4.1 Structure

4.1.2 The introduction

How do you write the opening paragraphs of your essay? There are conventions for structuring this paragraph, and examiners will have certain expectations. The opening sentences are important because it is the examiner's first impression of your essay. And there are no second chances at first impressions.


Study these three examples of introductions to extended essays. What features do they all have in common? In which order do they include these features?

Introduction to an English Literature essay

Through globalization and increasing immigration, people from different cultures have had to learn how to live together. In order to help people navigate and understand such cultural clashes, some authors have written literary works that depict characters, struggling to assimilate, integrate and adapt. A Passage to India by E.M. Forster, The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai and Brick Lane by Monica Ali explore cultural conflict through their depiction of characters and their relationships. An analysis of these works helps answer the research question: ‘How do the authors of Brick Lane, The Inheritance of Loss and A Passage to India comment on cultural conflict by depicting character in romantic relationships, friendships and family relationships?’ As this study of the novels and their characters will show, E.M. Forster, Kiran Desai and Monica Ali suggest that cultural conflicts are best overcome through broader definitions of identity, mutual respect for differences and more sharing of power in multicultural settings.

Intoduction to a Design Technology essay

The canteen at our school was built in 1986 and designed for 800 students to eat their lunch within a 2-hour period. Today, our school consists of more than 1000 students and 100 staff members who must each their lunch within a 1.5-hour period. Many people complain about the disorderly space, long queues and inefficient methods of serving food. This situation has instigated the research question: ‘How can the canteen at our school be redesigned to efficiently and effectively accommodate for current demands?’ Several methods were applied to answer this question. Interviews were conducted with canteen workers, students and school leaders. GoPro video cameras were attached to visitors of the canteen to monitor and understand their ‘user journey’. Further, several studies on space management were consulted and applied, including the 6 Sigma Theory. The results of this research are very concrete and can be used by the school to improve its use of space and time. In brief, it will be shown that moving the fruit bar, introducing automated signs and managing a tighter timetable would contribute to a more effective and efficient canteen that can accommodate for current demands.

Intoduction to a Sports, Exercise and Health Science essay

Bryson DeChambeau has changed the way people are thinking about the golf swing. His unconventional approach of cutting each club to the length of a six iron and swinging on one plane has proven very successful for him as he joins the PGA Tour. This has people wondering whether this method can prove successful for any and every golfer. Could DeChambeau be revolutionizing golf like Dick Fosbury revolutionized high jumping? This study asks: ‘How is one’s golf swing and ball flight affected by Single Length Irons (SLIs)?’ In order to answer this question, 20 golfers with handicaps ranging from 4.5 to 34 were asked to hit 5 balls with each SLI and each regular iron. Their results were recorded using a TrackMan launch monitor and a comparison of ball flights were made. Furthermore video recordings documented the kinds of physical adjustments that golfers made progressively during their sessions with the SLIs. The hypothesis was that SLIs would help higher handicappers with accuracy and distance, while lower handicappers would remain as accurate and lose distance. The first part of this hypothesis proved true and the second part was proven false. In fact, accuracy increased and distance remained the same among lower handicappers. In other words, there is a strong case for using SLIs for both good and poor golfers.

What happens in the introduction?

Click on the image below to see an analysis of the sample introduction to the English Literature essay above. Can you find similar elements in the other two introductions? 


  • Write your introduction before writing your essay. Then write your essay. Then re-write your introduction. Some students prefer to write their introduction last, which is also acceptable. But by writing a rough draft of it early, you will have a sense of focus during the essay writing process.
  • See the following page on how to write a thesis statement, which should come at the end of your introduction.