Hooking the Reader

Alone in a dark dorm room sits a college freshman, hands on his forehead, with the only source of light coming from his laptop. The screen has a grand total of eight words, consisting of the student’s name and date. It’s obvious he doesn’t know where to start, and let me guess, you don’t know where to begin in your research paper either. You’re thinking about how to start, what words you need in order to form that first sentence, and what sentences you must blend together to launch that paper of yours. How are you ever going to grab the reader’s attention? How are you going to hook them? Well, don’t worry aspiring freshman, beginning your paper by engaging your reader can actually be quite simple.

The main question you need to ask yourself is “What hooks me when I begin reading a good piece of writing?” For me, I like to have a story told to me or have the writer put me into a scene that will later affiliate with the topic of the paper. For example, the way I painted the picture of the disgruntled college student at his laptop took the reader to a place that we have all seen before.  Using this tactic is effective because it can both entertain the reader while informing them on the topic that will be discussed in your paper.

There are other tactics that you can utilize as well to hook the reader to your paper. You can start by including a quote that is involved with the topic of your paper. After writing the quote, you should explain why you used these words and how it applies to your argument. For example, if I were to write a paper on how dog fighting is actually a more popular activity in our country than people might think, I could start the paper with a quote from convicted NFL player Michael Vick. “You got the family dog and the white picket fence, and you just think that’s all there is. Some of us had to grow up in poverty-stricken urban neighborhoods, and we just had to adapt to our environment. I know that it’s wrong. But people act like it’s some crazy thing they never heard of. They don’t know.” This quote both interests the reader and also supports my argument that I am about to reveal.

You could even ask a question for the beginning hook. If I’m writing a paper about America’s addiction to television, I could start by writing, “Have you ever wondered why we are obsessed with television? Why do we feel the need to sit down and watch a screen for hours instead of living our own lives?” I would then go into the science and reasons why we all want to stare at TVs.

The beginning “hook” of a paper could and should be the most fun part of a paper to write. This introduction can give you a chance to add a little fiction to a paper that will otherwise be informative and factual.

Think about your favorite movie. I’m sure that the film didn’t have a boring opening scene, but rather opened with an entertaining scene that set the tone for the rest of the film. “Star Wars” begins with a small space battle, making the viewer want to see more immediately. The average reader, unfortunately, will not give your paper a chance if they are uninterested from the start.