Introductions for Academic Essays

Introductions play a vital role in academic texts. An introduction is your first impression to your reader. This handout provides some help creating effective introductions.

What Should an Introduction Do?

Introductions provide readers an understanding of the what and why of your argument. They also prepare readers for the argument you’ll make or the information you’ll provide. In academic writing, introductions have three primary goals:

  • To introduce the topic of your essay: What will this essay be about? Readers of academic texts want to know immediately what they will be reading about. The first sentences of your introduction should provide your readers with enough information to determine your topic.
  • To introduce the question you want to address: Why should we talk about this topic? Once the audience knows your topic, they’ll want to know the specific question you’ll address about this topic. Often, this involves identifying a problem or question and discussing why it is important. Your introduction should demonstrate that you have a new contribution to provide – that there is a reason we need to examine this topic.
  • To introduce the answer you propose: What will you argue in this essay? Identifying a problem or question is only useful if you have an answer. The last part of the introduction should overview the main idea or argument that your essay will present, which is the answer to your question or solution to your problem. This step often includes a thesis statement (See our Thesis Statement handout for more help on writing effective thesis statements).

Example Introduction

[topic] The national pride that followed the US National Women’s Soccer team’s recent World Cup championship demonstrates the potential for soccer in the US. [question/problem] Despite similarly strong American showings in many international tournaments, however, the United States has not yet developed any domestic culture for soccer. Many wonder how soccer can finally gain ground and grow as a sport in our country. [answer] I believe greater accessibility to professional soccer will help the US to finally embrace the world’s most popular sport. Accordingly, the American soccer league Major League Soccer (MLS) must change its approach to marketing and television to make soccer more visible and available to more Americans.


More Hints and Tips

  • Start from a specific point. Note in the above example how we begin not with “soccer” but with “soccer in the US.”
  • Introductions should not be summaries of your essay. Do not include every point of your argument, only the overall main point.
  • If you’re having trouble writing an introduction, try writing your introduction last. If you haven’t written your paper, how do you know what you are introducing? Write the rest of your essay, and you’ll have a better idea of what your audience will need to know at the beginning.