Creating an Effective Conclusion for a Multi-paragraph Essay
- Develop a conclusion that evokes the main idea without repeating it.
When you write a multi-paragraph essayA short piece of writing that focuses on at least one main idea. Some essays are also focused on the author's unique point of view, making them personal or autobiographical, while others are focused on a particular literary, scientific, or political subject. , you use an introductionThe first paragraph of an essay. It must engage the reader, set the tone, provide background information, and present the thesis. to hookIn writing, a device used to grab a readers' attention, often in the form of interesting, surprising, or provocative information. the reader. Your thesisAn overall argument, idea, or belief that a writer uses as the basis for a work. provides the main ideaThe most important or central thought of a reading selection. It also includes what the author wants the reader to understand about the topic he or she has chosen to write about., and the major supporting detailsStatements within a reading that tie directly to the work's main idea. These can be provided in examples, statistics, anecdotes, definitions, descriptions, or comparisons within the work. develop and provide evidenceFacts, statistics, or expert testimony that supports a claim. for your thesis. However, your essay is not complete until you have written the conclusionThe end portion of a writing that contains a summary or synthesis of the idea in the work. This includes a recap of key points and reminders of the author's purpose and thesis statement..
The conclusion is the last part of the essay encountered by the reader, and so it is the part of the essay the reader will remember most clearly. An essay without a strong conclusion is like walking away from a conversation midstream; the reader is left without a solid sense of what the writer intended to say.
Before you can learn how to write an effective conclusion, you need to learn which mistakes to avoid.
Here is a list of what to AVOID when writing a conclusion:
- Do not restate the thesis verbatimA word for word repeat of an original text or speech. (word for word). A writer who repeats the same words of the thesis risks boring the reader. Nor is it a good idea to simply change a few words of the thesis statementA brief statement that identifies a writer's thoughts, opinions, or conclusions about a topic. Thesis statements bring unity to a piece of writing, giving it a focus and a purpose. You can use three questions to help form a thesis statement: What is my topic? What am I trying to say about that topic? Why is this important to me or my reader?. Instead of repeating yourself or paraphrasingThe use of different words to express the meaning of an original text or speech. what you already said, try to give the reader a new way of thinking about the main idea.
- Do not write "in conclusion" or include similarly overused language. It is common for writers to conclude their essays with phrasesA set of words that express an idea. A phrase may or may not form a complete sentence. such as "in summary," "in closing," or "finally," but these signals are unnecessary. When readers arrive at the last paragraph, they know they have reached the end. Instead of using such obvious signals, use a subtle transitionTying two events, passages, or pieces of information together in a smooth way. In writing, transitions are sometimes called links. to move from the ideas of the second to the last paragraph and the conclusion.
- Do not introduce a new idea. It is confusing to the reader if you suddenly introduce new and unrelated ideas in your conclusion. For example, if your thesis is "Providing free or low-cost college education to qualified students is in the best interest of all citizens," you should not include new specific information, such as details of inflation-related increases to college education costs. However, this is different from using the conclusion to discuss the broader implications of your thesis, which is a good strategy.
- Do not include facts, details, and/or examples that are better suited to the bodyThe main portion of a writing that contains the main ideas and supporting details of the writing. This is where the author's purpose and thesis statement are supported and/or developed. of the essay. In the body paragraphsThe part of an essay that comes after the introduction and before the conclusion. Body paragraphs lay out the main ideas of an argument and provide the support for the thesis. All body paragraphs should include these elements: a topic sentence, major and minor details, and a concluding statement. Each body paragraph should stand on its own but also fit into the context of the entire essay, as well as support the thesis and work with the other supporting paragraphs. , you will use facts, details, and examples to develop and support the thesis. Then you will use the conclusion to tie up the loose ends—to sum up the ideas of your essay and to leave the reader with a strong impression of your thesis. In writing a draft, you may find that you write a conclusion paragraph that supports the thesis; in this case, you can revise your essay by letting the paragraph stand as a body paragraph, and then writing a new conclusion.
