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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How to Write an Outline

I’m not going to lie; writing is hard. Even as an English major who works in the Writing Center, I find writing difficult. I love writing, but that doesn’t mean I don’t struggle. I outlinethink the toughest part about writing is actually starting the writing process. I can have my topic picked out and all of my research done but still have absolutely no idea where to go from there. Maybe you’ve been in that boat, too. You might have a great idea for a written composition in mind but not know exactly what to start writing about. This is where an outline can truly save the day. An outline can be the most helpful method in the writing process. It can help to break down broad ideas and organize them in an understandable way. By creating an outline, the writer gives form to his or her thoughts and to the paper itself.

I find it helpful to simply jot a few points down first. What are some of the major issues that need to be addressed throughout the essay? How do they relate to each other? What evidence is there to support the claim? Think about these questions pertaining to the topic and write down at least three ideas you would like to discuss in the paper. If there are more than three points, that’s good. Longer papers require more content. And sometimes, smaller points can be included within the larger points if they are closely related. Ever heard of the expression “it’s better to have too much than not enough?” Well, it is always better to have more ideas to work with than fewer.

Now, it is time to take on the thesis. The thesis will include the main points previously mentioned. Remember not to include too many details in the thesis, but give enough information so that the reader has a sense of the purpose and structure of the essay. Think about it like this: if you were to summarize your entire paper into one sentence, then that would be your thesis.

For example, I wrote a paper about digital technology and its impacts on society. I knew there were at least three areas of impact I wanted to thoroughly address, so I put those in my thesis. My working thesis statement became something like “The long-term effects of the digital age can hinder the health, education, and even character of the current and future generations of society.” My thesis clearly states my essay’s topic, the negative effects of digital technology, and gives a general overview on the types of problems my paper addresses, which are the impacts in the health, education, and character of current and future members of society. Notice there are no specific examples or evidence in my thesis, but simply a general idea and some organized points. The thesis doesn’t have to be perfect yet; you can always work on the grammar of your thesis later when you start writing your paper. You simply need to get the main ideas of your paper down into one sentence. This is the most important part of the essay because it gives the reader a preview of what is to come.

The thesis and the main points are the core of the paper, so once those have been solidified, you can start working on the details. For the main points, research and support will be needed. Under each point, write down some examples that can support that point. These may consist of examples from a literary work, a fact quoted from a science textbook, or a statistic from an internet article. List everything that supports your point and be sure to cite your sources when it comes to putting quotes and paraphrases into your paper.

If you’ve made it this far, then congratulations! You’ve outlined most of your paper. The only things left are the introduction and conclusion. For the introduction, list some things that would be helpful information for the reader to know in order to understand the subject of the paper. Are there any terms that need defining? Would giving a brief plot summary help? Basically, list any background information that you consider necessary in order to understand the topic.

As for the conclusion, three things should be included: thesis, summary, concluding last statement. I’ve found it helpful to list these things out so that I remember what I want to write in the conclusion by the time I finish my paper. It is best to restate, but also reword, your thesis in order for the paper to appear cohesive. Then, summarize the main points of your paper. You can even refer to the bullet points you wrote in the beginning of the outline. Lastly, you’ll want a concluding sentence or two. It might be a call to action or statement of importance. It needs to be something that ties the paragraph together.

This outline technique has benefited me many times in the past, and I hope it benefits other writers, too. If this method doesn’t work for you, that’s fine. There are several different ways to outline a paper. This is simply one of them. I know writing is hard, and starting the writing process can be quite the challenge. That 8-10 page research paper can seem like a beast that might bite your head off, but don’t worry. It is best to simplify your thoughts. Break them down to organize them, and you’ll be able to build them up again to write that essay.

Written by Taylor C.

For more information on outlining and other writing subjects, check out our Outlining: Structuring a Paper handout and the Quick Reference Flyers page of our website!

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You’re Using Your Planner Wrong

My planner is cuter than yours. I’m not bragging; it’s just a simple fact. At the beginning of the semester, I went on an online shopping quest to find the perfectly useful and ideally-pretty planner that would motivate me to orchestrate all my days in glitter pen from January until May. I use my planner every day, and I would probably forget a lot of things without it. However, as nice as it is to pick up my lovely, flower-clad, spiral-bound daily planner every morning, as with many things in life, the overuse and misuse of its glories produced a debilitating sense of stress and inadequacy in me.

Woah you’re probably thinking, that was a dramatic jump. You aren’t wrong, but hear me out. If you aren’t careful, you could succumb to the same planning-obsessed stress that I did. Now, some people thrive on planning. It brings them more peace than anything to know exactly where they will be and what they will be doing five months from now. For many of us though, wondering about tomorrow or the next week or next month means kindling the faint flames of worry about deadlines we know we need to meet but do not have time for.

If I were to take a look at what’s written in my planner for today, I would find four must-do’s that could be easily crossed off, no problem. Yet if I glance at next week’s schedule or even begin thinking about it, swirls of unnecessary pressure foster, and I become far more preoccupied with tomorrow when I should be concentrating on today. I’m not saying it is bad or wrong to plan ahead; for some people, it’s probably necessary so that they don’t suffer the same stress symptoms I receive from planning. I’m talking to those who, if they dwell on it too much, dread the possibility of tomorrow’s to-do list when they could be channeling that energy into checking off the boxes for today. It goes beyond a “live in the moment” mentality, although we could probably all use a bit more present-mindedness. Rather, it goes back to a simple yet powerful verse we’ve all heard before:

“Therefore, don’t be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself” (Matt. 6: 34, NIV).

