Going Out Strong! - Tips & Strategies for Writing An Effective Concluding Paragraph

Conclusions can be one of the hardest parts of an essay or paper to write. And often, they may be the weakest because let's face it, after a student pours his heart and soul into the rest of the paper or essay (or trudges painfully through if your kids hate writing) they are just ready to be done with it. Here are some tips that I've found across the internet for what to do and what not to do in a concluding paragraph.

What to Do

How to Write a Conclusion (About.com) Nice article that shows students 10 ways to end an essay or paper: Among them:
  • Reiterate the main point
  • Issue a challenge
  • Mention or point to the future
  • Summarize
  • End with a quote
  • Wrap up a scenario you presented in your introduction
  • Present a solution
  • Make a new connection
  • Send your reader in a new direction

Conclusion (About.com) Another article that offers suggestions for conclusions, including:
  • Mention broader implications or the significance of your topic
  • Give one final example that pulls all parts of  your discussion together
  • Offer a prediction
  • Suggest how the reader can apply what you just discussed
  • End with a question

Concluding Paragraphs (Grammar.ccc) offers a few more strategies for a conclusion:
  • end with a warning
  • suggest results or consequences
  • evoke a vivid image
  • end with a provocative question

What Not to Do

From Grammar.ccc - Concluding Paragraphs
  • Don't simply restate your thesis
  • Don't end with a "sentimental flourish that shows you are trying to much 
  • Don't bring up new ideas
  • Don't apologize or undercut the argument you have just made
A general consensus is that you should not begin a conclusion paragraph with phrases like "in summary" or "in conclusion."

Structure/format of a conclusion paragraph

I teach my kids cookie cutter writing. I give them the similitude of baking cookies. You start off with a recipe. And you keep making that recipe over and over again until you know it inside and out and can make the cookies without the recipe. Then, when you are at that point, that's when you branch out and mix it up and make a whole new fantastic cookie recipe. But you've got to have that basic recipe down first.  That's the approach I take with writing.

So, I always try to give my kids a framework or outline to work with for introductions, paragraphs, and conclusions until they master them.
Here are a few resources that put forth some sort of structure for a conclusion paragraph:
Writing a Good Conclusion Paragraph (Time4Writing)
At the end of this article is a conclusion paragraph outline (it also gives some examples of ineffective conclusions)
How to Write an Effective Conclusion Paragraph?
Near the end of this article, it lays out sentence by sentence a format for a conclusion paragraph. It also includes a nice selection of transition words and phrases.
The Five Paragraph Essay
Towards the center of this article is a nice summary of what a conclusion should/can include:
  1. an allusion to the pattern used in the introductory paragraph,
  2. a restatement of the thesis statement, using some of the original language or language that "echoes" the original language. (The restatement, however, must not be a duplicate thesis statement.)
  3. a summary of the three main points from the body of the paper.
  4. a final statement that gives the reader signals that the discussion has come to an end. (This final statement may be a "call to action" in an persuasive paper.)
 The Concluding Paragraph
In this short article, there is a quick section that sets up a structure for a concluding paragraph. In addition, it gives several examples of concluding paragraphs from actual essays of famous writers. 
Conclusions - UNC Writing Center - "This handout will explain the functions of conclusions, offer strategies for writing effective ones, help you evaluate conclusions you’ve drafted, and suggest approaches to avoid."
Writing the Essay Conclusion 

Use Models

How can we expect our students to write awesome conclusions if they have never really seen one?Provide your student with examples of good and bad conclusions so they can use the good as a model and use the bad as a lesson in what not to do. Some of the resources above give example concluding paragraphs.

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