Research papers aren't usually easy reads. They're filled with facts, numbers and dry language meant to convey a level of professionalism. This is why it's essential to engage the reader right from the get-go. Introductions that grab the reader's attention are aptly known as attention getters. Several devices can be used to get the reader's attention. Before choosing the attention getter that works best for your paper, consider the tone of your piece, the purpose of your thesis and the audience for which you're writing.
Consider the Length
Your introductory paragraph is not meant to take several minutes to read. The goal is to quickly hook the reader and convince her to keep reading. It should be short enough to grab the attention of the reader and long enough to touch on the main features you're going to be covering.
Ask a Rhetorical Question
Just as in conversation, rhetorical questions in research papers are meant to get the reader's mind wondering about something without requiring him to respond. Design the question so that it requires a "yes" or "no" answer. It's also essential to make it interesting and intriguing. A research paper about the homeless could begin "Can you move all of your life's possessions around in a shopping cart?"
Cite a Relevant Quote
It doesn't necessarily have to be from someone who's an expert in your field of research -- just so long as the quote applies to the thesis of your paper. You can begin by crediting the author first, such as "Winston Churchill once said that 'Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.'" If, however, your author is relatively unknown, begin with the quote, and then credit the author afterward.
Use a Shocking Statistic
You can use a shocking statistic to engage your reader and then segue into the body of your paper. A research paper on developmental psychology could begin "About 26 percent of children growing up in America have only one parent." From here, you can go on to talk about the effect this has on children and the desirability of a home with two parents.
String Together a List of Words
Begin with a list of words, using each one as a complete sentence. While this isn't grammatically correct (they're sentence fragments), it can be used if you know what you're doing. An example would be the following: "Incest. Murder. Suicide. Death. What do these things have in common? They're all themes of William Shakespeare's play 'Hamlet.'"