Writing an essay: how to introduce your topic
Okay, so you’ve got your thesis all laid out, and your outline is complete, and you’re ready to start writing the text you’ll actually turn in as your essay.
And yet for some reason you find yourself staring at a blank page on a computer screen, tapping your fingers and thinking about ways to get out of having to write your paper at all. What happened?
You must be unsure how to introduce your topic.
Many people think that an introduction has to be some sort of humorous flourish of genius. It really doesn’t. It can be as simple as a few general remarks about the nature of the topic at hand.
In the course of writing your essay, you selected a topic and created a thesis about it. Ideally, you also did some research. This means you’re probably at least slightly well-versed in what you’ll be writing about. In fact, the more you know, the better you can introduce your topic.
But if you’re suffering from that perennial enemy of essayists everywhere, writer’s block, here are a few basic types of introductions that can help you to at least get started (and once you get started, finishing becomes that much easier).
- Related story: try telling a story that relates somehow to your topic. For example, if you were writing an essay about writing essays (like this one), you might start with this story: “Ernest Hemingway, the famous early 20th-century fiction writer and journalist, had a specific way to deal with writer’s block. When he couldn’t think of anything to write, he said, he would simply write down at the top of the page a single, true sentence.” This helps the reader understand where you’re going, and provides a little food for thought.
- General remarks: if you’ve ever heard of the “pyramid” style of writing, popular in journalism, then you’ve probably seen the general remarks style of introduction. Going back to the example of this article, one might start with general remarks like, “An introduction is a great way to get a reader interested in your topic. An introduction goes at the beginning of the essay and should be interesting, but there are few rules as to what constitutes a truly good introduction, besides making sure that it is at least interesting.”
- Outline the problem: if your essay is a how-to, or a persuasive paper (though this introduction will work for all types, it works best in those two), you may want to start out by outlining the problem or issue you’re going to talk about. This article, with an “outline the problem” introduction, might start, “Introductions present problems for many students and writers who create essays. This is because they often simply don’t know what to talk about. But creating an introduction can be easy, provided you follow a few simple steps.”
With these in mind, you may find it easier now to get started writing that essay. So grab your thesis and your outline and get started. Procrastination is the other great enemy of the writer (and everybody else, for that matter), so the sooner you sit down and make yourself get started, the sooner you’ll be finished.