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How To Start An Essay in 10 Different Ways

A college student thinking of how to start an essay Knowing how to start an essay is probably one of the most daunting parts of the writing process. When you’re tasked to write an essay, your mind automatically goes to all the “scarier” parts of writing. You start to ask yourself how you’re going to reach your word count, how long it will take to write, and most of all, how to start off an essay.

Fear not though, we’ll show you how easy starting an essay is. By the end of this read, you’ll be equipped with all the right tools to know how to write an essay.

The First Step

You really won’t know how to start a strong essay unless you’ve chosen a topic. There are so many topics to write about and this first crucial step is probably a little overwhelming. According to Purdue Online Writing Lab, students can encounter 1 of 2 situations while choosing a topic. The first is when students are able to decide from a pre-approved list from their professors. This situation takes a lot of stress off the student because the list of choices are limited. The downside to this though is that it can also be quite limiting. The second possibility is when a professor assigns a specific type of essay and it’ll be up to the student to choose a topic. Your instructor can assign a specific type of essay and leave it completely up to you to decide where to take it.

If you want to know more about what types of essays there are, read all about the 10 different Types Of Essays to prepare you in the case of the second possibility being assigned to you.

A student planning out essay topics

How To Choose A Topic

1. Plan & Organize

If you’re the type of student that already thinks of possible research or essay topics once the teacher gives the assignment, congratulations, you’ve already begun the planning process. When you’re deciding how to write an essay, you’re actually already planning. It’s important to give yourself ample time for research and organizing your thoughts instead of being scared to start and procrastinating. There’s no such thing as overplanning when it comes to writing. This is because the research process could go in any direction. Once you pick your topic, you might not even end up with that. You could also go in a completely different direction than what you have originally planned.

Plan as much as you can and organize your thoughts. Organization will help your mind think better and it’ll definitely help a lot when you’re having to rack your brain for a good topic.

2. Brainstorming

It could also be beneficial to throw ideas around with your friends and fellow classmates. Brainstorming doesn’t necessarily mean you need to work with others. You can also just take some time to sit with your ideas and sift through them.

With a wide array of possibilities for research and essay topics, this can really stop you in your tracks before you even begin the writing process. Luckily for you, we’ve compiled 250 Research Topics For Students That Will Get Your Brainstorming Juices Flowing. There are a lot on here and you don’t have to choose an exact topic from our list. But it can definitely give you a lot of ideas that you can draw a lot of inspiration from.

3. Write Down Your Ideas

According to Purdue, seeing your ideas written on paper is “impetus” for the writing process. They advise students to list down ideas, specifically in bullet form, during a timed writing session. It could be anything from potential topics or any ideas you can possibly think of. After your timer runs out, you can review your written list to see if anything jumps out or stirs something moving or interesting that you can start from.

Female student stumped on writing an essay

Narrowing Down A Topic Choice

Carol Mohrbacher, English professor at St. Cloud University, shared a list of questions that can help you evaluate if your chosen topics are worth researching and writing about. Here are questions you can start to ask yourself.

1. Are you interested in the topic?

2. Is the topic appropriate for those who will read it?

3. What is the purpose of writing about this topic?

4. Is it possible to develop and research this topic given the time frame given by your instructor?

5. Is your chosen topic narrow or broad enough to fit the requirements of the assignment?

6. Will you be able to research the topic and write about in a satisfactory manner that follows the requirements of the assignment?

If you’re still stumped after all the planning, organizing, and narrowing down possible choices for topics, you can also read up on our past blog on How To Come Up With Good Topics.

Other Pre-Writing Steps

A student who has absolutely no idea how to write an essay for college or high school probably hasn’t done any pre-writing preparation. Before you officially start the writing process, here are some things to prepare and consider to make writing infinitely easier.

1. Identify Your Thesis

Every article on how to start an essay, how to choose a topic, and similar titles, will tell you that your thesis statement is for your readers to know the specific focus of your essay. It does however, also have the same effect for the person writing it. That’s why it’s an important prewriting step. You can’t let your readers know what the essay is about if you yourself don’t know either.

Always start with filling in the gaps of data for yourself because essay writing could be looked at as a way of storytelling. And no one uninformed ever made for a good storyteller.

Watch a past Homework Help Show episode on How To Write A Thesis Statement to learn more.

