Attention Getters for Essays: Types & Examples

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  • 0:02 What Is an Attention Getter?
  • 0:30 Types of Attention Getters
  • 2:03 Examples of Attention Getters
  • 4:16 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Michelle Herrin

Michelle has taught high school and college English and has master's degrees in eduation and liberal studies.

Expert Contributor
Ginna Wilkerson

Ginna earned M.Ed. degrees in Curriculum and Development and Mental Health Counseling, followed by a Ph.D. in English. She has over 30 years of teaching experience.

Let's learn about attention getters and why they are important in academic essays. We'll learn about several types of attention getters and review some examples.

What is an Attention Getter?

An attention getter is also called a hook because it hooks the reader, just like a fishing hook. The attention getter is usually the first sentence in an academic essay.

The purpose of the attention getter is to grab the reader's attention and give him/her some context for the essay. This is your opportunity to let your reader know why this topic is important. However, an attention getter shouldn't give too many specifics about your essay - that's what your thesis statement, or main idea should do.

Types of Attention Getters

There are several different kinds of attention getters. While you can usually use a variety of attention grabbers for any essay assignment, we will also talk about which attention getter works well for particular assignments. Here are the different types of attention getters.

A quotation from an important politician, well-known author, or famous person can be a good way to grab your reader's interest. For example, if I used a quotation by William Shakespeare, most people would know who he is. This kind of attention grabber works well with literary analyses and persuasive essays.

An interesting statistic related to your topic can be a powerful way to show your reader why your essay is important. This kind of attention grabber works well with research papers and argument essays.

An open-ended question can get your reader thinking about your topic. It's important that your question be interesting and thought-provoking. This kind of attention grabber works well with narrative essays or essays on controversial topics.

A personal story or anecdote (a short, interesting story based on true events) can be a good way to show your readers how your topic affects people. This kind of attention grabber works well with personal essays and essays on controversial topics.

You don't want to use dictionary definitions or yes/no questions for attention getters because they aren't interesting and don't engage your reader.

Examples of Attention Getters

Now, let's look at some sample attention getters. There are so many options, but these ideas will help you get started.

If the assignment was to analyze the characters in a book, a good attention getter might be a quotation: Writer Ernest Hemingway once said, 'When writing a novel, a writer should create living people; people not characters. A character is a caricature.' This attention getter gives the topic of the paper, which is character, but it doesn't give specific information about the point of the paper. It's also important to introduce the quotation, which I did at the start of this attention getting by explaining who said it.

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Additional Activities

Practice with Attention Getters for Essays

Practice Activities

1. In the lesson, you learned that the attention getter should not reveal the actual thesis of your essay. Choose one or two of the examples in the lesson and try to write what might be a thesis statement for that attention getter. Be sure that the thesis statement contains the two required elements: the general topic (which can be mentioned in the attention getter) and your specific angle on that topic for your essay.

2. Now try the opposite task to the activity in Item 1. Below are three sample essay thesis statements. Create a possible attention getter for each essay suggested.

  • In Mary Shelley's gothic horror novel Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein, the creator of the creature, can be seen as more of a monster than his creation.
  • More funding should be officially designated to help U.S. veterans recover from life-changing injuries acquired in combat.
  • My first stay at summer camp opened my eyes to the beauty and calming power of nature.

3. Look at some sample student essays available online and examine them for an attention getter in the introduction. Does the attention-getting item do the job effectively? Does it refrain from revealing the thesis? Is it located at the start of the essay? It might be useful, especially if you've had trouble with writing attention getters in the past, to take a look back at some of your own essays and see how they might be revised to better grab the reader's attention.

Note to Parents and Teachers

There are no right or wrong answers in these activities, as student writing necessarily varies widely according to personal style and interests. Refer back to the lesson itself to help the student evaluate their own responses for effectiveness.

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