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Introductions and Conclusions

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Introductions and conclusions can be the most difficult parts of papers to write. However, it is important to write a good introduction and conclusion because they act as a frame for the argument. The introduction and conclusion are also what the reader is most likely to remember.

Just as your introduction acts as a bridge that transports your readers from their own lives into the "place" of your analysis, your conclusion can provide a bridge to help your readers make the transition back to their daily lives. Such a conclusion will help them see why all your analysis and information should matter to them after they put the paper down. 1

Strategies for Writing an Effective Introduction

  • Try writing your introduction last. You may think that you have to write your introduction first, but that isn't always the most effective way to craft a good introduction. The writing process can be an important way to organize your ideas, think through complicated issues, refine your thoughts, and develop a sophisticated argument. Therefore, an introduction written at the beginning of that discovery process will not necessarily reflect what you want to say in the final draft. You will need to revise your paper to make sure that the introduction, all of the evidence, and the conclusion reflect the argument you intend. Sometimes it helps to write the body first and then write the introduction -- that way you can be sure that the introduction matches.
  • Don't be afraid to write a tentative introduction first, and then change it later. Some people find that they need to write some kind of introduction in order to get the writing process started. Make sure to review the introduction afterward writing the entire paper and rewrite if necessary.
  • Open with something that gains the reader's attention. If the topic of your paper is somewhat dry or technical, an effective opening is especially helpful. An effective opening might be a surprising scenario or shocking statistic. For some papers, a personal story might also be appropriate.
  • Pay special attention to your first sentence. Because the first sentence is often the most memorable, it must be completely free of errors and vagueness.
  • Be straightforward and confident in your writing. Avoid statements like "In this paper, I will argue that Frederick Douglass valued education." While this sentence points toward your main argument, it isn't especially interesting. It might be more effective to say what you mean in a declarative sentence, such as "Frederick Douglass value education." It is much more convincing to discuss the ways that Frederick Douglass valued education, rather than just saying it.

Assert your main argument confidently. After all, you can't expect your reader to believe it if it doesn't sound like you believe it. 2

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Strategies for Writing an Effective Conclusion

A conclusion can function effectively in several ways. Any one of these may be an appropriate ending to your paper; however, your conclusion will more often combine several of these functions. Here are some of the ways in which the conclusion may work within a paper.

  • A conclusion can sum up the main points of the paper. But if the conclusion does nothing more than repeat what you have already said, it will not be effective. Sometimes, however, summary can be effective. If your essay describes a process, such as the development of a character or the course of a historical event, you may want to retrace the steps of that process in the conclusion. If the structure of your argument is complex, you may also want to extract the main points from the argument and restate them.

Here is an example of an effective conclusion:
It has been shown, therefore, that stereotypes have always existed in society, and probably will always do so. The mass media is a relatively recent phenomenon, which is one reason for the widely differing views on its role in creating and fostering stereotypical images. The actual causes of stereotyping in the mass media have been shown to be surprisingly diverse, although there can be no argument that any form of it which leads, albeit indirectly, to suffering in any form must not be allowed to take place. It is society itself which must stop this from happening, as laws and regulations are often ineffective. Things are changing, though, and in some areas very quickly; some commonplace stereotypes of only twenty years ago and today virtually taboo. It is society which must indirectly control the mass media, not vice versa. However, in an increasingly 'global' world, controlled by fewer and fewer corporations and individuals eager to please the governments of the major world powers, and, in the mass media, who are more than willing to use stereotyping as a tool in the control of society, we must be more and more vigilent to avoid this cynical manipulation. 3

  • Broader context.
    • The conclusion can suggest a broader context for your paper by posing further questions, mentioning the issues you couldn't discuss, and stimulating the reader's thoughts about them.
    • The conclusion can suggest a broader context into which your paper fits by showing how it falls within some larger area of concern: if you compare two modes of narration, you are talking about the issue of the narrative voice in literature; if you analyze the causes of the battle of Lexington, you are talking about the Revolutionary War; and if you trace the discovery of DNA you raise the scientific and ethical issues of genetic research. It's often effective to make these larger issues explicit in your conclusion.
  • The conclusion can point out the justification for writing on the topic. If you prove the existence of author-figures within the text of Don Quixote, you still have to explain why they're important. Again, this won't automatically make the paper effective, but it may more fully explain the paper's focus. 4

Sources

  1. Conclusions
  2. Introductions
  3. Example Conclusions
  4. Conclusions: Online Handout

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Copyright 2008, by the Contributing Authors. Cite/attribute Resource . factcouraud. (2007, May 22). Introductions and Conclusions. Retrieved January 08, 2011, from Free Online Course Materials — USU OpenCourseWare Web site: http://ocw.usu.edu/English/introduction-to-writing-academic-prose/introductions-and-conclusions.html. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License Creative Commons License