Starting an essay with a question: A step-by-step guide

Most students in the USA learn different types of attention grabbers back in high school English classes. Well, a question to the reader is one of the most common hooks. It is equally effective and fun to write. But for the opening question to work, you have to put a lot of thought and work into it so that its quality is impeccable. Here are some of the main steps to follow to come up with a perfect question to start your essay with.

Think of a question that instantly grabs the reader’s attention

The number one function of any hook, including a question, is to catch your reader’s attention and hold their interest. If you fail to do so, chances are, they won’t even go beyond the first sentence. Sure, this isn’t true for an academic assignment. Your professor has to grade your essay, so they’ll likely read it in its entirety regardless of how good the opening question is.
But you still want to make the best impression you possibly can, right? Then you need to make sure that the question you are asking at the beginning of the essay is unique and intriguing enough that it keeps your reader guessing. You can definitely consult professional services e.g. CustomWritings or another custom writing company and ask experts to process your “do my essay online” request, – but don’t just copy another author’s opening question. Only you know your essay well enough to come up with something compelling from scratch.

Keep your audience in mind

What works for online reviews written for a website does not work for students’ papers in the USA. What is great for the first chapter of the book is out of place in a formal email. The list goes on and on. The style of your writing should match the context and the audience. The same goes for the opening question, even more so for academic essays. No matter how easy-going your professor is, they probably won’t appreciate an overly personal or intrusive question, even if it does match your topic. So always keep your audience in mind.

That being said, feel free to ask something personalized if you know the people who are going to read your essay. Even though an opening question in a college paper is typically rhetorical and doesn’t require an actual answer, your reader will appreciate that you thought about them when writing. This approach works especially well for semi-formal writing, such as discussion boards where you place your essay for all your classmates to read and respond to. For example, write a question related to both the topic of the assignment and your classmates’ shared experience in the course.

Come up with several thought-provoking questions relevant to your topic

Even expert writers can rarely come up with a perfect opening question on the first try. Creating a nice hook is no different from anything else in studying: practice makes perfect. So it can help to write at least five or so questions and then think which of them works best. The more options you come up with, the better, but only to an extent. Don’t make your own job harder by adding choice overload to the mix.

If you’re unsure of where to start, research what types of opening questions are traditional. There are quite a lot of writing assistance services out there that have great tips on attention grabbers in general and rhetorical questions in particular. Such companies can be especially helpful for beginner writers. But even a top writer can find something there they don’t know or haven’t practiced yet, so it’s never a waste of time to browse through a blog of a professional writing service akin to Grammarly or Owlcation.

Think which of them you’d like to answer

Once you’ve come up with a dozen or so opening questions, it’s time to narrow down your list. There are quite a few criteria you have to consider, including the following:

Which question is the most intriguing?

As a type of hook, the number one thing an opening question is supposed to do is catch your reader’s attention. So try to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and decide which of the questions on your list makes you think, “Oh, I wonder what this essay is going to address.”

Which question is the most relevant to your topic?

Still, your question can’t be completely random. If you use something catchy but irrelevant to your essay, it’s the same as clickbait, which is a cheap tactic. Make sure the reader isn’t left guessing why your opening question is what it is.

Which question is the most unique?

As thought-provoking a question as “What is the purpose of life is?” is, it’s a little overdone. Aim for something that won’t make your reader roll their eyes. Again, try to think of your audience as a customer who you want to buy your product (meaning your essay). The first sentence of your pitch has to be at least somewhat original.

Which question sounds best?

Skip this one if you’re strictly a writer, not a speaker. But a lot of professors give their students assignments that imply reading their essays in front of the class later. If this is the case for you, take into account how well your opening question flows and if it is easy to follow by ear. If in doubt, make it shorter or change the word order a little.

Ask someone for a second opinion

Finally, ask your friend, classmate, or family member for help. After you’ve narrowed down your list of questions to three or so, submit your essay and the list of questions for a review. An outsider’s perspective is invaluable. They can see the flaws in your opening question or overall paper that you can’t. So if you struggle to decide which hook is the best, go with their opinion. The more people you ask for feedback, the better.

But for this to go well, you need to be okay with constructive criticism. If you get defensive whenever your reader criticizes anything about your essay, no one will want to keep you company in your studies. Don’t forget that they’re actually doing you a favor and want what is best for your paper. Learning how to handle criticism is one of the best skills you can learn in college.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.