Introductions and Conclusions

The hardest part of writing any academic paper seems to be either the introduction or conclusion. When we first learn about these things, we are told they are one paragraph only, that the introduction should contain our main idea and our conclusion should restate what we've already said in the essay to "sum up." However, that seems to always fall like a dead weight at the beginning and the end of our essays. Below are some helpful definitions, tips, and pitfalls of writing introductions and conclusions.


It is the job of the introduction to:

If all you do in your introduction is offer the thesis in two or three sentences, your introduction falls like a dead weight onto the reader's lap. There are a number of different strategies to use for an introduction, including (but not limited to):

In other words, your introduction has to let the reader know why it's important for him/her to read the paper/essay, why it's important to do this analysis, and what you're going to do to achieve your goal.

Pitfalls to writing introductions:

  1. Writing thesis only. As I said, dead weight. This is too blunt, and the reader is likely to mutiny and stop reading altogether. You must engage the reader with more than a blunt statement.
  2. Trying to fit your thesis in one sentence. This can make your thesis seem way to general or convoluted. Use as many sentences as you need without being repetitive.
  3. Saying "In this paper/essay I will…" This brings undue attention to the fact that you are writing a paper. That is obvious, and there are other ways to phrase your thesis in a more interesting and descriptive way.
  4. A page and a half of summary before you get to the point of why you're summarizing. You've got to give the reader the context he/she needs, but you also have to keep your summaries applicable to your thesis. Remember the 25-word summary exercise? This is a good exercise to practice using in an introduction.
  5. Not mentioning the authors' full name or the full (and correct and underlined) titles of the book(s) to be discussed.


In contrast, when we write conclusions, we have already given birth to a big baby, and barely have anything left to give! This is when we revert and simply restate what we've already said before. Sometimes we even start to conclude before our concluding paragraph even begins, and then we're being redundantly repetitive!

A conclusion's job is to:

When you "shed new light," you are not bringing in new evidence of support for your thesis. This would make your conclusion more support, not a conclusion. Shedding new light on the subject is to take into consideration what the reader has learned from your essay, and to apply it to something greater. For example, if you were writing about the theme of love in Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, you might choose to comment on the contemporary role love plays in our modern dramas and movies.

Some strategies for developing a conclusion:

Pitfalls to Conclusions

Whether you are writing an introduction or a conclusion, your main consideration should be your audience. They are the reason you are presenting this information, and how they understand the importance you place on this subject is important to how the whole essay is received. It certainly isn't an easy job, but with practice and enough consideration and preparation, your introductions and conclusions can be just the thing to "stick the landing" for your essays. In a way, you are a host at your own essay party. You must invite your guests in, provide the food, music, and entertainment for them to have a great (clear understanding) party experience, and you must also show them the door with a plate of leftovers and an echo of the evening's experiences.

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