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writing an introduction university essay

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The introduction to an academic essay will generally present an analytical question or problem and then offer an answer to that question (the thesis).

Your introduction is also your opportunity to explain to your readers what your essay is about and why they should be interested in reading it. You don’t have to “hook” your readers with a dramatic promise (every other discussion of the topic you’re writing about is completely wrong!) or an exciting fact (the moon can reach 127 degrees Celsius!). Instead, you should use your introduction to explain to your readers why your essay is going to be interesting to read. To do this, you’ll need to frame the question or problem that you’re writing about and explain why this question or problem is important. If you make a convincing case for why your question or problem is worth solving, your readers will be interested in reading on.

While some of the conventions for writing an introduction vary by discipline, a strong introduction for any paper will contain some common elements. You can see these common elements in the sample introductions on this page . In general, your introductions should contain the following elements:

  • Orienting Information When you’re writing an essay, it’s helpful to think about what your reader needs to know in order to follow your argument. Your introduction should include enough information so that readers can understand the context for your thesis. For example, if you are analyzing someone else’s argument, you will need to identify that argument and possibly summarize its key points. If you are joining a scholarly conversation about education reform, you will need to provide context for this conversation before explaining what your essay adds to the discussion. But you don’t necessarily have to summarize your sources in detail in your introduction; that information may fit in better later in your essay. When you’re deciding how much context or background information to provide, it can be helpful to think about that information in relation to your thesis. You don’t have to tell readers everything they will need to know to understand your entire essay right away. You just need to give them enough information to be able to understand and appreciate your thesis. For some assignments, you’ll be able to assume that your audience has also read the sources you are analyzing. But even in those cases, you should still offer enough information for readers to know which parts of a source you are talking about. When you’re writing a paper based on your own research, you will need to provide more context about the sources you’re going to discuss. If you’re not sure how much you can assume your audience knows, you should consult your instructor.

An explanation of what’s at stake in your essay, or why anyone would need to read an essay that argues this thesis You will know why your essay is worth writing if you are trying to answer a question that doesn’t have an obvious answer; to propose a solution to a problem without one obvious solution; or to point out something that others may not have noticed that changes the way we consider a phenomenon, source, or idea. In all of these cases, you will be trying to understand something that you think is valuable to understand. But it’s not enough that you know why your essay is worth reading; you also need to explain to your readers why they should care about reading an essay that argues your thesis.

  • Your thesis This is what you’re arguing in your essay.  

Tips for writing introductions  

  • If you are writing in a new discipline, you should always make sure to ask about conventions and expectations for introductions, just as you would for any other aspect of the essay. For example, while it may be acceptable to write a two-paragraph (or longer) introduction for your papers in some courses, instructors in other disciplines, such as those in some Government courses, may expect a shorter introduction that includes a preview of the argument that will follow .  
  • In some disciplines (Government, Economics, and others), it’s common to offer an overview in the introduction of what points you will make in your essay. In other disciplines, you will not be expected to provide this overview in your introduction.  
  • Avoid writing a very general opening sentence. While it may be true that “Since the dawn of time, people have been telling love stories,” it won’t help you explain what’s interesting about your topic.  
  • Avoid writing a “funnel” introduction in which you begin with a very broad statement about a topic and move to a narrow statement about that topic. Broad generalizations about a topic will not add to your readers’ understanding of your specific essay topic.  
  • Avoid beginning with a dictionary definition of a term or concept you will be writing about. If the concept is complicated or unfamiliar to your readers, you will need to define it in detail later in your essay. If it’s not complicated, you can assume your readers already know the definition.  
  • Avoid offering too much detail in your introduction that a reader could better understand later in the paper.
  • Tips for Reading an Assignment Prompt
  • Asking Analytical Questions
  • What Do Introductions Across the Disciplines Have in Common?
  • Anatomy of a Body Paragraph
  • Transitions
  • Tips for Organizing Your Essay
  • Counterargument
  • Conclusions
  • Strategies for Essay Writing: Downloadable PDFs
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Traditional Academic Essays In Three Parts

Part i: the introduction.

An introduction is usually the first paragraph of your academic essay. If you’re writing a long essay, you might need 2 or 3 paragraphs to introduce your topic to your reader. A good introduction does 2 things:

  • Gets the reader’s attention. You can get a reader’s attention by telling a story, providing a statistic, pointing out something strange or interesting, providing and discussing an interesting quote, etc. Be interesting and find some original angle via which to engage others in your topic.
  • Provides a specific and debatable thesis statement. The thesis statement is usually just one sentence long, but it might be longer—even a whole paragraph—if the essay you’re writing is long. A good thesis statement makes a debatable point, meaning a point someone might disagree with and argue against. It also serves as a roadmap for what you argue in your paper.

Part II: The Body Paragraphs

Body paragraphs help you prove your thesis and move you along a compelling trajectory from your introduction to your conclusion. If your thesis is a simple one, you might not need a lot of body paragraphs to prove it. If it’s more complicated, you’ll need more body paragraphs. An easy way to remember the parts of a body paragraph is to think of them as the MEAT of your essay:

Main Idea. The part of a topic sentence that states the main idea of the body paragraph. All of the sentences in the paragraph connect to it. Keep in mind that main ideas are…

  • like labels. They appear in the first sentence of the paragraph and tell your reader what’s inside the paragraph.
  • arguable. They’re not statements of fact; they’re debatable points that you prove with evidence.
  • focused. Make a specific point in each paragraph and then prove that point.

Evidence. The parts of a paragraph that prove the main idea. You might include different types of evidence in different sentences. Keep in mind that different disciplines have different ideas about what counts as evidence and they adhere to different citation styles. Examples of evidence include…

  • quotations and/or paraphrases from sources.
  • facts , e.g. statistics or findings from studies you’ve conducted.
  • narratives and/or descriptions , e.g. of your own experiences.

Analysis. The parts of a paragraph that explain the evidence. Make sure you tie the evidence you provide back to the paragraph’s main idea. In other words, discuss the evidence.

Transition. The part of a paragraph that helps you move fluidly from the last paragraph. Transitions appear in topic sentences along with main ideas, and they look both backward and forward in order to help you connect your ideas for your reader. Don’t end paragraphs with transitions; start with them.

Keep in mind that MEAT does not occur in that order. The “ T ransition” and the “ M ain Idea” often combine to form the first sentence—the topic sentence—and then paragraphs contain multiple sentences of evidence and analysis. For example, a paragraph might look like this: TM. E. E. A. E. E. A. A.

Part III: The Conclusion

A conclusion is the last paragraph of your essay, or, if you’re writing a really long essay, you might need 2 or 3 paragraphs to conclude. A conclusion typically does one of two things—or, of course, it can do both:

  • Summarizes the argument. Some instructors expect you not to say anything new in your conclusion. They just want you to restate your main points. Especially if you’ve made a long and complicated argument, it’s useful to restate your main points for your reader by the time you’ve gotten to your conclusion. If you opt to do so, keep in mind that you should use different language than you used in your introduction and your body paragraphs. The introduction and conclusion shouldn’t be the same.
  • For example, your argument might be significant to studies of a certain time period .
  • Alternately, it might be significant to a certain geographical region .
  • Alternately still, it might influence how your readers think about the future . You might even opt to speculate about the future and/or call your readers to action in your conclusion.

Handout by Dr. Liliana Naydan. Do not reproduce without permission.

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Essay writing: Introductions

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“A relevant and coherent beginning is perhaps your best single guarantee that the essay as a whole will achieve its object.” Gordon Taylor, A Student's Writing Guide

Your introduction is the first thing your marker will read and should be approximately 10% of your word count. Within the first minute they should know if your essay is going to be a good one or not. An introduction has several components but the most important of these are the last two we give here. You need to show the reader what your position is and how you are going to argue the case to get there so that the essay becomes your answer to the question rather than just an answer.

What an introduction should include:

  • A little basic background about the key subject area (just enough to put your essay into context, no more or you'll bore the reader).
  • Explanation of how you are defining any key terms . Confusion on this could be your undoing.
  • A road-map of how your essay will answer the question. What is your overall argument and how will you develop it?
  • A confirmation of your position .

Background information

It is good to start with a statement that fixes your essay topic and focus in a wider context so that the reader is sure of where they are within the field. This is a very small part of the introduction though - do not fall into the trap of writing a whole paragraph that is nothing but background information.

Beware though, this only has to be a little bit wider, not completely universal. That is, do not start with something like "In the whole field of nursing...." or "Since man could write, he has always...". Instead, simply situate the area that you are writing about within a slightly bigger area. For example, you could start with a general statement about a topic, outlining some key issues but explain that your essay will focus on only one. Here is an example:

The ability to communicate effectively and compassionately is a key skill within nursing. Communication is about more than being able to speak confidently and clearly, it is about effective listening (Singh, 2019), the use of gesture, body language and tone (Adebe et al., 2016) and the ability to tailor language and messaging to particular situations (Smith & Jones, 2015). This essay will explore the importance of non-verbal communication ...

The example introduction at the bottom of this page also starts with similar, short background information.

Prehistoric man with the caption "Since the dawn of man..."

Defining key terms

This does not mean quoting dictionary definitions - we all have access to dictionary.com with a click or two. There are many words we use in academic work that can have multiple or nuanced definitions. You have to write about how you are defining any potentially ambiguous terms in relation to  your  essay topic. This is really important for your reader, as it will inform them how you are using such words in the context of your essay and prevent confusion or misunderstanding.

Student deciding if 'superpower' relates to the USA and China or Superman and Spider-man

Stating your case (road mapping)

The main thing an introduction will do is...introduce your essay! That means you need to tell the reader what your conclusion is and how you will get there.

There is no need to worry about *SPOILER ALERTS* - this is not a detective novel you can give away the ending! Sorry, but building up suspense is just going to irritate the reader rather than eventually satisfy. Simply outline how your main arguments (give them in order) lead to your conclusion. In American essay guides you will see something described as the ‘thesis statement’ - although we don't use this terminology in the UK, it is still necessary to state in your introduction what the over-arching argument of your essay will be. Think of it as the mega-argument , to distinguish it from the mini-arguments you make in each paragraph. Look at the example introduction at the bottom of this page which includes both of these elements.

Car on a road to a place called 'Conclusion'

Confirming your position

To some extent, this is covered in your roadmap (above), but it is so important, it deserves some additional attention here. Setting out your position is an essential component of all essays. Brick et al. (2016:143) even suggest

"The purpose of an essay is to present a clear position and defend it"

It is, however, very difficult to defend a position if you have not made it clear in the first place. This is where your introduction comes in. In stating your position, you are ultimately outlining the answer to the question. You can then make the rest of your essay about providing the evidence that supports your answer. As such, if you make your position clear, you will find all subsequent paragraphs in your essay easier to write and join together. As you have already told your reader where the essay is going, you can be explicit in how each paragraph contributes to your mega-argument.

In establishing your position and defending it, you are ultimately engaging in scholarly debate. This is because your positions are supported by academic evidence and analysis. It is in your analysis of the academic evidence that should lead your reader to understand your position. Once again - this is only possible if your introduction has explained your position in the first place.

student standing on a cross holding a sign saying "my position"

An example introduction

(Essay title = Evaluate the role of stories as pedagogical tools in higher education)

Stories have been an essential communication technique for thousands of years and although teachers and parents still think they are important for educating younger children, they have been restricted to the role of entertainment for most of us since our teenage years. This essay will claim that stories make ideal pedagogical tools, whatever the age of the student, due to their unique position in cultural and cognitive development. To argue this, it will consider three main areas: firstly, the prevalence of stories across time and cultures and how the similarity of story structure suggests an inherent understanding of their form which could be of use to academics teaching multicultural cohorts when organising lecture material; secondly, the power of stories to enable listeners to personally relate to the content and how this increases the likelihood of changing thoughts, behaviours and decisions - a concept that has not gone unnoticed in some fields, both professional and academic; and finally, the way that different areas of the brain are activated when reading, listening to or watching a story unfold, which suggests that both understanding and ease of recall, two key components of learning, are both likely to be increased . Each of these alone could make a reasoned argument for including more stories within higher education teaching – taken together, this argument is even more compelling.

Key:   Background information (scene setting)   Stating the case (r oad map)    Confirming a position (in two places). Note in this introduction there was no need to define key terms.

Brick, J., Herke, M., and Wong, D., (2016) Academic Culture, A students guide to studying at university, 3rd edition. Victoria, Australia: Palgrave Macmillan.

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How to Structure an Essay | Tips & Templates

Published on September 18, 2020 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on July 23, 2023.

The basic structure of an essay always consists of an introduction , a body , and a conclusion . But for many students, the most difficult part of structuring an essay is deciding how to organize information within the body.

Table of contents

The basics of essay structure, chronological structure, compare-and-contrast structure, problems-methods-solutions structure, signposting to clarify your structure, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about essay structure.

There are two main things to keep in mind when working on your essay structure: making sure to include the right information in each part, and deciding how you’ll organize the information within the body.

