There are many ways to introduce a topic, but some are more effective than others; so much so that the difference can be staggering. To be effective you need to catch the attention of the audience, provide necessary background information, and foreshadow your future points. Careful word choice and sentence structure are also critical aspects to a good introduction.
Before you even begin writing you need to consider your audience. What will your audience want to hear, what will they expect, and what will make them angry? You want to fulfill all their expectations, and maybe even give them something extra. Always keep your audience in mind as you write in your word choice, and the general focus of your writing.
The first step to any good introduction is to get the attention of your audience. You can do this using a variety of methods. Most novels begin by just throwing the reader into the action. You are confused and have no idea what’s going on, so you have to read more to find out what is going on. This strategy usually works pretty well as long as your audience doesn’t feel altogether hopelessly lost, or lost for too long. For most modern works however, such as persuasive essays, academic papers and the like, you will need to get the attention of the audience a different way. I have found that the best way to do this is to use an interesting fact or statistic—something that really jumps off the page. If you want something simpler, you can use a quote or common phrase. My personal favorite for the opener of any work is an analogy. They can be very strong and apply on multiple levels; they can also be rather accessible to your audience, simplifying difficult subjects into everyday instances.
The next step in your introduction is to give your thesis. Some writers will argue its best to place the thesis at the bottom of the introduction, but I find it works just as well if not better after the attention getting bit. Your thesis should clearly and very carefully state the main point of your work. The thesis is the key to your work, and is the focus of the paper and the introduction. Use your words very carefully, and say exactly what you mean. In your introduction more than in any other portion of your work it is important to have an agreeable tone, and gain the trust of your audience.
Finally in your introduction you want to list your points. Be careful not to list them in a way that is mechanical or rehearsed however. It is best to sound fluent and professional in your foreshadowing. Don’t talk about your points saying first, second, etc… instead use more careful transitions such as and, also, therefore, etc. These transitions will alert your audience to the different points, while at the same time letting them know you don’t have to spell it out for them with mundane phrasing. Reword your points in your introduction so you don’t sound redundant later in your work. This may sound small, but it can be incredibly annoying to hear the same phrasing of words repeated over and over.
Follow these simple steps and you will be well on your way to a strong introduction!