The introduction

Your introduction should:

  • establish and explain your argument
  • define any complex words in the question
  • give any background information needed for your argument to make sense
  • You need to include any information your reader needs to understand what you are going to discuss. Think about:

    • plot summaries
    • definitions of key terms from the question
    • any limits you have decided to give the essay.

    As long as you explain what you are going to talk about in your introduction and still answer the question, you'll be on track.

  • be one or two paragraphs long.

The best introductions quickly establish the argument and grab the reader's attention. Although all introductions need to follow a similar formula, there are ways to make your introduction a bit different and more interesting.

Starting with a quote

Starting your introduction with a dramatic quote illustrates your argument and makes your reader want to keep reading. It also helps set the tone or the historical context, and establishes key figures for discussion.

An essay about Ned Kelly's life might start with this famous quote from his Jerilderie letter:

I have been wronged and my mother [...] not to be pitied also who has no alternative only to put up with the brutal and cowardly conduct of a parcel of big ugly fat-necked wombat headed big bellied magpie legged narrow hipped splaw-footed sons of Irish Bailiffs or english landlords [...] better known as Officers of Justice or Victorian Police...

Using analogies and anecdotes

Good use of analogies and anecdotes can be really impressive. Using them in your introduction shows straight away that you've thought about how the topic relates to other issues. It's an easy way to make your introduction memorable.

Assume the person marking your essay knows nothing about your topic, even if they taught you everything you know.