Interesting. What if I refused to look at tomorrow’s to-do list and instead concentrated on my one for today? What if, when all my tasks were complete, instead of hurriedly beginning work that could be started tomorrow, I read my Bible, hung out with a friend, or indulged in a long-neglected hobby? For the past week, I’ve been doing exactly that: looking at today’s to-do list only, closing my planner and putting it away once those tasks were done. Simply and truthfully put, my life is changed as a result of this one small tactic. By finally letting “tomorrow worry about itself,” I’m experiencing that “peace which surpasses all understanding,” accomplishing more than I have in a while, and enjoying the little things like staying up with a roommate or writing for fun. It’s amazing what happens when we take Scripture literally, huh?

This isn’t just a plug for you to buy a planner, although you definitely should; it’s an encouragement and confirmation that not only is it unnecessary for you to know what you are doing a day, week, or month from now, but you might be better off without even thinking about the future in those terms! Tomorrow will worry about itself, and if we abide in the vine of Christ, He will “remain in you,” providing every need as He supplies everything for the birds of the air and the lilies of the field. Also, BloomDailyPlanners. The bomb.com.

Written by Karoline

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How to Stay Organized in College

I like to think of myself as an organized person. I have my classes separated by colored folders. I write down any relevant information on sticky notes and place them with the appropriate class notes. Each year I buy a planner and color code my classes with different pens. However, as the semester goes on, I find myself forgetting my planner or forgetting to write things down. I use my phone notes instead of sticky notes. Then the end of the semester rolls around, and I am scrambling to figure out where I wrote down the information I need. I guess I am not as organized as I thought.

Over my college career, I have learned a few things that helped me stay organized and on top of my assignments. The first thing I learned was to prepare the materials I needed the night before. Since I am an education major, I often change bags depending on if I am teaching a lesson in an elementary school or simply going to my college classes. This caused me to forget certain necessary items that I would need the next day. But once I started putting together my materials the night before, I found myself not rushing around trying to make sure I did not forget anything. I could have a relaxed morning and enjoy my coffee.

Another thing I learned was to write down the due dates of all assignments in one single place: a journal, a spreadsheet, a planner, etc. I used to only write down the due dates in my planner on the day they were due. This caused me to procrastinate and forget that some assignments were due on a Monday since my week ended on a Saturday. By writing things down in one central place, not only was I able to check off assignments that I had completed, but I was able to get ahead. This saved me a lot of time and stress when the really big projects were being assigned.

Finally, I learned to color code my notes. When I used just one color, I often could not find specific information that I needed within the pages and pages of lecture. All the words and information began to run together into an illegible mass. So, I decided to invest in some multicolored-G2 pens. I would begin by writing the date at the start of the notes to help me remember what was learned on each day. Then, I would separate the main titles of topics my professors talked about for a while. I would write all the pertinent information for those topics in a separate color to help me distinguish between each idea. This helped me immensely when I studied and had to go back through all the stuff I had written down.

Now, these tools may not work for everyone. These are only the ones that I found useful. If the three I talked about do not peak your interest, the internet has many more resources and articles of advice. Do not waste away and let stress and disorganization overtake you. There may have to be some trial and error, but eventually, you will find something that works for you.

Written by Maddison

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Spring Cleaning

Now that spring is here, it is time for everyone’s favorite, or least favorite, annual activity: spring cleaning! While some despise it, others love it. Regardless of how we feel about it, it is a necessary evil for keeping our lives organized and clutter free. Although the general conception of spring cleaning is the sit-com picture of the whole family beating out rugs and throwing away useless old tchotchkes, there are more areas of life that need to be purged of unnecessary; our minds and our schedules also need some clearing out.  Spending any amount of time on reorganizing and reevaluating our lives can give us a fresh start each year.

We live in a busy world full of obligations. From school to work to extracurriculars there is a never-ending list of things we have to do. Often times, we find that other things take priority over our hobbies and personal lives. Although it doesn’t have to be spring to rearrange our schedules, spring cleaning gives us a good excuse. Cutting down on the number of unnecessary activities to make more time for ourselves is key in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Finding time in the day to breathe for a minute can help the rest of it run more smoothly. For example, I was recently juggling an unusually busy schedule and finding myself exhausted and overwhelmed at the end of the day. Between school, work, friends, and personal activities, there was no room for rest. I found that reserving a certain amount of time every day for specific activities helped me to get things done more efficiently, while also occasionally being willing to sacrifice social activities to get some extra sleep. Learning how to say “no” to things I knew I didn’t have time for was also an important factor in making time for myself. Overall, it has helped lessen my stress and made my daily activities more enjoyable. It is a process I highly recommend for everyone.

While rescheduling can help reduce some amount of anxiety, taking time to ease our minds will help even more. Once the free time has been created, the next step is finding ways to use that time to relax. Everyone is different, so the things we do to unwind will vary from person-to-person. However, every person has something they can do to take their mind off day-to-day worries. Whether it be meditation, exercise, or a certain hobby, taking the time to let all of the thoughts go, even for a minute, will help reduce tension. When I find myself getting overwhelmed, I will go for a walk outside or read a chapter or two of a favorite book. Reducing mental clutter has the same cathartic effect as cleaning out the attic or closet.

Spring is known as a time of rebirth and renewal, so why not take that as an opportunity to purge our lives of all the junk and have our own personal renewal, so to speak. Having a clean house, a clear schedule, and a clutter-free mind will make life run a little bit more smoothly. Taking a break and having some down time will give us a better sense of well-being.  However, more importantly, we must remember that the Lord is our ultimate source of peace. As it says in 1 Peter 5:7, “[Cast] all your anxieties on him because he cares for you.”

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Written by Taylor

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