Having trouble finding the right words to finish your paper? Are your conclusions bland? This handout covers basic techniques for writing stronger endings, including
- Diagnosing and improving paragraph cohesion
- Avoiding 7 common errors when drafting and revising conclusions
- Answering the reader’s unspoken question—“So what?”
Improve paragraph cohesion
A. Make your sentences conform to a “given/new” contract
“Given” information (familiar to your reader) should come first in the sentence. For example, you could reiterate a main idea in the sentence or two beforehand, or something apparent within the context of the sentence, or an idea that taps into readers’ general knowledge of a topic. “New” information (additional, unfamiliar, and/or more complex) should comprise the second half of your sentence.
The “new” info of one sentence then becomes the “given” or familiar info of the next, improving overall flow and coherence.
B. Use “topic-strings”
Each sentence needs a topic or main idea, which should be in the “given” part of the sentence. Shift “given” info closer to the beginnings of your sentences when you can, so that the topic is clear. As well, each paragraph needs an overall topic, usually established in the first or second sentences. To check paragraph coherence, see whether your sentence topics (“givens”) connect consistently from sentence to sentence. Can you find a consistent topic throughout the paragraph, almost as if you were tracing a single colored thread? A set of sentences with clear topics creates a “topic thread.” This, along with appropriate use of transitions, helps to ensure a coherent paragraph.
- If your topic thread is not apparent or seems to get lost, revise your sentences according to a “given/new” information pattern.
- Use transitions where needed to indicate opposition, agreement or linkage, cause & effect, exemplification or illustration, degree, comparison, etc. For more on transitions, see “Making Connections: Choosing Transition Words”.
C. Reiterate without being repetitious
Readers appreciate some consistency and won’t usually find a reasonable amount of repetition boring or monotonous. But avoid repeating the same subjects/topics using exactly the same words each time, and don’t repeat your thesis word-for-word in your conclusion. Instead…reiterate, using key concepts within slightly different sentence structures and arguments. Key concepts are often expressed in introductions, thesis statements, and near the beginnings of paragraphs; they act as a governing “topic thread” for your entire paper.
Avoid these 7 common errors in your conclusions
- Opening with an empty phrase, the equivalent of “throat-clearing.
Draft: “And, therefore, it is important to keep in mind that ...” “In conclusion…”
Revision: Omit these phrases. “In conclusion” or “To conclude” may be appropriate for an oral presentation, but in writing are considered redundant or overly mechanical.
Draft: “However, it is important in arriving at such a conclusion to recognize...”
Revision: Just say what we should recognize.
- Stuffing too much information into one paragraph or not developing the paragraph sufficiently.
- Not including a clear topic sentence: i.e. one that expresses the key concept governing this paragraph (i.e. “What is this paragraph about?”). It’s usually best to express your governing concept in the first or second sentence.
- Not checking for cohesion or flow (see “given and new” above). As a result, the sentences aren’t logically organized, or there is a sudden switch in topic, or sentences do not clearly connect to each other.
- Using transitions too frequently or too mechanically.
- Ending the paragraph with a different topic. HINT: Use a key word or phrase from the last sentence of the previous paragraph in the first sentence of the new paragraph. This technique helps the reader make connections.
- Finishing your piece with entirely new information or a quote that isn’t relevant.
Remember to answer the question "So what?”
Readers need to understand why your argument or research is significant. So consider the single more important idea (key concept) you want your readers to take away with them after reading your paper. It’s not enough merely to repeat your thesis or summarize your main findings in your conclusion; you need to answer the question: “So what”? Options include outlining further areas of inquiry and/or suggesting a sense of significance: e.g. why does what you’ve written matter? What should your reader take away?
For more about writing effective conclusions, visit the following:
“Strategies for Writing a Conclusion” from Literacy Education Online
“Conclusions” from the Writing Center at the University of North Carolina
Source for paragraph cohesion strategies: Williams, J. M., & Nadel, I. B. (2005). Style: 10 Lessons in Clarity and Grace (Cdn. ed.). Toronto: Longman.
At this point in your academic career, you’ve gone through the main three types of essays—argumentative, narrative, and descriptive. And you have to admit, you’ve gotten pretty good at them. But now your teacher wants you to write an exemplification essay, and you feel a little lost.
Don’t worry. That’s what I’m here for. I’ll show you not only what an exemplification essay is, but how to write one so well your teacher might think you have super-mutant writing powers.
The Exemplification Essay Explained
When you first heard the term exemplification essay, you might have freaked out a little bit. But there’s no need to. If you’re familiar with the argumentative essay, you’re already halfway there.
An exemplification essay is like a more involved version of an argumentative essay. You’re trying to prove a point, but you must use very specific examples. Facts and numbers will get you far, yes. But you have to effectively incorporate them into your writing.
If you’re writing the essay in class, your teacher will probably be pretty lenient about exact figures or using citations.