2. Create An Outline

As stated earlier, you can never be too prepared. You should also not underestimate the importance of creating a good outline. Your outline doesn’t necessarily have to be a part of your paper. Most likely, it wouldn’t be unless specified by your instructor. Your outline is more so a guide for you not to get lost in your research and writing. Whether your topic is too narrow or broad, you might end up adding too many details or lose your main thoughts without a clear outline.

Your outline should always contain your main points, main arguments, and supporting arguments so that you won’t get lost.

Watch an old episode of The Homework Help Show to learn How To Write A Structured Essay Outline.

3. Do Your Research

If you’re stumped with where or how to write an essay, you could easily skip all the aforementioned steps and simply do your research. Find topics that interest you, see what’s relevant in the news, or explore topics you’ve never heard of.

If you do decide to follow our steps, research is still an essential part of how to write an essay because where else would you find the right content to fill your essay?

There are plenty of sources online for where you can begin your research and one of the most reputable platforms to find them is through Google Scholar. Learn How To Use Google Scholar For Academic Research from The Homework Help Show.

Male student writing an essay on his laptop

How Not To Start An Essay Introduction

Before we discuss the best way to start an essay, let’s start with how not to start an essay.

Famous author, Stephen King, calls a good start to a body of writing a “hooker”. A type of line that “knocks you dead” as soon as you read it. In his book, “Secret Windows”, Stephen King says a good hooker gives the readers “the pleasure of instant gratification”.

Alternatively, the opposite of a hooker introduction is called a “chaser”. A chaser opening line bores its reader and gives them a reason to stop reading completely.

To know the good ways to start an essay, let us first enumerate some of the worst ways to start an essay according to Richard Norquist of ThoughtCo.

1. Avoid starting with dictionary definitions.

2. Avoid starting your essay with what the assignment prompt is.

3. Don’t start by evoking feelings of shock or amazement on your readers, especially if you can’t maintain that momentum.

4. Avoid using cliches and metaphors.

5. Don’t announce what your essay will be about.

6. Skip on the “cute” quotes or stories to begin your essay.

7. Don’t be rude or belligerent.

8. Avoid the excessive use of alliterations, modifiers, and overusing the thesaurus.

9. Don’t use questionable sources to start your essay.

10. Never plagiarize.

The Purpose Of A Good Introduction

If you’re asking yourself “How do I start an essay?”, you’re not alone. Even the most experienced of writers say the beginning is the hardest part of the writing process. The key to knowing where and how to write your essay is by understanding the purpose and the structure of the introduction.

Here are the main purposes of an essay introduction:

● Introduce the topic of the essay to the readers

● Provide general background on the topic of your essay

● Indicate the overall purpose and plan of the essay

The two general structures of an essay introduction are:

● General statements

● Thesis statements

General Statements

To create a general statement at the start of your essay, begin introducing the topic. This is also where you can add background information about your topic. In your introduction, general statements get progressively more specific as you expound on your topic. A good way to begin making your general statements is by defining terms that are relevant to your chosen topic.

Thesis Statements

The main difference between a thesis statement and a general statement is its preciseness. A thesis statement can also introduce the topic but it is the condensed version of what your essay is all about. In one sentence, your thesis statement aims to state your specific topic and indicates the method of organization of the essay. The thesis statement is typically found at the end of your introductory paragraph.

If you want to learn more essay writing tips on how to create a thesis statement, we’ve provided a more in depth explanation in a previous blog “How To Write A History Research Paper”.

A student’s glasses on top of a notebook

How To Write An Essay Introduction

Now that we’ve established why an introduction is necessary, let’s explore how to actually write it. If you’re looking for good ways to start a paper, you start with your introduction.

A simple way to look at your writing prompt is to ask yourself how you would introduce a topic to someone else. Take it even simpler and imagine how you would introduce a friend to another friend. You state one’s name and then the other and try to initiate a connection between the two people. That’s essentially what writing an introduction is except instead of two people, it’s your reader and your chosen topic. Besides the name, what other relevant information should the other party or rather, your readers, know? That’s what your essay introduction should contain. Everything and anything relevant to get the readers acquainted with the topic, so you can proceed with the rest of your essay.

A college student learning 10 ways to start an essay

10 Strong Ways To Start An Essay

We’ve enumerated all the ways not to start an essay, now here’s 10 different ways how to start an essay.

