Online Learning Essay Conclusion Maker

Step 6: Write introduction and conclusion

Introductory and concluding paragraphs function together as the frame around the argument of your essay. Or, using the visual image of book-ends holding the books – the body of your essay – together. It is important to write the introduction and the conclusion in one sitting, so that they match in mirror image to create a complete framework.

The Introductory Paragraph

When you’ve finished writing the middle paragraphs, the body of your essay, and you’re satisfied that the argument or case you’ve presented adequately supports your thesis statement, you’re now ready to write your introduction.

The introduction

  • Introduces the topic of your essay,
  • ‘Welcomes’ the reader with a general statement that engages their interest or that they can agree with,
  • Sets the scene for the discussion in the body of the essay,
  • Builds up to the thesis statement,
  • Prepares the reader for the thesis statement and your argument or case, but does not introduce points of argument,
  • Concludes with the thesis statement.

In preparing the reader for the thesis statement, there are many approaches in writing an introduction that can be taken. The following are just a few:

  • Provide historical background,
  • Outline the present situation,
  • Define terms,
  • State the parameters of the essay,
  • Discuss assumptions,
  • Present a problem.

The following examples from Model Essays One and Two show how introductory paragraphs are developed.

Analysis

The first six sentences in this introductory paragraph prepare the reader for the thesis statement in sentence 7 that the three key elements of a successful essay are ‘focus, organisation, and clarity

  1. Sentence 1 makes the generalisation that students ‘find essay writing difficult and frustrating’, and
  2. Sentences 2 and 3 expand on this generalisation.
  3. Sentence 4 reinforces the idea of difficulty.
  4. Sentence 5 turns the paragraph away from the difficulties of essay writing towards a way of addressing the difficulties by breaking the essay into components. (The word ‘however’ signals this change of direction.)
  5. Sentence 6 suggests that there are three of these components, preparing the way for the thesis statement that ‘focus, organisation, and clarity’ are these components.

Title

Just as the introductory paragraph is written after the argument or case of the middle paragraphs has been written, so the title is written after the essay is completed. In this way, it can signpost what the reader can expect from the essay as a whole.

Note that the thesis statement has been re-worded, picking up the idea from the first sentence that the essay has had a long history in the phrase ‘continues to be‘ and strengthening ‘valid’ to ‘valuable‘.

Analysis

The first four sentences in this introductory paragraph prepare the reader for the thesis statement in sentence 5 that the essay ‘continues to be a valuable learning and assessment medium’.

  1. Sentence 1 makes the generalisation that despite the age of the genre, essays are still set as assessment tasks.
  2. Sentence 2 notes that the genre has changed but some characteristics remain, and;
  3. Sentence 3 lists some of these characteristics.
  4. Sentence 4 asserts essay writing is demanding, but the ‘learning dividends are high’, which leads into the thesis statement.

The Concluding Paragraph:

The concluding paragraph completes the frame around the essay’s argument, which was opened in the introductory paragraph.

The conclusion

  • Begins by restating the thesis,
  • Should be a mirror image of the first paragraph,
  • Sums up the essay as a whole,
  • Contextualises the argument in a wider scope, but does not introduce new points,
  • Leaves the reader with a sense of completion.

The following examples from Model Essays One and Two show how concluding paragraphs are developed.

Analysis

  1. Sentence 1 restates the thesis that focus, organisation, and clarity are the key elements of a successful essay. The phrase ‘Clearly then’ implies that, having read the case for focus, organisation, and clarity being identified as the ‘key elements’, the reader agrees with the thesis.
  2. Sentence 2 acknowledges the importance of the essay’s content but asserts that sound content isn’t enough for success.
  3. Sentence 3 sums up the points made in the middle three paragraphs.
  4. Sentence 4 restates the generalisation the essay started with – that students find essay writing difficult – but then ends on a high note with the prediction that addressing the key elements discussed in the middle paragraphs will ensure success.

Analysis

  1. Sentence 1 restates the thesis that the essay continues to be a valuable learning and assessment medium.
  2. Sentences 2 and 3 summarise the main points of the middle three paragraphs.
  3. Sentence 4 picks up the reference to the age of the essay genre, with which the essay begins, but then affirms the essay’s continuing relevance.

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As the government begins its crackdown on essay mill websites, it’s easy to see just how much pressure students are under to get top grades for their coursework these days. But writing a high-scoring paper doesn’t need to be complicated. We spoke to experts to get some simple techniques that will raise your writing game.