However, if this is a take-home assignment, it’s always good practice to include information about where you got your information. Be sure to ask your teacher about what style guide (APA, MLA, or Chicago) to follow.
Excellent (and Not So Excellent) Exemplification Essay Topics
Because exemplification essays are like argumentative essays, you want to pick topics that are similar to argumentative topics. Topics that have at least two arguable sides—you don’t want to choose a topic that has one obvious right side.
In addition, you want topics with hard facts to back up your argument. If you try to persuade the reader of your position with ambiguous reasoning, guess what? You’re no longer writing an exemplification essay.
Here’s a handful of examples of good exemplification essay topics:
Should drugs be decriminalized?
Are classes separated by gender more conducive to learning?
Is a college degree necessary in today’s society?
Should healthcare be free for everyone?
Are gun regulations strict enough?
Each of these topics has research supporting the opposing viewpoints. This makes it easier to defend your own position. Keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to agree with your argument to write a good essay. You just have to defend your argument well.
Here’s a few bad examples of these exemplification essay topics (and why they’re bad):
What’s your favorite type of music?
This topic is something that’s too personal. It cannot be backed up with facts or figures.
Are opiates dangerous?
This topic is very obviously one-sided.
Explain the process of making maple syrup.
This would make for a great process essay. But it cannot possibly be an exemplification essay.
Now you know what an exemplification essay is. And you’ve seen some examples of good (and bad) topic choices. Let’s get into the actual writing process.
I’m going to make it a little fun. I’m going to write about the best X-Men character, Professor X. Keep in mind, this isn’t a topic you’re likely to see. But it’ll certainly get the point across.
Steps to Writing an Exemplification Essay
As with any essay, you don’t want to just dive right into writing. While that can work for some people, it’s a risky bet. Instead, a little bit of planning will make your exemplification essay easier and faster to write. It will also make it flow better in the end.
Below are the four steps to writing an exemplary exemplification essay. As an example, my topic is Who is the best X-Men character? While this sounds more like personal opinion, I’m going to back it up with some facts.
1. Brainstorm and outline
I included brainstorming and outlining as one step because, for some, it’s the same process. You want to get all of your ideas down on paper first. Then put them in order before you start the more in-depth writing process.
Your outline should include a section for the introduction and conclusion. These can include as little or as much information as you want.
The most important part of your outline is the body section. This is where you’ll include your main points and some supporting arguments. My outline is a little short. But it’s only meant as an example.
My outline might look something like this:
- Thesis statement
- Uses telepathy to mimic other powers
- Can learn foreign languages almost instantly
- Communicates with aliens
- Can manipulate minds of others
- Appears invisible by creating illusions in others’ minds
- Leader in promoting mutant-human relations
- Started Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters
- Formed X-Men team of heroes
2. Write your introduction
Your introduction will have two main parts: the hook and the thesis statement. The hook is exactly what it sounds like. It’s what “hooks” the reader in to keep reading your essay.
The thesis statement explains what your exemplification essay will be about. It presents a brief description of the main points of your body paragraphs.
For my introduction, I would write something along these lines:
Many people dream of having mutant super powers, but don’t realize the responsibility that comes with those special talents. One man, Professor Xavier, stands above all other mutants. He is a shining example of what they can accomplish and who they can become. Professor X uses his one power to mimic various other powers, and he serves as a leader in promoting friendly relationships between mutants and humans.
3. Move to your body paragraphs
Now that you have your introduction down, you can move to the body paragraphs. This doesn’t need to be a 5-paragraph essay format (unless your teacher specifically says so).
This is where making an outline first really comes in handy. You can just fill in the blanks, so to speak.
For my example, I’m going to work with my second main point—the promotion of human-mutant relations.
Through his work with mutant children and team of heroes, Professor Xavier has taken great strides in improving the relationships between mutants and humans. His School for Gifted Youngsters helps mutant children and teens learn how to control their powers and use them to benefit others. It also keeps them separated from humans during their teenage years when hormones can have unpredictable consequences. Professor Xavier’s team of superheroes, the X-Men, also promotes good human-mutant relations. It shows humans that mutants don’t have to be feared and that they can improve the lives of everyone.
4. Wrap it up
The last thing you have to do is write your conclusion. This involves a summary of your main points. However, you don’t want to simply restate your thesis statement.
Instead, include some more information that you wrote about in your body paragraphs. After the brief summary, you want to finish nicely. Your exemplification essay needs to feel complete.
My conclusion would look like this:
Although many people may fear the powers of mutants, they can actually benefit both humans and other mutants. Professor Xavier has proven this by becoming exceptionally skilled at telepathy. He uses both his powers and his influence to promote better relationships between human and mutant communities. He and his band of heroes fight daily, not only against evildoers, but also against the prejudices aimed at his people.
Once you’re finished with your exemplification essay, if you still don’t think it’s as super as it could be, send it to the Kibin editors to look over. They can give you the feedback you need to make your essay shine.
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