harvard writing center conclusions
harvard writing center conclusions
To establish a sense of closure, you might do one or more of the following:
- 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. . .”
Your map should naturally take you through some preliminary answers to the basic questions of what, how, and why. It is not a contract, though—the order in which the ideas appear is not a rigid one. Essay maps are flexible; they evolve with your ideas.
Structuring your essay according to a reader’s logic means examining your thesis and anticipating what a reader needs to know, and in what sequence, in order to grasp and be convinced by your argument as it unfolds. The easiest way to do this is to map the essay‘s ideas via a written narrative. Such an account will give you a preliminary record of your ideas, and will allow you to remind yourself at every turn of the reader’s needs in understanding your idea.
But your customers will also want to know other details: can they let the property while they’re not using it, for example? What kind of returns will that bring, and will these be enough to offset the purchase price? How are properties taxed in the area? And how about the facilities the local authority will provide? What kind of sanitation and waste facilities does the property have? Is it connected to a sewer or does it use a septic tank?
Your essay conclusion is your parting shot. It’s your opportunity to leave your reader with a favourable impression of the arguments you’ve just made. You want them, at minimum, to be convinced that you’ve achieved what you set out to achieve; that you’ve proved your points. Better yet, you want them to feel satisfied that you’ve taken them on an intellectual journey that was interesting and rewarding.
Ending with a sense of closure, linking the first paragraph back to your conclusion, will answer all lingering questions that may have surrounded your paper (Harvard). In order to bring this closure, you can evoke a vivid image that allows the reader to clearly envision your point (Richmond). Also, to make sure your conclusion is serving its purpose, remind the reader of your thesis statement and answer the question, “So what?” (Webster). Finally, you should aim to synthesize, not summarize: Include a brief summary of the paper’s main points, but don’t simply repeat things that were in your paper. Here, you should show your reader how the points you made are supported and how the examples you used fit together (UNC-Chapel Hill). These are just a couple of strategies that have worked well for writers when forming conclusions, and the WRC always keeps these tools in mind.
Our friends at writing centers across the country have published similar works that aid in writing a conclusion, all emphasizing how paramount having an ending with sufficient closure is, as well as some helpful hints of what works well when crafting a conclusion:
“Strategies for Writing a Conclusion” from Literacy Education Online
“Conclusions” from the Writing Center at the University of North Carolina
Revision: Just say what we should recognize.