How to Start an Exposition Essay

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When you write an exposition essay, you're typically writing to prove your knowledge of some topic, usually in an essay exam or take-home essay situation. So, the introduction to your expository essay is incredibly important. It shows your instructor that you are answering the question, gives background information that showcases your knowledge and allows you to lay the groundwork for an effective, organized essay. An introduction can be difficult, but a toolbox of introduction ideas can go a long way in helping you compose a stellar opening.

1 Write an attention-getter

Write an attention-getter. Devote the first few sentences of your introduction to convincing your audience to read your paper by intriguing them. According to the Writing Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, some effective attention-grabbers include examples, interesting questions, problems and quotes. Use an attention-grabber that relates well to the rest of the introduction and body of the paper. For instance, if your paper is about preventing school violence, a shocking statistic about the number of school-violence cases would be appropriate, since it suggests a need for prevention. A quote describing the economic cost of school violence would not be, however, because the paper is about prevention, not economics. No matter how good the quote is, it would be misleading to your audience.

2 Give necessary background information

Give necessary background information. Although you can assume your instructor knows the background of the issue or event you are writing about, show that you know it as well, and set the stage for a compelling essay, by providing necessary background information. If you are arguing that one army was better prepared than another during a certain war, you may want to explain why, where, when and between whom the battle was fought. You might even give a definition of what you consider preparedness. Do not use this section as a place to add unnecessary length, but include information that makes your paper easier to understand.

3 End your introduction with a thesis statement

End your introduction with a thesis statement. An academic thesis statement should include a topic, claim and supporting details in this order. The thesis explains to your reader what the paper is about and how it will be organized. Because an expository essay is generally the answer to some exam question or assignment prompt, the thesis should be an answer to that question, using some of the same structure and key words. For instance, if the question is, "Do standardized tests accurately measure student progress? Why or why not?" your thesis might be: "Standardized tests do not accurately measure student progress because they fail to account for learning style differences, test anxiety and poor testing environments."

  • The Writing Center at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill warns against "dawn of man" introductions that are far too general and all-encompassing. Instead of using a general "this is important" introduction, try a specific introduction related to your expository essay's topic.
  • If you are stumped, write your introduction after you have completed the rest of your paper. This way you will have done the research and know what sort of attention-grabber, background and thesis information to include.

Miranda Morley is an educator, business consultant and owner of a copywriting/social-media management company. Her work has been featured in the "Boston Literary Magazine," "Subversify Magazine" and "American Builder's Quarterly." Morley has a B.A. in English, political science and international relations. She is completing her M.A. in rhetoric and composition from Purdue University Calumet.