Now that you know common mistakes to avoid, consider using one or more of the following strategies to craft an effective conclusion.
- Summarize your main pointsThe most important idea in a paragraph. Main points support the main idea of a reading.. This technique is particularly effective for the conclusion of a long essay, or one that includes a great deal of information. While you don't want to rewrite your entire essay in the conclusion, you may wish to remind the reader of your thesis, main points, and important details. For example, if your essay is about how the characterization in the book The Crucible reveals human nature, you would remind the reader how the different characters represent different aspects of human nature.
- Ask a question. The technique of addressing the reader directly to ask a question can be effective in helping the reader view the topic in a new way. Be sure that the question is not simply a restatement of the thesis in question form. Instead, you will want to use the question to provoke the reader into thinking differently. For example, if your essay argues that the government should provide free college education, you might ask a question such as "How would you rather spend taxpayer money: on universities or on prisons?"
- Propose an action item. This technique is especially well suited for a persuasion essayA writing that takes a position for or against something and tries to convince the reader to accept the same view. Also called an argument essay.. If the thesis of a persuasion essay is "While everyone benefits from exercise, students in particular need regular exercise in order to combat stress, enhance brain function, and remain healthy," the writer of the essay could propose that the reader take a fifteen-minute walk, or visit the gym as a break from studying. Depending on the topic of the essay, the writer could suggest a variety of action items, such as signing a petition, writing a letter to one's congressional representative, voting for a particular measure, or donating money. Proposing an action item is effective in a conclusion because it offers a way for the reader to actively engage with the topic.
- Provide analysisTo analyze is to make a thoughtful and detailed study of something. An analysis is the end result of analyzing. and make connections. When you provide an analysis and make connections in the summary, you are synthesizingTo combine ideas, as in the writing at the end of an essay that ties all the discussion and evidence together into a unified concept. the information from the essay. In the example of an essay about the benefits of government-subsidized education, you might have already provided statistics that show that highly educated people are less likely to commit crimes. In your conclusion, you could analyze this connection further by explaining that when fewer people commit crimes, fewer people are sentenced to prison, which decreases the cost of maintaining prisons; this shows that increasing spending on education is a worthwhile investment.
- Make a prediction or offer a solution. In your conclusion, you might use the information in your essay to consider what might happen in the future. You might offer a solution for a problem raised in the essay, or you might describe a problem that would arise if your solution is not implemented. Continuing the example of the essay that supports government-subsidized education, you might predict that providing free education would create a highly skilled labor force, and thus improve the economy. On the other hand, a failure to educate the majority of the population could result in an unprepared labor force, which would hurt the economy.
- Offer an intriguing quote. It can be effective to conclude with a quote that will stick in the reader's mind. When you use a quote, be sure that the quote relates to your topic as a whole, and not just a limited part of your essay. Again, using the government-subsidized education essay as an example, you could provide a quote that explains the importance of education, and then connect the quote to the ideas in your essay. Here is one way you might incorporate a quote: "According to Nelson Mandela, 'Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.' It is our responsibility as a nation to make sure that all of our citizens enter the world well-armed to create positive change."
+ PRACTICAL APPLICATION
- Return to the beginning. Revisiting ideas that were introduced at the beginning of the essay can be an effective strategy for the ending of an essay. If your essay began with the idea that students will especially benefit from exercise, you might revisit the idea using sentences like these: "With late nights, long hours of studying, and built-in stress from assignments and exams, the student life can wreak havoc on physical and mental health. Fortunately, exercise is an effective tool for maintaining good health in both the body and the brain." This strategy brings the essay full circle.
Strong conclusions help readers understand your writing more quickly. Good readers know that writers often sum up the major points of their entire essay, book, or articleA non-fiction, often informative writing that forms a part of a publication, such as a magazine or newspaper. in the conclusion. When doing research, readers often find enough information in the conclusion that they realize they don't need to read the entire piece; this practice can save them time.
