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basic necessities essay

What Are People’s Basic Needs? Six Things You Really Can’t Live Without

By Abby Watkins | July 10, 2019

People are united everywhere by a set of basic needs. These needs are key requirements not just for essential survival, but for long-term physical and mental well-being. As the world expands and changes, the definition of basic needs expands and changes as well. For instance, something like the Internet would not have been considered a “need” 20 years ago, but in 2019, Internet access is crucial to ensuring access to information for people everywhere.

The definition of a basic need is anything that is fundamentally connected to an individual’s physical or mental well-being.

These are humans’ six basic needs in the 21st century

Food is the basic source of energy and one of the most immediate requirements for day to day survival. The energy that food gives us is measured in calories and the number of calories a person needs is typically around 2000-2500 calories a day.

2. Drinking Water and Sanitation

Drinking water is water that is free of disease or pollutants, and is safe to be used for drinking or food preparation. Sanitation refers to services and facilities that properly dispose of human waste.

3. Healthcare

Healthcare is consistent access to medical treatment from trained professionals. Sufficient healthcare both treats immediate conditions and provides ongoing support to prevent future ailments.

Shelter is a permanent structure where people can take refuge from adverse weather and other outside conditions. Adequate shelter is durable, provides some degree of privacy, and is connected to the infrastructure of surrounding communities.

5. Education

Education is the process of teaching and learning critical skills including literacy and mathematics. Education boosts quality of life and is a necessary prerequisite for long-term self-sufficiency.

6. Access to Information

Access to information is a person’s ability to freely find and use information and make independent decisions on the basis of that information. Today, much of that access is facilitated through the Internet.

Meeting people’s needs now and in the future

International organizations continually reassess what a person needs to be fully integrated into our global society. When the United Nations first proposed this list of basic needs in the 1970s, the world looked significantly different than it does in 2019—among other things, the world population was less than half of what it is today. Even now, meeting these basic needs requires different things for different people: shelter should always be safe and durable, but what that means in southern Florida is not the same as what it means in Alaska.

Stay tuned for a follow-up post where we’ll explore the current status of each of these basic needs for people around the world, given today’s realities and projections for the future.

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Saul Mcleod, PhD

Editor-in-Chief for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MRes, PhD, University of Manchester

Saul Mcleod, Ph.D., is a qualified psychology teacher with over 18 years experience of working in further and higher education. He has been published in peer-reviewed journals, including the Journal of Clinical Psychology.

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Olivia Guy-Evans, MSc

Associate Editor for Simply Psychology

BSc (Hons) Psychology, MSc Psychology of Education

Olivia Guy-Evans is a writer and associate editor for Simply Psychology. She has previously worked in healthcare and educational sectors.

On This Page:

Key Takeaways

  • Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a motivational theory in psychology comprising a five-tier model of human needs, often depicted as hierarchical levels within a pyramid.
  • The five levels of the hierarchy are physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization.
  • Lower-level basic needs like food, water, and safety must be met first before higher needs can be fulfilled.
  • Few people are believed to reach the level of self-actualization, but we can all have moments of peak experiences.
  • The order of the levels is not completely fixed. For some, esteem outweighs love, while others may self-actualize despite poverty. Our behaviors are usually motivated by multiple needs simultaneously.
  • Applications include workplace motivation, education, counseling, and nursing.

maslow needs3

What is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs?

According to Maslow (1943, 1954), human needs were arranged in a hierarchy, with physiological (survival) needs at the bottom, and the more creative and intellectually oriented ‘self-actualization’ needs at the top.

Maslow argued that survival needs must be satisfied before the individual can satisfy the higher needs. The higher up the hierarchy, the more difficult it is to satisfy the needs associated with that stage, because of the interpersonal and environmental barriers that inevitably frustrate us.

Higher needs become increasingly psychological and long-term rather than physiological and short-term, as in the lower survival-related needs.

1. Physiological needs are biological requirements for human survival, e.g., air, food, drink, shelter, clothing, warmth, sex, and sleep.

Our most basic need is for physical survival, and this will be the first thing that motivates our behavior. Once that level is fulfilled, the next level up is what motivates us, and so on.

The human body cannot function optimally if physiological needs are not satisfied. Maslow considered physiological needs the most important as all the other needs become secondary until these needs are met.

Once an individual’s physiological needs are satisfied, the need for security and safety becomes salient.

2. Safety needs –  people want to experience order, predictability, and control in their lives.

Safety needs can be fulfilled by the family and society (e.g., police, schools, business, and medical care).

For example, emotional security, financial security (e.g., employment, social welfare), law and order, freedom from fear, social stability, property, health, and wellbeing (e.g., safety against accidents and injury).

After physiological and safety needs have been fulfilled, the third level of human needs is social and involves feelings of belongingness.

3. Love and belongingness needs   refers to a human emotional need for interpersonal relationships, affiliating, connectedness, and being part of a group.

Examples of belongingness needs include friendship, intimacy, trust, acceptance, receiving and giving affection, and love.

This need is especially strong in childhood and can override the need for safety, as witnessed in children who cling to abusive parents.

4. Esteem needs are the fourth level in Maslow’s hierarchy and include self-worth, accomplishment, and respect.

Maslow classified esteem needs into two categories: (i) esteem for oneself (dignity, achievement, mastery, independence) and (ii) the desire for reputation or respect from others (e.g., status, prestige).

Esteem presents the typical human desire to be accepted and valued by others. People often engage in a profession or hobby to gain recognition. These activities give the person a sense of contribution or value.

Low self-esteem or an inferiority complex may result from imbalances during this level in the hierarchy.

Maslow indicated that the need for respect or reputation is most important for children and adolescents and precedes real self-esteem or dignity.

5. Self-actualization needs are the highest level in Maslow’s hierarchy, and refer to the realization of a person’s potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth, and peak experiences.

This level of need refers to what a person’s full potential is and the realization of that potential. 

Maslow (1943, 1987, p. 64 ) describes this level as the desire to accomplish everything that one can, and  “to become everything one is capable of becoming”.

Individuals may perceive or focus on this need very specifically. For example, one individual may have a strong desire to become an ideal parent.

In another, the desire may be expressed athletically. For others, it may be expressed in paintings, pictures, or inventions.

Although Maslow did not believe that many of us could achieve true self-actualization, he did believe that all of us experience transitory moments (known as ‘peak experiences’) of self-actualization.

Such moments, associated with personally significant events such as childbirth, sporting achievement and examination success), are difficult to achieve and maintain consistently.

maslow 5

Maslow posited that human needs are arranged in a hierarchy:

“It is quite true that man lives by bread alone — when there is no bread. But what happens to man’s desires when there is plenty of bread and when his belly is chronically filled? At once other (and “higher”) needs emerge and these, rather than physiological hungers, dominate the organism. And when these in turn are satisfied, again new (and still “higher”) needs emerge and so on. This is what we mean by saying that the basic human needs are organized into a hierarchy of relative prepotency” (Maslow, 1943, p. 375) .
Maslow (1954) proposed that human beings possess two sets of needs. This five-stage model can be divided into deficiency needs and growth needs. The first four levels are often referred to as deficiency needs ( D-needs ), and the top level is known as growth or being needs ( B-needs ).

Deficiency needs

Deficiency needs are concerned with basic survival and include physiological needs (such as the need for food, sex, and sleep) and safety needs (such as the need for security and freedom from danger).

Behaviors associated with these needs are seen as ‘deficiency’ motivated, as they are a means to an end.

Deficiency needs arise due to deprivation and are said to motivate people when they are unmet. Also, the motivation to fulfill such needs will become stronger the longer they are denied. For example, the longer a person goes without food, the more hungry they will become.

Maslow (1943) initially stated that individuals must satisfy lower-level deficit needs before progressing to meet higher-level growth needs.

However, he later clarified that satisfaction of a need is not an “all-or-none” phenomenon, admitting that his earlier statements may have given “the false impression that a need must be satisfied 100 percent before the next need emerges” (1987, p. 69).