Parts of an essay

The three parts that make up all essays are described in the table below.

Order of information

You’ll also have to consider how to present information within the body. There are a few general principles that can guide you here.

The first is that your argument should move from the simplest claim to the most complex . The body of a good argumentative essay often begins with simple and widely accepted claims, and then moves towards more complex and contentious ones.

For example, you might begin by describing a generally accepted philosophical concept, and then apply it to a new topic. The grounding in the general concept will allow the reader to understand your unique application of it.

The second principle is that background information should appear towards the beginning of your essay . General background is presented in the introduction. If you have additional background to present, this information will usually come at the start of the body.

The third principle is that everything in your essay should be relevant to the thesis . Ask yourself whether each piece of information advances your argument or provides necessary background. And make sure that the text clearly expresses each piece of information’s relevance.

The sections below present several organizational templates for essays: the chronological approach, the compare-and-contrast approach, and the problems-methods-solutions approach.

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writing an introduction university essay

The chronological approach (sometimes called the cause-and-effect approach) is probably the simplest way to structure an essay. It just means discussing events in the order in which they occurred, discussing how they are related (i.e. the cause and effect involved) as you go.

A chronological approach can be useful when your essay is about a series of events. Don’t rule out other approaches, though—even when the chronological approach is the obvious one, you might be able to bring out more with a different structure.

Explore the tabs below to see a general template and a specific example outline from an essay on the invention of the printing press.

  • Thesis statement
  • Discussion of event/period
  • Consequences
  • Importance of topic
  • Strong closing statement
  • Claim that the printing press marks the end of the Middle Ages
  • Background on the low levels of literacy before the printing press
  • Thesis statement: The invention of the printing press increased circulation of information in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation
  • High levels of illiteracy in medieval Europe
  • Literacy and thus knowledge and education were mainly the domain of religious and political elites
  • Consequence: this discouraged political and religious change
  • Invention of the printing press in 1440 by Johannes Gutenberg
  • Implications of the new technology for book production
  • Consequence: Rapid spread of the technology and the printing of the Gutenberg Bible
  • Trend for translating the Bible into vernacular languages during the years following the printing press’s invention
  • Luther’s own translation of the Bible during the Reformation
  • Consequence: The large-scale effects the Reformation would have on religion and politics
  • Summarize the history described
  • Stress the significance of the printing press to the events of this period

Essays with two or more main subjects are often structured around comparing and contrasting . For example, a literary analysis essay might compare two different texts, and an argumentative essay might compare the strengths of different arguments.

There are two main ways of structuring a compare-and-contrast essay: the alternating method, and the block method.

Alternating

In the alternating method, each paragraph compares your subjects in terms of a specific point of comparison. These points of comparison are therefore what defines each paragraph.

The tabs below show a general template for this structure, and a specific example for an essay comparing and contrasting distance learning with traditional classroom learning.

  • Synthesis of arguments
  • Topical relevance of distance learning in lockdown
  • Increasing prevalence of distance learning over the last decade
  • Thesis statement: While distance learning has certain advantages, it introduces multiple new accessibility issues that must be addressed for it to be as effective as classroom learning
  • Classroom learning: Ease of identifying difficulties and privately discussing them
  • Distance learning: Difficulty of noticing and unobtrusively helping
  • Classroom learning: Difficulties accessing the classroom (disability, distance travelled from home)
  • Distance learning: Difficulties with online work (lack of tech literacy, unreliable connection, distractions)
  • Classroom learning: Tends to encourage personal engagement among students and with teacher, more relaxed social environment
  • Distance learning: Greater ability to reach out to teacher privately
  • Sum up, emphasize that distance learning introduces more difficulties than it solves
  • Stress the importance of addressing issues with distance learning as it becomes increasingly common
  • Distance learning may prove to be the future, but it still has a long way to go

In the block method, each subject is covered all in one go, potentially across multiple paragraphs. For example, you might write two paragraphs about your first subject and then two about your second subject, making comparisons back to the first.

The tabs again show a general template, followed by another essay on distance learning, this time with the body structured in blocks.

  • Point 1 (compare)
  • Point 2 (compare)
  • Point 3 (compare)
  • Point 4 (compare)
  • Advantages: Flexibility, accessibility
  • Disadvantages: Discomfort, challenges for those with poor internet or tech literacy
  • Advantages: Potential for teacher to discuss issues with a student in a separate private call
  • Disadvantages: Difficulty of identifying struggling students and aiding them unobtrusively, lack of personal interaction among students
  • Advantages: More accessible to those with low tech literacy, equality of all sharing one learning environment
  • Disadvantages: Students must live close enough to attend, commutes may vary, classrooms not always accessible for disabled students
  • Advantages: Ease of picking up on signs a student is struggling, more personal interaction among students
  • Disadvantages: May be harder for students to approach teacher privately in person to raise issues

An essay that concerns a specific problem (practical or theoretical) may be structured according to the problems-methods-solutions approach.

This is just what it sounds like: You define the problem, characterize a method or theory that may solve it, and finally analyze the problem, using this method or theory to arrive at a solution. If the problem is theoretical, the solution might be the analysis you present in the essay itself; otherwise, you might just present a proposed solution.

The tabs below show a template for this structure and an example outline for an essay about the problem of fake news.

  • Introduce the problem
  • Provide background
  • Describe your approach to solving it
  • Define the problem precisely
  • Describe why it’s important
  • Indicate previous approaches to the problem
  • Present your new approach, and why it’s better
  • Apply the new method or theory to the problem
  • Indicate the solution you arrive at by doing so
  • Assess (potential or actual) effectiveness of solution
  • Describe the implications
  • Problem: The growth of “fake news” online
  • Prevalence of polarized/conspiracy-focused news sources online
  • Thesis statement: Rather than attempting to stamp out online fake news through social media moderation, an effective approach to combating it must work with educational institutions to improve media literacy
  • Definition: Deliberate disinformation designed to spread virally online
  • Popularization of the term, growth of the phenomenon
  • Previous approaches: Labeling and moderation on social media platforms
  • Critique: This approach feeds conspiracies; the real solution is to improve media literacy so users can better identify fake news
  • Greater emphasis should be placed on media literacy education in schools
  • This allows people to assess news sources independently, rather than just being told which ones to trust
  • This is a long-term solution but could be highly effective
  • It would require significant organization and investment, but would equip people to judge news sources more effectively
  • Rather than trying to contain the spread of fake news, we must teach the next generation not to fall for it

Signposting means guiding the reader through your essay with language that describes or hints at the structure of what follows.  It can help you clarify your structure for yourself as well as helping your reader follow your ideas.

The essay overview

In longer essays whose body is split into multiple named sections, the introduction often ends with an overview of the rest of the essay. This gives a brief description of the main idea or argument of each section.

The overview allows the reader to immediately understand what will be covered in the essay and in what order. Though it describes what  comes later in the text, it is generally written in the present tense . The following example is from a literary analysis essay on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein .

Transitions

Transition words and phrases are used throughout all good essays to link together different ideas. They help guide the reader through your text, and an essay that uses them effectively will be much easier to follow.

Various different relationships can be expressed by transition words, as shown in this example.

Because Hitler failed to respond to the British ultimatum, France and the UK declared war on Germany. Although it was an outcome the Allies had hoped to avoid, they were prepared to back up their ultimatum in order to combat the existential threat posed by the Third Reich.

Transition sentences may be included to transition between different paragraphs or sections of an essay. A good transition sentence moves the reader on to the next topic while indicating how it relates to the previous one.

… Distance learning, then, seems to improve accessibility in some ways while representing a step backwards in others.

However , considering the issue of personal interaction among students presents a different picture.

If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!

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  • Appeal to authority fallacy
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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.

An essay isn’t just a loose collection of facts and ideas. Instead, it should be centered on an overarching argument (summarized in your thesis statement ) that every part of the essay relates to.

The way you structure your essay is crucial to presenting your argument coherently. A well-structured essay helps your reader follow the logic of your ideas and understand your overall point.

Comparisons in essays are generally structured in one of two ways:

  • The alternating method, where you compare your subjects side by side according to one specific aspect at a time.
  • The block method, where you cover each subject separately in its entirety.

It’s also possible to combine both methods, for example by writing a full paragraph on each of your topics and then a final paragraph contrasting the two according to a specific metric.

You should try to follow your outline as you write your essay . However, if your ideas change or it becomes clear that your structure could be better, it’s okay to depart from your essay outline . Just make sure you know why you’re doing so.

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Introductions

What this handout is about.

This handout will explain the functions of introductions, offer strategies for creating effective introductions, and provide some examples of less effective introductions to avoid.

The role of introductions

Introductions and conclusions can be the most difficult parts of papers to write. Usually when you sit down to respond to an assignment, you have at least some sense of what you want to say in the body of your paper. You might have chosen a few examples you want to use or have an idea that will help you answer the main question of your assignment; these sections, therefore, may not be as hard to write. And it’s fine to write them first! But in your final draft, these middle parts of the paper can’t just come out of thin air; they need to be introduced and concluded in a way that makes sense to your reader.

Your introduction and conclusion act as bridges that transport your readers from their own lives into the “place” of your analysis. If your readers pick up your paper about education in the autobiography of Frederick Douglass, for example, they need a transition to help them leave behind the world of Chapel Hill, television, e-mail, and The Daily Tar Heel and to help them temporarily enter the world of nineteenth-century American slavery. By providing an introduction that helps your readers make a transition between their own world and the issues you will be writing about, you give your readers the tools they need to get into your topic and care about what you are saying. Similarly, once you’ve hooked your readers with the introduction and offered evidence to prove your thesis, your conclusion can provide a bridge to help your readers make the transition back to their daily lives. (See our handout on conclusions .)

Note that what constitutes a good introduction may vary widely based on the kind of paper you are writing and the academic discipline in which you are writing it. If you are uncertain what kind of introduction is expected, ask your instructor.

Why bother writing a good introduction?

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. The opening paragraph of your paper will provide your readers with their initial impressions of your argument, your writing style, and the overall quality of your work. A vague, disorganized, error-filled, off-the-wall, or boring introduction will probably create a negative impression. On the other hand, a concise, engaging, and well-written introduction will start your readers off thinking highly of you, your analytical skills, your writing, and your paper.

Your introduction is an important road map for the rest of your paper. Your introduction conveys a lot of information to your readers. You can let them know what your topic is, why it is important, and how you plan to proceed with your discussion. In many academic disciplines, your introduction should contain a thesis that will assert your main argument. Your introduction should also give the reader a sense of the kinds of information you will use to make that argument and the general organization of the paragraphs and pages that will follow. After reading your introduction, your readers should not have any major surprises in store when they read the main body of your paper.

Ideally, your introduction will make your readers want to read your paper. The introduction should capture your readers’ interest, making them want to read the rest of your paper. Opening with a compelling story, an interesting question, or a vivid example can get your readers to see why your topic matters and serve as an invitation for them to join you for an engaging intellectual conversation (remember, though, that these strategies may not be suitable for all papers and disciplines).

Strategies for writing an effective introduction

Start by thinking about the question (or questions) you are trying to answer. Your entire essay will be a response to this question, and your introduction is the first step toward that end. Your direct answer to the assigned question will be your thesis, and your thesis will likely be included in your introduction, so it is a good idea to use the question as a jumping off point. Imagine that you are assigned the following question:

Drawing on the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass , discuss the relationship between education and slavery in 19th-century America. Consider the following: How did white control of education reinforce slavery? How did Douglass and other enslaved African Americans view education while they endured slavery? And what role did education play in the acquisition of freedom? Most importantly, consider the degree to which education was or was not a major force for social change with regard to slavery.

You will probably refer back to your assignment extensively as you prepare your complete essay, and the prompt itself can also give you some clues about how to approach the introduction. Notice that it starts with a broad statement and then narrows to focus on specific questions from the book. One strategy might be to use a similar model in your own introduction—start off with a big picture sentence or two and then focus in on the details of your argument about Douglass. Of course, a different approach could also be very successful, but looking at the way the professor set up the question can sometimes give you some ideas for how you might answer it. (See our handout on understanding assignments for additional information on the hidden clues in assignments.)

Decide how general or broad your opening should be. Keep in mind that even a “big picture” opening needs to be clearly related to your topic; an opening sentence that said “Human beings, more than any other creatures on earth, are capable of learning” would be too broad for our sample assignment about slavery and education. If you have ever used Google Maps or similar programs, that experience can provide a helpful way of thinking about how broad your opening should be. Imagine that you’re researching Chapel Hill. If what you want to find out is whether Chapel Hill is at roughly the same latitude as Rome, it might make sense to hit that little “minus” sign on the online map until it has zoomed all the way out and you can see the whole globe. If you’re trying to figure out how to get from Chapel Hill to Wrightsville Beach, it might make more sense to zoom in to the level where you can see most of North Carolina (but not the rest of the world, or even the rest of the United States). And if you are looking for the intersection of Ridge Road and Manning Drive so that you can find the Writing Center’s main office, you may need to zoom all the way in. The question you are asking determines how “broad” your view should be. In the sample assignment above, the questions are probably at the “state” or “city” level of generality. When writing, you need to place your ideas in context—but that context doesn’t generally have to be as big as the whole galaxy!

