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Last Updated: Aug 03, 2021     Views: 13

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© Walden University Writing Center 2021

[Introduction music]

CLAIRE: Welcome to Write Cast: A Casual Conversation for Serious Writers, a monthly podcast by the Walden University Writing Center. I’m Claire Helakoski,

KACY: and I’m Kacy Walz.

TEASER: …in all forms of writing, conclusions are really important…

CLAIRE: Welcome to…

Crafting a strong conclusion

KACY: Whether you’re writing a discussion post, a discussion response, a major assessment, whatever…it’s so important to really think about the last thing your reader reads.

CLAIRE: Yeah, your conclusion, which is our topic this month, might be a single sentence depending on the length of the document.

KACY: Our website explains, a conclusion “for most course papers…is usually one paragraph that simply and succinctly restates the main ideas and arguments, pulling everything together to help clarify the thesis of the paper. A conclusion does not introduce new ideas; instead, it should clarify the intent and importance of the paper. It can also suggest possible future research on the topic.” And while I think this is helpful, let’s dig a bit further into what it means for you as a scholarly writer.

CLAIRE: We try our best to make our resources as clear and helpful as possible, but Kacy and I thought it would be helpful to break these sentences down and unpack what this asks for…what our conception of a strong conclusion looks like.

KACY: Ultimately your conclusion serves to—unsurprisingly—conclude your document. There’s an older post on our blog titled, “And so, in Conclusion, I Will Now End My Paper and This Relationship.” I really like this post because I think it provides a clear and sort of funny sense of what we mean when we say ‘pull everything together to clarify the thesis.’ You can probably get a sense of the post from the title, but basically the idea is that there are probably multiple aspects that result in someone wanting to end a relationship, but the final point is that the relationship is over.

CLAIRE: The post is pretty entertaining. It explains how an academic conclusion resembles the break-up of a romantic relationship.

KACY: So if my thesis is “I am unhappy in this relationship,” I’d present reasons I’m unhappy as the main ideas of my body paragraphs, and then the take away is: it’s over. One reason I especially like this metaphor is the idea of how I personally might want to be…broken up with…I guess. I’d like to know what went wrong, but I wouldn’t want the final moments to be a complete repetition of all the things that made my partner unhappy. Once would be enough! …And that’s how I feel about a conclusion that reads like an abrupt repeat of what I’ve just read.

CLAIRE: Yes—you don’t want to repeat exactly what was said in your paper with all the details, you more want to summarize it—hit those main points again with new sentences, as a refresher. I like to think of a conclusion as a concluding argument in a debate—you’ve made your points, so you’ve gone through all the information with your audience already, and you are just reminding them again of what those points were—briefly—before you leave them.

KACY: I’ve mentioned before that I’m currently writing my dissertation.  I’m writing in the Modern Language Association (MLA) style which is a bit different than APA. But in all forms of writing, conclusions are really important. And because of that I usually write introductions and conclusions after I’ve completely written the body portion of a text.

CLAIRE: Oh yes definitely. Writing the introduction at the end is kind of optional, but you should definitely write your conclusion after you’ve finished your draft! You might have a general, bullet-point version beforehand to help you if that sounds helpful to you, but your draft will change as you write. You might not end up hitting the points you think you’re going to hit when you start. So you can’t write the conclusion that sums up all those main ideas until you have a decent, solid draft of those main, body points and a developed thesis.

KACY: I also think it can be really helpful to use a reverse outline after you’ve got the main portion of your draft written. This can help format a strong conclusion. That way you can make sure you’re staying on topic, that the body paragraphs all support your thesis, that you’re not going off on a tangent. And then you consider: what do I ultimately want to say? What has all of this led up to? What’s the take away?

CLAIRE: We talked about reverse outlines in a previous episode and we have some other great resources I’ll link in our show notes as well if that sounds like a good approach that would be helpful to you!

Another thing I like to think about with conclusions is, does it mirror my introduction? Do both your introduction and conclusion reflect the same general purpose and specific points covered? If not, you definitely want to give your document another look-over and be sure you are summing up what’s actually in your draft, and that your introduction provides that as well. The conclusion can, as Kacy noted, be a nice revision tool and a chance to check in on the rest of your document.

KACY: Yes, definitely—you can use the conclusion as a way to check back in on your draft. Another thing we wanted to note, that is a little different than conclusions you might read in other writing venues, is that you shouldn’t have source information in your conclusion.

CLAIRE: Yes, I see this all the time in course papers.

KACY: Me too. And so although in other writing venues you might end with an inspirational quote or touch on an additional statistic, at Walden you are revisiting those key points that you already wrote about, so there shouldn’t really be any need for additional citations or source information in your conclusion.

CLAIRE: If you do have great source information, and you’re finding that you want to put it in your conclusion, it should probably be in the body of your draft. So it’s one of your main points. Just because you have evidence, doesn’t mean you have to delete it. You can move it to a different part of your paper.

KACY: Including new information or source information in the conclusion can also make your reader feel like they maybe missed something in your draft, and you want it to be more of a quick review that reaffirms what they read rather than a new point.

CLAIRE: Similarly, don’t zoom out too far in your conclusion. While you want to have some takeaways in general, if your draft was about Johnny’s case study and how you’d treat his alcoholism, for example, your conclusion probably shouldn’t talk about how we can cure alcoholism as a whole—that’s just too far beyond the scope of what you actually talked about in your paper. A conclusion is sort of a cheat sheet for your paper for your reader—if they skipped right to the conclusion, and didn’t read any of the rest of your paper, they should have a decent idea of the main points and purpose of your draft just from reading the conclusion. So be sure to keep that in mind.

KACY: As you work on your conclusions, also keep in mind that you want to be succinct and reiterate main points, but not all the details. Write your conclusion last, and use it to check the cohesion with the rest of your paper as well.

CLAIRE: We will have some additional resources in our show notes. Until next time, keep writing

KACY: Keep inspiring

[Music]

KACY: WriteCast is a monthly podcast produced by the Walden University Writing Center. Visit our online Writing Center at academicguides.waldenu.edu/writingcenter. Find more WriteCast episodes on iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn, or your favorite podcast app. We would love to hear from you! Connect with us on our blog, Facebook, and Twitter, and at writingsupport@waldenu.edu. Thanks for listening!

 

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