When a deficit need has been “more or less” satisfied, it will go away, and our activities become habitually directed toward meeting the next set of needs we have yet to satisfy. These then become our salient needs. However, growth needs continue to be felt and may even become stronger once engaged.

Growth needs

Growth needs are more psychological and are associated with realizing an individual’s full potential and needing to ‘self-actualize’. These needs are achieved more through intellectual and creative behaviors.

Growth needs do not stem from a lack of something but rather from a desire to grow as a person. Once these growth needs have been reasonably satisfied, one may be able to reach the highest level, called self-actualization. Growth needs are achieved more through intellectual and creative behaviors.

Every person is capable and has the desire to move up the hierarchy toward a level of self-actualization. Unfortunately, progress is often disrupted by a failure to meet lower-level needs.

Life experiences, including divorce and the loss of a job, may cause an individual to fluctuate between levels of the hierarchy.

Therefore, not everyone will move through the hierarchy in a uni-directional manner but may move back and forth between the different types of needs.

The expanded hierarchy of needs

It is important to note that Maslow’s (1943, 1954) five-stage model has been expanded to include cognitive and aesthetic needs (Maslow, 1970a) and later transcendence needs (Maslow, 1970b).

Maslow's hierarchy of needs, A Theory of Human Motivation, study how humans intrinsically partake in behavioral motivation

Changes to the original five-stage model are highlighted and include a seven-stage model and an eight-stage model; both developed during the 1960s and 1970s.
  • Biological and physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc.
  • Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear.
  • Love and belongingness needs – friendship, intimacy, trust, and acceptance, receiving and giving affection and love. Affiliating, being part of a group (family, friends, work).
  • Esteem needs – which Maslow classified into two categories: (i) esteem for oneself (dignity, achievement, mastery, independence) and (ii) the need to be accepted and valued by others (e.g., status, prestige).
Cognitive needs – knowledge and understanding, curiosity, exploration, need for meaning and predictability. Cognitive needs drive our pursuit of knowledge and understanding. For instance, a student’s desire to understand complex mathematical theories, a traveler’s curiosity about diverse cultures, or an individual’s quest for life’s deeper meanings all exemplify these needs. Meeting these needs facilitates personal growth, comprehension, and a deeper understanding of life and its complexities.
Aesthetic needs – appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc. Fulfilling these needs leads to a deeper sense of satisfaction and harmony in life, as individuals seek environments and experiences that are pleasing and resonant with their sense of beauty. This involves the appreciation and pursuit of art, music, nature, and other forms of aesthetic expression. Fulfilling these needs isn’t just about physical beauty but also the emotional and psychological satisfaction derived from experiencing order and elegance.
  • Self-actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth, and peak experiences. 
Transcendence needs – A person is motivated by values that transcend beyond the personal self. Beyond self-actualization, they represent the human desire to connect with a higher reality, purpose, or the universe. This level emphasizes altruism, spiritual connection, and helping others achieve their potential. Individuals seek experiences that move beyond personal concerns, aiming to achieve a deep sense of unity, understanding, and belonging within the vast expanse of existence. Examples of transcendence needs include mystical experiences and certain experiences with nature, aesthetic experiences, sexual experiences, service to others, the pursuit of science, religious faith, etc.).

Self-Actualization Needs

Instead of focusing on psychopathology and what goes wrong with people, Maslow (1943) formulated a more positive account of human behavior which focused on what goes right. He was interested in human potential, and how we fulfill that potential.

Psychologist Abraham Maslow (1943, 1954) stated that human motivation is based on people seeking fulfillment and change through personal growth. Self-actualized people are those who are fulfilled and doing all they are capable of.

The growth of self-actualization (Maslow, 1962) refers to the need for personal growth and discovery that is present throughout a person’s life. For Maslow, a person is always “becoming” and never remains static in these terms. In self-actualization, a person comes to find a meaning in life that is important to them.

As each individual is unique, the motivation for self-actualization leads people in different directions (Kenrick et al., 2010). For some people, self-actualization can be achieved through creating works of art or literature; for others, through sports, in the classroom, or within a corporate setting.

Maslow (1962) believed self-actualization could be measured through the concept of peak experiences. This occurs when a person experiences the world totally for what it is, and there are feelings of euphoria, joy, and wonder.

It is important to note that self-actualization is a continual process of becoming rather than a perfect state one reaches of a “happy ever after” (Hoffman, 1988).

Maslow offers the following description of self-actualization:

“It refers to the person’s desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially. The specific form that these needs will take will of course vary greatly from person to person. In one individual it may take the form of the desire to be an ideal mother, in another it may be expressed athletically, and in still another it may be expressed in painting pictures or in inventions” (Maslow, 1943, p. 382–383).

Characteristics of Self-Actualized People

Although we are all, theoretically, capable of self-actualizing, most of us will not do so, or only to a limited degree. Maslow (1970) estimated that only two percent of people would reach the state of self-actualization.

He was especially interested in the characteristics of people whom he considered to have achieved their potential as individuals.

By studying 18 people, he considered to be self-actualized (including Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein), Maslow (1970) identified 15 characteristics of a self-actualized person.

Characteristics of self-actualizers :
  • They perceive reality efficiently and can tolerate uncertainty;
  • Accept themselves and others for what they are;
  • Spontaneous in thought and action;
  • Problem-centered (not self-centered);
  • Unusual sense of humor;
  • Able to look at life objectively;
  • Highly creative;
  • Resistant to enculturation, but not purposely unconventional;
  • Concerned for the welfare of humanity;
  • Capable of deep appreciation of basic life-experience;
  • Establish deep satisfying interpersonal relationships with a few people;
  • Peak experiences;
  • Need for privacy;
  • Democratic attitudes;
  • Strong moral/ethical standards.
Behavior leading to self-actualization :
  • Experiencing life like a child, with full absorption and concentration;
  • Trying new things instead of sticking to safe paths;
  • Listening to your own feelings in evaluating experiences instead of the voice of tradition, authority or the majority;
  • Avoiding pretense (“game playing”) and being honest;
  • Being prepared to be unpopular if your views do not coincide with those of the majority;
  • Taking responsibility and working hard;
  • Trying to identify your defenses and having the courage to give them up.

The characteristics of self-actualizers and the behaviors leading to self-actualization are shown in the list above. 

Although people achieve self-actualization in their own unique way, they tend to share certain characteristics.  However, self-actualization is a matter of degree, ‘There are no perfect human beings’ (Maslow, 1970a, p. 176 ).

It is not necessary to display all 15 characteristics to become self-actualized, and not only self-actualized people will display them.

Maslow did not equate self-actualization with perfection. Self-actualization merely involves achieving one’s potential. Thus, someone can be silly, wasteful, vain and impolite, and still self-actualize. Less than two percent of the population achieve self-actualization.

Applications & Examples

Workplace organizations and employee motivation.

The theory applies to organizational structures and the motivation of employees. To enhance performance, the organizational culture and HR strategies must address and fulfill the needs of employees.

HR strategies, including compensation, benefits, job design, training, cultural development, and performance evaluations, can be tailored to cater to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (Jerome, 2013).

1. What can managers do to motivate employees with physiological needs?

At the foundational physiological level, organizations should provide wages that sustain a decent standard of living and comprehensive benefits, ensuring employees can comfortably cater to necessities such as food, shelter, and medical care.

  • Offer comprehensive healthcare benefits – Quality health insurance, dental, vision, mental health coverage, and wellness programs demonstrate you care about employees’ overall health and ability to afford care.
  • Subsidize gym memberships – Some companies offer monthly gym subsidies or onsite fitness centers to support physical health and stress management.
  • Make the space ergonomic – Ensure workstations, chairs, keyboards, etc. are height adjustable and comfortable to work at for extended periods to prevent bodily strain or injury.
  • Pay for wellness services – Some companies offer perks like free annual flu shots, smoking cessation programs, or biometric screenings to proactively address health.

