Friday, October 8, 2010

One Strategy for Writing Conclusions: Begin at the Beginning, End at the End

There are many approaches to writing conclusions.  Over the next few months, the Writing Center Blog will explore these various approaches.  To begin our conversation about conclusions, Shannon McMahon suggests using the lessons you’ve learned while writing your paper to more broadly discuss your thesis’s meaning and implications. 

How do you approach conclusions?  Do you write your conclusions last?  Do you write them first?  Leave us a comment and tell us about your conclusion-writing strategy.

Begin at the Beginning, End at the End

By Shannon McMahon

Many students have difficulty writing conclusions for their papers. However, in order to address this difficulty, it may be best to begin at the beginning and briefly walk through what makes a good introduction. An introduction to a paper should introduce readers to the topic and tell them what the paper is going to argue. You may want to begin with an attention-grabbing first sentence to spark the reader's attention and then move into some background information on your topic. All of this should lead up to a strong, arguable thesis statement.

In high school, you may have been taught that a conclusion paragraph should restate this thesis and summarize your argument. It is a good idea to do this briefly, possibly even including a paraphrased version of your thesis. However, a really strong conclusion will go one step further. Think about the broader implications of your argument. Typically a good paper topic will be focused on a narrow sub-topic, so when you’re writing your conclusion, try looking at the big picture. For example, if your thesis is about the treatment of women in a particular novel, how could it apply to women in general?

When writing papers, I like to end at the end: I write my conclusions last. I usually write my introduction and the body of my paper, and then read through them to make sure that my argument is structured well and makes sense. Once I've finished editing, I often find that simply by writing the paper I've discovered new insights into my topic that build off of my thesis. Some writers find it more effective to write their conclusions first (and you'll hear from some of these writers in future blog posts), but for me it makes sense to write the conclusions last.  I use the information I've discovered while writing the paper to write my conclusion.  This approach allows me to show off what I've learned through the writing process.

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