Essay Structure: How to Write a Conclusion | Essay Writing Part 5

Posted on November 17, 2017 by Patrick Condliffe

This post, How to Write a Conclusion, is part 4 in our Essay Writing Series.

Some common questions students have about essay structure are:

  • How do I develop strong essay structure?
  • Are conclusions important for essay structure?
  • Can a conclusion be too long or too short?
  • What should a conclusion include?
  • How do I write a good conclusion?

In this post we’ll discuss the theory behind essay structure and show you why conclusions, are essential. We will then give you a step-by-guide for writing a Band 6 conclusion for your killer essay!

 

Table of Contents

1. Essential Essay Structure
2. Sustained Arguments and Conclusions
3. Recapping Essay Structure
4. Structuring Your Conclusion
5. How to Write a Conclusion – A Step-by-Step Guide

 

If you are unsure how to write an introduction or topic sentences, then you should read the previous posts in the series:

These posts give you step-by-step advice for writing well structured essays that will score you Band 6. They will provide the foundations of essay structure that we will conclude (pun intended!) in this post.

Now, let’s discuss how to develop a conclusion that sustains your argument and concludes it effectively and memorably before walking through an easy step-by-step process for writing fabulous conclusions.

Let’s go!

 

Essential Essay Structure: How to Write a Conclusion | Essay Writing Part 5

Essay writing is not an innate skill, it is a craft that it is learned and refined through practice and dedication. Whether you write fiction or non-fiction, writing is something you need to work at to perfect. Writing good conclusions takes practice. But before you begin practising, you should learn how to write them effectively.

Let’s see how Matrix Students are taught how to write conclusions.

 

What is a conclusion?

A conclusion is the part of an essay that summarises your argument and recaps what has come before it.

A conclusion needs to do three things:

  1. Restate the thesis: It needs to reassert you overarching argument, first;
  2. Recap the key ideas: It needs to revisit the key ideas from the essay and touch on the logic for their inclusion or relevance.
  3. Make a closing statement: It needs to include a statement that explains your final thought on the matter, a statement on what you have taken away from writing the essay, or perhaps provide an overall statement about studying the text or Module you have been engaging with.

Think about that.

A conclusion is a simple thing, but very important to your argument. So, you have to get it right!

Let’s discuss how to do that.

 

Conclusions, and Sustained Arguments – Thinking for the Reader

A good speech or a good essay is essentially manipulative. It is crafted to convince your readers of a position or belief that you have. To do this effectively, you need to present information in an order and fashion that makes it digestible and logical.

“You want to do the reader’s thinking for them!”

This is a crucial part of readability that Matrix students learn. Writing that is readable presents the information the composer feels is relevant to an audience, and connects it together in a way that makes it seem unified and logical.

A good essay keeps a reader in it, rather than jarring them out of it. You don’t want a reader to stop reading and question your ideas while they are in the middle of the essay. This means that you have a logical flaw, or part of the structure and writing is convoluted in a manner that makes it difficult for your reader to follow your argument.

Remember, it’s fine for people to question your ideas and disagree with them, but you want to present your position in a clear and logical fashion first, so they have your whole perspective before critiquing it. A concise but comprehensive conclusion is essential for this.

“A conclusion restates all the key parts of your argument to leave a complete picture in your reader’s mind.”

So, your essay needs to be easy to read, and your conclusion has to sum things up for the reader so they can think about the broader picture you’ve argued. It is important that they do not struggle to remember the various parts of the argument.

Before we jump into writing conclusions, let’s recap the structure of an essay. This will help us focus on the logical role of the conclusion while we write it.

 

Recapping Essay Structure

In the previous posts in this series we discussed how the key parts of the introduction and body work together to produce a sustained argument. Let’s see how that worked again to understand the role of the conclusion:

Blog-English-How-To-Write-A-Conclusion-Essay-StructureDiagram: Essay Structure and Signposting (©Matrix education, 2017)

 

As you can see, there are clear connections between the different parts of the essay.

The Thesis and Thematic Framework connect to the Topic Sentences and Linking Statements in the Body. But importantly, all of these structural elements are reasserted and connected in the conclusion.

“The conclusion ties all of your ideas together.”

By the time a reader reaches the conclusion, they may have forgotten key parts of your argument. The best way to reassert your ideas so they remain fresh in a reader’s mind when they finish reading your essay, is to use the logical structure of the introduction.

Let’s have a look at how to do that.

