Step-by-step guide on how to write a good hook for a research paper

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19 Jul 2019

Step-by-step guide on how to write a good hook for a research paper

This guide contains step-by-step instructions and tips on how to write a hook for research paper that will be a magnet for your reader's attention
A sheet of paper to jot down ideas.
A pen and your imagination.
About 20 minutes

You are probably familiar with the concept of “hook sentence” in fiction and journalism. This expression is pretty self-explanatory: it must catch your reader like a hook catches fish, so they won’t be able to leave your text until they’ve read it through. The only difference – no one is hurt and your reader is glued to your text on their own accord.choose the topic

Blurbs that hook the reader and sell books are often shocking or at least somewhat provocative. “What if you discovered that your wife is a werewolf?” or something along those lines. However, how to write a hook for a research paper? That’s a piece of factual non-fiction. You cannot put a clickbait title on chemistry research. Or can you? Even something as factual as academic writing needs an attentions grabber – and with the help of our tips, you will always be able to craft the perfect one.

  1. Remember what made you choose this topic
  2. Think why it is important for your reader
  3. Create a scenario
  4. Use tropes for vivid image
  5. Surprise your audience
  6. Trim the fat to make it snappy

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Remember what made you choose this topic.

There must have been something that interested you. It must have had some fascinating aspect to it to arouse your interest in the first place. What was it? Imagine you have to explain to a friend what makes this topic so irresistible. For example: “I am going to talk to you about my animal muse – the sloth.”

Think why it is important for your reader.

For your research to be relevant you must see the potential it has to change the world for the better – even if it’s a very small change. Yet this change must be evident and beneficial for your reader. Think why they should care and state it upfront. For example: “You will learn something that will add ten years to your life.”

important for reader

Create a scenario

People love storytelling. Our brains are wired to remember stories. Imagine your problem is a fiend and your solution is a hero who will save the day or simply start with a story from your own experience to illustrate the importance of your topic: “When I was seven years old and my sister was just five years old, we were playing on top of a bunk bed…”

Create a scenario

Use tropes for vivid image

Don’t shy away from rhetorical figures and other expressive means. Your lab report may contain facts and figures, but your research paper is a way to present your findings to the human audience and you can afford a bit of frivolity in the very beginning at least. Don’t feel bound by the cumbersome academese – your paper doesn’t have to be pretentious and pedantic to be brilliant, useful, and factual.
For example, a rhetorical question makes an effective hook for a research paper: “Did you know that more people have access to a mobile phone than a toilet?” Plus, here we have contrast – a winning combo.

vivid image

Surprise your audience

There are two types of attention: voluntary and involuntary. First one is when you make an effort, the second just happens when you hear a loud noise or see something out of the ordinary. You can evoke the involuntary attention in your audience by surprising them right from the start: “Twenty years from now, your job won’t exist.”

Surprise your audience

Trim the fat to make it snappy

A good hook is short. Leave the statistics and details for later and make your hook sentence short and intriguing. Watch TED talks for inspiration. All those brilliant speakers sure know how to write a good hook sentence for their presentations. They speak on scientific topics, but the speeches sound like a thriller more often than not. By the way, the examples above aren’t fictitious. They are from actual TED presentations.

Trim the fat

More examples of good first lines

The following examples are from fiction books, yet they all make the reader want to read further, so they do their job. Once you see it, you will easily implement the general principles behind them for any kind of text.

Absurd and random

“Joost had two problems: the moon and his moustache.” – Six of Crows, Leigh Bardugo.

“The morning after noted child prodigy Colin Singleton graduated from highschool and got dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl named Katherine, he took a bath.” – An abundance of Katherines, John Green.

Why it’s good: It’s witty and weird enough to tease us. Yet it’s also dramatic, it drops us right in the middle of events.


“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” – The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien.

“It was the day my grandmother exploded.” – The Crow Road, Iain Banks

Why it’s good: The phrase leaves your reader puzzled and intrigued. After reading this they’ll be thinking: “What’s hobbit?” or “Exploded? How? Why? Tell me more!”

Inherently conflicted

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”– A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens.

“Quentin did a magic trick. Nobody noticed.” The Magicians, Lev Grossman.

Why it’s good: your reader is baffled with this oxymoron. Something unusual is going on here and your reader wants to know why.

A Confession

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.” – The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald

“A Note from Greg Gaines, Author of this book. “I have no idea how to write this stupid book. Can I just be honest with you for one second?” Me and Earl and the dying girl, Jesse Andrews.

Why it’s good: Honesty is disarming. Moreover, when spoken in the first person, the words seemed to be addressed directly to you and you feel you can’t help it but listen to this confession through.

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