60 Introductory Paragraph: Establishing Reader Interest and Writing a Strong Thesis

Ann Inoshita; Karyl Garland; Kate Sims; Jeanne K. Tsutsui Keuma; Tasha Williams; and Melissa Elston

Learning Objectives

  • Learn the component parts of a complete and succinct introduction
  • Examine strategies for the opening lines of an essay
  • Learn how to write thesis sentences that are specific, precise, and confident
  • Identify the differences between a strong thesis and a weak thesis


An introduction exists as the first paragraph in a five-page essay, and it serves the following purposes:

  • Establishes reader interest.
  • Introduces the general topic of the essay while establishing the writer’s voice, tone, or attitude, toward the subject.
  • States the thesis that will be supported in the body paragraphs.

Establishing reader interest

Introductions should begin with an engaging lead or opener (sometimes called a “hook”) that is devised to evoke readers’ interest. Capturing readers’ attention motivates them to continue reading. Writers can garner a reader’s interest by doing the following:

  • Beginning by quoting an expert on the respective topic or an inspirational individual.
  • Beginning by offering some statistical evidence that is both informative and intriguing.
  • Opening with a striking mental image.
  • Appealing to the reader’s emotions.
  • Raising a question or series of questions.
  • Presenting an explanation or rationalization for the essay.
  • Including a personal anecdote.
  • Stating in the middle of a story with the conclusion of the story existing as the first sentence in the conclusion paragraph.

While the above strategies can be successful in “hooking” your reader, always confirm with your instructor whether or not you are using the right approach. For example, if your assignment sheet instructs you not to use first-person point-of-view, then including a personal anecdote in the introduction will not work for your paper.

Transition sentences

After the opener or hook, writers need to add transition sentences that should introduce the readers to the topic by stating general facts or ideas about the subject. These important sentences help readers move or “transition” from the hook toward the thesis statement.

You can think of your introduction as an inverted pyramid–whereas your first sentences about your topic are broad, the introductory paragraph then narrows down to the thesis, which should be specific.

A strong thesis statement

An introduction usually contains a thesis statement (i.e., the main point of the essay). A thesis statement is a promise to the reader about what the essay will be about. A thesis is not the topic itself, but rather the writer’s angle on the topic. For whatever topic a professor gives, writers must ask themselves, “What do I want to say about it?” Asking and then answering this question is vital to forming a thesis that is precise, forceful, and confident.

A thesis is usually one sentence long and appears toward the end of the introduction. It is specific and focuses on one to three points of a single idea—points that are able to be demonstrated in the body. It forecasts the content of the essay and suggests how the writer will organize the information. The templates in the section about composing thesis sentences all help writers develop specific, precise, and confident thesis sentences.


A thesis statement must concentrate on a specific area of a general topic. The creation of a thesis statement begins when writers choose a broad subject and then narrow it down until they have pinpointed a specific aspect of that topic. For example, healthcare is a broad topic, but a proper thesis statement would focus on a specific area of that topic and essentially answer the following question: “What are the options for individuals without healthcare coverage?”


A strong thesis statement must be precise enough to allow for a coherent analysis of the topic but remain focused on the topic. If the specific topic pertains to options for individuals without healthcare coverage, then the precise thesis statement must make an exact, related, statement, such as the following: “Limited options exist for those who are uninsured by their employers.” To elaborate on this topic further, the writer might discuss how limited options impact the lives of the uninsured.


Writers must also be confident in their approach. Phrases such as “I feel” or “I believe” actually weaken the readers’ sense of confidence in what they are reading because these phrases imply that the writer may be the only person who feels this way.

Taking an authoritative stance on the matter persuades readers to have faith in the argument and to open their minds to the point of view of the writer. So, no thesis should contain phrases such as “in my opinion” or “I believe.” These statements reduce credibility.


Each of the following thesis statements meets several of the requirements: specificity, precision, and confidence.


Literature-based examples:

  • The societal and personal struggles of Troy Maxon in the 1986 play Fences symbolize the challenges faced by black men who lived through segregation and integration in the United States, and their life stories can be considered as critical to understand the challenge black men continue to face over thirty years later.
  • J. D. Salinger’s character in Catcher in the Rye, Holden Caulfield, is a confused and somewhat rebellious young person who voices his disgust with “phonies.” Yet, in an effort to protect himself, he acts like a phony on many occasions making him a complicated character within one of Salinger’s most celebrated novels.

Current events-based examples:

  • Closing all American borders for a period of five years is one idea proposed so as to deal with illegal immigration; however, contemporary strategies regarding this issue do not address the essential human right for safety along with the essentials of food, clothing, and shelter.
  • Discussing the dangers of illegal drug use is with elementary and middle school students is one method that schools use to help dissuade young people from abusing drugs as they grow up. However, children learn a great deal from what they observe making it imperative that parents monitor what their children watch on TV, see in movies, and glean from their friends and family members.


Avoid weak thesis statements

Here are some pitfalls to avoid when composing a thesis:

  • A thesis is weak when it is simply a declaration of a subject or a description of what the writer will discuss in the essay. Remember, do not refer to your essay in your essay. By the time one enters college, such strategies for writing thesis statements have passed.
  • A thesis is weak when the statement is too broad. Weak thesis statement: The life and presidency of Abraham Lincoln was challenging.


Adapted from English Composition: Connect, Collaborate, Communicate by Ann Inoshita; Karyl Garland; Kate Sims; Jeanne K. Tsutsui Keuma; and Tasha Williams, CC BY 4.0 


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Introductory Paragraph: Establishing Reader Interest and Writing a Strong Thesis Copyright © by Ann Inoshita; Karyl Garland; Kate Sims; Jeanne K. Tsutsui Keuma; Tasha Williams; and Melissa Elston is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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