2. What can managers do to motivate employees with safety needs?

For the safety tier, offering job stability, secure working conditions, and equitable compensation is essential. Employees are more motivated when they feel both financially stable and physically safe within their workplace.

  • Establish anti-harassment policies and reporting procedures – Ensure strong systems are in place for reporting issues confidentially and without retaliation.
  • Cultivate psychological safety – Foster an environment where people feel safe to take risks, make mistakes, and speak up without fear of embarrassment or punishment.
  • Define and reinforce ethical standards – Clearly establish and model expected conduct to prevent ethical lapses that undermine security.
  • Promote transparency in pay and promotion practices – Clearly communicate compensation structure, advancement criteria, and salary negotiation options to build trust.

3. What can managers do to motivate employees with social needs?

Addressing social needs involves cultivating an inclusive community within the organization. Team-building exercises, social gatherings, mentorship initiatives, and transparent communication can foster a sense of belonging. Motivation is heightened when employees feel appreciated and integrated within their teams.

  • Develop mother’s rooms – Providing clean, private lactation rooms supports new mothers’ needs to pump breast milk during work hours.
  • Train supervisors in mental health first aid – Equip leaders to recognize signs of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and properly intervene or connect employees with help.
  • Develop a mentorship program – Allow experienced employees to mentor newer ones to establish interpersonal bonds and a sense of support.
  • Model inclusive language and behavior – Use words and actions that are welcoming and respectful to all groups.
  • Share vulnerability and imperfections – Leaders should open up on mistakes, challenges, and lessons learned to humanize the workplace.

4. What can managers do to motivate employees with esteem needs?

To cater to esteem needs, organizations should implement recognition systems, merit-based promotions, and leadership roles.

  • Leverage unique talents – Properly designated titles that reflect an individual’s role and status can also be beneficial.
  • Make the most of performance reviews – Regular performance evaluations not only offer recognition but also highlight areas for growth, feeding into the employees’ need for esteem. Thoroughly highlight strengths, progress made, and areas of influence.
  • Entrust employees with mentoring roles – Having them share knowledge and coach others recognizes their expertise.

What can managers do to motivate employees with self-actualization needs?

For self-actualization, organizations should ensure that job roles align with employees’ talents and passions. By empowering employees, presenting them with challenges, and fostering an environment that encourages innovation, organizations can facilitate their journey toward self-actualization.

  • Foster innovation – Dedicate time and resources for experimenting with new ideas without pressure.
  • Sponsor continuing education – Provide tuition reimbursement or subsidies for advanced courses and certificate programs. Offer paid time for relevant reading, online courses, conferences, and seminars.
The hierarchy provides a framework for understanding patients as multifaceted human beings.

Patient care should be holistic, not just medical. Nurses must assess and address the spectrum of patient needs – physical, mental, emotional, and social (Jackson et al., 2014; Toney-Butler & Thayer, 2023). Doing so motivates greater engagement in care, faster healing, and improved outcomes.

  • Physiological needs – Ensure patients have adequate nutrition, hydration, pain control, sleep, and physical comfort. Address pain that hinders sleep and recovery.

Explain tests, treatments, and medications to patients to relieve anxiety. Keep patient info confidential. Foster a climate of trust through compassionate listening. Prevent medication errors.

  • Belongingness – Loneliness impedes healing. Make patients feel welcomed and included. Introduce them to other patients. Allow for family visitation and spiritual practices.
  • Esteem – Show respect through courteous communication and cultural sensitivity. Maintain dignity and privacy. Empower patients in care decisions. Explain care in an easy-to-understand way. Listen attentively to their concerns. Make them feel valued.
  • Self-actualization – Align care with patient values and aspirations. Perhaps share motivational stories of those with similar diagnoses who stayed active. Or provide resources on coping with grief over health changes.

Maslow’s (1962) hierarchy of needs theory has made a major contribution to teaching and classroom management in schools. Rather than reducing behavior to a response in the environment , Maslow (1970a) adopts a holistic approach to education and learning.

Maslow looks at the complete physical, emotional, social, and intellectual qualities of an individual and how they impact learning.

Applications of Maslow’s hierarchy theory to the work of the classroom teacher are obvious. Before a student’s cognitive needs can be met, they must first fulfill their basic physiological needs.

For example, a tired and hungry student will find it difficult to focus on learning. Students need to feel emotionally and physically safe and accepted within the classroom to progress and reach their full potential.

Maslow suggests students must be shown that they are valued and respected in the classroom, and the teacher should create a supportive environment. Students with a low self-esteem will not progress academically at an optimum rate until their self-esteem is strengthened.

Maslow’s hierarchy provides a humanistic lens for teaching the whole child.

Maslow (1971, p. 195) argued that a humanistic educational approach would develop people who are “stronger, healthier, and would take their own lives into their hands to a greater extent. With increased personal responsibility for one’s personal life, and with a rational set of values to guide one’s choosing, people would begin to actively change the society in which they lived”.

Here are some ways a teacher can apply Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in the classroom:

  • Physiological – Ensure students have access to water, food, restroom breaks, and movement. Allow snacks, flexible seating, and adequate breaks.
  • Safety – Maintain an orderly classroom with clear expectations. Prevent bullying. Build trust through consistency and fairness. Allow students to make mistakes safely.
  • Belongingness – Facilitate community and collaboration. Foster teamwork through group projects. Learn student names and backgrounds. Appreciate diversity.
  • Esteem – Recognize student strengths and progress. Display student work. Empower leadership roles like line leader or tech helper. Praise efforts, not just achievement.
  • Self-Actualization – Help students pursue interests creatively. Assign passion projects. Encourage goal-setting. Provide enrichment opportunities. Support challenging oneself.

When these foundational needs are met, students are more motivated to learn and perform well academically. But needs fluctuate. Be observant and nurture needs as they arise. 

Critical Evaluation

The most significant limitation of Maslow’s theory concerns his methodology. Maslow formulated the characteristics of self-actualized individuals by undertaking a qualitative method called biographical analysis.

He looked at the biographies and writings of 18 people he identified as being self-actualized. From these sources, he developed a list of qualities that seemed characteristic of this specific group of people, as opposed to humanity in general.

From a scientific perspective , there are numerous problems with this particular approach. First, it could be argued that biographical analysis as a method is extremely subjective as it is based entirely on the opinion of the researcher. Personal opinion is always prone to bias, which reduces the validity of any data obtained. Therefore Maslow’s operational definition of self-actualization must not be blindly accepted as scientific fact.

Furthermore, Maslow’s biographical analysis focused on a biased sample of self-actualized individuals, prominently limited to highly educated white males (such as Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, William James , Aldous Huxley, Beethoven).

Although Maslow (1970) did study self-actualized females, such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Mother Teresa, they comprised a small proportion of his sample . This makes it difficult to generalize his theory to females and individuals from lower social classes or different ethnicity. Thus questioning the population validity of Maslow’s findings.

Furthermore, it is extremely difficult to empirically test Maslow’s concept of self-actualization in a way that causal relationships can be established. It is difficult to tell in Maslow’s theory where the scientific leaves off and the inspiration begins. His theory is seen as more speculative than empirically proven, with a tendency to substitute rhetoric for research.

Another criticism concerns Maslow’s assumption that the lower needs must be satisfied before a person can achieve their potential and self-actualize. This is not always the case, and therefore Maslow’s hierarchy of needs in some aspects has been falsified .

Through examining cultures in which large numbers of people live in poverty (such as India), it is clear that people are still capable of higher-order needs such as love and belongingness. However, this should not occur, as according to Maslow, people who have difficulty achieving very basic physiological needs (such as food, shelter, etc.) are not capable of meeting higher growth needs.

Also, many creative people, such as authors and artists (e.g., Rembrandt and Van Gogh) lived in poverty throughout their lifetime, yet it could be argued that they achieved self-actualization.

Psychologists now conceptualize motivation as a pluralistic behavior, whereby needs can operate on many levels simultaneously. A person may be motivated by higher growth needs at the same time as lower-level deficiency needs (Wahba & Bridwell, 1973).

