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PARTS & SECTIONS

Click on any  part or section below:

Part I. Basics/Process

  A. Chapters 1-6: Start

  B. Ch. 7-13: Organize

  C. Ch. 14-20: Revise/Edit

Part II. College Writing

   D. Ch. 21-23: What Is It?

   E. Ch. 24-30: Write on Rdgs.

   F. Ch.31-35: Arguments

  G. Ch. 36-42: Research

  H. Ch. 43-48: Literature

   I.  Ch. 49-58: Majors & Work

Part III. Grammar 

   www.OnlineGrammar.org
 
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 Study Questions
     

 

                                                 

Chapter 12: INTRODUCTIONS & CONCLUSIONS (8-6-10; 8-1-13)

                 
How do you develop introductions and conclusions?

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This chapter offers tips and basic methods for writing an introductory and a concluding paragraph for a paper.  


Overall Purpose or Structure
              

Introductions and conclusions should be your strongest writing.  In a shorter paper, they should be just one paragraph each.  In a longer paper (over ten pages), they sometimes can be two or occasionally three paragraphs each as long as the readers clearly can see where the introduction ends, and where the conclusion starts.

You may start each with a subtitle or with a key phrase such as "In conclusion,...."  Introductions are meant to be relatively short and sweet: that is, they should be quickly readable, give a sense of what the paper will be like, and provide some kind of emotional interest or punch that attracts the reader. You should stick with facts (or the main opinion in an opinion paper), but the facts should be interesting to the reader in a way that may make him or her want to read more.

The best time to write the introduction and conclusion is after writing the rest of the paper.  In this way, you won't--as often happens--spend a long time trying to write the perfect introduction when you start a paper; instead, you can get to the writing of the body right away.  Writing the body first also gives you time to feel and think your way toward writing for your specific audience.  A strong introduction tends to be strongest when you know best what you want to say and to whom, and those two discoveries tend to be strongest after you have finished writing the body of the paper. In fact, a good order in which to write a paper, especially one with a new subject or audience for you, may be as follows:

  1. Body sections (in any order--you can rearrange them later, if need be)

  2. Conclusion

  3. Introduction

  4. Title

In most writing situations, you should summarize your main point and your several parts or proofs in both your introduction and your conclusion.  There is an old maxim from speech that works extremely well in writing, too: “First tell them what you’re going to say, then say it, and then tell them what you said.”  In some forms of writing, you should do this as briefly and efficiently as possible.  In others, you might want to linger and provide more detail, examples, quotations, charts, stories, etc.  Let your audience be your guide. 

Many papers use a strong quotation in the introduction and another in the conclusion. While you generally should start an introduction or conclusion in your own words, turning to a quotation sometime after the first sentence or two, sooner or later, can highlight exactly what you want to say in an expert’s words.  You don’t want a quotation that is highly general or common (and no “Great Sayings” quotations in college!).  Instead, you want a quotation that will probably be new to your audience and more specific to your paper's issue. Why is a quotation powerful?  You want to show your audience what experts say.  What kind of quotation is best?  If possible, you should choose the strongest quotation from your best expert for your introduction, and your second strongest and best for your conclusion.  That creates a stronger beginning and end. 

One way to choose strong beginning and ending quotations is to look at the quotations you may already have in your paper, and then move one each to your introduction and conclusion.  If you need replacement quotations for the body of your paper, find new ones to replace the ones you moved. Another way to find strong beginning and ending quotations is to be on the lookout, as you begin your research, for quotations that might work well for a strong beginning and ending.  experts.  A third way to look specifically at the first and last paragraphs of chapters or books that you are using as sources: sometimes the authors provide very strong and sufficiently general quotations on your subject to be used in your own introduction and conclusion.

Sometimes starting or ending with a anecdote is good.  An "anecdote" is a very short, true story or description of an event written in as little as a few sentences (or as much as several paragraphs).  It can be added anywhere in your paper--you may have a number of them if the paper may use people's experiences to help prove or demonstrate points.  A true story is the most powerful form of anecdote because a story is not just an event.  Rather, it is an event with a problem and a possible or real solution.  If you know of a real story--an event that illustrates a problem--one that is your own or a friend’s, or one from an article, book, or other source, and if you can write it in 25-100 words, then this might provide a strong anecdote for an introduction or conclusion.

