Aerial view of campus with Williamsport, the Susquehanna River and Bald Eagle Mountain as a backdrop

Writing Introductions and Conclusions

  • It's best to write introductions and conclusions LAST for two reasons:
    • Your essay may change significantly while you're developing it, and then the intro will be inappropriate.
    • Struggling for a good intro is a sure step to developing writer's block.

Introductions Should Include

  • An intriguing lead-in that captures the audiences attention.
  • A clear announcement of the subject matter.
  • A specific thesis statement.

Ideas for Lead-Ins

  • An intriguing statement:
    • Ex: One has to wonder at Americans who pay millions of dollars a year for a prodecure about which they know nothing: embalming.
  • A startling statistic:
    • Ex: There are more people in prisons in the United States than there are in graduate schools, and the number is growing.
  • A question -- as long as the answer is obvious or you answer it in the next sentence.
    • Ex: Need money fast? Hold a garage sale.
  • A quotation or literary allusion:
    • Ex: "I'm happy to be here in the great state of Chicago, "remarked Dan Quayle, who perhaps should not consider running for the highest office in the land.
  • A relevant story, joke or anecdote:
    • Ex: When Mariah Carey was told about the death of the King of Jordan, she lamented that basketball had lost its greatest star. The King of Jordan may not be as famous as Michael, but his influence worldwide has surpassed even that of such a great athlete.
  • A description:
    • Ex: The man was neatly dressed, thin but apparently well. He finished the food in the lunch bag and then left the street corner and climbed into his car. The car did not move and was still parked there in the morning. I realized then that he was one of the legions of homeless.
  • A personal experience which has relevance to your topic -- always a good choice because it is uniquely yours.
  • An example or examples which you might have included in the body of the essay.
    • Ex: Chocolate, coffee, and diet pills -- these are only a few of the products that artificially stimulate us, stometimes without our awareness.
  • A statement of popular misconception:
    • Ex: Those who think that capital punishment is effective may be surprised to discover that statistics prove it has never been a deterrent to crime.
  • A comparison with your subject or a contrast to it:
    • Ex: I used to think "blackened" meant burnt, but since I've visited Cajun country, I have discovered a new cooking technique.
  • Remember to tie your lead-in smoothly to your thesis - use a good transition.

Ideas for Conclusions

  • A good conclusion makes a smooth flow from the previous paragraph, is relevant to all the major ideas in the essay, does not introduce new points and does not contradict the thesis.
  • A restatement of the thesis and the essay's major points but in different terms (for long essays only).
  • A statement about the significance of the essay's subject (why was it important for the reader to know what you just finished explaining?)
  • A statement of the essay's broader implications.
    • Ex: Because capital punishment is not a deterrent, it is necessary to seek new solutions to combat crime.
  • A call to action:
    • Ex: The fate of Chinese dissidents is still unkown. Action must be taken to spare them from torture and death.
  • A warning base on the essay's thesis:
    • Ex: If efforts to reduce and recycle are not soon put into effect, we will be polluting our own nest beyond habitation.
  • A quotation or story that sums up the essays point may be taken from your text or your personal experience, etc.
  • An image or description that lends a feeling of finality to the essay.
  • A question based on the essay's point that makes the reader think further about its implications. BUT the question must be carefully worded so that the reader does not wonder WHAT to think.