Contemporary research by Tay and Diener (2011) has tested Maslow’s theory by analyzing the data of 60,865 participants from 123 countries, representing every major region of the world. The survey was conducted from 2005 to 2010.

Respondents answered questions about six needs that closely resemble those in Maslow’s model: basic needs (food, shelter); safety; social needs (love, support); respect; mastery; and autonomy. They also rated their well-being across three discrete measures: life evaluation (a person’s view of his or her life as a whole), positive feelings (day-to-day instances of joy or pleasure), and negative feelings (everyday experiences of sorrow, anger, or stress).

The results of the study support the view that universal human needs appear to exist regardless of cultural differences. However, the ordering of the needs within the hierarchy was not correct.

“Although the most basic needs might get the most attention when you don”t have them,” Diener explains, “you don”t need to fulfill them in order to get benefits [from the others].” Even when we are hungry, for instance, we can be happy with our friends. “They”re like vitamins,” Diener says about how the needs work independently. “We need them all.”

Maslow’s theory differs from more purely physiological representations of human motivation because motivation is seen as being not just concerned with tension reduction and survival but also with human growth and development.

While Maslow’s work was indeed relatively informal and clinically descriptive, it did provide a rich source of ideas, and as such, a framework for discussing the richness and complexity of human motivation that goes beyond homeostatic models and other biological models.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some of the weaknesses of maslow’s theory.

Maslow proposes a positive view of humans, however, it could be argued that this might not be very realistic when considering everyday reality such as domestic violence and genocides.

Furthermore, the hierarchy’s focus on meeting our needs and fulfilling our growth potential reflects an individualistic, self-obsessed outlook that is part of the problem faced by our society rather than a solution.

How many levels are there in Maslow’s pyramid of needs?

There are five levels in Maslow’s pyramid. From the bottom of the hierarchy upwards, the needs are: physiological (food and clothing), safety (job security), love and belonging needs (friendship), esteem, and self-actualization.

Maslow asserted that so long as basic needs necessary for survival were met (e.g., food, water, shelter), higher-level needs (e.g., social needs) would begin to motivate behavior.

Why is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs important?

Maslow’s theory has given rise to a new way to look at people’s needs. For example, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is widely used in health and social work as a framework for assessing clients’ needs.

Problems or difficult circumstances at one point in a person’s life can cause them to fixate on a particular set of needs, and this can affect their future happiness.

For example, a person who lived through a period of extreme deprivation and lack of security in early childhood may fixate on physiological and safety needs. These remain salient even if they are satisfied.

So even if this person later has everything they need they may nonetheless obsess over money or keeping enough food in the fridge.

This, for Maslow, was the root cause of many ‘neurotic’ mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression.

What is at the top of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?

According to Maslow, the highest-level needs relate to self-actualization, a process by which we achieve our full potential.

Self-actualizing people have both a more efficient perception of reality and more comfortable relations with it. This includes the detection of what is phony and/or dishonest and the accurate perception of what really exists – rather than a distortion of perception by one’s needs.

Self-actualizers accept themselves, others and nature. They are not ashamed or guilty about being human, with shortcomings, imperfections, frailties, and weaknesses.

Nor are they critical of these aspects in other people. They respect and esteem themselves and others.

Geller, L. (1982). The failure of self-actualization theory: A critique of Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 22, 56–73.

Hoffman, E. (1988). The right to be human: A biography of Abraham Maslow . Los Angeles, CA: Jeremy P. Tarcher.

Ivtzan, I. (2008). Self actualisation: For individualistic cultures only? International Journal on Humanistic Ideology, 1 , 113–140.

Jackson, J. C., Santoro, M. J., Ely, T. M., Boehm, L., Kiehl, A. L., Anderson, L. S., & Ely, E. W. (2014). Improving patient care through the prism of psychology: Application of Maslow’s hierarchy to sedation, delirium, and early mobility in the intensive care unit.  Journal of Critical Care ,  29 (3), 438-444.

Jerome, N. (2013). Application of the Maslow’s hierarchy of need theory; impacts and implications on organizational culture, human resource and employee’s performance.  International Journal of Business and Management Invention ,  2 (3), 39-45.

Kenrick, D. T., Neuberg, S. L., Griskevicius, V., Becker, D. V., & Schaller, M. (2010). Goal-driven cognition and functional behavior: The fundamental-motives framework . Current Directions in Psychological Science, 19 (1), 63-67.

King-Hill, S. (2015). Critical analysis of Maslow’s hierarchy of need.  The STeP Journal (Student Teacher Perspectives) ,  2 (4), 54-57.

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation . Psychological Review, 50 (4), 370-96.

Maslow, A. H. (1954). Motivation and personality . New York: Harper and Row.

Maslow, A. H. (1962). Toward a psychology of being . Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Company.

Maslow, A. H. (1970a). Motivation and personality . New York: Harper & Row.

Maslow, A. H. (1970b). Religions, values, and peak experiences. New York: Penguin. (Original work published 1966)

Maslow, A. H. (1987). Motivation and personality (3rd ed.) . Delhi, India: Pearson Education.

Mittelman, W. (1991). Maslow’s study of self-actualization: A reinterpretation.  Journal of Humanistic Psychology ,  31 (1), 114-135.

Neher, A. (1991). Maslow’s theory of motivation: A critique. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 31 , 89–112.

Tay, L., & Diener, E. (2011). Needs and subjective well-being around the world . Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 101 (2), 354-356.

Toney-Butler, T.J., & Thayer, J.M. (2023, April 10). Nursing Process. In StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499937/

Wahba, M. A., & Bridwell, L. G. (1976). Maslow reconsidered: A review of research on the need hierarchy theory . Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 15 (2), 212-240.

Wulff, D. M., & Maslow, A. H. (1965). Religions, values, and peak-experiences. The Journal of Higher Education, 36 (4), 235.

Further Information

  • Maslow’s Theories
  • Maslow Hierarchy of Needs Infographic Poster
  • Hierarchy of Needs
  • Maslow Reconsidered: A Review of Research on the Need Hierarchy Theor
  • BBC Radio 4 Programme: Maslow and the Hierarchy of Needs
  • Questionnaire: Are you self-actualized? How to Write a Psychology Essay

Hierarchy of Needs and Nursing

  • A Nursing Diagnosis Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
  • Improving Patient Care Through the Prism of Psychology: application of Maslow’s Hierarchy to Sedation, Delirium and Early Mobility in the ICU
  • Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs Adapted for Nursing (Image)

Hierarchy of Needs in the Workplace

  • Organizational Culture, Human Resource and Employee’s Performance
  • Improving Workplace Productivity: Applications of Maslow’s Need Theory and Locke’s Goal-Setting

maslow hierachy of needs min

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The Cost of Living in America: Helping Families Move   Ahead

Over the last three decades, American families have experienced a rise in the costs of many necessities that has made it difficult for them to attain economic security. Researchers estimate, for example, that 80 percent of families saw the share of budgets dedicated to spending on needs such as housing and health care increase by more than 7 percentage points between 1984 and 2014, potentially crowding out spending on other categories like leisure, longer-term investments in education, and saving for retirement. [1]   Further, a 2019 Pew survey found that 35 percent of middle-income families frequently worry about paying their bills; similarly, 37 percent worry about the cost of health care for themselves and their families.

This issue brief examines some of the longer-run dynamics around the costs that U.S. families face. While prices of some services and goods have fallen substantially, especially when bearing in mind increases in their quality, others—particularly prescription drugs, childcare, and education—have risen substantially, and in many cases, faster than incomes over the last several decades.

Although aggregate price indices track overall changes in the cost of living, some families spend a larger share of their budgets on necessities, depending on their income and needs. As a result, these families are more exposed to cost increases for necessities than others. This is especially true for those in the bottom and middle of the income distribution for whom incomes have risen more slowly than for those at the top. For example, Census estimates indicate that household incomes adjusted for the cost of living at the 95th percentile grew about 25 percent faster than incomes at the 20th and 50th percentiles between 1990 and 2019. [2]

This brief concludes by highlighting proposals in the Biden Administration’s Build Back Better plan that aim to address these costs for families.