Try writing your introduction last. You may think that you have to write your introduction first, but that isn’t necessarily true, and it isn’t always the most effective way to craft a good introduction. You may find that you don’t know precisely what you are going to argue at the beginning of the writing process. It is perfectly fine to start out thinking that you want to argue a particular point but wind up arguing something slightly or even dramatically different by the time you’ve written most of the paper. The writing process can be an important way to organize your ideas, think through complicated issues, refine your thoughts, and develop a sophisticated argument. However, an introduction written at the beginning of that discovery process will not necessarily reflect what you wind up with at the end. You will need to revise your paper to make sure that the introduction, all of the evidence, and the conclusion reflect the argument you intend. Sometimes it’s easiest to just write up all of your evidence first and then write the introduction last—that way you can be sure that the introduction will match the body of the paper.

Don’t be afraid to write a tentative introduction first and then change it later. Some people find that they need to write some kind of introduction in order to get the writing process started. That’s fine, but if you are one of those people, be sure to return to your initial introduction later and rewrite if necessary.

Open with something that will draw readers in. Consider these options (remembering that they may not be suitable for all kinds of papers):

  • an intriguing example —for example, Douglass writes about a mistress who initially teaches him but then ceases her instruction as she learns more about slavery.
  • a provocative quotation that is closely related to your argument —for example, Douglass writes that “education and slavery were incompatible with each other.” (Quotes from famous people, inspirational quotes, etc. may not work well for an academic paper; in this example, the quote is from the author himself.)
  • a puzzling scenario —for example, Frederick Douglass says of slaves that “[N]othing has been left undone to cripple their intellects, darken their minds, debase their moral nature, obliterate all traces of their relationship to mankind; and yet how wonderfully they have sustained the mighty load of a most frightful bondage, under which they have been groaning for centuries!” Douglass clearly asserts that slave owners went to great lengths to destroy the mental capacities of slaves, yet his own life story proves that these efforts could be unsuccessful.
  • a vivid and perhaps unexpected anecdote —for example, “Learning about slavery in the American history course at Frederick Douglass High School, students studied the work slaves did, the impact of slavery on their families, and the rules that governed their lives. We didn’t discuss education, however, until one student, Mary, raised her hand and asked, ‘But when did they go to school?’ That modern high school students could not conceive of an American childhood devoid of formal education speaks volumes about the centrality of education to American youth today and also suggests the significance of the deprivation of education in past generations.”
  • a thought-provoking question —for example, given all of the freedoms that were denied enslaved individuals in the American South, why does Frederick Douglass focus his attentions so squarely on education and literacy?

Pay special attention to your first sentence. Start off on the right foot with your readers by making sure that the first sentence actually says something useful and that it does so in an interesting and polished way.

How to evaluate your introduction draft

Ask a friend to read your introduction and then tell you what he or she expects the paper will discuss, what kinds of evidence the paper will use, and what the tone of the paper will be. If your friend is able to predict the rest of your paper accurately, you probably have a good introduction.

Five kinds of less effective introductions

1. The placeholder introduction. When you don’t have much to say on a given topic, it is easy to create this kind of introduction. Essentially, this kind of weaker introduction contains several sentences that are vague and don’t really say much. They exist just to take up the “introduction space” in your paper. If you had something more effective to say, you would probably say it, but in the meantime this paragraph is just a place holder.

Example: Slavery was one of the greatest tragedies in American history. There were many different aspects of slavery. Each created different kinds of problems for enslaved people.

2. The restated question introduction. Restating the question can sometimes be an effective strategy, but it can be easy to stop at JUST restating the question instead of offering a more specific, interesting introduction to your paper. The professor or teaching assistant wrote your question and will be reading many essays in response to it—he or she does not need to read a whole paragraph that simply restates the question.

Example: The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass discusses the relationship between education and slavery in 19th century America, showing how white control of education reinforced slavery and how Douglass and other enslaved African Americans viewed education while they endured. Moreover, the book discusses the role that education played in the acquisition of freedom. Education was a major force for social change with regard to slavery.

3. The Webster’s Dictionary introduction. This introduction begins by giving the dictionary definition of one or more of the words in the assigned question. Anyone can look a word up in the dictionary and copy down what Webster says. If you want to open with a discussion of an important term, it may be far more interesting for you (and your reader) if you develop your own definition of the term in the specific context of your class and assignment. You may also be able to use a definition from one of the sources you’ve been reading for class. Also recognize that the dictionary is also not a particularly authoritative work—it doesn’t take into account the context of your course and doesn’t offer particularly detailed information. If you feel that you must seek out an authority, try to find one that is very relevant and specific. Perhaps a quotation from a source reading might prove better? Dictionary introductions are also ineffective simply because they are so overused. Instructors may see a great many papers that begin in this way, greatly decreasing the dramatic impact that any one of those papers will have.

Example: Webster’s dictionary defines slavery as “the state of being a slave,” as “the practice of owning slaves,” and as “a condition of hard work and subjection.”

4. The “dawn of man” introduction. This kind of introduction generally makes broad, sweeping statements about the relevance of this topic since the beginning of time, throughout the world, etc. It is usually very general (similar to the placeholder introduction) and fails to connect to the thesis. It may employ cliches—the phrases “the dawn of man” and “throughout human history” are examples, and it’s hard to imagine a time when starting with one of these would work. Instructors often find them extremely annoying.

Example: Since the dawn of man, slavery has been a problem in human history.

5. The book report introduction. This introduction is what you had to do for your elementary school book reports. It gives the name and author of the book you are writing about, tells what the book is about, and offers other basic facts about the book. You might resort to this sort of introduction when you are trying to fill space because it’s a familiar, comfortable format. It is ineffective because it offers details that your reader probably already knows and that are irrelevant to the thesis.

Example: Frederick Douglass wrote his autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave , in the 1840s. It was published in 1986 by Penguin Books. In it, he tells the story of his life.

And now for the conclusion…

Writing an effective introduction can be tough. Try playing around with several different options and choose the one that ends up sounding best to you!

Just as your introduction helps readers make the transition to your topic, your conclusion needs to help them return to their daily lives–but with a lasting sense of how what they have just read is useful or meaningful. Check out our handout on  conclusions for tips on ending your paper as effectively as you began it!

Works consulted

We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.

Douglass, Frederick. 1995. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself . New York: Dover.

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Write an introduction that interests the reader and effectively outlines your arguments.

Every essay or assignment you write must begin with an introduction. It might be helpful to think of the introduction as an inverted pyramid. In such a pyramid, you begin by presenting a broad introduction to the topic and end by making a more focused point about that topic in your thesis statement. The introduction has three essential parts, each of which serves a particular purpose.

The first part is the "attention-grabber." You need to interest your reader in your topic so that they will want to continue reading. You also want to do that in a way that is fresh and original. For example, although it may be tempting to begin your essay with a dictionary definition, this technique is stale  because it has been widely overused. Instead, you might try one of the following techniques:

Offer a surprising statistic that conveys something about the problem to be addressed in the paper.

Perhaps you can find an interesting quote that nicely sums up your argument.

Use rhetorical questions that place your readers in a different situation in order to get them thinking about your topic in a new way.

If you have a personal connection to the topic, you might use an anecdote or story to get your readers emotionally involved.

For example, if you were writing a paper about drunk drivers, you might begin with a compelling story about someone whose life was forever altered by a drunk driver: "At eighteen, Michelle had a lifetime of promise in front of her. Attending college on a track scholarship, she was earning good grades and making lots of friends. Then one night her life was forever altered…"

From this attention grabbing opener, you would need to move to the next part of the introduction, in which you offer some relevant background on the specific purpose of the essay. This section helps the reader see why you are focusing on this topic and makes the transition to the main point of your paper. For this reason, this is sometimes called the "transitional" part of the introduction.

In the example above, the anecdote about Michelle might capture the reader's attention, but the essay is not really about Michelle. The attention grabber might get the reader thinking about how drunk driving can destroy people's lives, but it doesn't introduce the topic of the need for stricter drunk driving penalties (or whatever the real focus of the paper might be).

Therefore, you need to bridge the gap between your attention-grabber and your thesis with some transitional discussion. In this part of your introduction, you narrow your focus of the topic and explain why the attention-grabber is relevant to the specific area you will be discussing. You should introduce your specific topic and provide any necessary background information that the reader would need in order to understand the problem that you are presenting in the paper. You can also define any key terms the reader might not know.

Continuing with the example above, we might move from the narrative about Michelle to a short discussion of the scope of the problem of drunk drivers. We might say, for example: "Michelle's story is not isolated. Each year XX (number) of lives are lost due to drunk-driving accidents." You could follow this with a short discussion of how serious the problem is and why the reader should care about this problem. This effectively moves the reader from the story about Michelle to your real topic, which might be the need for stricter penalties for drinking and driving.

Finally, the introduction must conclude with a clear statement of the overall point you want to make in the paper. This is called your "thesis statement." It is the narrowest part of your inverted pyramid, and it states exactly what your essay will be arguing.

In this scenario, your thesis would be the point you are trying to make about drunk driving. You might be arguing for better enforcement of existing laws, enactment of stricter penalties, or funding for education about drinking and driving. Whatever the case, your thesis would clearly state the main point your paper is trying to make. Here's an example: "Drunk driving laws need to include stricter penalties for those convicted of drinking under the influence of alcohol." Your essay would then go on to support this thesis with the reasons why stricter penalties are needed.

In addition to your thesis, your introduction can often include a "road map" that explains how you will defend your thesis. This gives the reader a general sense of how you will organize the different points that follow throughout the essay. Sometimes the "map" is incorporated right into the thesis statement, and sometimes it is a separate sentence. Below is an example of a thesis with a "map."

"Because drunk driving can result in unnecessary and premature deaths, permanent injury for survivors, and billions of dollars spent on medical expenses,  drunk drivers should face stricter penalties for driving under the influence." The underlined words here are the "map" that show your reader the main points of support you will present in the essay. They also serve to set up the paper's arrangement because they tell the order in which you will present these topics.

In constructing an introduction, make sure the introduction clearly reflects the goal or purpose of the assignment and that the thesis presents not only the topic to be discussed but also states a clear position about that topic that you will support and develop throughout the paper. In shorter papers, the introduction is usually only one or two paragraphs, but it can be several paragraphs in a longer paper.

For Longer Papers

Although for short essays the introduction is usually just one paragraph, longer argument or research papers may require a more substantial introduction. The first paragraph might consist of just the attention grabber and some narrative about the problem. Then you might have one or more paragraphs that provide background on the main topics of the paper and present the overall argument, concluding with your thesis statement.

Below is a sample of an introduction that is less effective because it doesn't apply the principles discussed above.

An Ineffective Introduction

Everyone uses math during their entire lives. Some people use math on the job as adults, and others used math when they were kids. The topic I have chosen to write about for this paper is how I use math in my life both as a child and as an adult. I use math to balance my checkbook and to budget my monthly expenses as an adult. When I was a child, I used math to run a lemonade stand. I will be talking more about these things in my paper.

In the introduction above, the opening line does not serve to grab the reader's attention. Instead, it is a statement of an obvious and mundane fact. The second sentence is also not very specific. A more effective attention grabber may point out a specific, and perhaps surprising, instance when adults use math in their daily lives, in order to show the reader why this is such as important topic to consider.

Next the writer "announces" her topic by stating, "The topic I have chosen to write about…" Although it is necessary to introduce your specific topic, you want to avoid making generic announcements that reference your assignment. What you have chosen to write about will be evident as your reader moves through the writing. Instead, you might try to make the reader see why this is such an important topic to discuss.

Finally, this sample introduction is lacking a clear thesis statement. The writer concludes with a vague statement: "I will be talking more about these things in my paper."  This kind of statement may be referred to as a "purpose statement," in which the writer states the topics that will be discussed. However, it is not yet working as a thesis statement because it fails to make an argument or claim about those topics. A thesis statement for this essay would clearly tell the reader what "things" you will be discussing and what point you will make about them.

Now let's look at how the above principles can be incorporated more effectively into an introduction.

A More Effective Introduction

"A penny saved is a penny earned," the well-known quote by Ben Franklin, is an expression I have never quite understood, because to me it seems that any penny—whether saved or spent—is still earned no matter what is done with it. My earliest memories of earning and spending money are when I was ten years old when I would sell Dixie cups of too-sweet lemonade and bags of salty popcorn to the neighborhood kids. From that early age, I learned the importance of money management and the math skills involved. I learned that there were four quarters in a dollar, and if I bought a non-food item—like a handful of balloons—that I was going to need to come up with six cents for every dollar I spent. I also knew that Kool-Aid packets were 25 cents each or that I could save money and get five of them for a dollar. Today, however, money management involves knowing more than which combinations of 10-cent, five-cent, and one-penny candies I can get for a dollar. Proper money management today involves knowing interest rates, balancing checkbooks, paying taxes, estimating my paycheck, and budgeting to make ends meet from month-to-month.

