How to Write a Conclusion

Think about all the times that you’ve seen a movie or read a book that really captured your interest. You become invested in the storyline and begin to anticipate all the possibilities that could unfold. As the story progresses to the end, the excitement rises within you, only to be shot down by a horrible ending. We’ve all been in that place before. For movies and books, the ending is drastically important to the overall quality of the story. In fact, the ending can often make or break a story altogether. The same can be said of papers we write for college classes. The ending, or conclusion, is vastly important to the overall quality of a paper. Without a good one, the quality of the paper will decrease. This is why so many students struggle to create a conclusion: because they know how important it is to their paper. Although it might seem difficult to write a conclusion, there are simple ways to address it in order to turn your fear of a bad ending into a confidence in your final paragraph.

The first thing to realize about your conclusion is that it should always restate your thesis statement. This does not mean that you should copy and paste your thesis into your conclusion. That is actually a bad idea. Instead, you should find a way to rewrite your thesis in the conclusion so that it conveys the same idea. You don’t need to worry about making it as formulaic as a thesis statement. In fact, you can spread the ideas from the thesis into multiple sentences in your conclusion. For instance, you can take a sentence or two to hit every main point that is listed in your thesis statement. Regardless of the assignment, reiterating your thesis statement in your conclusion is the most important aspect to your ending.

Many times, when a student attempts to restate his or her thesis in the conclusion, the paper will get repetitive. This is yet another struggle when writing a conclusion; everyone is fearful that they are just regurgitating what has already been said. A simple fix for this situation is to take the main idea of your paper and spin it a certain way so that you avoid repeating what has already been said. For example, you can apply the topic in a personal way to the reader. Through this, you transition from a mere academic idea to the effect it will have on actual people. Or, you could evaluate the topic of the paper by focusing on your main idea. In doing this, you are reinforcing the argument set forth in your paper in order to affirm your ideas one more time. These are just two of the many ways to rewrite your main idea so that it is similar in content and distinct in style. By following methods like these, your conclusion should lack repetition and provide a fresh look at an idea that has already been communicated in the body of the paper.

The conclusion should flow from specific to general. It should begin with a specific reference to topic through use of the thesis before broadening out to the most general effect that the topic has.  So, the restated thesis serves as the most specific aspect of the conclusion and it comes first. Then, refer to the main points in ways that wrap them up nicely. This will provide the reader with a sense of closure on the topic at hand. In other words, you are closing the argument by finding concise sentences that complete the main ideas in the paper.

The final portion of a conclusion is the closing statement. At this point, you might find it difficult to create another sentence to add to your conclusion. Since a conclusion flows from the specific to the general, a closing statement needs to be the broadest sentence in the paragraph. By keeping this in mind, you may find it easier to create a closing statement. Also, you can be your own judge of this statement by putting it alongside the other sentences in your conclusion in order to weigh how well it traverses from specific to general. Basically, the closing statement of your conclusion should relate to your main idea in the most general of terms.

The conclusion poses its own unique challenges to the paper-writing process, but understanding the basics behind this final paragraph will help. Always remember to restate your thesis in a sentence distinct from the one in the introduction. Then, close out your main points in ways that helps your reader understand a sense of closure on the topic. Finally, end your conclusion with a statement that relays the main idea in a very general way. Before long, your papers might even have endings that rival some of the best conclusions ever to be written. In movie terms, your paper will have an ending like The Sixth Sense rather than Titanic.

Written by Jack

For more information on writing a conclusion and other writing subjects, check out our Writing a Conclusion handout and the Quick Reference Flyers page of our website!

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If You’re Not Charles Dickens, This One’s For You

In moments filled with adversity for the writer who possesses a disposition altogether and entirely inclined towards penning with a style of excessive loquaciousness much to the chagrin of her surly critics, there exist a plethora of tactics available to the downtrodden authoress seeking to shorten her adjectives, adverbs, and so on, despite the fact that this is an insult of the most incredulous kind for someone who not only knows oodles of fabulous phrases, but possesses a knack for using them with dexterity and poise.

Geez, you may be thinking.