How to think about family budgets

The share of a family’s budget spent on any particular category of goods or services reflects a combination of factors that are both within and outside its control. These factors include family needs, preferences, and choices; income; and prices. For example, the share a family spends on childcare could increase because the price charged by their childcare provider increases, because a family has a second child needing care, or because a family member loses their job and must accept a lower-paying job after displacement.

Preferences, needs, and choices are fundamental to how markets work; they also interact with prices. As preferences or needs change, a family adjusts its spending on all sorts categories in order to maximize its well-being. [3] Because families face budget constraints and typically have no control over prices, important questions to consider as we think about costs are whether people are able to afford options that meet their needs, and what kind of trade-offs they may make in order to do so.

In addition, our thinking about what constitutes a need can change over time. For example, indoor plumbing was not always considered a necessity in a city apartment, whereas today it is the norm. [4] More recently, high-speed Internet access became a necessity for school-age children when COVID-19 forced schools to shift to remote instruction. One can also argue that cellular phones have become a necessity for participating in modern society.

Different categories of expenditures will be more relevant for different types of families. Those with young children will likely spend more on housing and childcare than those without, and elderly families will likely spend more on home health care and prescription drugs than will younger families. In some of the worst-case scenarios, parents may go hungry in order to feed their children, and an elderly individual may delay filling a prescription in order to afford their monthly rental payment. Importantly, public policy can play a role in helping families afford the goods and services necessary to meet their basic needs by reducing family exposure to cost increases in areas like health care (through Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act), childcare (through the Child Tax Credit and subsidized preschool), and food prices (through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).

Family spending patterns

In this section, we use data from the Consumer Expenditure Survey to explore more specifically how spending in different categories varies by family income and demographics. [5] We look at spending patterns across the income distribution and then focus on four types of families: (1) a married couple with young children, (2) a married couple whose oldest child is at least 18 years of age, (3) a single parent with at least one child under 18 years of age, and (4) a family whose reference person (i.e., the person being interviewed on behalf of the consumer unit) is at least 65 years of age.

Figure 1 shows expenditure shares for each category of necessity by income quintile, with 1 representing the bottom income quintile and 5 representing the top income quintile. [6] The first pattern to note is that, on average, lower- and middle-income families spend a higher share of their budgets on basic necessities—which we define here as food, clothing, housing, transportation, health, education, and child and elder care—and this has been true for decades. Families in the bottom 60 percent of the income distribution spent on average about 75 to 80 percent of their budgets on these necessities, leaving them more exposed to price increases in these categories.

At the other end of the spectrum, in 2019, families in the top fifth of the income distribution devoted about 65 percent of their budgets to these basic needs, leaving about 35 percent of their budgets for other, more discretionary items. Moreover, the results for upper-income families reflect that in many cases, they have already “traded up” to more-expensive versions of basic needs—better housing, for example, or higher-quality groceries. Faced with higher prices over time, these families in many cases have the flexibility to trade back down as a way to manage costs, whereas lower- and middle-income families have far less flexibility to substitute.

basic necessities essay

We also see differences in expenditure shares across family types, as shown in figure 2. Elderly families spend larger shares of their budgets on health expenses than families with young children and thus are more exposed to price increases in medical services and prescription drugs. Meanwhile, families with young children are more exposed to childcare costs; this can have a double-hit on family budgets, since rising costs can also alter the choice of whether second earners—predominantly women—choose to stay in the labor force, a choice that can have profound effects on lifetime earnings and has been brought into stark relief by the loss of childcare options during the COVID-19 pandemic. Families with older children are less exposed to childcare costs but become more exposed to other educational expenses, especially college tuition.

While the differences in budget shares across family type are smaller than across income quintiles, there are large differences in the total budget available to the average family of each type. For example, the average single-parent family has a budget of about $49,000 a year, which is roughly half the budget of the average married family with children.

basic necessities essay

How prices affect family budgets

As noted above, a family’s budget and expenditures are affected by many factors, such as its needs, preferences, choices, and income; they are also affected by the cost of living—that is, the prices the family faces for goods and services.

To assess changes in the cost of living, economists study changes in the prices of an aggregate basket of goods and services (see box 1). Between 1990 and 2019, the overall cost of living rose by 74 percent based on the Personal Consumption Expenditures Price Index and by 90 percent based on the Consumer Price Index retroactive series (see box 1 for more on the differences between the PCE and the CPI indices). [7]

A key way to measure the impact of these changes on workers and families is to assess how they compare with growth in a typical family’s income over the same time period. More precisely, economists adjust nominal income by changes in the cost of an aggregate basket of goods and services using indices such as those described in box 1. Adjusting for changes in the cost of living, growth in real income is encouraging because a family can enjoy a higher standard of living. 

Over the past three decades, the typical family’s income has risen. [8]   In 1990, for example, median family income not adjusted for the cost of living was $35,353 ( Census, Table F-7 ). By 2019, median family income was $86,011, an increase of 143 percent in nominal terms (see the first bar of figure 1). [9] Over this same period, the overall cost of living rose by roughly 74 percent based on the Personal Consumption Expenditures, Chain Price Index (see the horizontal line of figure 1). Thus, adjusted for changes in the cost of living, median family income rose by 40 percent. By this measure, the typical family in America today enjoys a higher standard of living than a typical American family three decades ago. However, this aggregate measure masks differences across families’ experiences; prices for some categories of expenditures have risen noticeably faster, suggesting that the costs of living have also risen for many families.

basic necessities essay

Average price indices are important tools for measuring overall changes in prices in the economy and in broad well-being. Importantly, however, few families have monthly expenditures that are precisely in line with national aggregates. Instead, different families vary—sometimes dramatically—in their needs, tastes, and choices. So what is true for costs on average may not reflect the experience of any particular family.

Dynamics of price changes

To understand the dynamics of prices and how they affect families differently, it is useful to think separately about the production of goods and services. Due to technological change, certain goods have fallen in price markedly over the last three decades—for example, television sets. A Radio Shack ad from 1990 shows a 20-inch CRT color TV retailing for $500. Today, a TV with a similar screen size has a sticker price that is less than half of that. Moreover, today’s TVs have much better image quality and weigh far less than their 1990 counterparts. These improvements reflect technological changes and productivity improvements, as well as other factors. So, when accounting for not just list price but also quality and features changes (called hedonic adjustments, which official price measures make), the measured, quality-adjusted prices of TVs have plummeted by 98 percent. Many other electronics, like computers and tablets, have seen similar decreases (see figure 3).

While prices for numerous goods have fallen even as quality has improved, these dynamics play out differently for many services—particularly those for which the major cost is paying for workers. As shown in figure 3, from 1990 to 2019, childcare prices rose 210 percent—faster than the overall price index (74 percent) and faster than median family income (143 percent). [10] While productivity and technology substantially lowered the quality-adjusted prices of manufactured goods like electronics, human services like childcare are often more limited in their potential to see enhanced productivity (caregivers cannot watch children any “faster” over the same number of set hours per day). While childcare productivity could hypothetically increase if each caregiver took on more children, in reality, one person cannot safely monitor an ever-larger group of children—let alone provide a high-quality experience for each child. So large increases in the ratio of children to care providers do not lead to an equivalent increase in productivity in childcare once changes in quality are considered.

Further, changes in the price of a service are not solely determined by the productivity of the service provider. For example, childcare wages need to rise some amount over time to stay competitive with other industries that are experiencing large gains in labor productivity (although childcare is still generally a low-wage industry). As a result, households needing childcare or other similar services are more likely to have needed to increase the share of their budget spent on these necessities.

Indeed, research suggests that lower-income families have been experiencing these cost pressures more than higher-income families. A recent study using granular price and expenditure data finds that the cost of living became more expensive for low- and middle-income families relative to higher-income families between 2004 and 2015. This also means that basic goods and services—including health care, education and childcare—cut into family budgets more today than in the past.

