Concluding Paragraphs

H o w    t o    W r i t e    a    C o n c l u s i o n    P a r a g r a p h

your thesis in
a single sentence.

Restate the main ideas
of your essay. Draw connections
between them, showing how they work
together to prove your thesis (3-5 sentences).

Draw conclusions. Expand on the ideas in your essay.
Show why your essay matters by connecting to larger themes
in the novel or in real life. You might choose to mirror your introduction:
if you summarized the beginning of the noel, now summarize the end (in a way
relevant to your paper, of course). If you described a character at the beginning
of your essay, now describe the character at the end. If you began your essay by connecting to the world, connect back to the world in your conclusion. Try to leave your reader thinking about something additional to your argument*. (3-6 sentences).

PLEASE AVOID beginning your concluding paragraph with a sentence that starts with “In conclusion…” – it is uninteresting and gets used far, far too often.

Notice, the structure here is the exact opposite of what we saw with the Opening Paragraph. You begin by restating your thesis. Don’t rewrite it word for word, but you also don’t want to drift so far away that it feels like you are finishing with an entirely different argument. ALSO: If you have a lengthy thesis (maybe a synthesis), you want to streamline it in your conclusion – you don’t have to establish EVERYTHING you have proven, as you have just finishe dproving it.

The middle section is the “Book” section, but this time through, you can write this as a REVIEW of your best points, rather than in your intro, where you had to give a PREVIEW of what you will write about in your essay. In other words, now you can point out the SIGNIFICANCE of your scenes rather than simply introducing them as areas that will be explored later. You don’t need quotes in this part of your conclusion.

The final, longest section (the “Hook” outro) is sometimes the hardest. But even here, you can use the same tricks that you had for the Opening Paragraph. Ask a probing question. Finish with something shocking – perhaps an amazing fact. Get humorous. And a strategy that often works really well is to come full-circle – if you began with an anecdote about your learning how to rollerblade, go back to those rollerblades. If you began with a fun fact about crime rates in the United States, revisit those rates. Did you start with a quote? Reassess it now that you have completed your argument. You do not have to bookend your essay in this way, but it often is an easier way to give a sense of closure.

IF YOU CHOOSE THE PERSONAL ANECDOTE HOOK for your outro, you want your final sentence to talk about the author’s opinion about the texts or the issue you have discussed, not your own opinions. In other words, after you’ve given a personal story, it’s preferable to end with something like, “in situations like these, Golding suggests that our friendships keep our morals intact” rather than “Through this moment, I learned that my friends help keep my morals intact.”

* In regards to the “leave the reader thinking” task – a good conclusion *can* bring up a piece of evidence that you didn’t have time for in your essay, or one that didn’t merit a full conversation, if it might encourage your reader to see a part of the novel/play/poem in a new light. For instance, if you had just completed an essay on Life of Pi in which you made an argument about the line between man and animal, you could end by reminding the reader of the scene at the zoo with the two Mr. Kumars when they marvel at the zebras. Even *these* two minor characters seem to recognize the importance of the animal world – AND they are examining an animal that ends up making a later appearance on the lifeboat.

Sample “reverse funnel” conclusion paragraph:

     Tim O’Brien uses Mary Anne Bell as a representation of the changes soldiers make when they go to war. Her drastic change from her arrival as a pretty, innocent woman to a soldier who loses herself completely to war shows that war is a difficult environment to adapt to. As he shows in various other chapters, Mary Anne’s transformation is not unique. Jimmy Cross never fully recovers from the horrors he saw in Vietnam, and Norman Bowker finds the return to “normal” life to be an impossible burden. Some soldiers cannot handle the change and perish, like Ted Lavender. Typically, soldiers who come back from war experience a transformation where they find their own world and their own experiences no longer seem familiar to themselves. Soldiers struggle to first adapt to a life of war and then to adapt back to a normal lifestyle. Along the way, they must redefine their whole self, changing from a pre-war kid to a soldier to a veteran, and they lose parts of themselves with each change. Those losses, according to O’Brien, are where soldiers suffer the deepest tragedies of wartime.