Most people seeing that sentence would get exhausted simply looking at its length. But don’t be too quick to judge; many of us, especially those who grew up reading Dickens, Austen, and Steinbeck, might not only enjoy this style, but could quite possibly prefer to write this way in their own works also. I’m preaching to myself here when I say that this style is not only excessive, but it’s honestly…not good?

Hear me out.

The “less is more” mantra truly applies to writing. Communicating a message well has never depended on it being long, wordy, or adjective-filled. In academic writing, news writing, and nearly all types of writing, save poetry and prose perhaps, in order for something to be communicated well, it must be expressed clearly.

Don’t panic, my fellow wordy writers. Writing concisely is not the same as writing without voice. Rather, seek to develop the voice through more succinct wording. I know that my writing style has drastically developed since entering college and being challenged with prompts that forced me to simplify my generally lengthy thoughts. But my writing has also improved exponentially. My writing is more clear, more enjoyable to readers, and altogether better than it was back when I insisted on using a Thesaurus for needless adjectives in every paper I wrote.

Let’s refer to the first heinously-long sentence of this blog as an example.

First, let’s identify the message of the sentence. Quick note: if you’re ever struggling to figure out what the kelp a sentence is trying to say, it DEFINITELY needs to be re-written. A handy exercise is to cross out any excessive words or irrelevant ideas and see which important ideas remain.

In moments filled with adversity for the writer who possesses a disposition altogether and entirely inclined towards penning with a style of excessive loquaciousness much to the chagrin of her surly critics, there exist a plethora of tactics available to the downtrodden authoress seeking to shorten her adjectives, adverbs, and so on, despite the fact that this an insult of the most incredulous kind for someone who not only knows oodles of fabulous phrases, but possesses a knack for using them with dexterity and poise.”

Using what words remain, it becomes clear that this sentence is trying to communicate that shorting and simplifying our writing can sometimes be difficult. But, hope remains, as there exist many “available tactics.”

Here are some possible revisions:

“For the writer who pens with a wordy style, there are a lot of ways for her to consolidate her phrasing.”

“Wordy writers often struggle to be more succinct; thankfully, there are several tactics available that help cut down sentences.”

“Wordy writers can shorten their sentences in many ways.”

Each of these sentences manages to communicate the same message, and they all do so in different ways. My voice still came through in each alternative, even though I was chopping down those SAT words I love so much.

By learning to “murder your darlings” as the saying goes, your writing will become more concise, be better received by your professors, and will generally improve. That’s a guarantee from a seasoned writing consultant, or your money back.

Written by Karoline

For more information on how to avoid wordiness and other writing subjects, check out our Avoiding Wordiness handout and the Quick Reference Flyers page of our website!

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What’s the Big Idea?

In the classic slapstick comedy, The Three Stooges, the characters ask each other an important question: what’s the big idea? They ask this question after engaging in goofy and clumsy behavior that causes them to accidentally harm one another. However, there isn’t a more accurate and simple summation of what a topic sentence is—a big idea.

Topic sentences are big ideas in the beginning of a paragraph that serve to affirm and ratify the thesis statement of an essay, blog, research paper or any other written work. In a single sentence, it creates a platform on which the main idea can be further elaborated in the body of the paragraph. Topic sentences also allow the writer to control the flow, organization, and direction of the text by encompassing the big idea the writer wants to convey.

Topic sentences obviously have several uses and purposes in a written work; unfortunately, people often struggle to write a coherent one. However, it is possible to write a strong, concise topic sentence in only three easy steps. The first step is asking the question a stooge would ask, “what’s the big idea?” Contrary to popular belief, brainstorming is not something that happens only once at the beginning of the writing process. Each paragraph needs a topic sentence; therefore, though the writer doesn’t have to come up with a brand new idea, condensing a big idea into a single sentence requires quite a bit of creativity. Once the question kick-starts the writing process, it is important to jot down the ideas and major subjects that come to mind.

The second step is organization. Transition sentences are just as important as topic sentence. Without them, ideas would be convoluted and incomplete. Instead of starting a new paragraph with a topic sentence, it is better to start with a transition sentence. It authenticates the idea discussed in the previous paragraph and introduces a new one. Once the transition is complete, it can be used as a springboard to develop the rest of the paragraph.