Build Back Better policies help lower costs for families

As part of the Build Back Better plan, the Biden Administration has proposed several policies to address these long-standing cost pressures. Families with young children will tend to benefit most from the proposed expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC), universal preschool, and improvements in the quality of childcare and a reduction in associated out-of-pocket costs. Proposals to lower prescription drug cost through Medicare-negotiated prices, add dental and vision benefits to Medicare, and expand access to home- and community-based care through Medicaid are likely to be more beneficial to households with elderly members.

Here, we present two illustrative families as benchmarks for how pieces of Build Back Better aim to help different types of families meet their needs. Specific numbers will vary depending on factors like age, state of residence, and number of children, but these examples try to convey the breadth of the different family policies included in the Administration’s plans.

The first example is a family of four with two young children age 4 and 6 living in Indiana. The parents are both 28 years old, have full-time jobs, and together earn $65,000 per year. While the parents are at work, they send the younger child to a high-quality Indiana preschool that costs $9,000 annually. [11]

Build Back Better would dramatically reduce costs for this Indiana family example. Under Build Back Better’s CTC expansion, the family would receive an extra $2,600 in tax credits. [12] Universal preschool would erase the $9,000 they currently spend. All told, Build Back Better would help the Indiana family make ends meet with $11,600 in family cost reductions.

The second illustrative family lives in Arizona, with two parents who together earn $85,000 per year and an adult child who lives with them and attends a community college. The family also cares for an elderly parent who needs arthritis medicine, which costs $5,500 per year out-of-pocket, and an eye exam to get a new pair of glasses.

Build Back Better would help this Arizona family by making education and health care more affordable. The community college student would be eligible for two years of free community college education, saving the family $2,400 per year. [13] Prescription drug reform would cap out-of-pocket costs for the elderly parent’s prescription drugs, saving the family another $2,400 per year. [14] Finally, new vision benefits under Medicare would pay for the elderly parent’s eye exam and new glasses and lenses, saving $450. [15] All told, Build Back Better policies would save this Arizona family $5,250 in annual costs.

Over the last three decades, some goods have fallen precipitously in price. But basic needs like health care and caregiving have become more expensive. Despite rising incomes for typical families, many have been exposed to these rising costs—especially low-and middle-income families and those families that are especially sensitive to certain high-cost needs (e.g., elderly families to medical costs, and families with young children to childcare). As part of Build Back Better, the Biden Administration has proposed a range of policies to better protect different families from the risk of future cost increases for necessities and help Americans share in broad prosperity.

[1] Based on unpublished numbers that underlie figure 3 in the linked Hamilton Project Report.

[2] CEA calculations based on Census Table A4. The 95th/20th household income ratio grew by 27 percent between 1990 and 2019, and the 95th/50th household income ratio grew by 24 percent over the same period.

[3] Specifically, when thinking about the effect of changes in prices on consumption, economists analyze how a family adjusts its spending by considering two types of changes— income and substitution effects. When the price of something falls—say, apples—a family may buy more of it because it is cheaper (substitution effect); but the family may also spend some of its savings on other goods—say, oranges—because it has more room in its budget (the income effect). If income falls, a family may reduce consumption on everything, which is also an income effect.

[4] Only 0.4 percent of occupied housing units in the United States lack complete plumbing facilities (defined by the Census as having each of the following: hot and cold running water, a flush toilet, and a bathtub or shower), although the share can be significantly higher in some more rural areas.

[5] For the Consumer Expenditure Survey, a surveyed family is referred to as a “consumer unit,” which, according to BLS, is defined as “(1) all members of a particular household who are related by blood, marriage, adoption, or other legal arrangements; (2) a person living alone or sharing a household with others or living as a roomer in a private home, lodging house, or permanent living quarters in a hotel or motel, but who is financially independent; or (3) two or more persons living together who use their income to make joint expenditure decisions.”

[6] Our definition of necessities includes seven categories. “Housing” includes expenses on owned and rented dwellings, maintenance, fuel, public services, furnishings, rent, and mortgage principal and interest. “Transportation” includes vehicle purchases and rentals, gas and motor oil, maintenance and repairs, insurance, and public transportation costs. “Food” includes food purchased at grocery stores and food prepared on vacations. “Health” includes insurance, medical services and procedures, prescription drugs, and medical supplies. “Child and elder care” includes babysitting and childcare; care for elderly people, invalids, and handicapped people; adult day care centers, and day care centers, nurseries, and preschools. “Clothing” includes expenses on clothing, footwear, and accessories such as watches and jewelry, and related expenses such as dry cleaning. “Education” includes tuition, fees, supplies, and textbooks for nursery school through postsecondary education. Budget shares are calculated by dividing average annual expenditures in a category by total average annual expenditures. For more information, see the Consumer Expenditure Survey Glossary .

[7] We use the CPI retroactive series for this calculation because it applies current methods to estimate historical values of the index back to 1978. This makes the index more comparable over time; see R-CPI-U-RS Homepage: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov) .

[8] This brief focuses on family rather than household income. The U.S. Census Bureau defines families as “any two or more people (not necessarily including a householder) residing together, and related by birth, marriage, or adoption.” This distinguishes them from households, which “may be composed of one such group, more than one, or none at all.” We also use the Personal Consumption Expenditure Price Index (PCE) rather than Consumer Price Index (CPI) (see box 1).

[9] CEA calculations based on Census Table F-7 .

[10] Figure 1 includes percent changes in detailed PCE indices for selected goods and services. The category labeled “childcare” is based on the index “day care and nursery schools.” “Rent” is “rent of tenant occupied nonfarm housing.” “Health care” is “health care goods and services.” “Food and beverage” is “food and beverage purchased for off-premises consumption.” “Apparel” is “clothing, footwear, and related services.” “Computers” is “personal computers/tablets and peripheral equipment.”

[11] This is the Indiana state average for high-quality early childhood education for a preschooler in 2022 dollars, according to the Indiana Early Learning Advisory Committee 2019 Annual Report .

[12] Under Build Back Better, each child under six is eligible for a $3,600 CTC, which is $1,600 more than under current law after 2021. Each child age 6–17 is eligible for a $3,000 CTC, which is $1,000 more than under current law starting in 2021.

[13] These are the average published tuition and fees for full-time, in-district students at public two-year colleges in Arizona in 2022 dollars, according to the College Board 2020 Trends in College Pricing and Student Aid . Cost savings would be higher if the student is eligible for a Pell Grant, which depends on family circumstances such as income and assets; the Fiscal Year 2022 Budget proposes a $1,875 increase in the maximum Pell Grant.

[14] Recently introduced legislation on Medicare prescription drug reforms would establish an out-of-pocket maximum for Part D cost-sharing of no more than $3,100.

[15] This is the approximate cost based on national averages for an eye exam, new glasses, and new lenses.

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Planning to Meet Basic Needs pp 1–13 Cite as

A Basic Needs Approach to Development

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A basic needs (BN) approach to development is one which gives priority to meeting the basic needs of all the people. The actual content of BN have been variously defined: they always include the fulfilment of certain standards of nutrition, (food and water), and the universal provision of health and education services. They sometimes also cover other material needs, such as shelter and clothing, and non-material needs such as employment, participation and political liberty. 1 The idea of making the meeting of certain fundamental human needs a development priority is not a recent idea nor a sophisticated one; it stems from the simple view that development should be concerned with removing absolute deprivation, as a first priority. This idea finds rhetorical echoes in the speeches of almost every statesman in developing countries, and every preamble to a development plan. But when it comes to translating the idea into action — into plans, policies and projects — the achievement of BN becomes more complex, both in terms of identifying the appropriate measures, and in terms of mobilising the required political will.

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How to Write an Essay Introduction | 4 Steps & Examples

Published on February 4, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 23, 2023.

A good introduction paragraph is an essential part of any academic essay . It sets up your argument and tells the reader what to expect.

The main goals of an introduction are to:

  • Catch your reader’s attention.
  • Give background on your topic.
  • Present your thesis statement —the central point of your essay.

