Chapter 12: INTRODUCTIONS & CONCLUSIONS
How do you develop introductions and
This chapter offers tips and basic methods for
writing an introductory and a concluding paragraph for a paper.
Overall Purpose or Structure
Introductions and conclusions should be your
strongest writing. In a shorter paper, they should be just one
paragraph each. In a longer paper (over ten pages), they sometimes can be
two or occasionally three paragraphs each as long as the readers clearly can see
where the introduction ends, and where the conclusion starts.
You may start each with a subtitle or with a key
phrase such as "In conclusion,...." Introductions are meant to be
relatively short and sweet: that is, they should be quickly readable, give a
sense of what the paper will be like, and provide some kind of emotional
interest or punch that attracts the reader. You should stick with facts (or the
main opinion in an opinion paper), but the facts should be interesting to the
reader in a way that may make him or her want to read more.
The best time to write the introduction and
conclusion is after writing the rest of the paper. In this way, you
won't--as often happens--spend a long time trying to write the perfect
introduction when you start a paper; instead, you can get to the writing of the
body right away. Writing the body first also gives you time to feel and
think your way toward writing for your specific audience. A strong
introduction tends to be strongest when you know best what you want to say and
to whom, and those two discoveries tend to be strongest after you have finished
writing the body of the paper. In fact, a good order in which to write a paper,
especially one with a new subject or audience for you, may be as follows:
Body sections (in any order--you can rearrange them
later, if need be)
most writing situations, you should summarize your main point and your several
parts or proofs in both your introduction and your conclusion.
There is an old maxim from speech that works extremely well in
writing, too: “First tell them what you’re going to say, then say it, and then
tell them what you said.” In some forms of writing, you should do this as
briefly and efficiently as possible. In others, you might want to linger and
provide more detail, examples, quotations, charts, stories, etc. Let your
audience be your guide.
Many papers use a strong quotation in the
introduction and another in the conclusion. While you generally should start
an introduction or conclusion in your own words, turning to a quotation sometime
after the first sentence or two, sooner or later, can highlight exactly what you
want to say in an expert’s words. You don’t want a quotation that is
highly general or common (and no “Great Sayings” quotations in college!).
Instead, you want a quotation that will probably be new to your audience and
more specific to your paper's issue. Why is a quotation powerful? You want
to show your audience what experts say. What kind of quotation is best?
If possible, you should choose the strongest quotation from your best expert for
your introduction, and your second strongest and best for your conclusion.
That creates a stronger beginning and end.
One way to choose strong beginning and ending
quotations is to look at the quotations you may already have in your paper, and
then move one each to your introduction and conclusion. If you need
replacement quotations for the body of your paper, find new ones to replace the
ones you moved. Another way to find strong beginning and ending quotations is to
be on the lookout, as you begin your research, for quotations that might work
well for a strong beginning and ending. experts. A third way to look
specifically at the first and last paragraphs of chapters or books that you are
using as sources: sometimes the authors provide very strong and sufficiently
general quotations on your subject to be used in your own introduction and
Sometimes starting or ending with a
anecdote is good. An "anecdote" is a very short,
true story or description of an event written in as little as a few sentences
(or as much as several paragraphs). It can be added anywhere in your
paper--you may have a number of them if the paper may use people's experiences
to help prove or demonstrate points. A true story is the most powerful
form of anecdote because a story is not just an event. Rather, it is an
event with a problem and a possible or real solution. If you know of a real
story--an event that illustrates a problem--one that is your own or a friend’s, or one from an article, book, or other source, and
if you can write it in 25-100 words, then this might provide a strong anecdote
for an introduction or conclusion.
If you use quotations or anecdotes, always “sandwich” your
quotations or stories with introductory, explanatory,
and concluding phrases or sentences. Your introduction and your conclusion are
the absolute last two places in your essay where you want to accidentally
confuse your reader, so explain the source, purpose, and meaning of a quotation
or story at least briefly both before and after it.
Here are examples of introductory and concluding
content in four types of papers. This graph comes from "Chapter 8:
Topic Sent. #1
Topic Sent. #2
Topic Sent. #3
Client or Patient
Plan & Results
Abstract of Paper
(Summary of Contents)
brief summary of
Methods for Introductions
method of writing an introduction is to start with the your basic, bare-bones
main point and the parts or proofs you will use to explain or argue it.
Many people—those who know very well already what they will
say—often start this way and then later, in the revising stage, fill out their
Another method of making a
strong introduction is to write it last, after you are
done with the rest of the paper. In high school and college, I used to
spend a few hours trying to get started with an introduction that was stirring,
structurally correct, and logically accurate. Finally, one day I gave up
in frustration and just decided to do it later. I put it off—meanwhile
writing the rest of the paper—only to find, a few days and pages later, that
once my first draft of the paper was done, I had a very good idea of exactly
what to say in my introduction. After that, I always wrote the
introductions last—and made very good ones in a matter of ten or fifteen
some writing situations, your introduction can state a problem.
And your essay is the solution. This creates a drama with
greater reader interest caused by the tension between the problem and the
introduction should always at least briefly restate your main points or refer to
them, and then in clear and logical language restate your main point.
If you do nothing else, you must at least do this much.
Methods for Conclusions
Conclusions should always summarize the
important points or parts of your paper. They also should be relatively
efficient yet still pack a strong punch or final interesting point, even if
briefly made. Generally, they also should end with the kind of emotional feeling
or appeal that your readers expect in the type of paper you are writing--factual
and efficient, factual and detailed, positive, constructively negative, et al.
method of writing a conclusion is to provide a look at the future.
This look at the future should envision what will happen if your final idea,
argument, or conclusion comes to pass in reality. Sometimes all it takes is a
sentence, sometimes several. You even can refer to both potential good and bad
Another method in some types of papers is to
conclude by mentioning the outcomes and/or your credentials. This is
especially true in some types of business or professional writing if the paper
is short or in letter format. The expected outcomes of a suggested path,
plan, or activity provide a final mention of the positive nature of what could
happen. Placing your credentials briefly in the final paragraph is a
professional way of showing modesty by not mentioning them earlier. (However, if
there may be significant doubt in the readers' minds about your abilities, you
may need to place your credentials briefly in your introduction.)
As above, quotations and/or anecdotes may help.
If you do provide a strong quotation and/or anecdote in the conclusion, you
usually should have one in the introduction, as well, to create the positive
effect of parallelism--you have ended as you have started. Be sure it is
relevant to your main point or main outcome, and if necessary, explain
it--though not too much, as a good final quotation or anecdote should be strong
and clear enough to be, for the most part, self-explanatory.
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