The third step is writing the topic sentence itself. Bringing together the words and ideas from the first step and linking them with the transition sentence results in a topic sentence. For example, Sonia has to write an essay on the historical background of The Three Stooges comedy and its characters. In the previous paragraph, she wrote about the creators, production, and a major historical development that existed at the time—the third Reich of Hitler’s regime. She could start the next paragraph with a transition sentence that reads, “Even though the show was an important source of comic relief in such a dark time, it is probably more appreciated now than it was in its time.” This sentence further elaborates on the shows setting but also presents a new angle: its relevance to the culture and time in which it was created. A topic sentence can then follow like this: “Columbia Pictures was audacious enough to create a piece that satirized Hitler while the United States took the isolationist position and was neutral on World War II.” The rest of the body of the paragraph can then introduce the piece of work, its content and effect on the public audience.

Incorporating other writing devices and techniques can help with not only topic sentences, but with the entire writing process as well. In the spirit and attitude of the gloriously goofy stooges, it is possible to capture the big idea in a powerful and engaging way. Moreover, following a clear organizational path, as illustrated above, makes writing topic sentences both easy and fun.

Written by Kenean

For more information on writing topic sentences and other writing subjects, check out our Topic Sentences handout and the Quick Reference Flyers page of our website!

Sources

“You Nazty Spy.” TV Tropes, tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Film/YouNaztySpy.

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Following the Railroad Tracks

The train station manager saw Mi Yun wandering around the empty train station, knowing she had been there for several hours. She had previously told him that she was waiting for her uncle to pick her up. He said, “‘You cannot wait here. Do you hear me? No one is coming for you!’ Hanging her head in confusion and alarm, [Mi Yun] obeyed. The thumping in her chest started again. Tears burned her eyes as she stumbled back to the ox cart… Mommy, I need you!” After being abandoned on a train by her mother, four-year-old Mi Yun spent her childhood on the streets of war-torn South Korea, scavenging for food, warmth, and love. Because her father was American and her mother was Korean, no Korean would accept her, and she was repeatedly beaten, tortured, and purposefully starved because of her origin. However, every time she was near death or so cold and hungry she wanted to die, someone would be placed in her path to remind her to never stop trying to survive. In her book She Is Mine, Stephanie Fast uses differing perspective, realistic details, and heart-wrenching events to communicate that Someone had a plan for Mi Yun no matter what happened to her.

Throughout the book, I felt as though I was in the mind of Mi Yun because Fast uses differing perspectives based on the age of Mi Yun to unfold the details of the story. When Mi Yun is young, the thought process in the book portrays that of a very young girl, who cannot understand what is going on as her mother puts her on a train alone; a girl gullible enough to believe after several days of being abandoned that her mother would still take her in if Mi Yun could only get back to her. As she sat in the cardboard box she had called her home for several days, while waiting for her uncle to pick her up, “She repeated again, ‘It will be all right. It will be all right. I will find my way back home… I will get back to my mama” (60-61). Then, as more and more people hurt her, beat her, and torture her, Mi Yun’s innocence turns to fear and hate. She stops trying to get help from the local villagers and instead hides as much as possible in shacks, burrows, and caves, stealing food and warmth whenever she could. Each encounter she has with strangers, I was immediately placed in the mind of the young girl, reading her words, thoughts, and fears. On one particular occasion when Mi Yun is caught stealing, she is grabbed by a farmer. As the farmer drags Mi Yun down the street and into a crowd of angry villagers, she cries, “‘Please don’t hurt me… I will leave… Just let me go.’ …Is there any kind person here… someone who will stand up for me, someone who will protect me? She could only see hatred, anger, and disgust on the faces of the villagers” (101). This switch between dialogue, Mi Yun’s thoughts, and narration made me feel thoroughly engrossed in the book, as if I were right there alongside the little girl.