Your future boss, in particular, will appreciate your ability to conclude effectively. When you develop a proposal or a business plan, it is beneficial to include an executive summary. The executive summary puts all of the essential information in one place so that the reader, in this case a potential stakeholder in your plan, knows what is most important. Strong conclusions are also important when you write business email messages or memosA short written message from one person to another or to a group of persons, usually containing business information.. By concluding with your main point, readers will understand the purpose of the message and will know what you need them to understand or do.
+ YOUR TURN
Here is an outline for an analysis essayA written evaluation of a topic, such as an article, piece of art, person’s life, etc. An analysis essay may include a summary of the subject, but is mostly used to evaluate and discuss: Is it good? Is it bad? Is it poorly written? Was the author misguided or very accurate? that analyzes the documentary film Supersize Me.
- Every day, 1 in 4 Americans goes to a fast-food restaurant, and that restaurant is likely to be McDonald's, which holds nearly 50 percent of the fast-food market share in the United States.
- In Morgan Spurlock's documentary Supersize Me, the filmmaker goes on a 30-day McDonald's-only diet to show the danger of fast food.
- The film received a lot of attention and Spurlock became famous.
- Thesis: It does not matter if the film is a serious attempt to help people or a shocking prank to get attention and boost Spurlock's career because in either case the film sends an important message that will help prevent obesity.
- Body Paragraphs
- Body Paragraph 1
- Spurlock made the film as a prank to get attention.
- He created rules that set up an outrageous situation: he had to eat three meals a day; all of his meals had to be ordered from the McDonald's menu; he had to eat every item on the menu at least once; and if he was asked if he wanted to "Supersize" his order, he had to say "yes." Spurlock also cut back on exercise, restricting his walking to 5,000 steps a day, to more closely copy the lifestyle of many Americans.
- The rules are too drastic for real life—no one eats the way Spurlock did.
- Not surprisingly, Spurlock gained weight and almost suffered kidney failure.
- The drama paid off: Supersize Me was a hit at the Sundance Film Festival and made Spurlock famous.
- Body Paragraph 2
- Spurlock made the film to boost his career.
- Spurlock's face, voice, words, and experience are front and center throughout the film.
- The changes he undergoes are shocking (he gained 24.5 pounds, his cholesterol levels increased by 65 points and his liver held so much fat that Spurlock was at risk for a host of diseases, including cirrhosis of the liver), and make him even more central to the film—Spurlock's experience creates the tension and drama of the film.
- As the face of the film, Spurlock is the main focus of every film review.
- Spurlock must have known that his choice to make himself the star would boost his career more than if he were simply the filmmaker whose name appeared only in the credits.
- The attention-getting, career-boosting prank was a success; without Supersize Me, Spurlock never would have been given his own show on the HBO cable network.
- Body Paragraph 3
- Even if he did gain fame, Spurlock's goal was to help people by educating them about how fast food contributes to obesity in America.
- The film supports this; the opening scene is of cute children singing a camp song about fast food; Spurlock uses statistics from many sources to show that obesity is an epidemic in America (60 percent of Americans are overweight or obese. In 1972, Americans spent $3 billion a year on fast food but today we spend $110 billion); and to collect information, he interviews Americans (Surgeon Generals, nutritionists, cooks, even gym teachers) in 20 American cities. All of this effort shows that Spurlock's main goal is to educate people, not just to get attention.
- Spurlock provides statistics to educate people (more than 400,000 obesity-related deaths per year; 1 in 4 Americans eats fast food every day; and McDonald's owns almost half of the fast-food market in the United States).
- Spurlock shows that as McDonald's keeps getting more powerful, Americans keep getting heavier and sicker.
- This truth is shocking; if Spurlock does try to shock people, the shock is meant to emphasize the connection between McDonald's and the rapid increase in American obesity.
- Spurlock's film is a wake-up call to Americans that eating (and overeating) at McDonald's is dangerous.
Below is one possible conclusion based on the outline above.
