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The Writing Center

Introductions and Conclusions

The Writing Center

What do you say when the nice man says hello?

Introductory and concluding paragraphs can often be the most thought-provoking elements of a paper, but they can also be the most challenging to compose. There is no right or wrong way to begin or end a paper just as there are no right or wrong ways to start conversations, but certain ways of thinking about introductions and conclusions can be helpful. Consider this passage from The Allyn & Bacon Handbook whenever you need a reminder of the thought process behind introductions and conclusions:

The introduction and conclusion to a paper can be understood as a type of transition . . . At the beginning of a paper, the introduction serves as a transition by moving the reader from the world outside of your paper to the world within. At the end of the paper, the conclusion works in the opposite direction by moving readers from the world of your paper back to their own world . . .(151)

Thoughts Unique to Introductions

Why can't I just get started saying what I've got to say?
Introductions have two primary purposes:

They establish a frame of reference for the reader
The introduction should inform the reader of your paper's general topic, the interdisciplinary perspective you have adopted (whether you are writing as a student, a reporter, etc.) and the type of terminology, evidence and logic he or she can expect throughout the paper.

They invite the reader to continue reading the rest of the paper.
The introduction should provide necessary background information and grab his or her attention in order to direct it towards the thesis and the entire paper.

And just how am I supposed to do that?
Reveal your topic to your reader, and be sure that he or she will be able to anticipate your use of language, evidence and logic.

Use the introduction to provide necessary background information, which might include defining terms, giving a historical overview or informing the reader of a controversy.

If it is not necessary to provide background information on your subject, focus more on the introduction as a means of stimulating your reader's interest in the paper.

Once you have provided the necessary hints and background information and have gained the interest of your reader, manipulate his or her interest towards your thesis, generally the last sentence of the introductory paragraph.

Thoughts Unique to Conclusions

I've said everything. What's left?
At its most basic level, a concluding paragraph serves as a summary of the writing preceding it. In most cases, however, you will want to move beyond summation; you will want to expand on your thesis by revealing the ways in which your paper's thesis might have significance in the world outside it. (Recall the quote at the beginning of this handout: conclusions move "readers from the world of your paper back to their own world . . .") A conclusion should strive to answer questions readers logically raise--"Why are you telling me this? Why do you think I need to understand your main point?"

I suppose now you're going to tell me how to go about this glorious task?
But, of course . . .

You should avoid only summarizing, but if your conclusion requires some summary, avoid repeating, word-for-word, a statement you have made earlier in the paper.

In an effort to go beyond summary, it might be helpful to think of your conclusion as something that might . . .

  • place the paper in a larger context

  • serve as a call for action

  • set forth a warning or hypothesis

  • intentionally complicate the issues you have already introduced

  • raise a question or questions

  • introduce a relevant quote

  • tell an appropriate anecdote


Just because we're nice people we thought we'd let you peek at some examples of conclusions and examples of introductions


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