So much is at stake in writing a conclusion. This is, after all, your last chance to persuade your readers to your point of view, to impress yourself upon them as a writer and thinker. And the impression you create in your conclusion will shape the impression that stays with your readers after they've finished the essay.
The end of an essay should therefore convey a sense of completeness and closure as well as a sense of the lingering possibilities of the topic, its larger meaning, its implications: the final paragraph should close the discussion without closing it off.
To establish a sense of closure, you might do one or more of the following:
- Conclude by linking the last paragraph to the first, perhaps by reiterating a word or phrase you used at the beginning.
- Conclude with a sentence composed mainly of one-syllable words. Simple language can help create an effect of understated drama.
- Conclude with a sentence that's compound or parallel in structure; such sentences can establish a sense of balance or order that may feel just right at the end of a complex discussion.
To close the discussion without closing it off, you might do one or more of the following:
- Conclude with a quotation from or reference to a primary or secondary source, one that amplifies your main point or puts it in a different perspective. A quotation from, say, the novel or poem you're writing about can add texture and specificity to your discussion; a critic or scholar can help confirm or complicate your final point. For example, you might conclude an essay on the idea of home in James Joyce's short story collection, Dubliners, with information about Joyce's own complex feelings towards Dublin, his home. Or you might end with a biographer's statement about Joyce's attitude toward Dublin, which could illuminate his characters' responses to the city. Just be cautious, especially about using secondary material: make sure that you get the last word.
- Conclude by setting your discussion into a different, perhaps larger, context. For example, you might end an essay on nineteenth-century muckraking journalism by linking it to a current news magazine program like 60 Minutes.
- Conclude by redefining one of the key terms of your argument. For example, an essay on Marx's treatment of the conflict between wage labor and capital might begin with Marx's claim that the "capitalist economy is . . . a gigantic enterprise ofdehumanization"; the essay might end by suggesting that Marxist analysis is itself dehumanizing because it construes everything in economic -- rather than moral or ethical-- terms.
- Conclude by considering the implications of your argument (or analysis or discussion). What does your argument imply, or involve, or suggest? For example, an essay on the novel Ambiguous Adventure, by the Senegalese writer Cheikh Hamidou Kane, might open with the idea that the protagonist's development suggests Kane's belief in the need to integrate Western materialism and Sufi spirituality in modern Senegal. The conclusion might make the new but related point that the novel on the whole suggests that such an integration is (or isn't) possible.
Finally, some advice on how not to end an essay:
- Don't simply summarize your essay. A brief summary of your argument may be useful, especially if your essay is long--more than ten pages or so. But shorter essays tend not to require a restatement of your main ideas.
- Avoid phrases like "in conclusion," "to conclude," "in summary," and "to sum up." These phrases can be useful--even welcome--in oral presentations. But readers can see, by the tell-tale compression of the pages, when an essay is about to end. You'll irritate your audience if you belabor the obvious.
- Resist the urge to apologize. If you've immersed yourself in your subject, you now know a good deal more about it than you can possibly include in a five- or ten- or 20-page essay. As a result, by the time you've finished writing, you may be having some doubts about what you've produced. (And if you haven't immersed yourself in your subject, you may be feeling even more doubtful about your essay as you approach the conclusion.) Repress those doubts. Don't undercut your authority by saying things like, "this is just one approach to the subject; there may be other, better approaches. . ."
Copyright 1998, Pat Bellanca, for the Writing Center at Harvard University
In your Language Analysis (or Analysing Argument) SAC, you will be required to analyse how language is used to persuade in three or more texts. While this may seem a bit daunting at first, it really isn’t much harder than a single text analysis once you know how to approach it. Of course, there are multiple ways to tackle this task, but here is just one possible method!
Begin with a sentence that briefly describes the incident that sparked the debate or the nature/context of the debate. Remember to use the background information already provided for you on the task book!
Next, introduce the texts one at a time, including the main aspects for each (eg. title, writer, source, form, tone, contention and target audience). You want to show the examiner that you are comparing the articles, rather than analysing them separately. To do this, use appropriate linking words as you move onto your outline of each new text.
Consider significant features for comparison, for example:
- Is the tone/style the same?
- Is there a different target audience?
- How do their key persuasive strategies differ?
You may choose to finish your introduction with a brief comment on any key difference or similarity.
Sample introduction: The recent return to vinyls and decline in CD sales has sparked discussion about the merits of the two forms of recorded sound. In his feature article, For the Record, published in the monthly magazine Audioworld in June 2015, Robert Tan contends that vinyls, as the more traditional form, are preferable to CDs. He utilises a disparaging tone within his article to criticise CDs as less functional than vinyls. In response to Tan’s article, reader Julie Parker uses a condescending and mocking tone to lampoon Tan for his point of view, in a letter published in the same magazine one month later.
Spend the first half of your essay focused on Article 1, then move into Article 2 for the second half of your essay (and, for those doing three articles, the later part of your essay based on Article 3). This structure is the most simple of all, and unfortunately does not offer you ample opportunity to delve into an insightful analysis. Hence, we would not recommend this structure for you. If possible, adopt the Bridge or Integrated structures discussed below.
Analyse the first text, including any visuals that may accompany it. Students often spend too long on the first text and leave too little time to analyse the remaining texts in sufficient depth, so try to keep your analysis specific and concise! Remember to focus on the effects on the reader, rather than having a broad discussion of persuasive techniques.
Linking is essential in body paragraphs! Begin your analysis of each new text with a linking sentence to enable a smooth transition and to provide a specific point of contrast. Continue to link the texts throughout your analysis, for example, you could compare:
- The tone
- The techniques of each writer and how these aim to position the reader in different ways.
Often your second and/or third texts will be a direct response to the first, so you could pick up on how the author rebuts or agrees with the arguments of the first text.
In this type of structure, you will analyse both articles in each body paragraph. Watch Lisa's video above (coming soon) for a sample paragraph based on this structure.
In Lisa's video above, she suggested a short and sweet summary in your conclusion by incorporting some quotes from the author's own conclusion.
Alternatively, you could opt for a different approach. In your conclusion, aim to focus on how each text differs from the others in terms of the main techniques used by the author, and more importantly, the effect of these techniques on the reader or audience. You should summarise the main similarities and differences of each text without indicating any personal bias (ie. you should not state whether one text might be more or less persuasive than another). For example, a point of comparison could be the audience appeal - will any particular audience group be particularly engaged or offended? Why?
Finally, finish with a sentence suggesting a possible outlook for the issue. Good luck!
By the way, did you know that our Ultimate VCE English Study Guide includes a more comprehensive review of structuring two or more articles on language analysis?
*This blog post was originally created by Christine Liu, with additions made by Lisa Tran to suit the new modifications in the English study design.