion portion, and a conclusion. When assigned a college essay, make sure to check the specific structural conventions related to your essay genre , your field of study, and your professor's expectations."

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Planning and Organizing Your Essay

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Tip: In general, Wikipedia articles are not considered appropriate sources for academic writing. However, you may be able to find useful sources in the “References” section at the end of the article.

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Drafting the Essay

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Tip: Some writers find it helpful to write the introduction after they've written the rest of the essay. Once you've written out your main points, it's easier to summarize the gist of your essay in a few introductory sentences.

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Revising the Essay

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Tip: If possible, have someone else check your work. When you've been looking at your writing for too long, your brain begins to fill in what it expects to see rather than what's there, making it harder for you to spot mistakes.

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About This Article

Christopher Taylor, PhD

If you need to write an essay, start by gathering information from reputable sources, like books from the library or scholarly journals online. Take detailed notes and keep track of which facts come from which sources. As you're taking notes, look for a central theme that you're interested in writing about to create your thesis statement. Then, organize your notes into an outline that supports and explains your thesis statement. Working from your outline, write an introduction and subsequent paragraphs to address each major point. Start every paragraph with a topic sentence that briefly explains the main point of that paragraph. Finally, finish your paper with a strong conclusion that sums up the most important points. For tips from our English Professor co-author on helpful revision techniques, keep reading! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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