How to Start a Paper

Four Methods:With a QuoteWith a QuestionWith Your ThesisEssay Template and Sample Essays

You finally sat down to start this crazy journey of writing a paper, but you realize you are stuck on how to even start. This is the toughest obstacle to overcome; writing the introductory paragraph can be a frustrating and slow process -- but it doesn't have to be. Here are a few ideas to get your mind rolling.

Method 1
With a Quote

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    Attain access to the internet. If you do not have a computer at home, go to your school/college library and schedule some time to use theirs. It'll be much easier to sift through quotes if you're on a desktop or laptop; a smaller device will limit the efficiency of your search.
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    Google quotes. A number of websites will pop up. Most of them will have categories for you to narrow down your search. Consider the themes of the piece you're analyzing as you skim for quotes.
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    Go through a few of the search result sites and find one you like. Then bookmark it for future use. BrainyQuote and GoodReads are two good sites to start from. You can search by category or by author.
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    Find a quote that captures the topic or feel of your paper. It only has to abstractly allude to the themes or timeframe of your work. If you can find one by the same author, great!
    • Hit Ctrl + F to search for specific words; you may be able to find a quote much quicker this way if you have something very precise in mind.
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    Copy the quote into your paper. Make sure you mention who said or wrote the quote originally; no plagiarism please! Start with the quote and lead into your analysis with how the two connect.
    • Analyze your quote for a second. Think of the main words in the quote to draw the connection to your paper. You do not need a long quote to get your point across.

Method 2
With a Question

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    Think about the point of your paper. If you are covering research, there is a definite answer your research has provided. What was the question?
    • This can be as abstract or concrete as you see fit. It could be the direct questions your paper poses or it could be a question directly stated to the reader, asking them for their thoughts and opinions.
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    Write an outline of your paper. Just because you can't come up with an introduction doesn't mean you can't write a skeleton of what you want to say. Cover the main and supporting points; don't worry about detail.
    • This outline will help you realize what it is your paper says. That way, you'll be able to understand what questions you are asking and answering.
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    Come up with a short list of questions and choose one. Using your outline, come up with 2 or 3 questions that your paper touches upon. Seeing as your paper probably has at least 3 points, try to have one question per point.
    • Think of what you are clarifying with your paper. If there is a standard point of view your paper is challenging, your could ask a question of the accepted definition of a word, concept, or societal norm.
    • Choose the question that speaks strongest to your work as a whole. It'll be the one that's easiest to transition from into the bulk of your paper.

Method 3
With Your Thesis

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    Write a rough draft of your work. It by no means has to be perfect -- it only has to outline what you want to say. Cover all the main points with supporting evidence, but don't worry about transitions now. Have a general idea of your purpose in mind.
    • Having a paper to work off of makes it much easier to see the overall arc of your work. Without it, all the information is just floating around in your head, unorganized.
    • Keep in mind which points are strongest and which are weakest. If any just don't seem to fit right, throw them out now.
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    Find the connection between all your points. Before your paper, you had "pollution is bad." An idea to start off with, but definitely not anything revelatory. Now, hopefully, you can narrow it down -- "Consumption by the world's largest economies needs to be cut in half by 2020" is much better.
    • How do all your points agree? What does their agreement say that you didn't necessarily set out to write? Does their agreement expose anything to strengthen your argument?
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    Start with your thesis. Now that you've found out what it is exactly you're writing about, go. Come out with it right out of the gate. Your introduction will be direct and to the point; you can deal with the details later.
    • Consider the following example: "The illusion of power drives men to do many things. It causes them to go mad, to destroy, and to distrust. In Crime and Punishment, Raskolnikov does all this in his quest to become an Übermensch and seize the power he believes he deserves."[1] With this start, the reader knows exactly what to expect and how the author feels about the work. A solid thesis and a solid start to the paper.

Essay Template and Sample Essays

Essay Template

Sample Ozymandias Essay


  • Buy a book of quotes that may prove to be helpful in the future. This can come in handy if your internet accessibility is limited. Bookstores carry plenty of them in the Bargain books sections so you do not have to spend much.
  • The more powerful your quote selection is, the more you have to say about it. This lends to a very robust first paragraph. Do not forget to give credit where credit is due.


  • Never plagiarize. You will get a zero on your paper.

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Categories: Better Writing