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3.4: Conclusions

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    15241
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    For many readers, your concluding words are what they will remember long after they have finished reading your piece. For that reason, your concluding paragraph is critical. [Image: Vlad Shapochnikov | Unsplash]

     

    Definition to Remember:

    • Thesis + Wisdom + Catchy Last Line = Conclusion

    Rules to Remember:

    1. Much as your introduction gives readers a first impression of who you are and what you hope to accomplish, your conclusion is your chance to offer final wisdom. For many readers, your concluding words are what they will remember long after they have finished reading your piece. For that reason, your concluding paragraph is critical.
    2. Always end your essay in a way that reinforces your thesis and your purpose. A conclusion must provide a sense of closure. Readers should recognize your final paragraph as an ending. If you feel compelled to type the words “The End,” you’re not there yet.
    3. Remember to look ahead. Is there future research that you intend or would recommend? Is there something specific you hope your readers will do with the ideas you have shared? Is there a new direction to turn? How can you use your conclusion to keep your readers thinking, even after they have set your essay aside?
    4. Remind your readers of your overall thesis. Do not merely repeat your thesis. If you have added sufficient evidence in your essay to support your claim, your thesis should sound different to your readers than it did in the introduction. As you remind your readers of your purpose, allow your thesis to express the fullness of all of the evidence you have brought to bear.
    5. Offer wisdom that your readers can take with them. Much like the introduction, here are several possible approaches for ending an essay well:
      • a related story
      • a provocative question or series of questions
      • a hypothetical scenario
      • a surprising fact or series of facts
      • an engaging direct quotation
      • a striking statement
      • background information or context
      • an opposing argument
      • the who, what, where, when, and why of the paper’s focus
      • a combination of the types listed above
    6. Finish with a catchy last line that is both conclusive-sounding and memorable. Much like a catchy first line, an effective last line should be concise, poetic, persuasive, and provocative.
      “Writing well may offer little respect, but writing poorly certainly loses it.” David Hartmann, Director of Client Success

    Common Errors:

    • Tacking on a placeholder conclusion. Writers are often fatigued by the time they are ready to write that final paragraph, and, unfortunately, it shows. As with any kind of writing, if you are finding the work tedious, imagine how uninterested your readers will be. Always save time to set your work aside and refresh before writing your conclusion; the added effort will always pay off.
    • Repeating what has been said already. While many of us were taught in elementary school to use the conclusion as an opportunity to remind your readers of everything you just said, an effective post-elementary school conclusion should aspire for more than merely repetition.

    Exercises:

    Exercise 13.1

    Consider a writing assignment you will need to undertake in the near future. How might you approach a conclusion using each of the following approaches? Be specific as you answer.

    1. A related story:
    2. A provocative question or series of questions:
    3. A hypothetical scenario:
    4. A surprising fact or series of facts:
    5. An engaging direct quotation:
    6. A striking statement:
    7. Background information or context:
    8. An opposing argument:
    9. The who, what, where, when, and why of the paper’s focus:
    10. A combination of the types listed above:

    Exercise 13.2

    Consider at least five paragraphs you have written in the past week, whether for work, school, or personal use. Write the last line of each on the lines below. If you had been a member of your own audience, would you have found the last line conclusive but memorable? Why or why not? If not, what revisions would you make?

    1.

    2.

    3.

    4.

    5.

    Exercise 13.3

    Select one of the examples from Exercise 13.1 and write a conclusion. Once you have finished, ask yourself the following questions:

    1. Which of the suggestions listed in Exercise 13.1 have you used to interest and inspire your readers? Why?
    2. Have you included a repetition of your thesis statement that is a fuller, more complete version of the statement you included in your introduction?
    3. Have you included a catchy last line?
    4. If you were a member of your own audience, would you find the conclusion memorable? Why or why not?
    5. What further revisions do you need to make?
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