This introduction example is taken from our interactive essay example on the history of Braille.

The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability. The writing system of raised dots used by visually impaired people was developed by Louis Braille in nineteenth-century France. In a society that did not value disabled people in general, blindness was particularly stigmatized, and lack of access to reading and writing was a significant barrier to social participation. The idea of tactile reading was not entirely new, but existing methods based on sighted systems were difficult to learn and use. As the first writing system designed for blind people’s needs, Braille was a groundbreaking new accessibility tool. It not only provided practical benefits, but also helped change the cultural status of blindness. This essay begins by discussing the situation of blind people in nineteenth-century Europe. It then describes the invention of Braille and the gradual process of its acceptance within blind education. Subsequently, it explores the wide-ranging effects of this invention on blind people’s social and cultural lives.

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Step 1: hook your reader, step 2: give background information, step 3: present your thesis statement, step 4: map your essay’s structure, step 5: check and revise, more examples of essay introductions, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about the essay introduction.

Your first sentence sets the tone for the whole essay, so spend some time on writing an effective hook.

Avoid long, dense sentences—start with something clear, concise and catchy that will spark your reader’s curiosity.

The hook should lead the reader into your essay, giving a sense of the topic you’re writing about and why it’s interesting. Avoid overly broad claims or plain statements of fact.

Examples: Writing a good hook

Take a look at these examples of weak hooks and learn how to improve them.

  • Braille was an extremely important invention.
  • The invention of Braille was a major turning point in the history of disability.

The first sentence is a dry fact; the second sentence is more interesting, making a bold claim about exactly  why the topic is important.

  • The internet is defined as “a global computer network providing a variety of information and communication facilities.”
  • The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education.

Avoid using a dictionary definition as your hook, especially if it’s an obvious term that everyone knows. The improved example here is still broad, but it gives us a much clearer sense of what the essay will be about.

  • Mary Shelley’s  Frankenstein is a famous book from the nineteenth century.
  • Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale about the dangers of scientific advancement.

Instead of just stating a fact that the reader already knows, the improved hook here tells us about the mainstream interpretation of the book, implying that this essay will offer a different interpretation.

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Next, give your reader the context they need to understand your topic and argument. Depending on the subject of your essay, this might include:

  • Historical, geographical, or social context
  • An outline of the debate you’re addressing
  • A summary of relevant theories or research about the topic
  • Definitions of key terms

The information here should be broad but clearly focused and relevant to your argument. Don’t give too much detail—you can mention points that you will return to later, but save your evidence and interpretation for the main body of the essay.

How much space you need for background depends on your topic and the scope of your essay. In our Braille example, we take a few sentences to introduce the topic and sketch the social context that the essay will address:

Now it’s time to narrow your focus and show exactly what you want to say about the topic. This is your thesis statement —a sentence or two that sums up your overall argument.

This is the most important part of your introduction. A  good thesis isn’t just a statement of fact, but a claim that requires evidence and explanation.

The goal is to clearly convey your own position in a debate or your central point about a topic.

Particularly in longer essays, it’s helpful to end the introduction by signposting what will be covered in each part. Keep it concise and give your reader a clear sense of the direction your argument will take.

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

As you research and write, your argument might change focus or direction as you learn more.

For this reason, it’s often a good idea to wait until later in the writing process before you write the introduction paragraph—it can even be the very last thing you write.

When you’ve finished writing the essay body and conclusion , you should return to the introduction and check that it matches the content of the essay.

It’s especially important to make sure your thesis statement accurately represents what you do in the essay. If your argument has gone in a different direction than planned, tweak your thesis statement to match what you actually say.

To polish your writing, you can use something like a paraphrasing tool .

You can use the checklist below to make sure your introduction does everything it’s supposed to.

Checklist: Essay introduction

My first sentence is engaging and relevant.

I have introduced the topic with necessary background information.

I have defined any important terms.

My thesis statement clearly presents my main point or argument.

Everything in the introduction is relevant to the main body of the essay.

You have a strong introduction - now make sure the rest of your essay is just as good.

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This introduction to an argumentative essay sets up the debate about the internet and education, and then clearly states the position the essay will argue for.

The spread of the internet has had a world-changing effect, not least on the world of education. The use of the internet in academic contexts is on the rise, and its role in learning is hotly debated. For many teachers who did not grow up with this technology, its effects seem alarming and potentially harmful. This concern, while understandable, is misguided. The negatives of internet use are outweighed by its critical benefits for students and educators—as a uniquely comprehensive and accessible information source; a means of exposure to and engagement with different perspectives; and a highly flexible learning environment.

This introduction to a short expository essay leads into the topic (the invention of the printing press) and states the main point the essay will explain (the effect of this invention on European society).

In many ways, the invention of the printing press marked the end of the Middle Ages. The medieval period in Europe is often remembered as a time of intellectual and political stagnation. Prior to the Renaissance, the average person had very limited access to books and was unlikely to be literate. The invention of the printing press in the 15th century allowed for much less restricted circulation of information in Europe, paving the way for the Reformation.

This introduction to a literary analysis essay , about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein , starts by describing a simplistic popular view of the story, and then states how the author will give a more complex analysis of the text’s literary devices.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is often read as a crude cautionary tale. Arguably the first science fiction novel, its plot can be read as a warning about the dangers of scientific advancement unrestrained by ethical considerations. In this reading, and in popular culture representations of the character as a “mad scientist”, Victor Frankenstein represents the callous, arrogant ambition of modern science. However, far from providing a stable image of the character, Shelley uses shifting narrative perspectives to gradually transform our impression of Frankenstein, portraying him in an increasingly negative light as the novel goes on. While he initially appears to be a naive but sympathetic idealist, after the creature’s narrative Frankenstein begins to resemble—even in his own telling—the thoughtlessly cruel figure the creature represents him as.

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Your essay introduction should include three main things, in this order:

  • An opening hook to catch the reader’s attention.
  • Relevant background information that the reader needs to know.
  • A thesis statement that presents your main point or argument.

The length of each part depends on the length and complexity of your essay .

The “hook” is the first sentence of your essay introduction . It should lead the reader into your essay, giving a sense of why it’s interesting.

To write a good hook, avoid overly broad statements or long, dense sentences. Try to start with something clear, concise and catchy that will spark your reader’s curiosity.

A thesis statement is a sentence that sums up the central point of your paper or essay . Everything else you write should relate to this key idea.

The thesis statement is essential in any academic essay or research paper for two main reasons:

  • It gives your writing direction and focus.
  • It gives the reader a concise summary of your main point.

Without a clear thesis statement, an essay can end up rambling and unfocused, leaving your reader unsure of exactly what you want to say.

The structure of an essay is divided into an introduction that presents your topic and thesis statement , a body containing your in-depth analysis and arguments, and a conclusion wrapping up your ideas.

The structure of the body is flexible, but you should always spend some time thinking about how you can organize your essay to best serve your ideas.

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The Necessities for a Basic Essay Academic Paper

An interesting topic, a proper outline and correct structured draft determine the superior quality of the final essay, which in turn dictate a student’s score.

Writing an essay can prove to be tiresome and frustrating especially for students who lack basic research, evaluation, and writing skills. It is no wonder that some scholars procrastinate until when the paper is almost due. Last minute pressure makes them panic and deliver mediocre or poor work.

The final copy of an essay should be comprehensible and precise. This paper demonstrates that an interesting topic, a proper outline and correct structured draft determine the superior quality of the final essay, which in turn dictates a student’s score.

An excellent essay ought to have a compelling topic. Choosing an ideal topic begins with brainstorming several topics and selecting one. Brainstorming may involve formulating a lot of questions which may lead to a brilliant paper idea. The topic should be appealing to the reader and even more to the writer.

It should be narrow in a way that it is researchable but not too narrow as to lack research materials. A student should avoid general topics as they tend to be vague and time consuming due to the availability of numerous resources to read. For example, a wide topic such as technological advancements would require more research and information.