In the first line the writer uses a well-known quotation to introduce her topic.

The writer follows this "attention-grabber" with specific examples of earning and spending money. Compare how the specific details of the second example paint a better picture for the reader about what the writer learned about money as a child, rather than this general statement: "As a child, I used math to run a lemonade stand." In the first introduction, this statement leaves the reader to guess how the writer used math, but in the second introduction we can actually see what the child did and what she learned.

Notice, too, how the reader makes the transition from the lessons of childhood to the real focus of her paper in this sentence: "Today, however, money management involves knowing…."

This transition sentence effectively connects the opening narrative to the main point of the essay, her thesis: "Proper money management today involves knowing  interest rates, balancing checkbooks, paying taxes, estimating my paycheck, and budgeting to make ends meet from month-to-month ." This thesis also maps out for the reader the main points (underlined here) that will be discussed in the essay.

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How to write an essay: Introduction

  • What's in this guide

Introduction

  • Essay structure
  • Additional resources

The academic essay is a type of writing frequently used as an assessment task in university courses.

  • An assignment essay is written over a number of weeks, as you research and read about the topic given. It is expected that you will develop your response to the essay question over an extended period of time, and include evidence from your research to support your ideas.
  • You should be prepared to draft and rewrite several times before submitting your final essay for marking. This means you keep building on previous drafts to improve or add information to it. It does not mean starting from scratch for each draft.
  • Your work must be correctly referenced and written in formal English.

Here are the steps to writing an academic essay:

steps to writing an essay

Usually, the purpose of an essay is to answer a specific question within a given word limit.

An essay may be as short as 500 words or as long as 2000-3000 words.

It has three main parts:

  • the introduction
  • and the conclusion, and is written in paragraphs with each paragraph dealing with one idea or part of the main topic. <

writing an introduction university essay

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  • Transcript of "Essay structure" video

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  • How to Write a College Essay

College admissions experts offer tips on selecting a topic as well as writing and editing the essay.

writing an introduction university essay

Students can go online to review essay requirements for the colleges they want to apply to, such as word limits and essay topics. Many students may start with the Common App, an application platform accepted by more than 1,000 schools. Getty Images

For college applicants, the essay is the place to showcase their writing skills and let their unique voice shine through.

"The essays are important in part because this is a student's chance to really speak directly to the admissions office," says Adam Sapp, assistant vice president and director of admissions at Pomona College in California.

Prospective college students want their essay, sometimes called a personal statement, to make a good impression and boost their chances of being accepted, but they have only several hundred words to make that happen.

This can feel like a lot of pressure.

"I think this is the part of the application process that students are sometimes most challenged by," says Niki Barron, associate dean of admission at Hamilton College in New York, "because they're looking at a blank piece of paper and they don't know where to get started."

That pressure may be amplified as many colleges have gone test optional in recent years, meaning that ACT and SAT scores will be considered if submitted but are not required. Other schools have gone test-blind and don't consider such scores at all. In the absence of test scores, some admissions experts have suggested that more attention will be paid to other parts of an application, such as the essay.

But just as each applicant is unique, so are college admissions policies and priorities.

"Being test optional hasn't changed how we use essays in our selection process, and I wouldn't say that the essay serves as a substitute for standardized test scores," Barron wrote in an email. "A student's academic preparation for our classroom experience is always front and center in our application review process."

On June 29, 2023, the Supreme Court ruled against college admissions policies that consider an applicant's race. The ruling, though, does not prohibit students from writing essays on how their race has affected them, which experts say could significantly affect how students approach this portion of their applications.

Essay-writing tips offered by experts emphasize the importance of being concise, coherent, congenial, unique, honest and accurate. An applicant should also flex some intellectual muscle and include vivid details or anecdotes.

From brainstorming essay topics to editing the final draft, here's what students need to know about crafting a strong college application essay.

Getting Started on the College Essay

How long should a college essay be, how to pick a college essay topic, writing the college essay, how the affirmative action ruling could change college essays, editing and submitting the college essay.

A good time for students to begin working on their essays is the summer before senior year, experts say, when homework and extracurricular activities aren't taking up time and mental energy.

Starting early will also give students plenty of time to work through multiple drafts of an essay before college application deadlines, which can be as early as November for students applying for early decision or early action .

Students can go online to review essay requirements for the colleges they want to apply to, such as word limits and essay topics. Many students may start with the Common App , an application platform accepted by more than 1,000 schools. Students can submit that application to multiple schools.

Another option is the Coalition Application, an application platform accepted by more than 130 schools. Students applying through this application choose from one of six essay prompts to complete and include with their application.

In addition to the main essay, some colleges ask applicants to submit one or more additional writing samples. Students are often asked to explain why they are interested in a particular school or academic field in these supplemental essays , which tend to be shorter than the main essay.

Students should budget more time for the writing process if the schools they're applying to ask for supplemental essays.

"Most selective colleges will ask for more than one piece of writing. Don't spend all your time working on one long essay and then forget to devote energy to other parts of the application," Sapp says.

Though the Common App notes that "there are no strict word limits" for its main essay, it suggests a cap of about 650 words. The Coalition Application website says its essays should be between 500 and 650 words.

"While we won't, as a rule, stop reading after 650 words, we cannot promise that an overly wordy essay will hold our attention for as long as you'd hoped it would," the Common App website states.

The word count is much shorter for institution-specific supplemental essays, which are typically around 250 words.

The first and sometimes most daunting step in the essay writing process is figuring out what to write about.

There are usually several essay prompts to choose from on a college application. They tend to be broad, open-ended questions, giving students the freedom to write about a wide array of topics, Barron says.

The essay isn't a complete autobiography, notes Mimi Doe, co-founder of Top Tier Admissions, a Massachusetts-based advising company. "It's overwhelming to think of putting your whole life in one essay," she says.

Rather, experts say students should narrow their focus and write about a specific experience, hobby or quirk that reveals something personal, like how they think, what they value or what their strengths are. Students can also write about something that illustrates an aspect of their background. These are the types of essays that typically stand out to admissions officers, experts say. Even an essay on a common topic can be compelling if done right.

Students don't have to discuss a major achievement in their essay – a common misconception. Admissions officers who spoke with U.S. News cited memorable essays that focused on more ordinary topics, including fly-fishing, a student's commute to and from school and a family's dining room table.

What's most important, experts say, is that a college essay is thoughtful and tells a story that offers insight into who a student is as a person.

"Think of the college essay as a meaningful glimpse of who you are beyond your other application materials," Pierre Huguet, CEO and founder of admissions consulting firm H&C Education, wrote in an email. "After reading your essay, the reader won't fully know you – at least not entirely. Your objective is to evoke the reader's curiosity and make them eager to get to know you."

If students are having trouble brainstorming potential topics, they can ask friends or family members for help, says Stephanie Klein Wassink, founder of Winning Applications and AdmissionsCheckup, Connecticut-based college admissions advising companies. Klein Wassink says students can ask peers or family members questions such as, "What are the things you think I do well?" Or, "What are my quirks?"

The essay should tell college admissions officers something they don't already know, experts say.

Some experts encourage students to outline their essay before jumping into the actual writing, though of course everyone's writing process differs.

The first draft of an essay doesn't need to be perfect. "Just do a brain dump," Doe says. "Don't edit yourself, just lay it all out on the page."

If students are having a hard time getting started, they should focus on their opening sentence, Doe suggests. She says an essay's opening sentence, or hook, should grab the reader's attention.

Doe offered an example of a strong hook from the essay of a student she worked with:

"I first got into politics the day the cafeteria outlawed creamed corn."

"I want to know about this kid," she says. "I’m interested."

The key to a good college essay is striking a balance between being creative and not overdoing it, Huguet says. He advises students to keep it simple.

"The college essay is not a fiction writing contest," Huguet says. "Admissions committees are not evaluating you on your potential as the next writer of the Great American Novel."

He adds that students should write in the voice they use to discuss meaningful topics with someone they trust. It's also wise to avoid hyperbole, as that can lose the readers' trust, as well as extraneous adverbs and adjectives, Huguet says.

"Thinking small, when done right, means paying close attention to the little things in your life that give it meaning in unique ways," he says. "It means, on the one hand, that you don’t have to come up with a plan for world peace, but it also means thinking small enough to identify details in your life that belong only to you."

The Supreme Court's ruling on affirmative action has left some students feeling in limbo with how to approach their essays. Some are unsure whether to include racial identifiers while others feel pressure to exclude it, says Christopher Rim, CEO and founder of Command Education, an admissions consulting company.

"For instance, some of our Asian students have been concerned that referencing their culture or race in their essay could negatively impact them (even moreso than before)," Rim wrote in an email. He noted that many students he works with had already begun crafting their essays before the ruling came. "Some of our other students have felt pressure to disclose their race or share a story of discrimination or struggle because they expect those stories to be received better by admissions officers."

Some of the uneasiness stems from what feels like a contradictory message from the court, Rim says. In his majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., said the ruling shouldn't be construed "as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise." But he added that colleges may consider race only if it's tied to an applicant’s individual experiences or qualities, such as demonstrating courage against discrimination.

Personal essays shouldn't serve as a way for universities to ask students about their race as a means to admit them on such basis, Roberts added.

Rim says he expects there to be a lot of confusion from parents and students as they navigate that line when writing their essay. He says his guidance will vary with each student depending on their specific situation.

"For a student from an immigrant family, sharing their racial and cultural background may be integral to understanding their identity and values and therefore should be included in the essay," he says. "On the other hand, a student who has never meaningfully considered ways in which their race has shaped their life experience and worldview should not push themselves to do so in their essay simply because they believe it will better their chances."

While admissions officers try to learn about students via the essay, they are also gauging writing skills, so students want to make sure they submit top-notch work.

"The best writing is rewriting," Sapp says. "You should never be giving me your first draft."

When reviewing a first essay draft, students should make sure their writing is showing, not telling, Huguet says. This means students should show their readers examples that prove they embody certain traits or beliefs, as opposed to just stating that they do. Doing so is like explaining a joke to someone who's already laughed at it, he says.

"Let’s say, for example, that the whole point of a certain applicant’s essay is to let admissions officers know that she thinks outside the box. If she feels the need to end her essay with a sentence like, 'And so, this anecdote shows that I think outside the box,' she’s either underestimating the power of her story (or the ability of her reader to understand it), or she hasn’t done a good enough job in telling it yet," Huguet says. "Let your readers come to their own conclusions. If your story is effective, they’ll come to the conclusions you want them to."

After editing their essay, students should seek outside editing help, experts recommend. While there are individuals and companies that offer paid essay help – from editing services to essay-writing boot camps – students and families may not be able to afford the associated fees. Some providers may offer scholarships or other financial aid for their services.

The availability and level of feedback from free essay advising services vary. Some college prep companies offer brief consultations at no charge. Free essay workshops may also be available through local high schools, public libraries or community organizations. Khan Academy, a free online education platform, also offers a series of videos and other content to guide students through the essay writing process.

Colleges themselves may also have resources, Barron notes, pointing to pages on Hamilton's website that offer writing tips as well as examples of successful admissions essays. Likewise, Hamilton also holds virtual panel discussions on writing admissions essays.

Students have other options when it comes to essay help. They can ask peers, teachers, school counselors and family members for help polishing an essay. Huguet says it's typically wise to prioritize quality over quantity when it comes to seeking feedback on essays. Too many perspectives can become counterproductive, he says.

"While it can be valuable to have different perspectives, it's best to seek out individuals who are experts in the writing process," he says. "Instructors or professors can be helpful, particularly if they possess subject expertise and can provide guidance on refining arguments, structure and overall coherence."

Proofreaders should not change the tone of the essay. "Don't let anyone edit out your voice," Doe cautions.

And while proofreading is fair game, having someone else write your essay is not.

When an essay is ready to go, students will generally submit it online along with the rest of their application. On the Common App, for example, students copy and paste their essay into a text box.

Sapp says even though students often stress about the essay in particular, it's not the only thing college admissions officers look at. "The essay is the window, but the application is the house," he says. "So let's not forget that an application is built of many pieces."

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College Essay Format: Writing & Editing Tips

A good college essay format, with the right topic, goes beyond your academic accomplishments and extracurriculars.

[Featured image] An aspiring college student works on her college essay with a notebook and laptop.

You want to stand out in a crowd, particularly when you’re applying to the college of your choice. As part of the application process, many schools ask for an essay to accompany the standard academic and personal information they require. So it’s important to make it a good one.

Your college application essay is essentially a story you tell that offers a glimpse into who you are, beyond your admissions application, grades, activities, and test scores.

A college essay, often called a personal statement, is your opportunity to reveal your personality. It's a way for the admissions department to get to know you as a person and get an idea of the kind of student you'll be.

