How to Start an Academic Essay: What You Should Avoid

Academic essays have evolved much in the last years. The rules and recommendations have changed and the day of the footnote has long passed. There are a few things you should avoid as you start your academic essay.

No First Person

You may want to appeal to your audience and ask them a question. You can ask a question, but you cannot use the word I.

Speaking of Questions

As far as asking a question in the first paragraph, it used to be the rage in academic writing. It was felt that you were asking your audience to deeply consider a question or concern about your topic. The idea was that you were pulling your audience into your topic. Questions are not used nearly as much these days as they used to be. They became a bit worn-out and over used.


As recent as five years ago, it was strictly forbidden to start an academic paper with a quote. That feeling has changed and leading with a quote has become very popular. If you can find an appropriate quote, then go ahead and use it.

Thesis Statement

It is very much acceptable to begin your first paragraph with your thesis statement rather than to end the paragraph with the thesis statement. Mixing things up as far as order can make for an unexpected and delightful read.


A story can be an interesting way to start an academic paper, but it can be tricky to insert into the paper, so that it sounds smooth. Be careful that the story does not stand out and look misplaced. And of course, you need to find a story that suits your essay. Not just any story would do.


You can begin the paper with a controversial or thought provoking statement about the subject. You will need to find a strong statement, so look carefully. If you cannot find one, consider starting the paper in another way.

Stay Away from Too Many Statistics

Numbers are hard to visualize, so if you plan on starting with a statistic or date, make sure it has the greatest significance. Starting by reeling off a row of numbers will probably not pull in your audience. It may, however, put your audience to sleep.

Use this list of tips when you cannot decide how to begin your next academic essay. They should be a big help.