In contrast, a topic such as the impacts of technological advancements in the education sector is less demanding. This is because the former is too general and may require information on all technology types that exist in the world. The latter is narrow and specific as it concentrates only on impacts and the education sector.

Developing an outline helps in the organization of a writer’s ideas. An outline is a sketch that shows the order in which the author intends to arrange the ideas and how one plans to create a flow by connecting the ideas to one another. It highlights the main ideas first followed by the subordinate ideas.

A solid outline features an introduction amid a thesis statement, a number of body paragraphs, and a conclusion. It is advisable to sketch the ideas before writing them down in the first draft. A writer should use one line sentences in an outline to describe paragraphs as they are accurate and easy to understand.

The subsequent step is to write the first draft. The introduction should be intriguing in order to capture the reader’s attention. It ought to highlight the issue of discussion and leads to the thesis i.e. answer the essay question in a clear statement. In addition, it introduces the main points to support the argument.

The essay draft discusses all the core points in the order they emerge in the introduction so as to maintain the flow of the final essay. Topic sentences precede each paragraph and supports claims with proof. This expounds the writer’s ideas in the clearest manner. Each paragraph presents a separate idea from the others, and each idea relates to the thesis.

The concluding paragraph ends on a quotation, an outstanding idea or a motivation for action. It summarizes the entire text without including new information. The writer prepares the final essay after proofreading, editing and formatting the entire work in the draft.

This paper has discussed the necessities for a basic essay academic paper by emphasizing on the importance of a compelling topic, proper outline and appropriate organization in writing a substantial essay that can earn high scores for any scholar.

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The Most Important Writing Exercise I’ve Ever Assigned

An illustration of several houses. One person walks away from a house with a second person isolated in a window.

By Rachel Kadish

Ms. Kadish is the author of the novel “The Weight of Ink.”

“Write down a phrase you find abhorrent — something you yourself would never say.”

My students looked startled, but they cooperated. They knew I wouldn’t collect this exercise; what they wrote would be private unless they chose to share it. All that was required of them was participation.

In silence they jotted down a few words. So far, so good. We hadn’t yet reached the hard request: Spend 10 minutes writing a monologue in the first person that’s spoken by a fictitious character who makes the upsetting statement. This portion typically elicits nervous glances. When that happens, I remind students that their statement doesn’t represent them and that speaking as if they’re someone else is a basic skill of fiction writers. The troubling statement, I explain, must appear in the monologue, and it shouldn’t be minimized, nor should students feel the need to forgive or account for it. What’s required is simply that somewhere in the monologue there be an instant — even a fleeting phrase — in which we can feel empathy for the speaker. Perhaps she’s sick with worry over an ill grandchild. Perhaps he’s haunted by a love he let slip away. Perhaps she’s sleepless over how to keep her business afloat and her employees paid. Done right, the exercise delivers a one-two punch: repugnance for a behavior or worldview coupled with recognition of shared humanity.

For more than two decades, I’ve taught versions of this fiction-writing exercise. I’ve used it in universities, middle schools and private workshops, with 7-year-olds and 70-year-olds. But in recent years openness to this exercise and to the imaginative leap it’s designed to teach has shrunk to a pinprick. As our country’s public conversation has gotten angrier, I’ve noticed that students’ approach to the exercise has become more brittle, regardless of whether students lean right or left.

Each semester, I wonder whether the aperture through which we allow empathy has so drastically narrowed as to foreclose a full view of our fellow human beings. Maybe there are times so contentious or so painful that people simply withdraw to their own silos. I’ve certainly felt that inward pull myself. There are times when a leap into someone else’s perspective feels impossible.

But leaping is the job of the writer, and there’s no point it doing it halfway. Good fiction pulls off a magic trick of absurd power: It makes us care. Responding to the travails of invented characters — Ahab or Amaranta, Sethe or Stevens, Zooey or Zorba — we might tear up or laugh, or our hearts might pound. As readers, we become invested in these people, which is very different from agreeing with or even liking them. In the best literature, characters are so vivid, complicated, contradictory and even maddening that we’ll follow them far from our preconceptions; sometimes we don’t return.

Unflinching empathy, which is the muscle the lesson is designed to exercise, is a prerequisite for literature strong enough to wrestle with the real world. On the page it allows us to spot signs of humanity; off the page it can teach us to start a conversation with the strangest of strangers, to thrive alongside difference. It can even affect those life-or-death choices we make instinctively in a crisis. This kind of empathy has nothing to do with being nice, and it’s not for the faint of heart.

Even within the safety of the page, it’s tempting to dodge empathy’s challenge, instead demonizing villains and idealizing heroes, but that’s when the needle on art’s moral compass goes inert. Then we’re navigating blind: confident that we know what the bad people look like and that they’re not us — and therefore we’re at no risk of error.

Our best writers, in contrast, portray humans in their full complexity. This is what Gish Jen is doing in the short story “Who’s Irish?” and Rohinton Mistry in the novel “A Fine Balance.” Line by line, these writers illuminate the inner worlds of characters who cause harm — which is not the same as forgiving them. No one would ever say that Toni Morrison forgives the character Cholly Breedlove, who rapes his daughter in “The Bluest Eye.” What Ms. Morrison accomplishes instead is the boldest act of moral and emotional understanding I’ve ever seen on the page.

In the classroom exercise, the upsetting phrases my students scribble might be personal (“You’ll never be a writer,” “You’re ugly”) or religious or political. Once a student wrote a phrase condemning abortion as another student across the table wrote a phrase defending it. Sometimes there are stereotypes, slurs — whatever the students choose to grapple with. Of course, it’s disturbing to step into the shoes of someone whose words or deeds repel us. Writing these monologues, my graduate students, who know what “first person” means, will dodge and write in third, with the distanced “he said” instead of “I said.”

But if they can withstand the challenges of first person, sometimes something happens. They emerge shaken and eager to expand on what they’ve written. I look up from tidying my notes to discover students lingering after dismissal with that alert expression that says the exercise made them feel something they needed to feel.

Over the years, as my students’ statements became more political and as jargon (“deplorables,” “snowflakes”) supplanted the language of personal experience, I adapted the exercise. Worrying that I’d been too sanguine about possible pitfalls, I made it entirely silent, so no student would have to hear another’s troubling statement or fear being judged for their own. Any students who wanted to share their monologues with me could stay after class rather than read to the group. Later, I added another caveat: If your troubling statement is so offensive, you can’t imagine the person who says it as a full human being, choose something less troubling. Next, I narrowed the parameters: No politics. The pandemic’s virtual classes made risk taking harder; I moved the exercise deeper into the semester so students would feel more at ease.

After one session, a student stayed behind in the virtual meeting room. She’d failed to include empathy in her monologue about a character whose politics she abhorred. Her omission bothered her. I was impressed by her honesty. She’d constructed a caricature and recognized it. Most of us don’t.

For years, I’ve quietly completed the exercise alongside my students. Some days nothing sparks. When it goes well, though, the experience is disquieting. The hard part, it turns out, isn’t the empathy itself but what follows: the annihilating notion that people whose fears or joys or humor I appreciate may themselves be indifferent to all my cherished conceptions of the world.

Then the 10-minute timer sounds, and I haul myself back to the business of the classroom — shaken by the vastness of the world but more curious about the people in it. I put my trust in that curiosity. What better choice does any of us have? And in the sanctuary of my classroom I keep trying, handing along what literature handed me: the small, sturdy magic trick any of us can work, as long as we’re willing to risk it.

Rachel Kadish is the author of the novel “The Weight of Ink.”

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips . And here’s our email: [email protected] .

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  23. The Necessities for a Basic Essay Academic Paper

    The Necessities for a Basic Essay Academic Paper Exclusively available on IvyPanda An interesting topic, a proper outline and correct structured draft determine the superior quality of the final essay, which in turn dictate a student's score. We will write a custom essay on your topic 807 writers online Learn More

  24. Opinion

    Ms. Kadish is the author of the novel "The Weight of Ink." "Write down a phrase you find abhorrent — something you yourself would never say." My students looked startled but they ...