 

Structuring Your Conclusion

A conclusion needs to be structured to remind the audience what they have encountered, what the logic of it was, and then present them with a final, conclusive remark.

To do this effectively there are some important rules to follow:

  • Your conclusion needs to be at least 3 sentences – You’re summarising an argument, not making a point;
  • You must reassert your thesis in the first sentence – Make it clear what you have been arguing!
  • Don’t try and cram your themes into one sentence – You have presented a carefully structured argument that is logical and develops several complex ideas. It is often impossible to boil this down to one sentence, use two or, even, three if you need to be clear. Clarity is essential.
  • Don’t ramble – You must be concise. Even though you need to recap a significant amount of information, you need to be efficient. Aim to keep your conclusion shorter than your introduction.
  • Aim to keep your conclusion under 5 sentences – Your conclusion must be memorable. If it is too long, a reader will struggle to hold the essence of your essay in their minds as their final interaction with your argument.

Think about those points for a moment.

So, what does this mean for you when you write conclusions?

Let’s have a look.

 

Restate the thesis

The first part of the conclusion needs to reassert the key idea that you have argued. This means it needs to restate your thesis statement. But we don’t want to merely say the exact same thing we have already said. No. We want to paraphrase our central argument in an authoritative way.

To sound authoritative it is important to avoid low modality expressions. Low modality words reflect uncertainty – for example, “may,” “can,” might”. We need to make clear statements so we need high modality words – for example, “is”, “are”, “will.” Don’t say, “a reader might understand.” Say “the composer compels the audience to understand.”

Recap the themes

You need to restate your ideas in a logical manner. You don’t want to merely say “I have discussed theme 1, theme 2, and theme 3.” This doesn’t develop a sustained argument. If you say this, a reader will have to glance back to your introduction and body to remember your exact argument.

These are moments where you are taking the reader away from you argument. In those moments you just dropped two to three marks. That is a potential change from a Band 5 to a Band 6!

Instead, you want quickly recap your themes in a way that conveys the logic of your argument. Try saying “I discussed themes 1 and 2 because they support this part of my thesis. I looked at theme 3 because it supports a different way of looking at the same idea.” This structure allows you to maintain any of the nuance you have structured into your essay.

 

Make a final statement

You need to leave the reader with a powerful statement that encapsulates your argument. Don’t try and say something profound about the text.

Statements like “Thus, the human condition is innately volatile” don’t mean anything unless they are anchored in the text. They might sound insightful, and perhaps are in a broad way, but they don’t contribute to your reader’s understanding of your insights into the text and/or module.

Instead, try to make a statement that conveys your understanding of the key idea in your text and, if applicable, connect it to the module you’re studying. In light of this, your final statement should instead be “Hence this texts illustrates how difficult circumstances can make human experience volatile.”

This second statement does something that the first does not, it adds context and logic. It creates a sustained argument by doing the thinking for the reader.

“Your final statement wants to leave your reader thinking because they are intrigued, not because they are trying to piece together your point!”

Now that we have a rough idea of what a conclusion should do, and how it should do it. Let’s have a go at putting one together.

 

How to Write a Conclusion – a Step-by-Step Guide

What we will do now is go through the step-by-step process of writing a conclusion. We will continue to look at Macbeth, so that we have a clear text to study. So to do this effectively, we need to quickly recap what the question was, and what our thesis and thematic framework were in response to it.

 

Revisiting the Question

The question in the previous posts was:

“William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is not about revenge, it is a play concerned with morality and madness.”

To what extent do you agree with this statement? Make use of detailed references to the play in your response.

Revisiting our argument

To recap, our argument was that:

  1. Macbeth is about morality;
  2. Macbeth goes mad with guilt; and,
  3. His fear of revenge, a convention of the play’s genre, is what leads to his madness.

 

Revisiting our thesis

In the previous posts, our thesis statement was:

“The resolution of The Tragedy of Macbeth (1606) is driven by revenge. However, it is Shakespeare’s interrogation of the morality of Macbeth’s actions and his subsequent descent into madness that is the central focus of the text.”

 

Revisiting our thematic framework

And, similarly, our thematic framework introduced the following thematic points:

  • “Macbeth’s madness is a response to his awareness of his immorality, it is driven by his fear of the revenge he feels he deserves.”
  • “Macbeth’s actions are immoral, killing a king is regicide and the murder of his friends demonstrate his increasing depravity.”
  • “As Macbeth’s madness emerges as he questions his morality and is plagued by visions and haunted by the spirits of his victims.”