So how should a college essay be formatted? This article covers formatting best practices, how to choose a compelling topic for your essay, and writing and editing tips to help you craft an essay that captures the attention of the reader, gets your point across, and is free of errors.

Decide on a topic.

You'll often have a choice of topics for your essay provided by the college or university. Choose a topic that allows you to best highlight what you want the college to know about you. 

A good start is to list three positive adjectives that describe you. Then, see if you can write two or three real-life examples of each trait that demonstrates that you possess that characteristic.

Also, think about the stories other people tell about you or the words they use to describe you. Ask people who know you well:

What do you think sets me apart from others? 

What are my strengths? 

How would you describe my personality? 

What are my quirks?

These ideas can become the inspiration to develop material for a good college essay. 

From the list of essay prompts you receive from the college, choose the topic that will give you the best chance to showcase who you are within the limited word count. You don't have to write about a major life-changing event. It can be a mundane or ordinary situation—like a dinner table conversation, day at school, or conversation with a friend. Often, slightly unusual topics are better than typical ones because they hold a reader's attention.

Regardless of the topic you choose, remember that the true topic of your college essay is you, and the purpose of it is to show how you are unique. It highlights an important piece of who you are and where you want to head in life.

Common college essay prompts

Over 900 colleges use Common App essay prompts, which means you may be able to write one essay for several college applications. Some past Common App college essay prompts—which are announced publicly each year—include the following topics:

Share a story about your background, interest, identity, or talent that makes you complete as a person.

Describe a time when you faced a setback, failure, or challenge and what you learned from it.

Tell about a topic, concept, or idea that is so captivating to you that you lose all track of time.

Write about something that someone has done for you that you are grateful for, and how gratitude has motivated or affected you.

Whether or not the school you're applying to uses Common App questions, it will publish required essay topics in its admissions materials. Or, you may be asked to write on a topic of your choice. Here are some additional common college essay prompts you might encounter:

Describe a person you admire and how that person has influenced your behavior and thinking.

Why do you want to attend this school?

Describe your creative side.

Name an extracurricular activity that is meaningful to you and how it has impacted your life.

Tell about what you have done to make your community or school a better place.

Consider length.

Consult your college application instructions to see how long your essay should be. Be sure to stay within the required word count or essay length, not going over the maximum or under the minimum.

Chances are, you'll be given a word limit. If none is specified, experts on the admissions process recommend you keep your word count between 500 and 650 words. Use the required essay length to help you determine what you will share. You won't be able to tell your life story within these few paragraphs, so choose the most impactful examples as your content. 

Create an outline.

An outline helps you plan your essay so you know how it will begin and end and identify key points you want to include in the middle. Use your outline to stay on topic and get the most use out of your word count.

Decide on a logical order.

The most effective outlines are usually the most simple ones. For instance, a good story has a beginning, middle, and end. Likewise, your essay will have an introduction, body, and conclusion.

Unless the college requests a specific admission essay format, use the format you've been using to write essays in high school that you're likely to be the most comfortable with. If you're stuck on how to open your essay, write the middle of your story first. Then, go back and write a compelling introduction and a concise conclusion.

Sample format for a college essay

While the format of your college essay is largely up to you, it can be helpful to have an example as a springboard to give you ideas. Consider the following college essay format as you organize your writing.

1. Think about using a title.

A title for your college essay is not necessary. However, including one can add interest. But if you're low on word count, you can skip it. You can also wait until after you write your essay to decide. It's often easier to come up with a fitting, compelling title after you've told your story.

2. Open with a hook.

Your opening sentence is one of the most important parts of your essay. It's what you'll use to capture the attention of the reader and give them a reason to read on. The start of your essay is your opportunity to make an impactful first impression, so make your opening a good one. Here are two examples of how you can open with an interesting hook:

Start in the middle of your story: Call out the most interesting point of your story, and then backtrack from there. For example, "And there I found myself, surrounded by baby sea turtles on the hazy shores of Virginia Beach."

Make a specific generalization: This is a sentence that makes a general statement on what your essay will be about, but gives a specific description. An example: "Each year on our family vacation out of the city, I contemplate the meaning of life as we cross the Golden Gate Bridge."

3. Continue with your introduction.

While your hook will spark the reader's curiosity, the rest of your introduction should give them an idea of where you're going with your essay. Set your story up in four to five sentences.

4. Tell your story in the body of your essay.

If your introduction and conclusion are roughly 100 words each, your body will end up being about 450 words. Think of that as three to five paragraphs, with each paragraph having its own main idea or point. 

Write in a narrative style—more as though you're having a conversation as opposed to writing an instruction manual. While you should pay strict attention to using proper grammar and sentence structure, you have the freedom to make your essay a reflection of your personality.

If you are a humorous person, use humor. If you're an eternal optimist or love getting into the minute details of life, let that shine through. Tell your story in a way that’s logical, clear, and makes sense.

5. Wrap up with a conclusion. 

Finish your story with a conclusion paragraph, and make sure you've made your main point. What is the main thing you want the college to know about you through this story? Is it what you've learned, a value that's important to you, or what you want to contribute to society? Finally, conclude your essay with the personal statement you want to make about yourself.

Writing tips on how to format a college essay

As you're writing your college essay, keep these tips in mind:  

Be authentic. One of the most essential parts of how to format a college application essay is to be authentic. The college wants to know who you are, and they will be reading dozens of essays a day. The best way to make yours stand out is to just be yourself instead of focusing on what you think they want to hear. 

Show you can write . While the most important part of your personal statement is showcasing who you are, you'll also be judged on your writing ability. That's because knowing the fundamental principles of writing is important to college success. Show that you understand the structure of an essay and proper use of the English language.

Give the answer right away. If you're using a specific question as your writing prompt, answer the question directly in the opening paragraph. Then, use the rest of the essay to elaborate on your answer.

Stay on topic. Make good use of your word count limit by being concise and coherent. Stay on topic and refrain from adding any information that doesn't add to the main idea of your essay. 

Write in your voice. Imagine you’re speaking to an actual person as you write. Be honest and accurate, using words you normally use. Your essay is a personal statement, so it should sound natural to the reader—and to you too.

Use real examples. Add real-life events and vivid details from your life. This adds color and validity to your personal statement. Personal examples will show you embody the characteristics or values you claim to, rather than merely saying you do.

Keep the formatting simple. Opt-out of fancy fonts that can be hard to read. Stick to fonts like Times New Roman or Arial. Avoid using bolding (except for headings), italics, all caps, or exclamation points. Let your words speak for themselves instead.

Save your essay. Instead of writing your essay directly in the online application, draft and save your essay in a document like Google Docs or Word—or start out on paper and pen if that's what you're most comfortable with. That way you can make edits and use helpful online spelling and grammar checkers. And you won't risk losing your essay if the application times out or you navigate away from it by mistake. When you copy and paste your essay into the application, make sure your formatting, such as line spacing and bolding for headings, remains intact.

Follow directions. Read and understand the specific instructions set by the college. Review them again before you submit your essay to make sure you've met all of the requirements.

Editing tips on how to format a college essay

Finally, edit your essay until you’re satisfied it conveys the message you want it to and it’s free of errors. Let your first draft be as messy or pristine as it comes out. Then, go back later—several times if needed—to clean it up. Ask yourself these questions as you edit your essay:

Is my essay free of grammar, spelling, capitalization, and punctuation errors?

Is it the proper word length assigned by the college?

Have I answered the question in the prompt?

Does the introduction make me want to read more?

Are there any vague statements I can replace with more specific details?

Do any parts drone on or feel boring?

Does it feel too formal?

Are any parts or words repetitive?

Have I misused any words (such as there, their, and they're)?

Are my sentences varied in length?

Have I shared with the college what I most want them to know about me? 

It can also be helpful to ask someone you trust to read your essay and give you constructive feedback. This might be a trusted teacher, parent, school counselor, or college student. It's best to choose someone who is familiar with the purpose of a college essay.

Ask them to give feedback about your essay using the same questions as above. But they should never try to rewrite your essay. And never let others edit out your voice. Ask them to focus on grammar and mechanics and to give suggestions on items to add in or leave out. 

Above all, ask your guest editor what point they think you were trying to make with your essay. If they get it right, you know you've crafted a college essay that reflects you and your intended message. 

Enhance your writing skills

Bring out your best in your college essay with a course in Writing a Personal Essay from Wesleyan University. Learn how to find your voice, structure your essay, choose relevant details, and write in a way that pulls in your readers.

Related articles

Bachelor’s Degree Guide: Resources for Your Undergraduate Education

College Essay Topics and Writing Tips

How Long Should a College Essay Be?

How to Write a Personal Statement

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How to Write an Essay Introduction

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  • A good essay introduction sets up the rest of your paper and grabs your reader's attention.
  • All introductions should include a hook, a thesis, and an organizational plan.
  • Knowing the rhetorical situation can help you write an effective introduction and thesis.

The computer screen remains blank, and my mind freezes every time I return to my philosophy 201 assignment: "Discuss the ethics of stealing." I know I'll need a great introduction for my paper, but where should I start? What should I include?

Writing a college essay shouldn't be scary, but getting started can often feel overwhelming and even intimidating at times. If you divide the essay-writing process into clearly defined steps, though, you'll find that it's a relatively straightforward process.

This might come as a surprise, but introductions are often crafted last, after you've written the main content of your essay. Even expert essayists expect to have to reframe their claims and essay organization as they write the bodies of their essays.

This article will go over how to write an effective college essay introduction and set you on the path to producing excellent and engaging papers.

General Guidelines for Writing an Essay Introduction

Before you begin writing your essay, read the instructions carefully to determine the assignment's expectations. You should also take some time to determine the essay's genre and what kind of thesis statement it requires. For example, will you have to make a strong argument for something using evidence? Or will you just need to explain a theory or concept?

Once you've done this, you can start to draft a very rough introduction to act as a general guide for the rest of your essay.

As you conduct research and work on your rough introduction, review what you know about the subject to start developing a thesis statement, i.e., the essay's main driving claim. Don't worry about sticking to this exactly — your thesis will likely change slightly with the more research and writing you do.

Basic Steps for Writing an Essay Introduction

  • Determine the essay's genre and what type of thesis it requires
  • Write a rough introduction
  • Come up with a rough thesis statement
  • Use your introduction to lay out how your essay will be organized
  • Adapt your thesis and organizational plan as needed as you write your essay
  • Add a hook to your introduction
  • Edit and proofread

Next, come up with one or two potential organizational plans. You'll want to have a clear idea of the topics your essay will discuss to prove your thesis statement, as well as the order in which these points will appear.

As you write your essay, return to your rough introduction so you can adapt your thesis and organizational plan to reflect any alterations you might have made as you researched and wrote the body of your essay. It's recommended that you allow the content of your paper to influence your rough thesis; a more developed thesis will lead to a stronger essay.

Once you've finished writing your essay, return to your introduction to polish it off. Add a hook — something that captures the reader's attention — to engage your reader and make your paper more compelling. Finally, don't forget to proofread your entire essay, including your introduction, before submitting it.

The Rhetorical Situation and Why It's Useful

The term "rhetorical situation" refers to the relationship the writer wishes to strike with their reader. Understanding the rhetorical situation is key because it should undergird your essay. To have mastery over this relationship, the writer must understand their message or text, its purpose, and the setting in which they're writing.

The usual defaults for college writing are that the writer is a budding scholar in the field (you) and the reader is an established expert (e.g., your professor), unless the assignment expressly states otherwise.

Understanding the rhetorical situation is key because it should undergird your essay.

The message or text (your claim and the essay) will vary with each assignment. The purpose (why the essay is important) is normally to improve your knowledge and skills, and the setting (the context in which you're writing) is the field of study.

In the case of my philosophy 201 essay prompt, "Discuss the ethics of stealing," the target reader is someone who understands the process of philosophizing about moral dilemmas. The writer could be the real me or a different persona, so long as my arguments are consistent with one another.

The message of this essay is how our society functions or how it could or should function. The purpose is to demonstrate to my professor my understanding of how ethics and ethical thought work. Finally, the setting is college-level thinking and philosophizing. Knowing this information equips me to construct a successful introduction and thesis.

The 3 Major Types of College Essays

Before drafting your introduction, you should figure out what type of essay you've been assigned and the skills this paper is meant to evaluate. There are several kinds of essays, but most fall into one of three major categories: report, exploratory, or argumentative.