1. Start by stating your thesis

One of the best ways to begin an essay is to just start by stating your thesis. Your thesis statement’s purpose is to let the reader know what they can expect from your essay. If you’re scared about writing your essay, there’s no better way than to just do it. If you’ve done your pre-writing research, it won’t be hard to identify what your thesis statement will be.

However, with just starting, there’s no need to write in your introduction, “The essay is about…” because it is unnecessary. Just state the topic, what you aim to teach your readers, and let the words flow.

2. Start with a question

There are a couple ways to go about starting your essay with a question. You can literally pose a question at the start of your essay. On the other hand, you can begin by wording it a way that answers the question.

For example, your topic is about banning plastic bags. You can literally start by saying, “Should plastic bags be banned?” and then enumerate reasons why they should. You can then expound by explaining why it’s a commonly used material, its benefits, and how harmful it can be to the environment.

Alternatively, you can begin with answering the question and just say why plastic bags should be banned. By asking yourself a question first, it’ll be easier to understand a topic. You’ll be forced to see the topic from an outside perspective and begin to write in a way where you’re simply answering the question.

3. Start with an interesting fact

We’ve talked about “hookers” being a great start to an essay. There’s really no better way to hook your readers instantly than by sharing information that is not commonly known and is widely interesting. People love to learn new things and that’s why this is a great tip.

With the same plastic bag ban topic, you can start with an interesting fact about. For example you can start by saying, “34% of leatherback sea turtles that were found dead have ingested plastic.” It’s also important to note that whatever fact you share will immediately tell your readers which side of the topic you are for or against. So keep this in mind especially if you’re writing an argumentative essay.

One more thing about sharing facts is to never forget to cite your sources. It’ll legitimize your facts’ claim. It’s also never okay to not give credit. Your teachers and professors will most likely always remind you to cite sources, and they’re really important especially when you’re stating a fact.

Read up on our past blog on How To Find Credible Sources Online so you know that the facts you’re sharing have actually been checked.

4. Start with a revelation or discovery

You might be wondering what the difference is between stating an interesting fact and starting with a revelation and discovery. The difference between these two ways on how to start an academic essay is that the latter is a fact you yourself have found. Assuming you’ve done your research, you have learned something new about the topic of your essay. Based on your findings, you can deduce your own discoveries. You can start your essay introduction with a phrase like, “I’ve finally figured out…” and then add your discovery.

5. Start with your setting

A good storyteller can paint a picture for their readers using words. If you’re thinking of how to write an essay, a foolproof way is to start with a setting that’s relevant to your topic.

For example, your topic is about the current state of Iran and the ongoing anti-regime protests after the death of a young Kurdish woman in the hands of the police. You can start painting a picture of how Iran looked before 1979, which is when the country became an Islamic Republic.

Here’s an example. “Iran adopted a Western-oriented secular modernization under its ruler King Mohammad Reza Pahlavi from 1941 to 1979.”

Starting with your setting doesn’t just apply to topics that have some geographic relevance. If it’s a personal essay you’re writing, you can start your essay by sharing an epiphany you had while vacationing in a tropical country and that can be your starting point.

6. Start with a recollection of a past event

This tip is easy to follow especially if your topic is about a historical event. But its use is not just limited to that type of essay. There are a lot of different ways to start your essay with a recollection of the past. You could mention a past event relevant to your topic. You could mention a personal anecdote about your past. It could be the past of a character relevant to your topic. You could pinpoint any date if there’s a timeline available about your topic and start with the earliest time relevant.

You can look at an example from the earlier topic of Iran. 1941 was the start of King Mohammad’s rule, so you can choose an event that started there like his coronation or how he came to power. Another example with our plastic bag ban topic is to explore when plastic bags started becoming the norm in huge grocery store chains. Whichever type of essay you write, one of the easiest and safest ways to start is with a date and an event.

7. Start with a process

There is a specific type of essay called a process essay where this specific tip works best with. You can also start various types of essays with a simple process. For example, your topic is about “how to be more productive”. You can start with the process of a productive person’s morning routine. They start with making their beds in the morning and get themselves ready. You could paint a picture of a perfect Sunday morning with the process of making breakfast and brewing coffee.

There are many ways on how to begin a paper using processes as there are many possibilities. Try to be creative and just have fun with it!

8. Start with a secret

While we don’t advise starting with corny chasers like Stephen King said, “sharing secrets is one of the best ways to hook your readers.” Of course, it has to be relevant to your topic.

