Shmoop's Guide to Writing the Perfect Essay
The introduction should do two things: get your readers interested and prepare them for the thesis. Say something exciting, edgy, and engaging about your topic, then provide the general background information your readers need in order to understand the thesis. (CLICHÉ ALERT: Leading with a quote from some wise old soul like Ben Franklin is a little played out.)
Donovan and Pedro are writing essays about a classic English-class hot-topic: gun control. Donovan bores us to tears and doesn't prepare us for the thesis. He’s a little gun-shy. Pedro, on the other hand, is smart as a pistol; he captures our attention and gives us the background information we need to understand his main point.
Donovan's Painfully Horrible Example:
In this essay I will discuss gun control, which many people care about deeply. Gun control is a controversial issue. It involves the control of guns. Some people think that it is a great idea, while others think it is a horrible idea. As Thomas Jefferson once said, "A coward is much more exposed to quarrels than a man of spirit." The same applies to gun control. Gun control should be enforced strictly in all American cities.
Pedro's Astonishingly Good Example:
We are the most violent developed nation on earth. The rate at which we kill each other belies our world-class educational institutions, our advanced technology, and our juggernaut economy. At the heart of this primitive attachment to murder is our love affair with one small object—the gun. Because many mistakenly believe that individual gun ownership is a right in this country, guns and gun control have been woefully intertwined with the concept of liberty. In fact, gun control has little to do with autonomy; it is an issue of public safety, of life and death. We should apply the strictest possible controls on gun ownership in order to curb violent crime and mitigate accidental deaths.