Write Context Essay Introduction
The introduction to an essay has three primary objectives:
- Explain the context of the essay
- Give the answer: the response to the question or the overall focus of the essay (the thesis statement)
- Describe the structure and organisation of the essay
These aims can be given more or less emphasis depending on the length and type of essay. In a very short essay (less than 1000 words), for example, there is not much room to give a full and detailed context or structure. A longer essay has room for greater detail.
Essays are usually written for an intelligent but uninformed audience, so begin with some context: the background of the topic, the topic scope, and any essential definitions.
- Introductions often begin with a broad opening statement that establishes the subject matter and background. Don't make it too broad (“Since time began…”), but identify the relevant topic and sub-topic (e.g. human resource management, early childhood development, animal behaviour…).
- To establish the scope, answer basic questions: Who? What? When? Where? How? Why? Is the essay limited to a particular time period, a particular group of people, a particular country?
- Definitions are often established after the introduction, so only include them here if they are absolutely essential.
Answer / focus
The most important part of the introduction is the response to the question: the thesis statement. Thesis statements are discussed in detail here: thesis statements.
An introduction often ends on the thesis statement. It begins with a broad statement and gradually narrows down until it directly addresses the question:
This order of introduction elements is not set in stone, however. Sometimes the thesis statement is followed by a breakdown of the essay's structure and organisation. Ultimately, you must adapt the order to suit the needs of each particular essay.
Strong introductions tell the reader how the upcoming body paragraphs will be organised.
This can be as easy as outlining the major points that your essay will make on the way to the conclusion. You don't need to go into much detail in the introduction: just signal the major ‘landmarks.’
It can help to identify how all of the paragraphs are organised:
- Do the paragraphs deal with the issue from earliest to most recent (chronological)?
- Are the paragraphs grouped by broader themes (thematic)?
- Does the essay answer several related questions one after the other (sequential)?
- Do the paragraphs describe two elements and them compare them (contrasting)?
The essay will be much more readable once the reader knows what to expect from the body paragraphs.
See sample essay 1 and sample essay 2 for model introductions.
Page authorised by Director, CTL
Last updated on 25 October, 2012
Writing a Strong Introduction and Conclusion
Creating a strong, well-written introduction and conclusion is vital in writing an effective essay. Both give structure and meaning to the information you present in the body of your essay. In addition, they provide your reader easy access to your argument, position and purpose and keep the focus on them from the first word to the last word.
The introduction and conclusion are usually about 10 percent of your total paper length. For example, if your essay is 1000 words, both are around 100 words. This is not set in stone, but it is a good guide to help you determine the length. Aim to keep both around the same general length, and keep the information and tips below in mind as you write.
The introduction paragraph is your first chance to hook your readers. It should stay clear and concise while properly introducing your topic. A strong introduction meets the following four criteria:
- It explains the context.
- It answers the questions “what is this about?” by explaining the focus.
- It contains the thesis statement.
- It lays out the structure and organization.
The beginning is focused on context by providing background information on the topic. The first statement is somewhat broad, but be careful not to make it too broad. The goal is to establish what your essay is about by explaining the topic and subtopics you intend to share with readers.
The beginning of your introduction should be attention grabbing in some way. The following are methods with which to start your essay:
- Facts (data or statistics)
- Statement that is surprising
- General information
- Combination of any of the above
However you decide to start your essay, make sure it is interesting and makes readers want to continue reading.
Through subtopics and context that define the scope of your essay, the intro answers the questions of who, what, when, where, why and how. This means defining how your essay is limited, such as to a particular age group, time period, geographic location or something else.
Defining the scope does not involve providing lengthy explanations or definitions; save this for the body of your essay. Direct quotations should also be limited in the introduction. Facts or figures might prove helpful in identifying the background and scope, but limit these as well.
Your introduction also explains how the rest of the paper is organized. This is not detailed, but it does lay out how the information is presented. Whether the body paragraphs are organized in chronological, thematic or sequential order is identified in the introduction. Likewise, if each point is compared and contrasted, this is also explained in your first paragraph. Finally, your introduction ends with a transition to the body paragraphs.
Combined with your introduction, the conclusion puts the entire essay in context. Readers are left feeling as if the essay is unfinished when you do not write the conclusion well. Ultimately, you want the conclusion to tie things in a nice, neat bow—to show that your objectives were met. A good conclusion accomplishes three main things:
- It answers the question posed or provides solutions to the problem identified in the introduction by revisiting the thesis.
- It synthesizes/highlights the main points from the body of the essay and connects them.
- It explains the significance through relevance and implications of what the essay finds.
While the conclusion does the above things, it should also follow a similar pattern as your introduction. This means when restating the thesis, use similar language, but not the exact same wording. The conclusion is your last chance to convince readers of your argument, so take the most important points from the essay and restate them in the conclusion to sell your argument or perspective.
In addition, you can address what the implications are of a particular argument, why the argument matters or what additional questions it raises. You should not, however, introduce new information that is outside of the points addressed in the body of your essay. The following are approaches you might incorporate into your conclusion:
- Summary of main points through synthesis
- Restatement of the essay’s purpose
- Suggestions or recommendations
- Predictions about the future
- Your opinion
- Deductions based on evidence presented in the essay
How you end your essay is largely shaped on the length of your overall essay. A shorter essay does not allow much room for speculation or addressing the significance in too much detail. Instead, try ending with a broader statement on the bigger picture of a topic as it pertains to your essay. However you decide to end your essay, the final point made in the conclusion should make it clear that the essay is complete. A good conclusion answers the question of “so what?” by looking at the broader implications.
Above all else, your intro and concluding paragraphs play important roles. The introduction should make readers want to continue reading, to entice them into wanting to find out how your thesis is answered. Your conclusion takes the information from the body of your essay and revisits the introduction and thesis while addressing broader implications or the essay’s findings.