Given our “how to be productive” topic, you can start the essay with “The secret of productive people is making their beds in the morning.” This tip is another creative way if you’re unsure on how to start writing an essay and where to begin.

9. Start with a joke

Another creative way on how to start an essay is to make a joke. Make sure though to exercise one of the questions Professor Carol shared and gauge whether it’s appropriate for your readers. You might have a strict instructor who would rather you go straight to the point. For more creative essays though, you can definitely get away with starting with a joke.

It doesn’t even have to be a knock-knock joke. You could start with a riddle or a funny quote. Something that’ll lighten the reader’s mood as soon as they read so that they’re more inclined to keep reading. Of course, for sensitive and serious topics, you can’t start with a joke and then expound on a topic like political warfare. Exercise judgment and use this tip cautiously.

10. Start with creating a contrast

There are several ways to begin creating a contrast when you’re unsure of how to write an essay. You can make a contrast between the past and the present. You can also make a contrast between image and reality.

Let’s take our “how to be productive” essay sample again. You can start it off with a little something like, “Outsiders look at productive people like they’re perfect and can do no wrong. They outdo everyone else in every single way and make the rest of us look so incompetent. The truth is, even the most productive person has their off days. Even the most organized of people experience setbacks and days when they feel unmotivated.”

Creating a contrast also is a creative way to start an essay. Don’t be afraid to put two varying situations or objects and highlight their differences. Making a contrast gives a sense of relatability between two different things so try and highlight that as well. If this doesn’t work, there are so many other ways on how to begin an essay.

Student planning how to end an essay

Ending Your Essay

We’ve taught you how to start and we’ll also share how to end your essay. You’re probably rejoicing at this point because you’ve almost reached your word-count requirements and all you need is as strong of an ending as your introduction. We’ve shared all the different ways on how to start an essay, for the ending, we’ll keep it short. Literally, keep it short and sweet. If you’ve done your due diligence writing and researching, there’s no use having a long-winded ending paragraph. It’s as simple as restating your thesis, the main facts, and you can add the importance of the research process.

If you want more help with ending your essay, read our past blog on How To Start A Conclusion That Leaves A Lasting Impact.

What To Do If All Else Fails

If all else fails and you still don’t know how to start an essay, it’s time to call on Homework Help Canada. We’re one of the best online custom writing service companies with an amazing team of writers at your disposal.

To order your custom essay, use our online ordering system or get a free quote from our operations team.

Today on The Homework Help Show we are going to help you learn how to START an essay.

No matter how much you prepare, it can be a challenge to START an essay. You’ve done all your research. You’re passionate about your topic. You have an amazing thesis statement and you’re ready to write!

You open up your computer to a Word Document and the black white page is just staring back at you. The curser is flashing, ready for you to start typing. But what do you write?

Looking for study tips, help with essay writing, or advice on how to be a better student? Welcome to The Homework Help Show, a weekly show where we teach, assist, and offer valuable insights for student life. From study hacks to writing tips, discussions about student mental health to step-by-step guides on academic writing and how to write a resume, we’ve got you covered. Want your questions answered? Write them below or join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #askHHG


Cath Anne: [00:00:00] You’ve done all your research. You’ve crafted an amazing thesis statement. And finally you’re ready to write your essay. You sit down at your desk and grab a cup of tea, crack open your computer, open a Word document, and stare at a blank page. The cursor is flashing and you’re wondering what to type next. No matter how much preparation you’ve done it can be difficult to start your essay. Today on The Homework Help Show we are going to walk you through the steps of how to start your essay.

Cath Anne: [00:00:52] Hi guys. And welcome back to our channel. My name is Cath Anne and this is the The Homework Help Show hosted by Homework Help Canada. Welcome to episode 68 of the show. Now before we jump into the content I wanted to remind you that every Thursday at 9 a.m. Eastern standard time I go live on Instagram to chat with you guys. I try to answer some of your questions and we have a chat with people from all over the world. Make sure not to miss out on your opportunity to connect. I love connecting with you guys and can’t wait to do it again. Also I wanted to let you know that we have some amazing content and collaborations coming up for the fall. And I really don’t want you to miss out on anything. So make sure to hit the notification bell and that will let you know when we have a new content up on YouTube. We always upload new content on Instagram and on YouTube every Monday morning. So make sure to stay tuned for that. Also if you like this video make sure to subscribe to our channel so you don’t miss out on any of our other content. OK. Let’s jump in.

