Cathy A.
Cathy A.

How to Start an Essay: A Detailed Guide for Students

11 min read

Published on: Dec 4, 2019

Last updated on: Mar 28, 2024

how to start an essay

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Picture this: You’re at your desk, with a blank screen staring back at you. The cursor blinks, waiting for your words. But, like the screen, your mind is also blank and unable to come up with any words. 

If that scenario resonated with you then don’t worry, because we have the perfect solution!

In this detailed guide, we will break down the process of starting an academic essay. Here is what we will talk about:

  • Steps Before Starting an Essay
  • Steps for Writing an Essay Introduction 
  • How to Revise and Edit Your Essay
  • Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing an Essay

What's more, is that we will also provide you with examples to make the learning easier for you!

So, let’s get right into it!

Steps Before Starting an Essay

When you are writing an essay, it’s crucial to lay the groundwork. These initial steps will ensure that your essay has a strong foundation.

Step 1: Select a Topic

Before you start working on your essay, you need to select an essay topic. Here is what you need to keep in mind: 

  • Interests: Choose a topic that piques your interest. Writing about something you are passionate about can make the process more enjoyable and your essay more engaging.
  • Assignment Requirements: Ensure that your topic meets the assignment criteria. It should be relevant to the subject at hand and align with your instructor’s expectations.
  • Audience Consideration: Consider who will be reading your essay. Tailoring your topic to your audience can make your writing more impactful and relatable.

Step 2: Brainstorm

Now that you have selected your topic, it is time to brainstorm:

  • Free Association: Let your thoughts flow freely. Write down any ideas that come to mind.
  • Mind Mapping: Create a visual representation of your ideas. This can help you see connections between concepts and organize your thoughts.
  • Explore: Don’t be afraid to look at the topic from a new perspective. Exploring new angles can help you get unique insights, and you might end up with an original essay topic.

Step 3: Research on the Topic

It is time to find as much information as possible:

  • Go to the Library: Utilize the wealth of knowledge available in books, journals, and academic papers.
  • Digital Research: Take advantage of online resources. Scholarly articles, databases, and credible websites can provide valuable information.
  • Source Evaluation: Critically assess the reliability of your sources. Look for peer-reviewed material and reputable authors.

Step 4: Outline Your Essay

Creating an outline will help you ensure a smooth flow. It is a blueprint that will help you through the writing process and ensure you stay on track.

Here is what an outline should include:

Title of the Essay

1. Introduction:

  • Hook or attention-grabber
  • Background/contextual information
  • Thesis statement

2. Body Paragraphs:

  • Topic sentence for each paragraph
  • Supporting evidence or examples
  • Analysis or interpretation of evidence
  • Transition sentences between paragraphs

3. Conclusion

  • Restatement of thesis and Summary of main points
  • Closing thoughts or implications

4. References or Works Cited (if required) 

  • Proper citation format (APA, MLA, etc.)
  • List of sources used in the essay

The essay outline will be different, depending on your topic.

Expert Tip

Check out our blog on essay introduction to understand how to write an effective introduction for your essay.

Different Ways to Start Your Essay

Now that you have a clear idea of your essay topic and you have an outline, it is time to start your essay. The start of your essay should be engaging, and it should grab your reader’s attention from the get-go. But how are you going to do that? 

Here are different ways to start your essay:

Ask a Question

Starting your essay with a question can pique your reader's curiosity. They create an immediate sense of interaction, encouraging your audience to think critically about your topic. If your question is engaging or intriguing, your readers will look for the answer by reading your essay. 

Here are a few examples of different essay types you can use to understand how you can questions in your essay:

Topic: Climate Change

"How can individual actions combat the looming threat of climate change?"

Topic: Technology

"In a world increasingly reliant on technology, do you ever wonder if we're losing our connection to one another?"

Topic: Literature

"What timeless truths can we uncover by revisiting classic literature in the digital age?"

Share an Interesting Fact

You can start your essay with an interesting fact that can be a shocking statistic, a historical fact, or a discovery about your topic. This will immediately get your reader’s attention and make them want to know more. 

Here are some examples to help you understand how to start your essay with a fact:

Topic: Space Exploration

"Did you know that it takes less than eight minutes for sunlight to reach Earth from the surface of the sun?"

Topic: History

"During the American Civil War, an estimated 620,000 soldiers lost their lives, making it the deadliest conflict in U.S. history."

Topic: Nutrition

"Studies show that incorporating just one serving of leafy greens into your daily diet can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by up to 15%."

Use a Quote

Quotes can add depth, and authority to your essay's opening. They can also set a tone that resonates throughout your writing. 

Select a quote that directly relates to your topic or one that offers a fresh perspective on the subject matter. 

Here are some quotes to help you understand how to add them to your essay:

Topic: Leadership

As Maya Angelou once said, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Topic: Environmental Conservation

Albert Einstein famously remarked, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Topic: Human Rights

Eleanor Roosevelt once declared, “Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home."

Dramatize the Opening

Sometimes, you need more than just a fact or a question. Sometimes you need to start your essay with a dramatic opening. 

You can engage your readers by creating a vivid and dramatic opening that will set the stage for your essay. 

This way of starting an essay works especially well for narrative or descriptive essays where storytelling plays a central role. 

Here are some examples for your understanding:

Topic: Personal Growth

"The sun had barely risen, casting a golden glow over the dew-kissed meadow, as I stood at the threshold of uncertainty, ready to embark on a journey of self-discovery."

Topic: Adventure

"The wind whipped through my hair, carrying with it the intoxicating scent of saltwater as I gazed out at the vast expanse of ocean before me, my heart pounding with anticipation."

Topic: Mystery

"The old mansion loomed ominously in the moonlight, its crumbling façade shrouded in secrets and whispered tales of the past, beckoning me to unlock its hidden mysteries."