In addition to differing perspectives, Fast also uses realistic details that kept me thoroughly engrossed in the story. For example, there are accurate descriptions of the Korean countryside scattered throughout the book, so I could picture where the events were taking place: “She saw the train tracks running along the rugged mountains… She looked to the right… and scanned the train tracks surrounded by the grass, rice paddies, and more mountains. Turning, she saw behind her only the empty countryside and even more mountains” (75). There are also many descriptive portrayals of Mi Yun: “She was tiny and beautiful in a way that was both Western and Asian. Her eyes were a bit rounder than the other children… Her hair, lighter in color than the rest, had a soft curl to it” (37). These are two of the many examples of Stephanie Fast’s excellent descriptions in She Is Mine. There are also depictions of Mi Yun’s encounters, the places she goes, and the experiences she has. These depictions allowed me to visually picture the characters and scenery, so I could imagine what Mi Yun saw as she suffered.

Finally, there are many events in this novel that caused me to deeply empathize with Mi Yun. One time, when she was caught stealing from a farmer, Mi Yun was dragged to a water mill and tied to it, and the water mill was then turned on. “[Mi Yun] didn’t quite know what was happening, except that the wheel was moving. Its slow rotation took Yoon Myoung to the top, where a flood of water spilled into her face, causing her to sputter and choke…With no time to catch her breath, she was thrust under the murky water as the wheel continued its rotation. Scraping along the graveling bottom of the pond, she felt her face being cut and bruised by the mud and gravel” (103-104). She was raped, beaten, run out of villages, suffered a fall from the hands of strangers that killed the baby she was taking care of, and nearly died from sickness. Many times, I found myself mentally yelling at the other characters, aghast at the inhumanity of the Koreans that Mi Yun encountered. However, no matter how much she went through, someone was always put in her path that cared for her, encouraged her, and helped her to keep going.

The story of Mi Yun is one that captures the interest of every reader, as they learn about the horrors she endured as a result of her origin, from being abandoned by her mother to being refused food by villagers. However, the reader is constantly reminded that someone is watching out for Mi Yun through the little things that happen to her along the way. The end of the story renews one’s confidence that God is always watching over us, no matter how hard life becomes. But, if you would like to know what this incredible ending is, you will have to read Stephanie Fast’s She Is Mine.

Written by Michelle

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The Unique History of Thanksgiving

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s time to prepare for family, feasting, and football. Timeless traditions surround this holiday, and it seems as though every American is aware of its origins. As a kid, I remember dressing up as a Pilgrim or Native American to celebrate a Thanksgiving feast just as they did in 1621. We learned that these two very different people came together to celebrate and feast together, which is the reason why we celebrate the same thing today. But, there are many facts about this historical event that the average person, including me until I wrote this blog, does not know.

When the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe joined together to feast in Plymouth, Massachusetts, they had no intentions of celebrating on a yearly basis. For them, it was just a big get-together where everyone brought a dish of food to share. So, this was technically the first American potluck during the colonial days. The Pilgrims often dedicated days of thanksgiving to God when harvests or other good things occurred. When they finished feasting on their harvest with the neighboring Indians, they dedicated themselves to acts of thanksgiving.

This custom grew as the colonies expanded, and by the 19th century, many U.S. States adopted the holiday as an annual event. Abraham Lincoln selected the final Thursday of November as the day to celebrate Thanksgiving in 1863, but Franklin D. Roosevelt changed it to the fourth Thursday of November in 1939 to increase the shopping days before Christmas. Every U.S. president has delivered a Thanksgiving proclamation of some sort. However, the common pardon that is given out to one turkey did not begin until 1989 with George H.W. Bush. This tradition calls for the U.S. president to pardon a domesticated turkey from the Thanksgiving Day festivities for the rest of its life. Ever since, the turkey pardon has been an entertaining and enjoyable tradition for all to watch, unless you’re a turkey.

The large amounts of food are one of the best parts of Thanksgiving. Every year, I eat far too much and usually regret it, but isn’t that what Thanksgiving is all about? Every family dines differently on this day, but the most popular food for Thanksgiving is turkey. I grew up eating turkey every Thanksgiving, so I cannot imagine one without it. Despite this popular practice, there is no record of turkey being eaten by the Pilgrims in 1621. Instead, they ate venison as the main dish. Also, the popular Thanksgiving dessert, pumpkin pie, was not on the menu during the first Thanksgiving either. The Pilgrims were really missing out.

