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Step 6: Write introduction and conclusion

Introductory and concluding paragraphs function together as the frame around the argument of your essay. Or, using the visual image of book-ends holding the books – the body of your essay – together. It is important to write the introduction and the conclusion in one sitting, so that they match in mirror image to create a complete framework.

The Introductory Paragraph

When you’ve finished writing the middle paragraphs, the body of your essay, and you’re satisfied that the argument or case you’ve presented adequately supports your thesis statement, you’re now ready to write your introduction.

The introduction

  • Introduces the topic of your essay,
  • ‘Welcomes’ the reader with a general statement that engages their interest or that they can agree with,
  • Sets the scene for the discussion in the body of the essay,
  • Builds up to the thesis statement,
  • Prepares the reader for the thesis statement and your argument or case, but does not introduce points of argument,
  • Concludes with the thesis statement.

In preparing the reader for the thesis statement, there are many approaches in writing an introduction that can be taken. The following are just a few:

  • Provide historical background,
  • Outline the present situation,
  • Define terms,
  • State the parameters of the essay,
  • Discuss assumptions,
  • Present a problem.

The following examples from Model Essays One and Two show how introductory paragraphs are developed.

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Analysis

The first six sentences in this introductory paragraph prepare the reader for the thesis statement in sentence 7 that the three key elements of a successful essay are ‘focus, organisation, and clarity

  1. Sentence 1 makes the generalisation that students ‘find essay writing difficult and frustrating’, and
  2. Sentences 2 and 3 expand on this generalisation.
  3. Sentence 4 reinforces the idea of difficulty.
  4. Sentence 5 turns the paragraph away from the difficulties of essay writing towards a way of addressing the difficulties by breaking the essay into components. (The word ‘however’ signals this change of direction.)
  5. Sentence 6 suggests that there are three of these components, preparing the way for the thesis statement that ‘focus, organisation, and clarity’ are these components.

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Title

Just as the introductory paragraph is written after the argument or case of the middle paragraphs has been written, so the title is written after the essay is completed. In this way, it can signpost what the reader can expect from the essay as a whole.

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Note that the thesis statement has been re-worded, picking up the idea from the first sentence that the essay has had a long history in the phrase ‘continues to be‘ and strengthening ‘valid’ to ‘valuable‘.

Analysis

The first four sentences in this introductory paragraph prepare the reader for the thesis statement in sentence 5 that the essay ‘continues to be a valuable learning and assessment medium’.

  1. Sentence 1 makes the generalisation that despite the age of the genre, essays are still set as assessment tasks.
  2. Sentence 2 notes that the genre has changed but some characteristics remain, and;
  3. Sentence 3 lists some of these characteristics.
  4. Sentence 4 asserts essay writing is demanding, but the ‘learning dividends are high’, which leads into the thesis statement.

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The Concluding Paragraph:

The concluding paragraph completes the frame around the essay’s argument, which was opened in the introductory paragraph.

The conclusion

  • Begins by restating the thesis,
  • Should be a mirror image of the first paragraph,
  • Sums up the essay as a whole,
  • Contextualises the argument in a wider scope, but does not introduce new points,
  • Leaves the reader with a sense of completion.

The following examples from Model Essays One and Two show how concluding paragraphs are developed.

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Analysis

  1. Sentence 1 restates the thesis that focus, organisation, and clarity are the key elements of a successful essay. The phrase ‘Clearly then’ implies that, having read the case for focus, organisation, and clarity being identified as the ‘key elements’, the reader agrees with the thesis.
  2. Sentence 2 acknowledges the importance of the essay’s content but asserts that sound content isn’t enough for success.
  3. Sentence 3 sums up the points made in the middle three paragraphs.
  4. Sentence 4 restates the generalisation the essay started with – that students find essay writing difficult – but then ends on a high note with the prediction that addressing the key elements discussed in the middle paragraphs will ensure success.

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Analysis

  1. Sentence 1 restates the thesis that the essay continues to be a valuable learning and assessment medium.
  2. Sentences 2 and 3 summarise the main points of the middle three paragraphs.
  3. Sentence 4 picks up the reference to the age of the essay genre, with which the essay begins, but then affirms the essay’s continuing relevance.

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