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Writers' Center

Eastern Washington University

Writing Your Paper

Introductions

Writing the introductory paragraph can be one of the most challenging aspects of the writing process. It’s hard to know where and how to begin. The hook, line, and sinker approach funnels the reader into your specific topic without overwhelming them. When an essay starts right away with information, it’s almost like diving into cold water, rather than being eased into it. While it is important to be concise and direct in your opening paragraph, and in fact you may even choose this "cold water" approach if it fits your essay's purpose, there is much to be said for keeping your reader interested by easing them into your main point.

  • Hook the reader with a unique statement or question that will spark the reader's interest.
  • Your line will be drawing a connection from that hook toward the issue you are addressing. This line will keep the reader interested.
  • Your sinker will usually be your thesis statement, which is your guiding purpose, or what keeps your essay in place. Ultimately, the goal is to keep the reader’s attention until you can start to reel them in with your essay’s paragraphs.

[Content adapted from the shared resources handouts on eTutoring.com.]

Creating a Good Hook

An introduction should hook, or engage, readers and give them some insight into where you'll take them. The first sentence or two of your first paragraph set the tone for the entire piece. Here are some ideas for a strong start:

  • Lead with a quotation that is provocative or well-phrased.
  • Do a historical/bibliographical review – give context and background on the topic.
  • Review the controversy – involve your reader in the battle or issue you will be addressing.
  • Move from general to the specific (inverted triangle) – begin with a broad situation, concept, or idea, and narrow the focus to your purpose statement/thesis.
  • Begin with an anecdote or illustration – capture the audience’s imagination and interest with a story that sets the stage for your argument.
  • Ask questions – place your reader in an active role.
  • Present a paradox – begin with an assumption that readers accept as true and lead into a claim that not only challenges that assumption but may very well seem paradoxical.
  • Mind the gap – call the audience’s attention to a gap in the research or subject matter; promise that you will fill in the gap. You can also identify what readers know and then what they don’t know (or what you believe they need to know).

Thesis Statement

Whichever approach you decide to use to begin your essay, keep in mind that it's very helpful to you and to the reader to directly state your clear and well-developed thesis in the introduction (see our page on thesis statements). The thesis will guide the rest of the essay.