General Guidelines for Writing an Essay Introduction

Before you begin writing your essay, read the instructions carefully to determine the assignment’s expectations. You should also take some time to determine the essay’s genre and what kind of thesis statement it requires. For example, will you have to make a strong argument for something using evidence? Or will you just need to explain a theory or concept?

Once you’ve done this, you can start to draft a very rough introduction to act as a general guide for the rest of your essay.

As you conduct research and work on your rough introduction, review what you know about the subject to start developing a thesis statement, i.e., the essay’s main driving claim. Don’t worry about sticking to this exactly — your thesis will likely change slightly with the more research and writing you do.

Basic Steps for Writing an Essay Introduction
Determine the essay's genre and what type of thesis it requires. Write a rough introduction Come up with a rough thesis statement. Use your introduction to lay out how your essay will be organized. Adapt your thesis and organizational plan as needed as you write your essay. Add a hook to your introduction. Edit and proofread

Next, come up with one or two potential organizational plans. You’ll want to have a clear idea of the topics your essay will discuss to prove your thesis statement, as well as the order in which these points will appear.

As you write your essay, return to your rough introduction so you can adapt your thesis and organizational plan to reflect any alterations you might have made as you researched and wrote the body of your essay. It’s recommended that you allow the content of your paper to influence your rough thesis; a more developed thesis will lead to a stronger essay.

Once you’ve finished writing your essay, return to your introduction to polish it off. Add a hook — something that captures the reader’s attention — to engage your reader and make your paper more compelling. Finally, don’t forget to proofread your entire essay, including your introduction, before submitting it.

The Rhetorical Situation and Why It’s Useful

The term “rhetorical situation” refers to the relationship the writer wishes to strike with their reader. Understanding the rhetorical situation is key because it should undergird your essay. To have mastery over this relationship, the writer must understand their message or text, its purpose, and the setting in which they’re writing.

The usual defaults for college writing are that the writer is a budding scholar in the field (you) and the reader is an established expert (e.g., your professor), unless the assignment expressly states otherwise.

Understanding the rhetorical situation is key because it should undergird your essay.

The message or text (your claim and the essay) will vary with each assignment. The purpose (why the essay is important) is normally to improve your knowledge and skills, and the setting (the context in which you’re writing) is the field of study.

In the case of my philosophy 201 essay prompt, “Discuss the ethics of stealing,” the target reader is someone who understands the process of philosophizing about moral dilemmas. The writer could be the real me or a different persona, so long as my arguments are consistent with one another.

The message of this essay is how our society functions or how it could or should function. The purpose is to demonstrate to my professor my understanding of how ethics and ethical thought work. Finally, the setting is college-level thinking and philosophizing. Knowing this information equips me to construct a successful introduction and thesis.