Step One: Create a hook.
This hook should effectively grab the reader's attention, and is one of the most important sentences (besides the thesis) in your essay. With this sentence, you essentially convince your readers that you are an excellent writer, and that the remainder of the essay is worthy to be read.
There are various ways to go about this, and depending upon the genre of your writing, may be different. For a short, fictional story, you might include an emotional anecdote (short story), a description of action, a vague and mysterious thought, or vivid, imagery-rich details. For a persuasive essay, after considering your audience, you should likely appeal to what the audience would be most effected by: use of pathos, logos, or ethos. This might be an emotionally-driven anecdote, a specific fact/ statistic, or a quotation from a credible source.
For informative essays, in which you conduct research and write information from your findings, there is more freedom. Effective informative writing hooks can include such strategies as a strong quote; an extraordinary fact; an evocative, rhetorical question; an anecdote; an abstract idea or metaphor, or a statistic. Despite such freedom, your chosen strategy should still relate to the content of your paper and should avoid cliche writing. Take note of your thesis, your brainstorming notes on content, and your overall concluding thoughts (generally, something the readers of your essay can learn), as you create your hook.
Step Two:Include background information.
Provide readers with general background information on your topic. This background information should explain contextual information. For instance, if you are writing about people to form one overall conclusion, you should begin to explain who these people are and why they were, in general, significant. If you are writing about exercise, you might discuss the impact of a sedentary lifestyle on people. This information should be enough to fill in details for people unfamiliar with your topic, but should not give away very specific information supporting the thesis that should be included in body paragraphs.
Step Three: Form a thesis statement.
Follow your background information with a transition into a solid thesis statement (usually one sentence), and then the thesis statement itself. Words like "Similarly," "Likewise," "This can be seen especially as," In the case of," and the like can help bridge your background information to your thesis.
After this bridge, then you should include your clear thesis statement. This provides the focus or central idea of your paper. A solid thesis statement gives readers a good idea of what to expect in your essay and works to compel your readers to continue. In general, the thesis statement should be the last sentence of the paragraph. If you are attempting to prove something, it should include an opinion (stated like a fact) with information, and if you aren't trying to prove anything, and if it is purely informative in nature (like an overview of African elephants during migration), it should simply include the major fact(s) that will be presented in your paper.
Your thesis should also include a "roadmap" and give direction to your major body paragraphs. This can include a basic listing of ideas, or can embed these ideas in general within the statement.