by Alex Ayers
In high school, I was often frustrated when writing conclusions. By the time I got to the end of the paper, I thought everything that needed to be said was in the paper—why bother to hit the reader over the head with the same ideas over and over again? So many of my classmates (and let’s be honest, I did this too) would copy and paste the introduction to the end of the paper, rework a few phrases, and consider this a new “conclusion.” Part of the reason was due to laziness. More often than not, I would copy and paste my introduction to use as a conclusion because I didn’t know what else to say, and I needed something to fill up space.
Upon arriving in college, my professors made it quite clear that I had to find a new method of finishing my papers. They were probably just as bored as I was with my conclusions. So, after some reluctance, I went to the writing center for one of my freshman seminar papers. When I went to my college’s writing center, the tutor reviewed the paper with me and then asked me why my paper mattered. At first, I was a little frustrated. It was a freshman seminar paper; of course my paper didn’t matter!
But as I’ve grown as a writer, I’ve come to understand why that tutor asked me that question—when you write, you are entering a new discourse, a new conversation, even a new way of thinking. My writing is a part of a larger whole, and I must make it clear to whomever is (cursed with) reading my papers why my ideas are unique or how they connect to other conversations around me.
For me, that’s when I discovered a new strategy for writing conclusions: I could take a step back and explain the larger implications and the importance of what I was saying. From that small step, I learned something important: conclusions didn’t have to be boring and formulaic—they could be unique and something entirely new. Papers have so many different purposes and shapes, and it doesn’t make sense to have the same conclusion strategy for every single paper.
So, I’d encourage you all to take a risk and try something outside of your comfort zone. The handout below would be a great place to begin this process! It discusses different strategies for conclusions that you can experiment with. It also includes an example to help demonstrate some of those processes better.
If you click on the link above the handout, it will take you to our home site, where you can check out other resources to improve your writing skills and prepare you for academic, professional, and civic writing.