Number. 34 © CDTL 2003
Writing a Conclusion for an Essay
Dr Deng Xudong
Centre for English Language Communication

If a fine introduction gives the reader a good initial impression, a strong conclusion will leave the reader with a lasting memory. An essay conclusion accomplishes three essential purposes: to provide the reader with a sense of completeness or finality, to emphasise key material, and to direct the reader’s attention to future action or study. Five of the most common ways to achieve these purposes are listed below.

  • End with a summary. A typical and traditional way to conclude an essay is by restating the thesis and summarising its main support points (which are also the least dispensable components of a conclusion). Such an ending very often occurs in a relatively long essay containing a number of important points; it may also occur in some short essays as well. However when using this form of conclusion, summarise the thesis statement in the introduction and the key points in all the main body paragraphs differently, but most persuasively. Avoid the trap of repeating the thesis and main ideas word for word.
  • End with further comments from the writer. Such comments (which can include opinions, suggestions and predictions you may want to make about your topic) should be natural and logical extensions of the information in the body of your essay. In general, they should not consist of unsubstantiated new claims.
  • End with a call to action for the reader. After presenting all your points in the body of your essay, what recommendations can you make to effect possible changes or improve the situation you have described? What actions can you propose your readers to take? Answering such questions is also an effective strategy to end your essay. But when making recommendations or a call to action, try not to preach or threaten. The reader would more readily respond to your suggestions than to your commands.
  • End with fervour. Strategies for getting the reader’s attention in introductions can also be used to end your essay uniquely and memorably (e.g. stating an apt quotation, a provocative question, a dramatic anecdote, and/or some startling facts about the subject).
  • End where you began. Sometimes called ‘echoing’ or ‘framing’, this type of ending picks up an idea/image suggested in the introduction and echoes it in the conclusion. For example, you can refer back to the anecdote/example you have mentioned previously and show how it is still relevant or how it could have been different. You can also provide a solution to the problem you have raised or give your own answer to a question you have asked. This form of conclusion gives the essay symmetry and provides the reader with a sense of closure.

Go through the essays you have written so far and see which type of strategies you have used or prefer to use in concluding your essays. You may want to try different methods and see the different effects they have on your essays.

 

References

Folse, K.S.; Muchmore-Vokoun, A.; & Solomon, E.V. (1999). Great Essays: An Introduction to Writing Essays. Boston & New York: Houghton Mifflin.

Hawley, J. & Tilghman, C. (1992). Getting Down Specifics. New York: HarperCollins.

McDonald, S. & Salomone, W. (2000). In Brief: A Handbook for Writers. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth/Thomson Learning.

Newman, B.S. (1995). Teaching Students to Write (2nd ed.). New York & Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Thonney. T. (2003). Qualities of Good Prose. New York: Longman.

 
 
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