It should be proportionate to the size of your essay. Most experts on essay writing say that your intro paragraph should not be more than 20% of your entire text. This is true for a reasonably short essay, for example in a 500 words essay an introduction should consist of 100 words. The same rule of 20% goes for a shorter 300 words essay. However, if the requirement is to make an essay of 1000 words and longer, an introduction of 200 words would be a bit too heavy. In the latter case, keep your intro word count lower, I would say 175 words at maximum. For instance, this very paragraph is roughly 130 words and you can see it is already getting a bit heavy.
What leads us to the main point – an introduction to an essay should be written clearly and engagingly. Especially in a compare and contrast essay as the one that tests students’ analytical reasoning and critical thinking. In this type of essay, your ability to pick up the slightest differences and similarities between subjects is at study. It is not a formal academic language yet, but already not a narrative story-telling, hence, your introduction must show your analytical talents and the ability to express yourself clearly and concisely.
Typically you would need to start with a key fact, or a discovery (your thesis statement) that you were able to make when comparing the two subjects. It can be something, which makes them alike or something that makes them different. It is appropriate to use a question in your introduction, which you will answer later in the main body of the essay. Needless to say that you should be original and surprise /catch your reader’s (your professor) attention, rather than stating something obvious.
To come up with a great introduction to a compare and contrast essay we recommend the following steps:
1. Brainstorm the topic of your essay. On a separate page, make a comprehensive list of all the facts you know about the two subjects under focus: what is similar and what is different about them? Can you come up with some unique features, different from the things that were studied and described before you hundreds of times?
2. Create an outline for your paper. Make a clear and unique thesis statement (discovery). Think through the possible arguments you can use and note them in your outline. Use a paragraph structure, where you allocate a separate paragraph to the introduction and 1-3 paragraphs to the main body.
3. Begin planning your introduction using your outline and brainstorming sessions. Remember that your analytical reasoning is under review here. So, do not use vague or general phrases and parasite-words. Instead, be assertive and clear. Try various attention-grabbing techniques, such as asking questions, stating something interesting and surprising, be thought-provoking and original. If appropriate, use humor and short anecdotes as long as it makes your paper special and serves the goal of hooking your reader’s attention.
4. Review your introduction once you finished the entire essay. It is a good practice in academic writing to revise your thesis statement after the main writing work is over. In the course of your paper, you may end up discovering something new and amazing, which has to be harmonized with the introduction.