First Paragraph

How do you begin an essay? You grab the reader's attention and introduce them to your topic! You can do this with a great first paragraph, also known as the introductory paragraph. The first paragraph is an important part of any essay. It sets up the argument and prepares the reader for what you will be writing about. Good first paragraphs include an eye-catching hook to start things off, an overview of the topic, and a statement of your main point.

First Paragraph First Paragraph

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Table of contents

    Meaning of the First Paragraph

    The First Paragraph is the introductory paragraph of an essay. It appears at the very beginning of the essay to introduce the topic, provide background information, convey the thesis statement, and provide a roadmap to the essay.

    The first paragraph sets the stage for your essay. It is the first thing the reader sees and plays a crucial role in setting the stage for the entire piece. It gives you space to capture the reader's attention and let them know what you'll be writing about.

    Importance of a First Paragraph

    The first paragraph is important because it grabs the reader's attention, provides necessary background information on your topic, and prepares the reader for what is coming later in the essay. Without the first paragraph, you risk dropping the reader into your argument without any introduction. This makes things more difficult to understand. The first paragraph is prime real estate for getting your reader into the mindset.

    You can use the first paragraph to make sure the reader is interested in what you have to say.

    Functions of the First Paragraph

    The first paragraph of a synthesis essay serves several key functions:

    1. Introduction of the Topic: It provides background information on the topic to set the context.

    2. Presentation of Diverse Views: It may briefly present different perspectives on the topic, which will later be synthesized in the essay.

    3. Thesis Statement: Most importantly, the first paragraph should include the thesis statement – a concise summary of the main argument or point of view that the essay will defend.

    4. Engagement: The opening paragraph should also be crafted to engage the reader's interest and provide a clear roadmap for what to expect in the following sections.

    By fulfilling these functions, the first paragraph sets the tone for the rest of the synthesis essay and guides the reader through the writer's thought process.

    Benefits of the First Paragraph

    • It grabs the reader's attention
    • It introduces the reader to your topic
    • It gives necessary background information
    • It prepares the reader for what is coming
    • It provides a roadmap for the essay

    First Paragraph Sentence Starters

    The first paragraph should include a hook, an introduction to the topic, a statement or question of your purpose, and a thesis statement. Together, these elements grab your reader's attention and prepare them for the rest of the essay.

    To begin, you need a sentence starter. Really, this means you need a hook.

    Attention-Grabbing Hook

    Imagine you are fishing. You carefully dig through your tackle box, looking for the perfect lure. The lure you choose is meant to catch the eye of big fish. It will bring the fish to your hook so you can capture it!

    In writing, an attention-grabbing opening is called an essay hook. It captures the attention of your reader. It draws them to your argument. It makes them want to read more.

    Climate change currently causes over 150,000 deaths per year. Clearly, climate change is not a problem of the future. It is a problem right now.

    Once you've gotten your reader, you need to craft the rest of your first paragraph. Here's how.

    Writing the First Paragraph

    To write the first paragraph, start with a broad overview, narrow it down by explaining your topic, and then get specific with your purpose and thesis statement. Think of writing the first paragraph as working from a broad subject to a specific argument. Each sentence should make your topic more specific.

    Take a look at the graphic below to get an idea of how you should approach the first paragraph. Then, follow the steps listed below to try and write your own.

    First Paragraph Steps for Writing the First Paragraph StudySmarterFig. 1 - Follow the Steps for writing your first paragraph,

    1. Start Broad

    Imagine someone asked you what you are writing about. You would start out with a broad overview of the subject, right? For example, you might say "I'm writing about climate change." Then, you might give some interesting facts about climate change to show this person why your subject matters.

    Approach the first paragraph in the same way. Take 5 minutes to write down the basics of your subject. What is your subject in general? Don't think about the specifics or the argument just yet. Focus on the big picture.

    Add a hook to the beginning of the paragraph. This should be broad too. For example, you might state a surprising fact about climate change.

    Ask yourself: What would get the reader in the right mindset for your essay?

    2. Narrow It Down

    Now that you've got the reader's interest, it's time to be clear about the specific topic of your paper. Take another five minutes to write down the following:

    • Who are you writing about?
    • What are you writing about?
    • When are you writing about?
    • Where are you writing about?

    Summarize your answers in 1-3 sentences. This is the introduction part of the first paragraph.

    Make it clear what your topic is about exactly. For example, you might explain the positions of the authors you are comparing. You might describe the problem you are solving. Or you might summarize the text you are analyzing. Keep your introduction direct and simple.

    3. Get Specific

    Now it's time to get to the point. Exactly what will you say in this essay?

    Write 1-2 sentences summarizing the purpose of your essay. Are you comparing texts? Analyzing the character usage in a novel? Offering a solution to a problem? Make it clear what you intend to do in this essay.

    Now, state your main point in a one-sentence thesis statement. What is the one idea you want your reader to get from this essay? This sentence can be a little longer than the others. It should be very clear what your main point is. The rest of the essay will all connect to it.

    4. Put It All Together

    Take the sentences you created for Steps 1-3, and put them together into one paragraph. You might need to tweak some things, but that's okay! You can always revise the first paragraph to make it flow smoothly. The important thing is that you have the important stuff written out. Take a moment to celebrate!

