Organizing Your Introduction and Thesis Statement

In addition to explaining what your essay will be about, a good introduction should answer the question, “How will the essay prove this claim?” Giving the reader an idea of the organization of what you’ll be discussing is like handing a map to a driver headed someplace new: It makes the journey clearer and more enjoyable.

Moreover, by providing answers to the “how” question, students often end up augmenting the answer to the “what” question. In other words, they develop their thesis claim — an essential part of a compelling college essay.

Let’s return to the third thesis statement example above:

It is a known fact that archaic civilizations with clearly defined social classes often survived longer than those without. One anomaly is seventh-century XXX. Close analysis of the cultural artifacts of the XXX region reveals that a social system that operates on exploitation, rather than sharing, will always fail. This lack of inclusion actually leads to a society's downfall. Excavated military objects, remnants of tapestries and clay pots, and the poetry of the era all demonstrate the clash between exploitation and sharing, with the former leading to loss and the latter leading to success.

This final sentence instructs the reader to expect the essay to focus on military objects first, tapestries and clay remnants second, and literary analysis third. It also clarifies that the student will be using artifacts to prove their stated claim: that this culture believed sharing brings success, whereas exploitation or exclusion brings failure.

The sequence of the topics listed in the introduction should match how they’re laid out in the body of the essay.

If the student wanted to start with literary analysis, they should go back to the introduction and make sure that topic is listed first. Put simply, the sequence of the topics listed in the introduction should match how they’re laid out in the body of the essay. This format will lead the student to prove their thesis three times, each in a different manner, making the essay strong and convincing.

But this isn’t the only way to answer the “how” question. Let’s return to the fourth thesis example above:

Modern-day sociology scholars have argued that class exploitation ensured the success of archaic civilizations. It is my contention, however, that access to food played an equally important role. Archaic civilizations that had food-growing opportunities and systems survived better than those that did not, regardless of the existence of class exploitation.

The “hows” of this thesis break down the claim into component parts in order to compare and contrast the evidence of class hierarchy with the evidence of food production to illustrate which was more impactful.

There are many ways you can frame your essay’s introduction and thesis statement. The point is that the clearer and more developed your introduction is, the easier the rest of the essay will be, both for you to write and for the reader to follow.