After you have given the evidence in support of your thesis statement, you need to end your essay with the conclusion. One hint: don't begin it by writing, "In conclusion, ...." That's a little bit too trite.
In fact, the conclusion could be written in two different ways: you could begin by restating the thesis statement, followed by conclusion techniques; alternately, you could begin with conclusion techniques, and then end with the thesis statement. You could even have a conclusion technique, then the restated thesis statement, and then another conclusion technique.
In each case, you have to consider the essay you wrote and use whatever you think is best. However, you should have both a restatement of the thesis statement and conclusion techniques.
Restatement of the Thesis Statement
You probably know that you should restate your thesis statement; however, you should not repeat the thesis statement. Instead, you should re-word it, possibly in a strengthened or more detailed form which includes deeper or extra meaning that was added in the body paragraphs.
Let's take as an example the idea I used in a previous chapter; here is the thesis statement and the three topic sentences:
- My best friend is generous.
- She spends her free time helping children with illnesses.
- She donates whatever she can to homeless charities.
- She makes an effort to make her friends feel happy.
After having written all of that, consider all that you expressed, and try to think of a better, more complete way to state the thesis.
- Bad: In conclusion, my best friend is generous. (it uses "In conclusion," and is the exact same as the thesis statement!)
- Okay: Susan is the most giving person I have ever known. (says the same as the thesis statement, but in different words)
- Better: When Susan sees someone who has less than she does, her first instinct is to help them any way she can. (adds the idea, perhaps stated in one or more body paragraphs, that her sense of privilege motivates her to help others)
The restatement can be followed by any other analysis, emphasis, or additional detail you think would help to make the main idea remain more clearly in the mind of the reader.
Here are some techniques to be used for conclusions:
Frame the Essay: A very effective technique is to frame the essay by using a connected item between the introduction and the conclusion. This could be an anecdote, quote, question or fact. The idea is to begin in the introduction, and tell only half of what you want to tell. You could start with a question that gets answered in the conclusion; you could have a quote in the conclusion that either answers, agrees with, or even disagrees with a quote in the introduction; you could start a story in the introduction, but stop at an interesting point and then finish in the conclusion. By starting in the introduction but not finishing, you make the reader want to find out what happens in the end—but they must read the whole essay to find out. Framing the essay also adds a sense of completion to the end of the essay.
Expand Your Thesis: This is a little similar to framing your essay, but it focuses on the thesis. Take your original idea and bring it into a larger context. For example, if your thesis is that you appreciated your hometown more after you came to live in Tokyo, you could mention in the conclusion that you might have a better appreciation for Japan after going to live in America. If your thesis is that religion is important to a person, you could end with the idea that religion is also important for cultures, countries, and the entire human race.
Speculate about the Future: Often writers will tell their opinions about what will happen in the future if their advice is taken or not taken. This helps to show how the thesis is important to the reader.
Challenge the Reader to Do Something: To make the essay more connected to the reader personally, you may want to suggest or even demand that the reader take some sort of action. When you do this, make sure it is something the reader can personally do. For example, if you say that the government should pass a new law, the reader will not feel like doing anything because you did not give them something they can do; the reader may feel that he or she has not control over laws. However, if you tell them to write a letter to their local politician, and explain how politicians take these letters seriously, the reader will have something that they feel they can do, and they might actually do it. If your topic, for example, is pollution, do not end by saying that "people must stop polluting" or that "stronger laws should be passed." Give the reader a challenge they can perform, like "separate your plastic, paper, glass, and metal garbage and find out how to get a recycling company to come pick it up.
Below is a PDF of a news article which uses the first technique (framing the essay). You can view the essay on a separate page or download the file here.
Coming Up With Ideas
How do you find ideas for your introduction and conclusion?
As stated above, you might have used some techniques to brainstorm your essay in the first place. You can find web sites with many famous quotes, which might suggest essay topics to you. If you are writing based upon a textbook, some interesting fact or story in the text might suggest the essay topic. There might even be a point of view in the text which you disagree with. These quotes, facts, and opinions could be used for introduction and conclusion techniques.
Another source of ideas is your brainstorming and writing process. When you brainstormed ideas for your essay, you probably had several extra examples that you did not use in your essay. While writing, you may have cut some other ideas which did not quite fit. Very often, these discarded ideas can be used for introductions and conclusions.
You can also brainstorm after you write to come up with ideas. Perhaps researching, even if research is not required for the essay, could bring up some good ideas.
The worst thing to do is simply to sit there and think, "I have no ideas." Well, ideas are like meals. When you need them, you go and get them.