    Examples of First Paragraphs

    No two examples of a first paragraph look the same. As you review the example, think about which type of first paragraph you need.

    Each part of the first paragraph is a different color. Pay attention to these different parts. How do they work together to grab the reader's attention and introduce the subject?

    Use this color key to identify the different parts of each example:

    Attention-Grabbing Hook
    Introduction to the Topic
    Question/Statement of Purpose
    Thesis Statement

    Expository First Paragraph Example

    Have you ever concentrated on something so hard that you lose track of time and don't even notice? You are not alone! The psychological concept of flow is a state of mind in which one is fully immersed in an activity or experience. When in a state of flow, things might seem more interesting, energizing, or engaging than expected. What causes flow, and what are its effects? According to scientists, flow is only achieved by the correct balance of skill, enjoyment, and challenge; it influences how people choose to spend their time, and it is a key factor in whether a person pursues a challenge or not.

    Argumentative First Paragraph Example

    Despite common belief, healthcare workers do not always love their jobs. Although there are personal rewards that come from helping people, many healthcare workers suffer from burnout early in their careers. Mismanagement, limited funds, overcrowded hospitals, and long hours are just a few of the hardships they face every day. One might argue that the best solution to this problem is to simply pay healthcare workers more money. However, people in healthcare professions need more than just money; they need healthier work environments that include more support, increased communication, and extra funding for supplies and assistance.

    Analytical First Paragraph Example

    "Your only shame is to have shame." These are the words Amy Tan's mother says to her in her essay, "Fish Cheeks." In "Fish Cheeks," Tan tells the story of an embarrassing Christmas Eve dinner when she was fourteen years old. The author's use of imagery and a sentimental tone illustrate her complicated relationship with her family's culture. To convey the lessons her mother taught her about loving herself with her culture rather than despite her culture, Tan uses the imagery of "strange" foods that embarrassed her, even though she later admits they are her favorites.

    Comparative First Paragraph Example

    Climate change currently causes over 150,000 deaths per year. Clearly, climate change is not a problem of the future. It is a problem right now. In his article on the need for climate-focused business practice, Author A argues climate change can be slowed down by sustainable business practices. In her article on the future of climate change, Author B suggests businesses alone cannot impact the future of climate change. In comparing the arguments of Author A and Author B, it becomes clear that this issue is much more complicated than one might think. Both authors agree that sustainable practices are important for addressing climate change, but while Author A believes businesses should be the biggest contributors to that change, Author B believes it is too late to expect them to do so; she argues that everybody will have to work toward sustainability together.

    Transitioning from the First Paragraph

    To transition from the first paragraph, consider what point you want to make first. The second paragraph (the first body paragraph) should focus on one subpoint.

    To transition is to use a word or phrase as a bridge from one idea to the next. To transition between paragraphs, use words that show the connections between the paragraphs.

    To transition from the first paragraph, write a topic sentence that states the point of your second paragraph. What is the one idea you want the reader to understand from the second paragraph?

    A topic sentence is the first sentence of a paragraph. It states the main point of that paragraph, which should be a subpoint of the thesis statement.

    Now, look at the topic sentence of your second paragraph. Does it clearly connect to the thesis statement in the first paragraph? If not, think of ways to tweak either the topic sentence or the thesis statement. It should always be clear how they relate to each other.

    Once you understand the relationship, use a transition to bind the ideas together!

    First Paragraph - Key Takeaways

    • The first paragraph is the introductory paragraph of an essay.
    • The first paragraph is important because it grabs the reader's attention, provides necessary background information on your topic, and prepares the reader for what is coming later in the essay.
    • The first paragraph should include a hook, an introduction to the topic, a statement or question of your purpose, and a thesis statement.
    • To write the first paragraph, start with a broad overview, narrow it down by explaining your topic, and then get specific with your purpose and thesis statement.
    • To transition from the first paragraph, consider what point you want to make first.
    Frequently Asked Questions about First Paragraph

    What is a first paragraph?

    The first paragraph is the introductory paragraph of an essay. It appears at the very beginning of the essay. It introduces the topic, provides background information, and provides a roadmap to the essay. 

    How do you start a first paragraph?

    You start the first paragraph of an essay with an attention-grabbing hook to get the reader's attention.

    Do you indent the first paragraph?

    Yes, you should indent the first line of every paragraph one half-inch from the margin of the paper.

    What is an example of a first paragraph in an essay?

    An example of a first paragraph in an essay is as follows: 

    Climate change is a shift in temperature and weather patterns over time. This shift has both natural and man-made causes. In his article on the need for climate-focused business practice, Author A argues climate change can be slowed down by sustainable business practices. In her article on the future of climate change, Author B suggests businesses alone cannot impact the future of climate change.  

    What does the first paragraph show in an essay?

    The first paragraph of an essay shows the reader what the subject of your essay will be, some background information on the subject, and your main argument about that subject. 

    How do you transition from the introductory paragraph to the first body paragraph?

    To transition from the introductory paragraph to the first body paragraph, write a topic sentence that states the point of that body paragraph. You can use sentence starters like First, Before, Currently, Importantly, and Clearly for a smoother transition.

    Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

    One can think of the first paragraph of an essay as an opening to a ______.

    What are some of the benefits of the first paragraph? 

    What parts should the first paragraph include? 

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