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Effective Grabbers in Academic Writing

What Are Grabbers?

A grabber is the first sentence or a limited group of sentences designed to capture the reader’s attention in the introduction. It introduces the essay topic in an interesting way and makes the reader want to continue to read.

NOTE: When your grabber takes information from another source, you must cite and reference according to the appropriate style guide (such as APA @ Conestoga). You should also be sure that you get this information from a credible or reliable source. Quotation websites, such as BrainyQuote, are not considered credible sources.

How To Use Grabbers

Here is a thesis statement:

The incidence of depression has created a crisis in Canadian society that must be addressed through a combination of counselling, medicine, and social acceptance.

The grabber should relate to the overall purpose or thesis of the paper. The following are different techniques for grabbers with examples that relate to the above thesis.

Develop the Opposite Idea

Encourage the reader to think about different views and why yours stands out.

Suffering through depression, like suffering through a cold, is simply a matter of being strong and “getting over it,” as many victims of both illnesses are told. Depression, however, is far from being a minor ailment; it is a major mental illness that must be treated as such.

Use a Provocative Statement

Ensure that the source you use is credible and accurate. Note that a citation is needed because information has been taken from another source.

Lim et al. (2008) estimated that mental illnesses like depression cost the Canadian economy $51 billion in lost employee productivity, hospitalization, and treatment costs, as well as government assistance programs (p. 92).

Ask Important Questions

Ask specific questions that lead the reader to the main idea of the paper. Note that a citation is needed.

Although depression affects approximately 8% of the Canadian public annually (Health Canada, 2002, p. 8), it is not being adequately addressed. What approaches are effective in treating this disease?

Provide a Relevant Quotation

Make sure the quotation is accurate, as well as credible, and supports your thesis. Note that a citation is needed.

In her memoir about living with depression, Wurtzel (1994) compares her ordeal with mental illness to the ordeal of dying of cancer: The pain grows and intensifies until “one morning you wake up afraid you are going to live” (p. 22). Indeed, thousands of people are living with the pain of depression, yet current approaches to treating the disease are not effective.

Start with a Short Definition

Make sure the definition is useful to your argument. Note that a citation is needed.

The Mayo Clinic (2014) defines depression as “a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest. … It affects how [people] feel, think, and behave and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems” (para. 1).

Tell a Brief Anecdote

Be sure to have a specific purpose for the story and keep it short and simple. Note this type of grabber may not be appropriate for all academic writing.

The summer of 2007 should have been the happiest time of my life. I was getting married, and I had just been promoted. However, instead of celebrating with my family, I retreated to my bed, cried for hours, isolated myself, and felt empty inside. I was suffering from clinical depression.

Other Resource

Need help with the closing your essay? Check out Effective Clinchers in Academic Writing.


Health Canada. (2002). A report on mental illnesses in Canada.
Lim, K. L., Jacobs, P., Ohinmaa, A., Schopflocher, D., & Dewa, C. S. (2008). A new population-based measure of the economic burden of mental illness in Canada. Chronic Diseases in Canada, 28, 92-98.
Mayo Clinic. (2014). Depression (major depressive disorder) depression/basics/definition/con-20032977
Wurtzel, E. (1994). Prozac nation: Young and depressed in America. Penguin.