Tim Squirrell is a PhD student at the University of Edinburgh, and is teaching for the first time this year. When he was asked to deliver sessions on the art of essay-writing, he decided to publish a comprehensive (and brilliant) blog on the topic, offering wisdom gleaned from turning out two or three essays a week for his own undergraduate degree.

“There is a knack to it,” he says. “It took me until my second or third year at Cambridge to work it out. No one tells you how to put together an argument and push yourself from a 60 to a 70, but once you to get grips with how you’re meant to construct them, it’s simple.”

'I felt guilty when I got my results': your stories of buying essays | Guardian readers and Sarah Marsh

Poke holes

The goal of writing any essay is to show that you can think critically about the material at hand (whatever it may be). This means going beyond regurgitating what you’ve read; if you’re just repeating other people’s arguments, you’re never going to trouble the upper end of the marking scale.

“You need to be using your higher cognitive abilities,” says Bryan Greetham, author of the bestselling How to Write Better Essays. “You’re not just showing understanding and recall, but analysing and synthesising ideas from different sources, then critically evaluating them. That’s where the marks lie.”

But what does critical evaluation actually look like? According to Squirrell, it’s simple: you need to “poke holes” in the texts you’re exploring and work out the ways in which “the authors aren’t perfect”.

“That can be an intimidating idea,” he says. “You’re reading something that someone has probably spent their career studying, so how can you, as an undergraduate, critique it?

“The answer is that you’re not going to discover some gaping flaw in Foucault’s History of Sexuality Volume 3, but you are going to be able to say: ‘There are issues with these certain accounts, here is how you might resolve those’. That’s the difference between a 60-something essay and a 70-something essay.”

Critique your own arguments

Once you’ve cast a critical eye over the texts, you should turn it back on your own arguments. This may feel like going against the grain of what you’ve learned about writing academic essays, but it’s the key to drawing out developed points.

“We’re taught at an early age to present both sides of the argument,” Squirrell continues. “Then you get to university and you’re told to present one side of the argument and sustain it throughout the piece. But that’s not quite it: you need to figure out what the strongest objections to your own argument would be. Write them and try to respond to them, so you become aware of flaws in your reasoning. Every argument has its limits and if you can try and explore those, the markers will often reward that.”

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Fine, use Wikipedia then

The use of Wikipedia for research is a controversial topic among academics, with many advising their students to stay away from the site altogether.

“I genuinely disagree,” says Squirrell. “Those on the other side say that you can’t know who has written it, what they had in mind, what their biases are. But if you’re just trying to get a handle on a subject, or you want to find a scattering of secondary sources, it can be quite useful. I would only recommend it as either a primer or a last resort, but it does have its place.”

Focus your reading

Reading lists can be a hindrance as well as a help. They should be your first port of call for guidance, but they aren’t to-do lists. A book may be listed, but that doesn’t mean you need to absorb the whole thing.

Squirrell advises reading the introduction and conclusion and a relevant chapter but no more. “Otherwise you won’t actually get anything out of it because you’re trying to plough your way through a 300-page monograph,” he says.

You also need to store the information you’re gathering in a helpful, systematic way. Bryan Greetham recommends a digital update of his old-school “project box” approach.

“I have a box to catch all of those small things – a figure, a quotation, something interesting someone says – I’ll write them down and put them in the box so I don’t lose them. Then when I come to write, I have all of my material.”

There are a plenty of online offerings to help with this, such as the project management app Scrivener and referencing tool Zotero, and, for the procrastinators, there are productivity programmes like Self Control, which allow users to block certain websites from their computers for a set period.

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Look beyond the reading list

“This is comparatively easy to do,” says Squirrell. “Look at the citations used in the text, put them in Google Scholar, read the abstracts and decide whether they’re worth reading. Then you can look on Google Scholar at other papers that have cited the work you’re writing about – some of those will be useful. But quality matters more than quantity.”

And finally, the introduction

The old trick of dealing with your introduction last is common knowledge, but it seems few have really mastered the art of writing an effective opener.

“Introductions are the easiest things in the world to get right and nobody does it properly,” Squirrel says. “It should be ‘Here is the argument I am going to make, I am going to substantiate this with three or four strands of argumentation, drawing upon these theorists, who say these things, and I will conclude with some thoughts on this area and how it might clarify our understanding of this phenomenon.’ You should be able to encapsulate it in 100 words or so. That’s literally it.”

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