  • Check Circle Summary: Requires you to extract and condense content from a larger piece of writing
  • Check Circle Lab Report/Lesson Plan: Shows whether you are informed about the protocols that are required by your discipline and whether you can follow them appropriately
  • Check Circle Descriptive: Requires you to convey evocative ideas about a topic and choose the most effective vocabularies for them

Exploratory Essay

  • Check Circle Exploratory: Requires you to explore a topic in depth and examine possibilities without necessarily taking a position
  • Check Circle Analytical: Determines whether you're able to perceive patterns, understand symbols and symbolism, and recognize allusions to arrive at a justifiable conclusion
  • Check Circle Explanatory: Highlights your ability to explain something in a precise and direct way, choose relevant information, and organize this information in an easy-to-follow manner

Argumentative Essay

  • Check Circle Expository: Adds debate to the exploratory paper and reveals whether you're able to choose effective and relevant information, logically organize and develop this information, pick a side, and offer justification for your choice
  • Check Circle Position: Determines whether you're able to select a position many may disagree with, successfully present your opinion, argue for it using solid evidence, and convince the reader your position is better than the other option
  • Check Circle Argument: Adds research to the expository essay and shows whether you're able to defend a claim, offer convincing evidence to support your claim, and acknowledge and dispel potential counterarguments

Writing Your Essay's Thesis Statement

Armed with the knowledge of what kind of essay you must write, you can now start to draft your thesis statement and determine the organization for the body of your essay. The thesis answers the following question for readers: "What will this essay prove?" The organizational plan explains how and in what order the essay will prove this claim.

Generally speaking, the thesis statement should appear near the end of your introduction. As for organizing your essay, try to lay out in the introduction the main points you'll be discussing in the order in which they'll appear in the body of your paper. This will facilitate not only your writing process but also your audience's reading experience.

Get more tips on how to write an effective thesis statement in our complete guide.

Why Every Essay Needs a Hook

All that remains now is grabbing your reader's attention. A strong introduction builds affinity with the reader and eases them into your essay.

The hook is the first thing (after the title, of course) your audience will read. It's a small scrap of informal writing that's relevant to your topic and that your reader will recognize easily. It has one foot in the real world, where the reader is, and the other in your essay, and works by convincing the reader to shift from one foot to the other willingly.

For your hook, you can tell a story, crack a joke, or quote something from a book or movie. Mention an anecdote or an incident from sports, recite lyrics or poetry, refer to history, or remark on a controversy. Use pop, high, or low culture. It can be personal or universal. Just remember to insert a clear transition between your hook and your thesis statement.

Here's an example of a good essay introduction with a memorable hook:

Perhaps when you were a child, your parents, like mine, urged you to share your toys or clothes with your younger sibling. And perhaps, like me, you thought it was extremely unfair because you were older. Yet it seems as if the seventh-century civilization of XXX knew what your parents and mine were trying to teach us: that sharing ensures survival much better than the exploitation of weaker or lower classes.

The hook here is the first two sentences about shared childhood, and part of the third sentence. Note the repeated use of the second-person pronouns "you" and "your." Its function is to build camaraderie between the reader and the writer. The writer further solidifies this connection with the first-person pronouns "me" and "us."

The hook also reminds the reader of simpler, happy times. The final sentence begins as the transition from childhood and sharing to the essay's main argument: how sharing was critical to the survival of the XXX civilization. After the colon, the introduction drops the hook entirely and becomes a full-fledged thesis statement.

The Value of Writing a Stellar Essay Introduction

Go back to the beginning of this article and look for the hook, the transition, the thesis statement, and how I establish the rhetorical situation. Consider as well the genre of this article and how I set up the organization of it.

Seasoned academic writers know a strong introduction can go a long way toward producing an effective and compelling paper. No matter what you choose to write about, you should always follow these basic rules. Not only will you earn better grades on your essays, but you'll also become a more efficient and confident writer.

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Strategies for writing a compelling thesis statement, how to write a body paragraph for a college essay.

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How to build an essay

  • Introduction
  • Body paragraphs

Preparing an outline

You are ready to write an essay after you have done these steps:

  • Identified all the components that you must cover so that you address the essay question or prompt
  • Conducted your initial research and decided on your tentative position and line of argument
  • Created a preliminary outline for your essay that presents the information logically.

Most essays follow a similar structure, including an introduction, body paragraphs, and a conclusion, as shown in the diagram below.

Click on the plus icons for more information.

Writing an introduction

The purpose of the introduction is to give your reader a clear idea of what your essay will cover. It should provide some background information on the specific problem or issue you are addressing, and should clearly outline your answer. Depending on your faculty or school, ‘your answer’ may be referred to as your position, contention, thesis or main argument . Whatever term is used, this is essentially your response to the essay question, which is based on the research that you have undertaken or the readings you have analysed.

An essay is not like a mystery novel which keeps the reader in suspense; it should not slowly reveal the argument to the reader. Instead, the contention and supporting arguments are usually stated in the introduction.

When writing an introduction, you should typically use a general to specific structure. This means that you introduce the particular problem or topic the essay will address in a general sense to provide the context   before you narrow down to your particular position and line of argument.

writing an introduction university essay

Key elements of an introduction

Click on each of the elements to reveal more.

Content Container

Provide some background information and context.

The introduction usually starts by providing some background information about your particular topic, so the reader understands the key problem being addressed and why it is an issue worth writing about. However, it is important that this is brief and that you only include information that is directly relevant to the topic.

This might also be an appropriate place to introduce the reader to key terms and provide definitions, if required.

Don’t be tempted to start your essay with a grand generalisation, for instance: ‘War has always been a problem for humanity….’, or ‘Since the beginning of time…’. Instead, make sure that your initial sentence relates directly to the problem, question or issue highlighted by the essay topic.

Limit the scope of your discussion

Setting the parameters of the essay is important. You can’t possibly cover everything on a topic - and you are not expected to - so you need to tell your reader how you have chosen to narrow the focus of your essay.

State your position / contention

State your position on the topic (also referred to as your main argument , or contention , or thesis statement ). Make sure that you are directly answering the question (and the whole essay question if there is more than one part to it).

"Stating your position" can be a single sentence answer to the essay question but will often include 2-3 sentences explaining the answer in more detail.

Outline the structure or main supporting points of your essay

This usually involves providing details of the most important points you are going to make which support your argument.

Sample introduction

[1] Business leadership has been described as the ‘ability to influence, motivate and enable others to contribute to the effectiveness and success of the organisations of which they are members’ (House, Hanges, Javidan, Dorfman & Gupta, 2004, p. 63). Whether this ability is something a person is born with, or whether it is something that a person can learn, has been the subject of considerable debate. Kambil (2010) has outlined two categories of leadership attributes that help to frame the discussion: 'traits' (mostly innate) and 'skills' which can be developed through experience or training. [2] This essay will draw on the trait theory of leadership to argue that that leaders are first born, but then must be made. [3] While good business leaders share certain traits that are essential to success, including ‘curiosity, courage, perseverance, personal ethics and confidence’ (Kambil, 2010, p.43), they also need learnable skills, such as communication, negotiation and conflict resolution, that are only developed through practice. A potential leader should develop their natural traits as well as learn and practise skills which will help them to persuade, equip and inspire others to realise their vision.

Legend: [1] Background / Context ; [2] Position / Contention ; [3] Structure or main point of essay

Check your understanding View

Key features of an introduction.

Read the paragraph in the accordion below and see if you can identify the key features of an introduction. This is an introduction written in response to the essay question: 'Can Rome's actions towards Carthage be described as defensive imperialism?'

Writing a body paragraph

The body of the essay is where you fully develop your argument. Each body paragraph should contain one key idea or claim, which is supported by relevant examples and evidence from the body of scholarly work on your topic (i.e. academic books and journal articles).

Together, the body paragraphs form the building blocks of your argument.

How do I structure paragraphs?

The TEECL structure provides an effective way of organising a paragraph. TEECL stands for Topic sentence, Explanation, Evidence, Comment, and Link. You may find it helpful to add C for Comment before Link. A paragraph structured this way would contain the following:

  • Topic sentence – the first sentence in a body paragraph that tells the reader what the main idea or claim of the paragraph will be.
  • Explanation – Explain what you mean in greater detail.
  • Evidence – Provide evidence to support your idea or claim. To do this, refer to your research. This may include: case studies, statistics, documentary evidence, academic books or journal articles. Remember that all evidence will require appropriate citation.
  • Comment – Consider the strengths and limitations of the evidence and examples that you have presented. Explain how your evidence supports your claim (i.e. how does it ‘prove’ your topic sentence?).
  • Link – Summarise the main idea of the paragraph, and make clear how this paragraph supports your overall argument.

Sample paragraph

[1] One of the main obstacles to reaching international consensus on climate change action is the ongoing debate over which countries should shoulder the burden. [2] Because the developed world has historically been responsible for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions, it has been argued that they should reduce emissions and allow developed nations to prioritise development over environmental concerns (Vinuales, 2011). [3] The notion of ‘common but differentiated responsibility’ (CBDR) was formalised in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 (UNFCCC, 1992). Article 3.1 explicitly states 'Accordingly, the developed country Parties should take the lead in combating climate change and the adverse effects thereof' (p. 4). [4] However, because CBDR outlines a principle and not an actionable plan it has remained problematic. For example, it does not stipulate the extent to which, under the principle of CBDR, developing nations should be exempt from specific emissions targets. This has continued to be a point of contention in global negotiations on climate change, with developed countries such as the USA arguing that developed nations should do more to reduce emissions (Klein et. al., 2017). [5] Fairness and equity need to be pursued in reaching a global agreement on climate change, but transforming this into an actionable strategy is problematic.

Legend : [1] Topic sentence [2] Explanation [3] Evidence / Example [4] Comment [5] Link

What is missing?

The paragraph below was written in response to the essay question: '"Leaders are made rather than born." Do you agree or disagree? Provide reasons for your opinion.'

Read the paragraph then answer the question that follows.

The function of a conclusion is to draw together the main ideas discussed in the body of the essay. However, a good conclusion does more than that.

You may choose to also:

  • reflect on the broader significance of the topic
  • discuss why it is difficult to arrive at a definitive answer to the question posed
  • raise other questions that could be considered in a subsequent essay
  • make a prediction or a caution or a recommendation about what will happen to the phenomenon under investigation

When writing a conclusion, a specific to general structure is usually recommended. Yes, this is opposite to the introduction! Begin by re-stating or re-emphasising your position on the topic, then summarise your line of argument and key points. Finish off by commenting on the significance of the issue, making a prediction about the future of the issue, or a recommendation to deal with the problem at hand.

Diagram of conclusion structure

Sample conclusion

[1]   No single theory can adequately explain the relationship between age and crime, and the debate over their correlation is ongoing. Instead, each theory provides valuable insight into a particular dimension of age and crime. [2] The emergence of the criminal propensity versus criminal career debate in the 1980s demonstrated the importance of both arguments. It is now believed that the age-crime curve created by Gottfredson and Hirschi is a good basic indicator for the age-crime relationship. However, the criminal career position has stood up to stringent empirical testing, and has formed an integral part of developmental theories such as Thornberry’s interactional theory. [3] These theories provide important insight into the complex relationship between age and crime, but, more than this, are useful for developing strategies for delinquency and crime prevention.

Legend : [1] Specific contention ; [2]   Specific summary of main points ; [3] Broader and general significance

Student sat writing at a table. Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels

Essay and dissertation writing skills

Planning your essay

Writing your introduction

Structuring your essay

  • Writing essays in science subjects
  • Brief video guides to support essay planning and writing
  • Writing extended essays and dissertations
  • Planning your dissertation writing time

Structuring your dissertation

  • Top tips for writing longer pieces of work

Advice on planning and writing essays and dissertations

University essays differ from school essays in that they are less concerned with what you know and more concerned with how you construct an argument to answer the question. This means that the starting point for writing a strong essay is to first unpick the question and to then use this to plan your essay before you start putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

A really good starting point for you are these short, downloadable Tips for Successful Essay Writing and Answering the Question resources. Both resources will help you to plan your essay, as well as giving you guidance on how to distinguish between different sorts of essay questions. 

You may find it helpful to watch this seven-minute video on six tips for essay writing which outlines how to interpret essay questions, as well as giving advice on planning and structuring your writing:

Different disciplines will have different expectations for essay structure and you should always refer to your Faculty or Department student handbook or course Canvas site for more specific guidance.

However, broadly speaking, all essays share the following features:

Essays need an introduction to establish and focus the parameters of the discussion that will follow. You may find it helpful to divide the introduction into areas to demonstrate your breadth and engagement with the essay question. You might define specific terms in the introduction to show your engagement with the essay question; for example, ‘This is a large topic which has been variously discussed by many scientists and commentators. The principle tension is between the views of X and Y who define the main issues as…’ Breadth might be demonstrated by showing the range of viewpoints from which the essay question could be considered; for example, ‘A variety of factors including economic, social and political, influence A and B. This essay will focus on the social and economic aspects, with particular emphasis on…..’

Watch this two-minute video to learn more about how to plan and structure an introduction:

The main body of the essay should elaborate on the issues raised in the introduction and develop an argument(s) that answers the question. It should consist of a number of self-contained paragraphs each of which makes a specific point and provides some form of evidence to support the argument being made. Remember that a clear argument requires that each paragraph explicitly relates back to the essay question or the developing argument.

