Do you remember the last words spoken by your ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend, the final advice given in your senior year by your favorite teacher, the words spoken by your mother or father as you left for college? These important moments ended a passage in your life; thus, they took on heightened significance and resonated long after they were spoken. In the same way, a good conclusion continues speaking to and resonating with a reader long after he or she has finished reading it.
A good conclusion should
- Remind the reader of the thesis statement and answer the question, “So What?”
- Give the essay a sense of completion and closure
- Leave the reader with a final, lasting impression
- Make the reader glad that he or she read your paper
Several types of effective and memorable conclusions
The Simple Summary
If you choose this common type of conclusion, be sure to synthesize, rather than merely summarizing. Avoid a dull restatement of your major points. Don't monotonously restate your major ideas; instead, show your readers how the points you raised fit together and why your ideas matter. Also, try to avoid the phrase, “and in conclusion.” This can insult the reader's intelligence: After all, if you've organized your paper well, it will be obvious that you have begun your concluding remarks.
The Frame or Circle Technique
Here, a writer circles back to the beginning, returning to the metaphor, image, anecdote, quotation, or example he or she used in the introductory paragraph. Echoing the introduction gives essays a nice sense of unity and completion.
The Panning to the Horizon Technique
This technique moves the reader from the specifics of a paper or essay to a larger, perhaps even universal, point. It redirects the readers, giving them something meaty to chew over. You can demonstrate the importance and broad significance of your topic by using an appropriate analogy, tying the topic to a larger philosophic or political issue, posing a challenging question, or encouraging the reader to look to the future.
The Proposal or Call to Action
Especially useful in a persuasive or argumentative essay, in this type of conclusion the writer makes a proposal and/or asks the readers to do something, calling them to action. It is frequently seen in sermons and political speeches.
The Concluding Story Technique
Here, the writer sums up the essay by sketching a scene or by telling a brief anecdote that illustrates the topic's significance. Often, this approach makes an emotional connection with the reader.
The Delayed Thesis Conclusion
In some essays, the writer takes an exploratory approach, perhaps dealing with a variety of proposals and solutions. The conclusion states the thesis almost as if it is a discovery, allowing the reader to make the discovery along with you. However, this can be a difficult technique to carry off. The thesis, even though it may go unstated until the very end, should nevertheless serve as the inevitable controlling force for the entire essay.
Teresa Sweeney & Fran Hooker, Webster University Writing Center, 2005
What is a précis? The definition
Précis, from the Old French and literally meaning “cut short” (dictionary.com), is a concise summary of an article or other work. The précis, then, explains the main point, logical support, and structure of the original work but in greatly condensed form. The précis is objective, unlike a critical analysis, which evaluates the argument and use of evidence within an article. Thus, the précis does not offer evaluations about a text, nor does it include personal reaction to a text.
How should a writer begin to write a précis? The process
- Read and annotate the article or other text.
- Reflect on the author's purpose.
- Consider the kinds of evidence the author uses.
- Restate the author's thesis in your own words.
- Write a one or two sentence summary of each section or subdivision of the article.
- Reread the article to compare it with your summary notes.
- Begin writing, using your paraphrase of the thesis and your one or two sentence summary statements.
- Review your précis to confirm that you have explained the main point of the article, identified the supporting evidence that the writer uses, and have used the same logical structure as the text.
- Finally, check for clarity, coherence, and correctness.
How should a précis be structured? The format
Some writers offer a hook; explain the author's broad topic; and then restate the author's thesis, while others may open with a restatement of the author's thesis and then explain the broader framework of the subject. In order to determine which approach would best suit the assignment, ask your professor about the format of the introduction. In either format, the restatement of the thesis should include the name of the author, the title of the article, and the date of its publication, as the following illustrates: “In his influential 1936 essay, “Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics,” J.R.R. Tolkien criticizes scholars of this day for mining Beowulf solely for historic evidence about the Anglo-Saxon period, rather than reading the poem as a great and inspiring work of literature.”
Generally, each body paragraph should explain a separate section of the text and should provide the evidence (though in greatly condensed form) that the writer has used to support that section. If used, quotations should be brief, should be correctly introduced or incorporated, and should be correctly attributed.
The conclusion should restate the main idea of the text and reiterate the main support. Remember to avoid any personal statements about the text.
By Teresa Sweeney and Fran Hooker