Cath Anne: [00:02:08] Now consider this quote by Jody Pico, “You can always edit a bad page.

Cath Anne: [00:02:15] You can’t edit a blank page.” Or this one by Louis L’Amour, “Start writing no matter what. The water doesn’t flow until the faucet is turned on.” These quotations are by writers talking about writing. They’re suggesting that the best way to start any piece of writing whether it’s an essay, a novel, a short story, or an exposé you just have to start. Don’t wait for the perfect opening sentence. Don’t mull your essay over for weeks on end before you start writing. Just get started and the words will flow. If you’ve done your research, picked a thesis, and picked a topic that you’re truly interested in just start writing and the words will flow. There are also many tools and techniques that you can use to start your essay. Let’s discuss.

Cath Anne: [00:03:13] Number one. Write an essay outline. Writing an essay outline is something that we’ve discussed in some of our other essay writing videos. We’ll link one up here for you to check out. An essay outline is going to give you a sense of what you want to write. It’s going to make your essay turn out more cohesive and it’s going to provide a roadmap for the main points in your essay. Writing an essay outline is a very effective way to organize your thoughts and figure out how you’re going to present them in your essay. Beginning with an essay outline is a great way to start your essay and set you on the road to successful completion.

Cath Anne: [00:03:53] Number two: want to know the best way to get an A on your next essay? See what I did there? I drew you in with an interesting sentence that made you want to keep listening. You can do the same thing with an essay in an essay. A strong interesting opening sentence is called a hook. Begin your essay with a hook to draw your reader in and keep them interested. Keep them wanting more. Now don’t stress if you don’t have a strong opening line right from the get go. Many writers save writing the hook until they’ve completed their essay. Then they have a better sense of what they’ve written and they can write a compelling opening line. Great hooks might include a fascinating little known fact about your topic. An interesting personal question, a startling statistic or an interesting quotation. Take the time to think about a strong opening sentence and craft the perfect hook.

Cath Anne: [00:05:03] Number three: Give your reader information about the content of your essay. An interesting hook will grab the reader and draw them in but then they’ll also want to know more information about what you will discuss in your essay. Use the rest of the introduction to explain and discuss what the reader can expect through the rest of your essay. In this portion of the essay you’ll want to inform your reader why you are writing about a specific topic and why it is important that you’re writing about that topic.

Cath Anne: [00:05:41] Tip number four of course include a thesis statement. We discuss the thesis statement in pretty much every video where we talk about an essay will link one up here so you can check it out. The thesis statement is your central argument or controlling topic in your essay. Make sure to craft a strong thesis statement. A thesis statement will play a central role in your introduction in order to tell your reader what to expect and what you’re arguing.

Cath Anne: [00:06:15] Tip number five: Set the tone for your essay. The introduction is the space that you’re going to use to tell your reader what you will discuss but it’s also the space that you’re going to use to tell the reader how you will discuss it. And this is the tone of your essay. The way you write your unique writing voice is what encourages readers to keep wanting more. It could also discourage them from following your essay. If the tone in the beginning of your essay is clear precise and engaging it is likely that the reader will want to keep reading. On the other hand if the tone is muddled this interesting perhaps a little confusing the reader may not want to keep reading. Picking the correct tone in the beginning of your essay is essential.

Cath Anne: [00:07:16] Number six: A short Introduction is better. It may seem like you have a lot of information to put forth in an introduction. However try to keep it short and to the point. If you can explain something in five sentences as opposed to six do it. Keep your language simple and concise. Yes you want to get readers interested but you also want to leave some information for the body of your research paper overall. Keep your introduction short and to the point.

Cath Anne: [00:07:59] OK guys that is it for me this week. I hope this episode was of benefit as always.

Cath Anne: [00:08:06] We love to hear from you so make sure to jump into the comments section below and leave us a little comment about whether you try any of these essay tips. I am wishing you the best of luck in getting started on your essays. Also make sure to check in with us on all of our social media platforms. All of our information is linked and listed in the description box below. If you like this video make sure to give it a thumbs up and subscribe to our channel. I also wanted to mention before we wrap up today that we have been working on some more English language content and we’re really excited about that. We hosted our first webinar just a week ago and we are super excited to keep going with this momentum. Let us know if there’s anything that you would like to see on our platform around English language content. Stay tuned for some more exciting announcements to come. Thank you guys so much for joining me. Good luck on those essays talk soon and take care.