  • Conclusion: An essay should end with a conclusion that reiterates the argument in light of the evidence you have provided; you shouldn’t use the conclusion to introduce new information.
  • References: You need to include references to the materials you’ve used to write your essay. These might be in the form of footnotes, in-text citations, or a bibliography at the end. Different systems exist for citing references and different disciplines will use various approaches to citation. Ask your tutor which method(s) you should be using for your essay and also consult your Department or Faculty webpages for specific guidance in your discipline. 

Essay writing in science subjects

If you are writing an essay for a science subject you may need to consider additional areas, such as how to present data or diagrams. This five-minute video gives you some advice on how to approach your reading list, planning which information to include in your answer and how to write for your scientific audience – the video is available here:

A PDF providing further guidance on writing science essays for tutorials is available to download.

Short videos to support your essay writing skills

There are many other resources at Oxford that can help support your essay writing skills and if you are short on time, the Oxford Study Skills Centre has produced a number of short (2-minute) videos covering different aspects of essay writing, including:

  • Approaching different types of essay questions  
  • Structuring your essay  
  • Writing an introduction  
  • Making use of evidence in your essay writing  
  • Writing your conclusion

Extended essays and dissertations

Longer pieces of writing like extended essays and dissertations may seem like quite a challenge from your regular essay writing. The important point is to start with a plan and to focus on what the question is asking. A PDF providing further guidance on planning Humanities and Social Science dissertations is available to download.

Planning your time effectively

Try not to leave the writing until close to your deadline, instead start as soon as you have some ideas to put down onto paper. Your early drafts may never end up in the final work, but the work of committing your ideas to paper helps to formulate not only your ideas, but the method of structuring your writing to read well and conclude firmly.

Although many students and tutors will say that the introduction is often written last, it is a good idea to begin to think about what will go into it early on. For example, the first draft of your introduction should set out your argument, the information you have, and your methods, and it should give a structure to the chapters and sections you will write. Your introduction will probably change as time goes on but it will stand as a guide to your entire extended essay or dissertation and it will help you to keep focused.

The structure of  extended essays or dissertations will vary depending on the question and discipline, but may include some or all of the following:

  • The background information to - and context for - your research. This often takes the form of a literature review.
  • Explanation of the focus of your work.
  • Explanation of the value of this work to scholarship on the topic.
  • List of the aims and objectives of the work and also the issues which will not be covered because they are outside its scope.

The main body of your extended essay or dissertation will probably include your methodology, the results of research, and your argument(s) based on your findings.

The conclusion is to summarise the value your research has added to the topic, and any further lines of research you would undertake given more time or resources. 

Tips on writing longer pieces of work

Approaching each chapter of a dissertation as a shorter essay can make the task of writing a dissertation seem less overwhelming. Each chapter will have an introduction, a main body where the argument is developed and substantiated with evidence, and a conclusion to tie things together. Unlike in a regular essay, chapter conclusions may also introduce the chapter that will follow, indicating how the chapters are connected to one another and how the argument will develop through your dissertation.

For further guidance, watch this two-minute video on writing longer pieces of work . 

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writing an introduction university essay

My Davidson | A Student Blog Student-to-Student: Advice from Davidson College Students on the College Essay

student wearing a Davidson sweatshirt and headphones works on a laptop in a modern academic building

Current Davidson College students share their tips and tricks for navigating and writing the college essay.

About the Authors

This piece was written by Senior Fellows in Davidson College's Office of Admission & Financial Aid; Zaynab Abuhakema ’24, Nathanael Bagonza ’24, Chloe Boissy Stauffer ’24, Kelsey Chase ’24, Amanda Fuenzalida ’24, Olivia Howard ’24 (she/her), Ann Nishida ’24, Lilly Sirover ’24, Samuel Waithira ’24 and Ruby Zhou ’24. 

Learn more about them below.

Zayna Abuhakema

Zaynab Abuhakema ’24 (she/her) is a physics major and theatre minor from Summerville, South Carolina.

“Just be honest! We want to know more about YOU and why you can see yourself at Davidson. Tell us about your passions in the way that makes the most sense to you. Have someone read over it if you want, but don’t worry too much about the technical part. Just show us who you are the best way you can on a page.”

Nate Bagonza

Nathanael Bagonza ’24 (he/him) is an English major from Haverhill, Massachusetts.

“Don’t worry about if your writing is ‘great’ or not; rather, be intentional in ensuring that your essays demonstrate who you are and what you are passionate about! I ended up becoming an English major writing a collection of essays for my senior honors thesis, but what made my application essays work from day one was telling stories that really spoke to my true, authentic self.”

Chloe Boissy-Stauffer

Chloe Boissy Stauffer ’24 (she/her) is an environmental studies and political science double major from Lake Atitlan, Guatemala.

“A couple pages of writing will never capture your whole story- admissions counselors understand this. In order to communicate an accurate snapshot of who you are, try thinking of one hobby, one accomplishment, or one interaction that you think best reflects your overall skill set and worldview. By using one or two examples to ‘anchor’ your story, you can frame your personality, backstory and values. Whatever you write, make sure it’s authentic to who you are because that’s who we want to get to know.”

Kelsey Chase

Kelsey Chase ’24 (she/her) is a political science major from Concord, New Hampshire.

“I read a lot of Common App essays during my college process, not because I wanted to study them or compare them to my own, but because I genuinely thought they were fascinating to read. This helped me realize that it’s helpful to think about writing the essays for a peer rather than an admissions officer. Don’t worry about what you think the admissions officers want to hear; rather, write an essay that you think would help potential friends understand you at your core. I would also advise against your parents or adults taking too much editorial control over your essay — you want your essay to sound like you, which is someone who’s 17 or 18 years old, not a professional. It can definitely be helpful to have someone read over it just to catch grammar mistakes or awkward phrasing, but what matters most is that you feel like it really conveys something important about who you are.”

Amanda Fuenzalida

Amanda Fuenzalida ’24 (she/her) is a biology major from Naples, Florida and Santiago, Chile.

“When I think about the personal essay, I always think about growth, because that is what life is, a continuous growing process. And at 17–18 years, you do not have to have everything figured out or have decided what you want to for the rest of your life. But what you can do well is reflect on the experiences that have made you the person you are at this very moment. And thinking about this personal statement, I would think maybe what are key major parts of my life that have shaped me to be who I am, that make you proud of yourself. Reading back your essay, you should feel that sense of pride, that this essay reflects the person you (not anyone else) are proud you have become.”

Olivia Howard

Olivia Howard ’24 (she/her) is a biology and German Studies double major from Dacula, Georgia.

“I do not consider writing to be my strong suit, and I remember the dread and fear I had when I was writing my college essays. Essays are intimidating, and you might feel lost trying to fit your story into the limits that are set. My advice to you is to be patient with yourself and allow who you are to come through on the page. Do not over stress about having the most complex grammar and sentence structure, but rather focus on writing what matters to you. It is okay to not be an award-winning writer who uses metaphors and various literary devices. A lot of times it is better to tell your story in a simple way rather than using flowery language and fluff that does not get your point across.”

Ann Nishida

Ann Nishida ’24 (she/her) is a biology major and music minor from Ridgewood, New Jersey.

“The focus is on you . The essay portion is a chance for the admission counselors to see a side of you that a transcript or test score won’t fully represent. A good starting point in discovering your unique qualities may be to ask yourself Why ? Why am I passionate about certain activities, why do I interact with my environment in a certain way, why do I want to go to Davidson, etc. Good luck!”

Lilly Sirover

Lilly Sirover ’24 (she/her) is a biology major and public health minor on the premedicine track from Haddonfield, New Jersey.

“As someone who prefers speaking over writing, I highly recommend using a voice recording app to talk through your essay ideas as you begin the writing process. Talking through your unique strengths, challenges you have navigated, a personal experience that changed your perspective, a topic that you are endlessly curious about, or something else personal to you allows your story to develop naturally.”

Sam Waithira

Samuel Waithira ’24 (he/him) is an economics major and applied mathematics minor from Nairobi, Kenya.

“Be genuine with every aspect of your application. Do not try to mold your application into what you believe the college wants. When you present your true self, you build trust with the admissions team, showing that you have confidence in who you are. Remember that each applicant is unique, and colleges are often looking for a diverse student body. By being genuine, you can showcase your individuality and the qualities that set you apart from other applicants.”

Ruby Zhou

Ruby Zhou ’24 (she/her) is an English major on the predental track from Houston, Texas.

“Start writing. I have a tendency to procrastinate whenever I have a daunting task looming over me, and I just need to start writing or I’ll never get it done. The writing might sound horrible and you might feel embarrassed, but if you think about it, the earlier you start, the more time you have to change “bad” writing to something beautiful.”

Looking for More Student Stories?

Check out more student-written blog posts like this one at My Davidson, Davidson College's blog for students, by students.

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Considering Applying to Davidson College?

Learn more about dates and deadlines, ways to apply, the holistic admission review and more.

Applying to Davidson

  • November 2, 2023
  • Main content

Yes, ChatGPT can help with your college admissions essay. Here's what you need to do to stay within the rules.

  • Students who use tools like ChatGPT to write their college essays need to walk a fine line.
  • Colleges will likely penalize students who submit completely AI-generated applications.
  • Using AI to edit or draft the essays may be acceptable though, a tutoring company founder says.

Insider Today

The education sector has had a rough ride with generative AI.

After the release of ChatGPT, some colleges and schools were quick to put a blanket ban on the bot when students began using it to write their essays. Professors and teachers were left with the difficult task of navigating the new concept of AI plagiarism.

Now, several colleges have changed their tune and are encouraging students and staff to use generative AI as a tool — as long as they don't use it to cheat. However, the guidance is still pretty vague, especially when it comes to admissions and college essays.

"The landscape is shifting, but colleges are not unified in their approach to GPT," Adam Nguyen, founder of tutoring company Ivy Link , told Insider. "If you look across the landscape of college admissions, especially elite college admissions, there are no clear rules on whether you could use GPT or not."

In February, I tested the chatbot's ability to write college application essays . The results were relatively successful , with two private admissions tutors agreeing the essays definitely passed for ones written by a real student and probably would have had a shot at most colleges, but probably not the most selective institutions.

There are telltale signs when an entire essay is AI-generated, Nguyen said. For example, there tends to be a lot of repetition, and the essays are generally mediocre.

"If an essay is clearly written by AI, I think they will penalize the student and that application," Nguyen said.

While it's clear students should be writing their own work, it's less clear if students are allowed to use the tech to help them draft or edit essays.

As colleges grudgingly accept that AI is not going anyway, Nguyen said there's a fine line for students to walk.

"If you fill in the details, restructure the essay, and provide the specific language and sentences, that will make the essay your own," he said. "I think many colleges would be fine with that."

He continued, "I would suggest not using it as a default. If you're really stuck, you could use it to start." He suggested that, as a general rule, at least 80% of the essays needed to be edited and changed to be on the safe side.

"If an essay's really good, it won't raise any suspicion, and I don't think most colleges will care that you use GPT to start, as long as they can't tell either," he added.

writing an introduction university essay

Watch: What is ChatGPT, and should we be afraid of AI chatbots?

writing an introduction university essay

Turnitin's AI writing detection available now

Turnitin launches AI detection to help educators identify when AI writing tools such as ChatGPT have been used in students’ submissions.

writing an introduction university essay

Academic integrity in the age of AI writing

Over the years, academic integrity has been both supported and tested by technology. Today, educators are facing a new frontier with AI writing and ChatGPT.

Here at Turnitin, we believe that AI can be a positive force that, when used responsibly, has the potential to support and enhance the learning process. We also believe that equitable access to AI tools is vital, which is why we’re working with students and educators to develop technology that can support and enhance the learning process. However, it is important to acknowledge new challenges alongside the opportunities.

We recognize that for educators, there is a pressing and immediate need to know when and where AI and AI writing tools have been used by students. This is why we are now offering AI detection capabilities for educators in our products.

Gain insights on how much of a student’s submission is authentic, human writing versus AI-generated from ChatGPT or other tools.

Robust reporting identifies AI-written text and provides information educators need to determine their next course of action. We’ve designed our solution with educators, for educators.

AI writing detection complements Turnitin’s similarity checking workflow and is integrated with your LMS, providing a seamless, familiar experience.

Turnitin’s AI writing detection capability available with Originality, helps educators identify AI-generated content in student work while safeguarding the interests of students.

Turnitin AI Innovation Lab

Welcome to the Turnitin AI Innovation Lab, a hub for new and upcoming product developments in the area of AI writing. You can follow our progress on detection initiatives for AI writing, ChatGPT, and AI-paraphrasing.

writing an introduction university essay

Understanding the false positive rate for sentences of our AI writing detection capability

We’d like to share more insight on our sentence level false positive rate and tips on how to use our AI writing detection metrics.

writing an introduction university essay

Understanding false positives within our AI writing detection capabilities

We’d like to share some insight on how our AI detection model deals with false positives and what constitutes a false positive.