When thinking about Morgan Spurlock and his film Supersize Me, the question we need to ask is not, "Did Spurlock have selfish motives?" but rather, "Did Spurlock's film help anyone?" It does not matter if Spurlock's intentions were selfish because the film did educate people about the dramatic health risks of a fast-food diet. The real shocking truth is that obesity is a deadly and preventable health epidemic. As the star of his own film, Spurlock used the fame from Supersize Me to boost his career. This does not mean that the film was just an attention-getting prank. Spurlock used himself in the experiment to help people relate to the very real fatal effects of a fast-food diet. People are used to hearing gloomy statistics about diet and health; statistics alone will not change behavior. People will learn more and will be more likely to change their own behavior if they make a personal connection. By gaining weight and hurting his own health, Spurlock made the dangers of the fast-food diet horribly real to his audience. By getting his audience's attention, Spurlock increased the possibility that his audience would change their diets, too.
This conclusion begins with asking a question: "Did Spurlock's film help anyone?" and returns to the ideas that were introduced in the beginning of the essay. The writer summarizes some of the information presented in the body paragraphs and goes on to make the connection between the shock value and attention-getting style and the effectiveness of these tools in helping the audience to change unhealthy fast-food habits.
+ METACOGNITIVE QUESTION
Based on the partial outline for an essay below about whether the government should subsidize higher education, write a concluding paragraph using one or more of the seven strategies for crafting effective conclusions.
- The United States Declaration of Independence states that human beings are entitled to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," but without an education, it is impossible to experience complete liberty or to fully pursue one’s dreams.
- A higher education opens the door to a better life in almost every respect; college-educated people earn higher salaries and experience greater health and well-being.
- Providing free education to citizens would benefit all Americans.
- Thesis: The United States government should consider providing free college education to all citizens.
- Body Paragraphs
- Body Paragraph 1
- Higher education provides many benefits.
- Educated people enjoy many benefits that people without college degrees do not have.
- They receive higher salaries, have greater job satisfaction, experience better health, and have greater well-being overall.
- The enjoyment of these benefits is linked to higher education; the lack of affordable education creates a situation of discrimination that favors the wealthy and harms the poor.
- Not only does education convey benefits, but it helps protect people from various problems in life.
- Body Paragraph 2
- A lack of a college education can result in negative consequences.
- People without a college education are more likely to experience certain health issues and other problems.
- People without a college education are more likely to engage in unhealthful behaviors, such as smoking, are more likely to become obese, and are less likely to exercise.
- The relationship between education and the ability of people to make wise decisions about their health shows how important it is for all citizens to have the opportunity to obtain an education.
- The problems associated with the lack of education are not limited to the problems of individuals.
- Body Paragraph 3
- An uneducated citizenry harms the nation as a whole.
- When citizens are not educated, the entire nation experiences negative consequences.
- According to research, increasing education decreases crime.
- Not only does the United States spend billions of dollars each year on operating prisons to house convicted criminals, the majority of whom are not college-educated, but the United States is deprived of all of the economic benefits of an educated workforce.
- It is far more expensive to imprison citizens than it is to educate them.
Now it's your turn. Develop a conclusion from the outline that evokes the main idea without repeating it.
The decision of whether to provide a free education to all citizens must be made in the context of what we, as Americans, believe is essential—what we believe is included as part of the American dream as specified in the United States Declaration of Independence. A life in prison is no real life. Nor is a life in which a person is all but sentenced to low salaries, health problems, and other ills. In order for people to have the ability to enjoy life and liberty and to have the ability to pursue happiness, people must have access to education. As John Dewey said, "Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself." Our nation has a responsibility to equip all our citizens to live the rich, full life that education offers.
How do you generally end your essays? Why?
How I end my essays depends on the kind of essay I am writing. For persuasion essays, I like to end with some kind of proposed action. For example, if I wrote an essay to persuade people to vote, I would end with a suggestion that the reader should read about the candidates and vote in the next election. If I am writing an analysis essay about a book, I would probably use a summary at the end of my essay because that kind of essay uses a lot of details about characters and plot, and I would want to remind the reader about the connection between those details and the main point of my essay.
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