The introduction, usually the first paragraph of an essay, introduces the essay’s topic and purpose that will be explored in the body paragraphs. Think of an introduction as the first few notes of a song. Traditionally, a song does not start off with multiple instruments playing at once. It eases into the music with a little guitar riff here or maybe a drum solo there. The introduction to an essay is similar; you ease into the topic by presenting a little bit at a time, thus setting the tone for the rest of the essay.

Parts of an Introduction

A typical introductory paragraph consists of four major elements delivered through a handful of sentences. The introduction gradually builds up to the thesis statement, which reveals the essay’s topic and purpose. All sentences in the introduction must relate to the essay’s topic and provide readers with the information they need to understand the essay’s purpose.


The hook is the sentence that grabs your reader’s attention. It can be a statistic, question, fact, or something that sets the mood. The hook makes your audience want to keep reading.

Supporting sentences

Supporting sentences usually provide basic background information about your topic in no more than two or three sentences.


The transition is a bridge between the supporting sentences and the thesis. The transition helps you to shift the focus from general information about your topic and to your specific argument or thesis.

Thesis statement

The thesis statement is the core of the introduction. The thesis explains what, why, and how (what you are writing about; why you are writing about it; how you are going to organize and breakdown your topic and purpose). For more on thesis statements, see the Stone Writing Center’s (SWC) handouts on this topic.

Example Introduction and Discussion

Parents can pass on to their children strong morals, unwavering resilience, or secrets that must never see the light of day. Writers of Gothic literature often contemplate the dreaded trope of familial anguish, and nineteenth-century novelist and poet Edgar Allan Poe is no exception. His 1839 short story, “The Fall of the House of Usher,” explores a scandalous family whose last surviving member is just as broken as the house he inhabits. The last Usher paid the price for sharing his parent’s burden. Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher” examines the Gothic concept of hereditary tragedy through his use of dreary imagery, tortured characters, and unresolved conflict.

The hook (located in the first sentence) introduces a seemingly harmless concept but then ends on a darker note, setting the tone of the essay and giving the audience an incentive to read on.

The supporting sentences (the second and third sentences) provide basic background information about the topic. The supporting sentences also maintain the darker tone set by the hook, so the sentences seamlessly move from one idea to the next.

The transition (the fourth sentence) zeroes in on a single aspect of the topic, shifting from the general information in the supporting sentences to the essay’s specific argument or thesis.

Finally, the thesis statement (the fifth sentence) explains the essay’s topic, purpose, and organization.

What to Remember When Writing an Introduction

Paragraph Length

An introduction is meant to be shorter than a body paragraph. Generally, the minimum paragraph length for most college-level essays is five to seven sentences. A long introduction is not necessary because you are only meant to introduce the topic, not explain it at length.

Sentence Placement

All sentences have a distinct purpose and should be placed in a particular order. For example, the hook always goes first because its purpose is to grab the reader’s attention; only after you have the reader’s attention can you move onto more specific information about your topic.

Appropriate Structure

An introduction usually begins with a relatively broad concept or idea. With each sentence, the information gets a little more specific, and the whole picture becomes clearer. Typically, the introduction does not immediately reveal your purpose; it’s meant to introduce your general topic. Only in the thesis statement is your purpose fully revealed.

Flow between Sentences

It’s important to stay focused. Make sure that each sentence is related to your topic in some way and gradually builds up to your thesis statement. Don’t bring up any off-topic information that will not be explained in your body paragraphs.

Although the introduction is usually the first paragraph of an essay, that doesn’t mean you have to write it first. After all, it can be difficult to introduce your topic and purpose if you haven’t planned everything out yet. Whether you decide to write your introduction first or last, these tips should help you along the way.

Page last updated July 10, 2023.