How To Write An Academic Essay Introduction

28.04.20 Structuring academic essays Time to read: 7min

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Academic essay introduction definition

An academic essay introduction is the beginning paragraph of a paper that sets the path and the tone of what the reader should expect throughout the paper. It should capture the reader’s attention by creating an interest in reading the entire paper. The introduction is applicable across all fields, including descriptive, expository, dialectic, thesis, or even argumentative essays.

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There is no specific rule on the length of an essay introduction. How long your introduction is, is dependent upon the length of the academic essay. The length of your academic essay introduction should be somewhere around 10 % of the word count of the overall academic essay.

A good academic essay introduction should highlight the critical context of the topic in question, indicating your specific focus in the academic essay. It should be able to capture the reader’s attention by giving them an overview of the academic essay structure and what the entire paper is about. It’s also important that the introduction begins with a strong opening sentence to catch the reader’s attention.

Starting an academic essay introduction can be tricky. Sometimes, you literally just don’t know where to start! However, with the following tips, you should be able to get onto the right track.

  • Read about transition words and sentence starters
  • Repeat your topic or subject description using different words
  • Point out some interesting facts about the topic
  • Consider starting with a rhetorical question

Your introduction paragraph should begin with a one or two sentence opening statement created to capture the attention of the reader. This should be followed by a couple of sentences that connect the opening statement with the thesis statement. Your thesis statement is the key impression of what the academic essay is all about and should be towards the end of the introduction.

There are four different ways of writing an introduction to an academic essay. These include; funnel, quotations, dramatic, and the turn-about form. A funnel introduction runs from background information to a more focused thesis. Quotation introductions use quotes to lead the reader to the thesis statement. Dramatic introductions are written as eye-witness accounts, while turn-about introductions start with an opposite perspective before focusing on the main idea.

Tip: Check out our blog article ‘How to Write an Academic Essay’ for some more general hints and tips about structuring and writing an academic essay.

Academic essay introduction structure

There are numerous questions that students raise concerning the structure of an academic essay introduction. This is because how good you are in structuring your academic essay introduction adds to how efficient you will be in your essay writing skills. An introduction to your academic essay consists of three essential elements, including an attention grabber, a connection to the academic essay’s content, and a thesis statement.

Attention grabber

This is the first sentence of an introduction to your academic essay. The purpose of the attention grabber is to capture the attention of the reader. It should be in the form of a quote, anecdote, dialogue, or an interesting fact about the topic of discussion.


These are a few sentences that lead the reader from the academic essay’s opening statement to the thesis statement. These sentences highlight what you will be talking about throughout your academic essay.

Thesis statement

This is the statement that comes towards the end of your academic essay introduction. It provides a concise summary of the academic essay’s main idea, and it is usually expressed in a single sentence.

Writing an introduction

A good introduction provides an overview of what the entire paper is about and should be convincing to the reader that reading the rest of the academic essay is worth their time. Here are a few tips on how to write an outstanding introduction to your academic essay.

  • Make your introduction brief and direct to the point: Unless you are writing a 40-page academic essay, your introduction should be as short as possible. Highlight the key elements of an academic essay introduction and leave the rest for the body of your academic essay.
  • Capture the reader’s attention: Consider using an interesting fact, quotes, anecdotes, or a question to keep the reader engaged and interested in giving the rest of the paper some attention.
  • Avoid clichés: Some styles of writing academic essay introductions may have been successfully used before but sound too obvious and usual today. An example of a cliché ideology in writing an introduction to your academic essay is starting the introduction with a definition.
  • Do not forget your thesis statement: Your thesis statement is the backbone of your academic essay introduction, as well as your overall paper.
  • Avoid providing too many background details at this point: Only highlight the necessary introductory information here.
  • Keep the tone and language formal when writing your academic essay introduction: Academic essay writing comes with some form of strictness when it comes to tone and language, and your introduction is not an exception. Only be informal when required to by your lecturer or tutor.

Academic essay introduction formats

Depending on the type of academic essay you are writing, an academic essay introduction should capture various elements, including a problem statement, personal opinion and attitude, and the scope of your discussion. Here is how to go about an academic essay introduction for the various academic essay formats:

An introduction to an argumentative essay should be personal, highlighting convincing reasons why our thoughts and opinions are the most accurate and impeccable.

The introduction of a persuasive essay should carry some form of deep conviction, persuading your reader to agree with your viewpoint before getting into the entire paper. Readers might not find your academic essay interesting to read if your introduction does not create a persuasive impression on the subject matter.

Students should be able to highlight the two sides of the subject matter in their compare and contrast essay introduction. The backbone of this academic essay type is found in the capacity of your introduction to show similarities and differences between two issues, tendencies, or events.

A descriptive essay introduction should creatively capture the reader’s attention by offering a descriptive list or outline of sensory details on the subject matter. It should trigger the reader’s imagination using descriptive statements. You can also add your opinion and thoughts on the topic by being specific to the details.

Academic essay introduction tense

There is no specific restriction on the tense to use while writing an introduction for your academic essay. For example, past tense can be used in reference to past events or historical descriptions. Students can also use either past or present tense when writing a narrative essay. However, whichever tense you choose, it should be applied consistently throughout your introduction.


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Academic essay introduction example


Academic Essay Introduction – In a Nutshell

In summary, an academic essay introduction;

  • Is the beginning paragraph of a paper that sets the tone of the entire academic essay.
  • Should outline a general overview of what the entire paper is about.
  • Should be 10 % of the academic essay’s total word count in length.
  • Should contain three key elements, including the attention grabber, connections, and a thesis statement.
  • Can be written in any tense depending on the nature of the academic essay, provided the tense is used consistently throughout the introduction of your academic essay.
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