College essay papers: creating an interesting introduction

For many students who are writing college essays, the introductory paper is the bane of their existence. Starting a paper out and capturing the reader’s interest can be vexingly difficult, especially after someone has written and read a number of essays that use all the same tricks. Making an introduction that is both relevant and interesting can be very troubling, and in fact, most students spend more time on the introductory paragraph than they do on any other section of their papers.

If you are struggling with crafting a solid, striking introduction for your essay, consider the following advice.

Use an Anecdote

Even if you’re writing a research paper that is more focused on aggregate data, a brief anecdote can work wonders and illustrate your main idea or overall point. To find an appropriate, relevant anecdote, turn to books on your essay topic, and consider even stories from history or popular culture. Don’t be afraid to use something a little out of left field; if the relevance of the anecdote is a bit unclear at first, it will snare the reader’s interest all the more.

Use Humor or Irony

Don’t be afraid to pepper your essay with a little bit of humor, especially at the opening. Think of your essay as a presentation or a TED talk. Many presenters open their discussions with a bit of humor that is relevant to the topic. Don’t use puns or jokes with hokey punchlines, necessarily, but do make use of humorous information or anecdotes relevant to the topic. If you discovered anything humorous during the research process while preparing for your essay, now is the time to include it. The introduction is the perfect place to add a little levity and interest.


If you are writing an essay about a social problem or historical event, it can be useful to include an illustration of the greater context. Provide some statistics related to the social problem you are interested in, or describe a direct effect of the historical event you will be describing, and then backtrack to the actual topic of your paper. It is much easier to capture a reader’s attention and make them care about a topic if you introduce them to the “stakes” of the subject, and show them why they should care.

Let Your Personality Shine Through

What did you find most interesting about your paper topic? Did anything surprise you, make you laugh, or remind you of a moment in a film or TV show? Make use of this interest and insert it into your introductory paragraph! Go ahead and put a bit of your personality into the work.