State your Thesis Statement

Sometimes, the most straightforward approach is the most effective. By stating your thesis statement upfront, you're providing your readers with a clear roadmap of what to expect in your essay. 

This way of starting your essay works particularly well for academic essays or pieces where the main argument needs to be mentioned earlier in your essay.

Here are some examples for your understanding:

Topic: Technology

"The rise of artificial intelligence poses both unprecedented opportunities and ethical dilemmas for society."

Topic: Education Reform

"To create a more equitable education system, we must prioritize individualized learning approaches over standardized testing."

Topic: Health Policy

"Universal healthcare is not just a moral imperative, but also a pragmatic solution to address disparities in access to medical treatment."

Examples of How to Start an Essay

Look at this example of how to start an essay in ielts to understand the correct placement of the hook, background, and thesis statement. 

How to Start an Essay

How to Start Different Types of Essays

Here is how to start an expository essay:

Title: The Benefits of Regular Exercise

Regular exercise is often touted as a cornerstone of a healthy lifestyle, but its significance extends far beyond simply maintaining physical fitness. In today's sedentary society, where convenience often trumps activity, understanding the multitude of benefits that come with regular exercise is essential. In this expository essay, we will delve into the various ways in which consistent physical activity positively impacts our physical health, mental well-being, and overall quality of life.

Here is how to start an argumentative essay:

Title: The Legalization of Marijuana: A Case for Reform

The debate surrounding the legalization of marijuana has ignited fervent discussion among policymakers, healthcare professionals, and the general public. While proponents argue that legalization would lead to economic benefits, reduce crime rates, and offer medicinal advantages, opponents raise concerns about potential health risks, societal implications, and regulatory challenges. In this argumentative essay, we will examine both sides of the contentious issue, evaluating the evidence and reasoning behind each perspective to determine the viability of marijuana legalization in today's society.

Here is how to start a narrative essay:

Title: A Journey of Self-Discovery

As I sit down to reflect on the events that have shaped my life, I am reminded of the intricate tapestry of experiences that have woven together to create the person I am today. From the small moments of joy to the trials that tested my resilience, each chapter of my life has contributed to a journey of self-discovery. In this narrative essay, I invite you to join me as I explore the twists and turns of my personal odyssey, uncovering the lessons learned and the growth achieved along the way.

Examples of Starting an Essay with a Quote

A hook can be in the form of a quotation as well. The quotations can be a great way to set the tone to grab the reader’s attention and interest. Ensure that if you’re using a certain quote or saying, it should be relevant to the topic and written in inverted commas. 

Here is an example that shows how to start your essay with a quote example. 

"Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." - Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela's profound words encapsulate the transformative potential of education. As we delve into the complexities of educational systems and their impact on individuals and societies, it's essential to reflect on the significance of learning in shaping our world. In this essay, we will explore the multifaceted role of education, examining its influence on personal development, societal progress, and global change.

Here are some more examples that will help you understand how you can write an engaging essay:

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Writing an Essay

It is common for students to make mistakes when writing their essays. However, it would not be a detailed guide if we didn’t tell you how to avoid them. 

Here are some of the most common mistakes you should avoid:

  • Procrastination: We all have been guilty of this at some point. However, don’t wait until the last minute. Start early to give yourself ample time to write and revise.
  • Using Complicated Vocabulary: Clarity is the key to keeping the reader engaged. Don’t confuse the message of your essay with unnecessarily complex words.
  • Not Proofreading: Even if you are an excellent writer, always review your work. Typos and errors are easy to miss, and they can undermine your credibility.
  • Unsupported Claims: Back up your arguments with evidence. Unsupported claims can affect the credibility of your essay. 
  • Ignoring the Audience: Remember who you’re writing for. An essay that doesn’t resonate with its readers loses its main purpose. 
  • Lack of Critical Analysis: Don’t just present information in your essay. Analyze and interpret it to show your understanding and to give your insight. 

Wrapping Up!

 By now, you must have understood how to start a compelling essay that resonates with your readers. 

Starting an essay doesn’t have to be a struggle. By following these steps mentioned in the blog, you can complete the task with confidence and clarity. 

Remember, the key to a great essay lies in preparation, organization, and revision.

However, if you feel confused then it is best to not risk your grades and call in the professionals.

Our expert writers at are ready to help you write an excellent and well-researched essay. 

So, what are you waiting for? Just say, “Write my essay” and leave the rest to us!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some different ways to start an introduction?

Starting an introduction can be approached in various ways. You might begin with an attention-grabbing anecdote, a thought-provoking question, a relevant quote, or a startling fact. Alternatively, you could set the context by providing background information on the topic or stating the purpose of your essay.

What if I don’t add a thesis statement?

A thesis statement is a crucial component of any essay as it succinctly summarizes the main point or argument that your essay will discuss. Removing or not adding a thesis statement can make your essay appear unfocused and lacking direction. 

Can I use first-person pronouns in my essay?

Yes, you can use first-person pronouns (such as "I," "me," "my," "we," "us," or "our") in your essay, especially if you're writing a personal narrative or reflective piece. However, it's essential to use them appropriately, considering the tone and style of your writing.

Cathy A.


Cathy A., Literature, Marketing

Cathy has been a trusted source of high-quality writing for more than five years. With her in-depth knowledge of mass communication from her Master's degree, she always produces work that meets the needs of her clients. In fact, they often leave her 5-star reviews for being an outstanding writer who is very passionate about their craft.

Cathy has been a trusted source of high-quality writing for more than five years. With her in-depth knowledge of mass communication from her Master's degree, she always produces work that meets the needs of her clients. In fact, they often leave her 5-star reviews for being an outstanding writer who is very passionate about their craft.

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