Have questions? Read these FAQs on Turnitin’s AI writing detection capabilities

Helping solve the AI writing puzzle one piece at a time

AI-generated writing has transformed every aspect of our lives, including the classroom. However, identifying AI writing in students’ submissions is just one piece in the broader, complex, ever-evolving AI writing puzzle.

Helping solve the AI writing puzzle one piece at a time

Teaching in the age of AI writing

As AI text generators like ChatGPT quickly evolve, our educator resources will, too. Curated and created by our team of veteran educators, our resources help educators meet these new challenges. They are built for professional learning and outline steps educators can take immediately to guide students in maintaining academic integrity when faced with AI writing tools.

writing an introduction university essay

A guide to help educators determine which resource is more applicable to their instructional situation: the AI misuse checklist or the AI misuse rubric.

writing an introduction university essay

A guide sharing strategies educators can consider to help when confronted with a false positive.

writing an introduction university essay

A guide sharing strategies students can consider to help when confronted with a false positive.

The Turnitin Educator Network is a space to meet, discuss and share best practices on academic integrity in the age of AI.

Learn more about AI writing in our blog

Written by experts in the field, educators, and Turnitin professionals, our blog offers resources and thought leadership in support of students, instructors, and administrators. Dive into articles on a variety of important topics, including academic integrity, assessment, and instruction in a world with artificial intelligence.

writing an introduction university essay

Discover the secrets of mastering AI for simple tasks with the best writing AI practices. Unlock new levels of efficiency and creativity.

writing an introduction university essay

Students come to our classrooms with an awareness of AI writing tools. While many students comprehend that AI writing can be misused, it’s important to define the difference between proper and improper use of tools like ChatGPT. Having a discussion about learning and the ways in which ChatGPT can help or inhibit the ways in which students absorb information can highlight the intersection of AI writing tools and academic integrity.

Stay up to date with the latest blog posts delivered directly to your inbox.

Turnitin ai tools in the news.

Never miss an update or announcement. Visit our media center for recent news coverage and press releases.

Cheat GPT? Turnitin CEO Chris Caren weighs in on combating A.I. plagiarism | CNBC Squawk Box

Since the inception of AI-generated writing, educators and institutions are learning how to navigate it in the classroom. Turnitin’s CEO Chris Caren joins ‘Squawk Box’ to discuss how it is being used in the classroom and how educators can identify AI writing in student submissions.

writing an introduction university essay

Trouble viewing? View the video on YouTube or adjust your cookie preferences .

Schools Ban ChatGPT amid Fears of Artificial-Intelligence-Assisted Cheating

U.S. educators are debating the merits and risks of a new, free artificial intelligence tool called ChatGPT, which students are using to write passable high school essays. So far, there isn’t a reliable way to catch cheating. Matt Dibble has the story.

writing an introduction university essay

Some U.S. schools banning AI technology while others embrace it | NBC Nightly News

ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence program, can write college-level essays in seconds. While some school districts are banning it due to cheating concerns, NBC News’ Jacob Ward has details on why some teachers are embracing the technology.

writing an introduction university essay

BestColleges

Artificial intelligence, it seems, is taking over the world. At least that's what alarmists would have you believe . The line between fact and fiction continues to blur, and recognizing what is real versus what some bot concocted grows increasingly difficult with each passing week.

THE Journal

In this episode of THE Journal Insider podcast, host and THEJournal.com editor Kristal Kuykendall welcomes two former teachers who have been working on AI writing tools at Turnitin, a plagiarism-detection software used by thousands of K–12 schools and institutions of higher education.

Fast Company

ChatGPT, an AI-powered “large language” model, is poised to change the way high school English teachers do their jobs. With the ability to understand and respond to natural language, ChatGPT is a valuable tool for educators looking to provide personalized instruction and feedback to their students.

For press and media inquiries, contact us at [email protected]

Meet us in person to discuss ai writing detection.

We are attending larger and smaller events to ensure we’ll have the opportunity to discuss academic integrity in the age of AI writing with you in person. Here’s a list of events that Turnitin has already participated in, or will be participating in this year. Looking forward to seeing you there!

MBO Digitaal Conferentie, September 21-22, Ulft, Netherlands World Academic Summit, 26-28 September 2023, Sydney, Australia Campus Innovation, September 27-29, Hamburg, Germany tawiab 2023: Tagung wissenschaftliche Abschlussarbeiten und Hochschulschriften-Repositorien, September 28, Vienna, Austria ACO-TEC 2023, September 28-29, Vienna, Austria Digital Universities: MENA, 9-11 October, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia EDUCAUSE Annual Conference, 9-12 October 2023, Chicago, USA

EDUtech Europe, October 10-12, Amsterdam, Netherlands Digital Universities: Europe, 23-25 October 2023, Barcelona, Spain THE Campus Live US, 8-9 November 2023, Los Angeles, USA SURF Onderwijsdagen, November 14-15, Den Bosch, Netherlands NCTE, 16-19 November 2023, Columbus, OH, USA THE Campus Live UK, 22-23 November 2023, UK Online Educa Berlin 2023 (OEB), November 22-24, Berlin, Germany

Let’s innovate together

writing an introduction university essay

Edit Pad - Free Online Text Editor

AI Essay Writer

AI essay writer by Editpad is a free essay maker that helps you write captivating, unique, and informative essays without worrying about plagiarism.

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  1. Introduction

    writing an introduction university essay

  2. How to write an academic introduction / Academic English UK

    writing an introduction university essay

  3. Introduction

    writing an introduction university essay

  4. How to Write an Essay Introduction

    writing an introduction university essay

  5. Academic introductions

    writing an introduction university essay

  6. How to Write an Introduction Paragraph for an Essay : GetStudying

    writing an introduction university essay

VIDEO

  1. ESSAY WRITING UNIVERSITY PTE ACADEMIC

  2. Writing for Success

  3. Essay examples I The best online essay

  4. ACADEMIC ESSAY

  5. ACADEMIC ESSAY

  6. Tips for academic success in the humanities

COMMENTS

  1. How to Write an Essay Introduction

    Step 1: Hook your reader Step 2: Give background information Step 3: Present your thesis statement Step 4: Map your essay's structure Step 5: Check and revise More examples of essay introductions Other interesting articles Frequently asked questions about the essay introduction Step 1: Hook your reader

  2. Introductions

    The introduction to an academic essay will generally present an analytical question or problem and then offer an answer to that question (the thesis). Your introduction is also your opportunity to explain to your readers what your essay is about and why they should be interested in reading it.

  3. How Do I Write an Intro, Conclusion, & Body Paragraph?

    Traditional Academic Essays In Three Parts Part I: The Introduction. An introduction is usually the first paragraph of your academic essay. If you're writing a long essay, you might need 2 or 3 paragraphs to introduce your topic to your reader. A good introduction does 2 things: Gets the reader's attention.

  4. Introductions

    Background information Defining key terms Stating your case (road mapping) Confirming your position An example introduction "A relevant and coherent beginning is perhaps your best single guarantee that the essay as a whole will achieve its object." Gordon Taylor, A Student's Writing Guide

  5. How to Write a Great College Essay Introduction

    Revised on August 14, 2023 by Kirsten Courault. Admissions officers read thousands of essays each application season, and they may devote as little as five minutes to reviewing a student's entire application. That means it's critical to have a well-structured essay with a compelling introduction.

  6. How to Structure an Essay

    The chronological approach (sometimes called the cause-and-effect approach) is probably the simplest way to structure an essay. It just means discussing events in the order in which they occurred, discussing how they are related (i.e. the cause and effect involved) as you go. A chronological approach can be useful when your essay is about a ...

  7. Introductions

    Start by thinking about the question (or questions) you are trying to answer. Your entire essay will be a response to this question, and your introduction is the first step toward that end.

  8. How to write an essay: Introduction

    How to write an essay: Introduction The basics on how to write an academic essay for university The Introduction An introduction generally does three things. The first part is usually a general comment that shows the reader why the topic is important, gets their interest, and leads them into the topic. It isn't actually part of your argument.

  9. Essay Introductions

    Every essay or assignment you write must begin with an introduction. It might be helpful to think of the introduction as an inverted pyramid. In such a pyramid, you begin by presenting a broad introduction to the topic and end by making a more focused point about that topic in your thesis statement. The introduction has three essential parts ...

  10. How to write an essay: Introduction

    Here are the steps to writing an academic essay: Usually, the purpose of an essay is to answer a specific question within a given word limit. An essay may be as short as 500 words or as long as 2000-3000 words. It has three main parts: the introduction; the body ; and the conclusion, and is written in paragraphs with each paragraph dealing with ...

  11. How to Write a College Essay

    A strong application essay can boost a student's chances of being admitted to a college. In this guide, admissions experts offer advice on picking a college essay topic as well as navigating the ...

  12. Introductions & Conclusions

    The following provides information on how to write introductions and conclusions in both academic and non-academic writing. Introductions for academic papers. An introduction is the first paragraph of your paper. The goal of your introduction is to let your reader know the topic of the paper and what points will be made about the topic. The ...

  13. Writing tips and techniques for your college essay

    Don't summarize. Avoid explicitly stating the point of your essay. It's far less effective when you spell it out for someone. Delete every single "That's when I realized," "I learned," and "The most important lesson was...". It's unnecessary, unconvincing, and takes the reader out of the moment.

  14. How To Write a College Essay, With Examples

    Thesis statement. Your thesis statement comes at the end of your introduction. Here's the thesis statement from the Skyline College example above. It states the main point of the essay, which the author intends to make a case for. While sports competition is, of course, largely about winning, it is also about the means by which a player or ...

  15. College Essay Format: Writing & Editing Tips

    Likewise, your essay will have an introduction, body, and conclusion. Unless the college requests a specific admission essay format, use the format you've been using to write essays in high school that you're likely to be the most comfortable with. If you're stuck on how to open your essay, write the middle of your story first. ... Writing tips ...

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

    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.

  17. How to Write an Essay Introduction

    Write a rough introduction. Come up with a rough thesis statement. Use your introduction to lay out how your essay will be organized. Adapt your thesis and organizational plan as needed as you write your essay. Add a hook to your introduction. Edit and proofread. Next, come up with one or two potential organizational plans.

  18. How to Write an Introduction, With Examples

    An introduction for an essay or research paper is the first paragraph, which explains the topic and prepares the reader for the rest of the work. Because it's responsible for both the reader's first impression and setting the stage for the rest of the work, the introduction paragraph is arguably the most important paragraph in the work.

  19. How to build an essay

    An essay is not like a mystery novel which keeps the reader in suspense; it should not slowly reveal the argument to the reader. Instead, the contention and supporting arguments are usually stated in the introduction. When writing an introduction, you should typically use a general to specific structure.

  20. Essay and dissertation writing skills

    Writing your introduction Essays need an introduction to establish and focus the parameters of the discussion that will follow. You may find it helpful to divide the introduction into areas to demonstrate your breadth and engagement with the essay question.

  21. Academic Writing Introduction

    Academic Writing. These OWL resources will help you with the types of writing you may encounter while in college. The OWL resources range from rhetorical approaches for writing, to document organization, to sentence level work, such as clarity. For specific examples of writing assignments, please see our Common Writing Assignments area.

  22. Student-to-Student: Advice from Davidson College Students on the

    Current Davidson College students share their tips and tricks for navigating and writing the college essay. About the Authors. This piece was written by Senior Fellows in Davidson College's Office of Admission & Financial Aid; Zaynab Abuhakema '24, Nathanael Bagonza '24, Chloe Boissy Stauffer '24, Kelsey Chase '24, Amanda Fuenzalida ...

  23. How to write an introduction to an essay

    An introduction should give the reader a glimpse into your thoughts on the essay topic or question. You could briefly: introduce your main idea or key point. summarise your overall argument. give ...

  24. Quoting and integrating sources into your paper

    Important guidelines. When integrating a source into your paper, remember to use these three important components: Introductory phrase to the source material: mention the author, date, or any other relevant information when introducing a quote or paraphrase. Source material: a direct quote, paraphrase, or summary with proper citation.

  25. Yes, ChatGPT Can Help With Your College Admissions Essay

    In February, I tested the chatbot's ability to write college application essays.The results were relatively successful, with two private admissions tutors agreeing the essays definitely passed for ...

  26. Essay Writing and College Applications

    In today's Martin Center article, Liberty University student Kristin MacArthur examines one reason. She writes, "According to a working paper released two months ago by the Annenberg Institute ...

  27. AI Writing Detection

    THE Journal. In this episode of THE Journal Insider podcast, host and THEJournal.com editor Kristal Kuykendall welcomes two former teachers who have been working on AI writing tools at Turnitin, a plagiarism-detection software used by thousands of K-12 schools and institutions of higher education.

  28. AI Essay Writer

    Click on the " Write My Essay " button to start the writing process. After that, our free essay writer will automatically write an essay in few seconds and provide results in the output box. Simply copy it by clicking on the copy icon or you can save it by clicking on the download button. AI essay writer by Editpad is a free essay maker that ...