“This I Believe” Essay Outline/Plan
Directions: Use the chart below to plan your “This I Believe” essay. You do not have to write
your essay word for word, but your answers should be fairly detailed. If you need help choosing
a lead-in/hook strategy, please scroll to the bottom of this document, where I have listed and
defined a variety of lead-in strategies.
Briefly outline the story you are going to use to illustrate your main point.
This story will likely appear in the introduction as you set up your
Essay Element Outline
There is a brief review of lead-in strategies on page 3 of this writing
plan (scroll down).
I believe that . . .
Body Paragraph #1
Discuss one reason why you hold this belief. Write a topic sentence and
summarize what you intend to say in this paragraph
Body Paragraph #2
Discuss a second reason why you hold this belief. Write a topic
sentence and summarize what you intend to say in this paragraph
Body Paragraph #3
Discuss a third reason why you hold this belief. Write a topic sentence
and summarize what you intend to say in this paragraph
Body Paragraph #4
Discuss a fourth reason why you hold this belief. Write a topic sentence
and summarize what you intend to say in this paragraph
Explain how you will conclude the essay. Why do you think that the
thesis of this essay might be relevant and/or interesting to other people
(i.e., your audience)?
In some essays, your thesis statement alone may be controversial or striking enough to capture
the readers’ attention. At other times, you will want to use a lead-in. A lead-in is basically
anything that immediately captures the reader’s interest and encourages him/her to keep
An effective lead-in . . .
1. Catches the reader’s attention
2. Announces the subject matter and tone of your essay (e.g., humorous, satiric, serious, etc.)
3. Sets up, or leads into, the presentation of your thesis.
Effective lead-in strategies include the following:
1. A paradoxical statement or a statement of a popular misconception – A paradox
is a statement that goes against common sense but is true nonetheless. One way to gain
your readers’ attention is by asserting an unexpected point of view. A statement that is
startlingly different from popular belief will spark interest. Because your reader isn’t
expecting such a claim, he or she is therefore motivated to read the rest of the essay.
2. A statistic – Statistics and facts give you instant credibility with the reader. However,
this information must be true and verifiable (which means that someone needs to be able
to look up the information and see that it’s true), but it doesn’t have to be totally new to
your readers. It could simply be a pertinent fact that explicitly illustrates the point you
wish to make.
3. A question – One way to catch your reader’s attention is by asking an interesting
question which you will answer in your essay. Questioning is a powerful way to pull a
response from your readers. It can grab their attention and motivate them to find out
what you have to say.
4. An analogy or comparison – Take something the reader is unfamiliar with and relate it
to something he/she is familiar with.
5. An anecdote or story – An anecdote is a story that illustrates a point. Be sure your
anecdote is short, to the point, and relevant to topic of your essay. Telling a vivid
personal story is also an especially effective way to capture the reader’s interest.
6. A joke – Jokes can be an effective way to start an essay because they create positive
emotions in your readers. However, you must use this type of lead-in carefully. First,
make sure that the joke is actually funny. Otherwise, you will lose your reader’s interest,
which defeats your purpose. Also, the joke needs to be short and related to the topic of
7. A dialogue – An appropriate dialogue does not have to identify the speakers, but the
reader must understand the point you are trying to convey. Use only two or three
exchanges between speakers to make your point. Then, follow dialogue with a sentence
or two of elaboration.
8. A definition – Provide a dictionary definition for a key term used in the essay.
9. A quotation – Beginning your essay a quotation from a famous person, a recognized
authority in a particular field (Albert Einstein or Bill Gates, for example), or from a well-
known literary work can effectively capture your reader’s attention.
*** Dictionary definitions and quotations should be used sparingly, however, because they are
overused, especially by amateur writers.
You should not decide that some lead-in methods are better than others. Use the approach
that best fits each essay. Resist the temptation to use the same kind of introduction in every
essay you write.
Avoiding errors in lead-ins:
1. Make sure that your lead-in introduces your thesis. A frequent weakness in
introductory paragraphs is an interesting lead-in but no smooth or clear transition to the
thesis statement. To avoid a gap or awkward jump in thought in your introductory
paragraph, you may need to add a connecting sentence or phrase between your lead-in
2. Keep your lead-in brief. Use a brief, attention-catching hook to set up your thesis.
Don’t make your introduction the biggest part of your essay.
3. Avoid overused lead-ins. Your introduction should never contain statements like, “In
this paper, I will argue that . . . .” Find an original way to lead in. Also avoid dictionary
definitions and quotations, which are overused. Use one of these methods only when it
is obviously the best choice for your paper.