Now we know what we’ve argued, let’s go through the step-by-step process for writing conclusions.

 

Step 1: Restate Your Thesis

The first step is reiterating our core argument. Our thesis was that, “The resolution of The Tragedy of Macbeth (1606) is driven by revenge. However, it is Shakespeare’s interrogation of the morality of Macbeth’s actions and his subsequent descent into madness that is the central focus of the text.” We need to restate that in an effective way to summarise what we have just argued.

So, we need to restate that:

  1. Macbeth is Tragedy concerned with revenge and morality.
  2. Macbeth and Lady Macbeth are driven by lust for power.
  3. They are stricken by guilt for the immoral way they gained power.

Matrix students learn how to paraphrase things concisely and directly. So let’s have a go at paraphrasing these 2 sentences into 1:

“Clearly, Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a tragedy primarily focused on the consequences of guilt on those who discard their morality in the pursuit of power.” 

This sentence is assertive and makes a clear and strong statement about what has been argued in the essay. We have made it more concise than the introduction’s thesis. This gives us more room to discuss the logic of our thematic framework.

What we need to do now is restate our thematic framework.

 

Step 2: Reassert your thematic framework

To reassert our thematic framework we need to revisit the logic of our argument first. Our argument structure was:

  • Macbeth is about morality;
  • Macbeth goes mad with guilt; and,
  • His fear of revenge, a convention of the play’s genre, is what leads to his madness.

 

And in our introduction we broke this down into three separate sentences to show you how to write a thematic framework:

  • “Macbeth’s madness is a response to his awareness of his immorality, it is driven by his fear of the revenge he feels he deserves.”
  • “Macbeth’s actions are immoral, killing a king is regicide and the murder of his friends demonstrate his increasing depravity.”
  • “As Macbeth’s madness emerges as he questions his morality and is plagued by visions and haunted by the spirits of his victims.”

 

For our conclusion we want to demonstrate concision and erudition, so we will paraphrase this in a shorter more direct way. To do this we will wrap these ideas into two sentences. Let’s see what that looks like:

“Macbeth’s act of regicide was driven by a desire for power, but his madness is caused by awareness of his guilt and expectation of revenge. The irony of Macbeth’s experience is that by discarding morality for power, he is haunted to the point of paranoia by his guilt.”

 

Matrix students are taught to take this logical approach to writing conclusions. This statement reasserts the framework we presented in our introduction, but streamlines it and presents it in a chronological and logical order.

Now we need to make a statement that summarises our position on the question and conveys our central idea about the text.

 

Step 3: Make a final statement that summarises your argument

Your final statement is very important. It is the last engagement that you have with your reader. You need to demonstrate your knowledge of the text, your understanding of the questions, and an insight into the module being studied.

We were analysing at this text through the lens of Module B: Critical Study of Literature. As you remember, Module B look at well known texts to see why they are considered important and whether or not they have lasting value.

For our argument we will consider the text’s lasting value for audiences.

Our concluding statement, then, needs to reference this idea of a text’s lasting value and connect it to the themes in the text. Macbeth is concerned with morality and guilt. So, we can argue that it is Macbeth‘s depiction of morality and guilt that makes it relevant to modern audiences.

We also need to connect this to our restated thesis which was:

“Clearly, Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a tragedy primarily focused on the consequences of guilt on those who discard their morality in the pursuit of power.”

Now, let’s have a look at the kind of concluding statement a Matrix student would be taught to write that connects all of these threads together:

“Macbeth‘s lasting relevance lies in its representation of the peril of discarding one’s humanity and morality for the pursuit of absolute power or wealth.”

 

The Finished Conclusion

To get a better sense of what we have argued, let’s have a look at how the finished conclusion looks:

Clearly, Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a tragedy primarily focused on the consequences of guilt on those who discard their morality in the pursuit of power. Macbeth’s act of regicide was driven by a desire for power, but his madness is caused by awareness of his guilt and expectation of revenge. The irony of Macbeth’s experience is that by discarding morality for power, he is haunted to the point of paranoia by his guilt. Macbeth‘s lasting relevance lies in its representation of the peril of discarding one’s humanity and morality for the pursuit of absolute power or wealth.

 

Now that we have finished writing our conclusion, what next?

Next you need to practice writing your essays! Remember to proof read and edit your essay after you have finished writing it. Never submit a first draft!

 

Want to take your English Skills to the Next Level?

 

 

© Matrix Education and www.matrix.edu.au, 2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matrix Education and www.matrix.edu.au with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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