If you use quotations or anecdotes, always “sandwich” your quotations or stories with introductory, explanatory, and concluding phrases or sentences.  Your introduction and your conclusion are the absolute last two places in your essay where you want to accidentally confuse your reader, so explain the source, purpose, and meaning of a quotation or story at least briefly both before and after it.

Here are examples of introductory and concluding content in four types of papers.  This graph comes from "Chapter 8: Major Organization."

Introductory Paragraph

ACADEMIC ARGUMENT
           
Thesis Sent.
Best Quotation
Topic Sent. #1
Topic Sent. #2
Topic Sent. #3

BUS. PROPOSAL

Problem/Need

Solution

Steps or Method

Outcomes

CASE STUDY
     
 

Client or Patient
Problems/Symptoms
Diagnosis
Plan & Results

SCIENCE REPORT

Abstract of Paper
(Summary of Contents)

     

Concluding Paragraph

ACADEMIC ARGUMENT
      
Thesis Sent.
2nd-Best Quote
Final Thought 

BUS. PROPOSAL

Problem & Solution

Outcomes

CASE STUDY

   
Diagnosis
Plan
Results

SCIENCE REPORT

nothing or
brief summary of
final implications

           

Methods for Introductions

One method of writing an introduction is to start with the your basic, bare-bones main point and the parts or proofs you will use to explain or argue it.  Many people—those who know very well already what they will say—often start this way and then  later, in the revising stage, fill out their introduction more.

Another method of making a strong introduction is to write it last, after you are done with the rest of the paper.  In high school and college, I used to spend a few hours trying to get started with an introduction that was stirring, structurally correct, and logically accurate.  Finally, one day I gave up in frustration and just decided to do it later.  I put it off—meanwhile writing the rest of the paper—only to find, a few days and pages later, that once my first draft of the paper was done, I had a very good idea of exactly what to say in my introduction.  After that, I always wrote the introductions last—and made very good ones in a matter of ten or fifteen minutes.   

In some writing situations, your introduction can state a problem.  And your essay is the solution.  This creates a drama with greater reader interest caused by the tension between the problem and the possible solution(s).

Your introduction should always at least briefly restate your main points or refer to them, and then in clear and logical language restate your main point.  If you do nothing else, you must at least do this much.

Methods for Conclusions

Conclusions should always summarize the important points or parts of your paper. They also should be relatively efficient yet still pack a strong punch or final interesting point, even if briefly made. Generally, they also should end with the kind of emotional feeling or appeal that your readers expect in the type of paper you are writing--factual and efficient, factual and detailed, positive, constructively negative, et al. 

One method of writing a conclusion is to provide a look at the future.  This look at the future should envision what will happen if your final idea, argument, or conclusion comes to pass in reality.  Sometimes all it takes is a sentence, sometimes several.  You even can refer to both potential good and bad future results.

Another method in some types of papers is to conclude by mentioning the outcomes and/or your credentials. This is especially true in some types of business or professional writing if the paper is short or in letter format.  The expected outcomes of a suggested path, plan, or activity provide a final mention of the positive nature of what could happen.  Placing your credentials briefly in the final paragraph is a professional way of showing modesty by not mentioning them earlier. (However, if there may be significant doubt in the readers' minds about your abilities, you may need to place your credentials briefly in your introduction.)

As above, quotations and/or anecdotes may help.  If you do provide a strong quotation and/or anecdote in the conclusion, you usually should have one in the introduction, as well, to create the positive effect of parallelism--you have ended as you have started.  Be sure it is relevant to your main point or main outcome, and if necessary, explain it--though not too much, as a good final quotation or anecdote should be strong and clear enough to be, for the most part, self-explanatory.

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Return to top.

                 

                        

         

B. ORGANIZE

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Chapters:

  7. What Is "Organizing"?

  8. Major Organization

  9. Basic Layouts

10. Typical Section

11. Paragraph Patterns

12. Intros & Conclusions

13. Details & Images

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Additional:

Activities Page

Video

Universal Organizer
                       

                

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 Related Links in
OnlineGrammar.org:

  7. Organizing and Paragraphs

19. Visual & Multimodal Design

                

 

 

Updated 1 Aug. 2013

  

   

 

WritingforCollege.org also is at CollegeWriting.info and WforC.org

Natural URL: www.tc.umn.edu/~jewel001/CollegeWriting/home.htm
Previous editions: Writing for School & Work, 1984-1998; CollegeWriting.info, 1998-2012
6th Edition: 8-1-12, rev. 8-1-13.  Text, design, and photos copyright 2002-12 by R. Jewell or as noted
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