Writing Conclusions to Arguments

Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

You have just finished writing an essay in which you have detailed the main points and support for your argument. But how do you finish your essay? This lesson outlines how to write an effective conclusion.

The Importance of the Conclusion

Ever watch a movie or read a book that ends on a cliffhanger? For fiction, this is a common technique to create suspense, and in movies it's a great way to introduce sequels. However, in an argumentative essay, a cliffhanger only harms your essay as a whole. For any essay, you never want to lack a conclusion, which is the final paragraph of an essay that signals to the reader the closure of the argument. Without a conclusion, the reader will feel like the essay is incomplete. Also, an ineffective or irrelevant conclusion will undermine the rest of the essay, no matter how strong it might be. So how do you write an effective conclusion?

Restate the Thesis

The first thing you need to know is the structure, or how to format your conclusion. After spending around four paragraphs outlining your argument, look back to your main claim. This is usually your thesis as stated in the introduction paragraph. A conclusion paragraph should begin with a restatement of your thesis to remind the reader of the overall purpose of the essay. However, never rewrite your thesis word for word. This is redundant and shows lack of creativity. Think of another way to put forth the same idea. If you have a complex thesis, shortening it in some way is a good idea for the conclusion.

Summarize the Main Points

Next, you want to summarize your main supporting points. You do not need to go into the detail you did in the body of the essay, but remind the reader how your proved your argument. You should also show the connection of all your supporting details.

Final Statement - Leave the Reader Thinking

Finally, you want to end your conclusion with a general statement that leaves your reader thinking about your topic even after the essay is over. Using a rhetorical question or relating the topic to a larger concept will push the reader to continue to think about the ideas you brought up throughout your essay. Other methods include connecting your argument to implications for the future or linking back to some idea used in the introduction, which brings a nice sense of closure to the essay.

Overall, the conclusion does not have to be a long paragraph. In fact, since you have already explained the specifics of your argument in the body, the conclusion should be much shorter and function more as a reminder of how you have proven your point.

Example

Let's look at a quick example to help see the process of writing a conclusion. Imagine you wrote an essay to argue that all schools should require students to wear school uniforms. You have the introduction and all the body paragraphs written. Now it's time to conclude your essay.

First, look back to your thesis statement. Perhaps it looked something like this: 'Although school uniforms might seem like they restrict freedom of expression, requiring students to wear uniforms can help limit inappropriate dress, provide a sense of pride in school, and prepare students for the professional dress required in most careers.'

To start the conclusion, restate that idea, but remember not to write it verbatim. So for example, you might write, 'Instead of holding students back, school uniforms allow students to excel in many facets of school life.' This is a much shorter version, but still gets the main point across: that school uniforms are beneficial to students.

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