Reading & Literacy Opinion

Do NOT Repeat What You’ve Said, Leave The Reader Thinking in Your Conclusion

By Starr Sackstein — December 13, 2015 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Can you imagine reading a work of fiction that brilliantly introduces the ideas held in the novel only to realize when you got to the last page that the concluding chapter was identical to the opening one?

Perhaps if reading a work of Russian fiction with pages numbering in the near thousands that may be necessary but for papers written in academic settings, a conclusion should never merely repeat the introduction.

Honestly, that doesn’t give too much credit to the reader and feels lazy on behalf of the writer.

Truly deftly written papers should leave a reader thinking.

Coming upon the concluding paragraph can be daunting and perhaps the easy thing to do is summarize what you’ve said to do a little recap for the reader.

You think you’re doing them a service, but you aren’t.

Consider the hourglass shape of an essay. Starting broad with context in the introductory paragraph, slimming down to get to the meat in the body paragraphs and then moving broad again in the conclusion. This way the paper feels balanced.

Here are some ways to consider ending that will leave readers talking:

  • In a maximum of two to three sentences, wrap up your final thoughts as you transition from the narrower part of the essay and move into the broader context of the paper again.
  • Review the context that started the essay and bring the ideas back to the top, so that you reconnect with the context but take it one step farther.

    • For example, if you talked about love or marriage in an introductory paragraph to engage readers and then the essay was about varying perspectives from the text, when the writer goes broad again, he/she can go back into the idea of marriage or love in the 21st century and how perhaps it has changed or not. Perhaps make a final connection to something every reader would understand as a comparison that directly links back to the predominant ideas argued in the paper.
  • Although I don’t love an abundance of rhetorical questions, when used appropriately, they can engage a reader when concluding ideas are being made.
  • Remember not to add any new evidence from the text in a concluding paragraph. This should all be done in the previous paragraphs when building the argument.
  • Don’t leave any lose ends in the paper. Everything should tie up nicely in terms of what you are trying to prove or argue; it’s okay to reference these ideas in the final paragraph, but also tie them to the reader.
  • Do NOT merely cut and paste your introductory paragraph, allowing it to serve as your conclusion as well.
  • Try to avoid simple transitions like “In Conclusion, in summation, as you can see, etc” - seeing as the reader is at the final paragraph of the paper, it is safe to assume that you are concluding.

Writing an essay is truly an art form and the concluding paragraph needs to be as powerful as the introductory paragraph was at hooking the reader to begin with. As we leave our readers with final thoughts about what we’ve sought to prove, we encourage them to linger on our ideas. A good concluding paragraph does this.

What would you like to linger over? How do you encourage students to finish strong when writing essays? Please share

Related Tags:

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attendance Awareness Month: The Research Behind Effective Interventions
More than a year has passed since American schools were abruptly closed to halt the spread of COVID-19. Many children have been out of regular school for most, or even all, of that time. Some
Content provided by AllHere
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Reading & Literacy Spotlight Spotlight on Literacy in Education
In this Spotlight, evaluate the possible gaps your current curriculum may have and gain insights from the front-lines of teaching.
Reading & Literacy Opinion Teachers, More Than Programs, Make for Great Reading Instruction
Let's focus on specific teaching practices, not confusing labels like "balanced literacy," write Irene C. Fountas and Gay Su Pinnell.
Irene C. Fountas & Gay Su Pinnell
5 min read
Children reading books in front of books.
iStock/Getty Images
Reading & Literacy Creator of 1619 Project Launching After-School Literacy Program
The 1619 Freedom School, led by journalist Nikole Hannah-Jones, will make its curriculum a free online resource in 2022.
4 min read
Collage of an American Flag.
Collage: Laura Baker/Education Week (Images: iStock/Getty)
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Reading & Literacy Whitepaper
Scaffolding to Achieve Grade-Level Literacy
In this whitepaper, Curriculum Associates National Director Kandra James explores how scaffolding, the use of instructional techniques an...
Content provided by Curriculum Associates