Many People Say...No, Really, Many, Many People...

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"Finish strong. Don't just repeat your thesis -- bring the reader somewhere."

-I struggle so much with writing conclusions, because I have the tendency to repeat my thesis.  It's like I want the reader to see that all of my arguments have proven *exactly* what I'd promised they would prove.  However, after working on improving my conclusions, I've come to see the wastefulness of those kinds of conclusions.  Dr. Jerz gave me a different way to look at conclusions last week.  He said that conclusions are a destination, and a thesis is a starting point.  These two should be separate.  Why would the reader what to end up exactly where she started?

"Avoid vague references to "some people say" or "research shows." Name names. Interview sources yourself."

Dear God, yes.  I only recently realized how annoying such generalizations were the other day when I was trying to do some research for another paper.  I needed to find the source of several quotes, or attributed opinions, but instead of telling the reader *who* had said something in the first place, the writers insisted on saying, "Many critics feel..."  I ended up nearly screaming at the screen, "Who are these people and where can I find their criticisms?!?"  Anyway, "many people say" is not going to win many arguments.  How many is "many"?  Who are these "people"?  Does the reader really care if the people you're referring to are just Joe Nobodies off the street and your piece really requires a quote from an expert?  Taking the time to get a real quote, instead of basically textually shrugging away specifics, can be the difference in an article.

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5 Comments

Greta Carroll said:

Josie, yes, I struggled with my conclusions for a while too. I didn’t even realize that your conclusion was supposed to be so different from the introduction. In fact, I think the explanations I was given during high school about what an introduction and conclusion were probably confused me. I think reading so much literary criticism last semester and seeing how critics actually handle the two is what really helped me understand what the two should be. Conclusions should show growth and development. Your conclusion should grow from the main points you made throughout your paper, your conclusion should not be possible until the end of the paper. If you can move your conclusion from the end of your paper to the beginning without any loss of meaning or confusion, it’s probably not a good conclusion.

As for the habit of leaving out people’s specific names, that always annoys me too. And anyone who is reading your article with a careful eye will spot this immediately. It makes you seem a lot less credible to just say “some people say…” It makes it seem like you are hiding who these people are and that they must not be credible sources.

Jeanine O'Neal said:

On conclusions: It's a great thing to keep in mind that conclusions are the destination. But I think to tell someone who reiterates her thesis in a conclusion that this quote is the key to writing better conclusions does not work.

I hate writing conclusions. I never really know what to say:

1. One teacher told me to summarize my main points.

2. Another teacher told me to rephrase my introductory paragraph.

3. End with a quote that relates to your paper.

4. Never end with a quote.

5. Make one final point.

6. Address the opposing view point briefly and then shoot it down.

Yada yada yada...blah blah blah.

The truth of the matter is that any paper, any introduction, any conclusion works! It just depends on who is reading it how effectively it works.

There is no right and wrong way to write something. There is only one way of reading soemthing, a second way of reading something, an Nth to the 12th power way of reading something (you get my drift).

If I listended to all these ways I've been told to write a conclusion, it would be as long as the essay itself. So my advice would be to just make a point in whatever way you see fit.

Michelle Tantlinger said:

Your entry made me laugh because I agree with you completely. Who are “THEY???” It’s a question a reader should never have after reading a good article. And I think this is just as important with an editorial because mentioning actual names and sources shows the reader that the journalist put time and effort into their article.

Aja Hannah said:

Conclusions in news aren't like conclusions in essays. It is similar, I'd state my thesis or problem, but I'd also state a solution or wrap up with a quote (like the Jeanine's teach said not to). I'm used to the inverted pyramid where everything important is at the top so I keep conclusions really short.

Josie Rush said:

As Greta says: "Conclusions should show growth and development." I couldn't have said it better myself. Obviously. I think that though conclusions may vary, (Aja intelligently points out that newswriting conclusions are shorter than those in an essay), if they don't show growth, they don't work. In that case, Jeanine, I disagree slightly with what you said here, "any paper, any introduction, any conclusion works." Sometimes, things just don't "work". Though I understand where that statement came from, because we hear so many contradicting rules that aren't always applicable. Michelle, I am glad to hear I'm not the only one who has wondered about the identity of the mysterious "they".

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