Perhaps the oddest part about the history of Thanksgiving is the various towns that claim to have started the Thanksgiving tradition before the Plymouth settlers. A small town in Texas called San Elizario makes claims for having the first Thanksgiving in America. In 1598, a Spanish explorer led a group of settlers across the Mexican desert. When they finally reached the banks of the Rio Grande River, they celebrated with thanksgiving. This Texan town is not the only place to declare its Thanksgiving claims. Berkeley Plantation in Virginia also argues that they started the tradition in 1619, just two years before the Plymouth settlers celebrated. Both towns reenact their own Thanksgiving Day events and defend their claims as the original location of Thanksgiving.

Regardless, thanksgiving has been a huge part of our culture. Many things have changed, but the values remain the same. It’s a time when we can relax with others and slide into a coma from all the delicious food. More importantly, it’s a time when everyone can reflect on their lives and give thanks for what they have been blessed with.

Written by Jack

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Works Cited:

Shenkman, Rick. “Top 10 Myths About Thanksgiving.” History News Network, 2001. https://historynewsnetwork.org/article/406.

History.com Editors. “Mayflower Myths.” HISTORY, 2009.https://www.history.com/topics/thanksgiving/mayflower-myths.

Bathroom Readers Institute. “6 Things Everyone Believes About Thanksgiving That AreAbsolutely Untrue.” Reader’s Digest, 2018. https://www.rd.com/culture/thanksgiving-myths/.

Monkman, Betty C. “Pardoning the Thanksgiving Turkey.” The White House Historical Association, 27 September 2018.  https://www.whitehousehistory.org/pardoning-the-thanksgiving-turkey.

Rosenberg, Jennifer. “How FDR Changed Thanksgiving.” ThoughtCo., 2017. https://www.thoughtco.com/how-fdr-changed-thanksgiving-1779285.

Veteran’s Day and the Ethics of Honor

President Wilson’s words at the commemoration of the first Armistice Day in 1919 ring true to this day: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.” Germany and the allied nations signed a peace treaty known as the Treaty of Versailles, ending World War I on November 11th. That day was declared a day to not only remember World War I veterans, but to observe and maintain world peace as well.

Armistice Day gave birth to Veteran’s Day in 1954. Though many hoped and even proclaimed that World War I would be “the end of all wars,” World War II followed and brought that hope to a tragic end. Furthermore, a great number of soldiers, airmen, sailors, and several other military personnel were deployed for this war, leading the 83rd Congress to replace the word “Armistice” with “Veterans” to honor veterans of all wars.

Veteran’s Day is often easily confused with Memorial Day. While Veteran’s Day is a day to honor the living veterans of all wars, Memorial Day was established a year after the Civil War to honor those who fell in active duty. Both holidays are celebrated in a similar way and can even be interchangeable, but what they each stand for possesses distinct uniqueness. Moreover, Veteran’s Day honors men and women who have served in the military, regardless of whether it was in combat or not. Several people go out of their way to celebrate Veteran’s Day; from decorations and gatherings, to free goods and services for veterans, there are many ways people choose to express their gratitude and appreciation.

Most people agree that war is brutal and ugly, but when a nation is faced with the question “why are we going to war?” the answers vary, which makes it a rather controversial topic that garners some serious reactions from people across the political spectrum. Though Veteran’s Day is a national holiday, those who served aren’t always treated with the honor and respect they deserve. For instance, veterans of the Vietnam War were not fortunate enough to get a festive reception. This was due to the fact that the US neither had an objective or declared war beforehand, which caused the rise of an extremely contentious political climate during the war.

Students on university campuses and in the academic society started an anti-Vietnam War movement; soon, protests became more prominent and drew people’s attention to the reality of the war. When the soldiers that fought in the Vietnam War returned home, they didn’t get a hero’s welcome. Several veterans testified about being mistreated, insulted, and in some cases, assaulted. Another war that was ethically, morally, and politically controversial was the Iraq War. In 2003, the US invaded Iraq due to their alleged possession of “weapons of mass destruction,” an idea that was not clearly verified. Both wars took so many lives and nearly destroyed nations for reasons that are not clear to this day, which is why many felt the need to protest and oppose.

Some might begin to wonder if there is an instance where one should or shouldn’t honor a veteran. Most of the people that decide to either protest or refrain from celebrating holidays like Veteran’s Day have probably wondered the same thing as well. The answer to the question depends on the individual, but there are some factors we can consider to help guide us towards it. Sometimes, men and women in armed forces can decided whether or not they wish to serve; however, like in the Vietnam War, many had no choice but to serve and were simply following orders from their superiors. Therefore, despising them and blaming them for everything doesn’t change the situation.

Everyone has the right to agree or disagree with the government’s decisions on wars, and they have the freedom of speech to express that too. However, political criticism should be the last thing veterans get considering the several challenges they face that are often unique to their circumstances and background as former military personnel. On Veteran’s Day, the focus should be on the bravery and will of the human spirit displayed through ordinary men and women who exhibit extraordinary courage. The least we can do is to put our politics aside, take time out of our day to give back, and help make them feel appreciated.

Written by Kenean

Sources

Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs. “Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs.” Learn to Communicate Assertively at Work, 20 Mar. 2006, www.va.gov/opa/vetsday/vetdayhistory.asp.

IowaPublicTelevision. “Experiences of Vietnam Veterans Returning Home from War.” YouTube, YouTube, 21 Oct. 2015, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6t9jchhVRg.

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The Fulcrum of Academic Writing

There is one aspect of academic writing that has confused writers for centuries. One sentence has initiated the rise and fall of papers, caused worried high school and college scholars to lose sleep at night, and affected the comprehension of papers everywhere the English language is written. As authors near the end of their introduction paragraph, they are faced with the daunting task of writing the sentence that, in many ways, determines the success of their paper: the thesis sentence.

As a writing consultant, the most common question I receive is “what is a thesis?” Second to this one is the question, “Why does my thesis matter?” If a student writes a paper with a good introduction, body, and conclusion, can one sentence really be that important?

The answer to those last two questions is a most definite YES! Think about it this way: Have you ever been listening to a friend ramble on and on about some subject, but you have no idea what his or her point is? This has happened to me, and sometimes, after a few minutes, I want to say, “Just get to the point!” And I’m sure others around me often feel the same urge! Or, have you ever read a paper or book, but, at the end, been unaware of what the author want to you learn from it? Well, the purpose of the thesis is to clarify said point. Papers are similar to such long verbal explanations. The thesis allows the main idea, the attitude regarding this idea, and the main sub-points that are going to be discussed to be introduced early in the writing.  This sentence allows the reader to know what he or she is getting into, so to speak, when this person begins to read your paper.

In order to avoid such ramblings, you may ask how to compose a thesis, which is such a necessary aspect of your written masterpiece. There are three important components of a strong thesis: the main idea, the attitude or indication of the writer’s position on said idea, and the reasoning (2-3 main points) that support said attitude.

Let’s look at an example: “Cats are amazing because they have an independent disposition, playful tendencies, and adorable behaviors.” Whether you agree with this statement or not, we have our topic (cats), our attitude (that they are amazing), and our three points (disposition, tendencies, and behaviors), and it would be my job as the author to prove this point to you in the rest of my paper. A strong thesis statement will not only excite our readers about what is to come but also help us, as writers, to follow a logical order in our writing process.

Of course, there are many ways to write theses; the one above is just the simplest way to do so: subject first, followed by the attitude then the main points. We could also flip that sentence around to say, “Due to their independent attitude, playful tendencies, and adorable behaviors, cats are clearly the most amazing pet to own” OR “Their independent attitude, playful tendencies, and adorable behaviors cause cats to be the best all-around pet.” These theses communicate the same message but emphasize the topic and sub-points in different ways. Each style is used to stress a particular part of a thesis or to relate parts of the thesis to each other in a unique way. However, the order of the components of the thesis pales in comparison to the importance of actually including these three parts, arranged in a logical manner.

In scientific terms, the thesis is the hypothesis attempting to be proved by the experiment of your paper. It is the position of your debate, the climax of your story, and the blueprints to your building. It is the fulcrum of academic writing, and you must learn the importance and “how-to’s” of thesis writing, as it will determine the comprehension, flow, and success of every paper you write for the rest of your life.

Written by Michelle

For more information on thesis statements and other writing subjects, check out our Writing a Thesis handout and the Quick Reference Flyers page of our website!