Introductions and conclusions are among the most difficult parts of a paper, even for experienced writers. How do you catch a reader’s attention early on? How do you avoid summarizing an argument at an essay’s end? Though there are no cut-and-dry answers, several writing activities can help you craft a stronger introduction and conclusion.

Look for Effective Models

Ask your teacher or search the Web for examples of well-written papers. After collecting ten strong essays, use different colored highlighters to identify commonalities between the papers. Make note of patterns in the introductions and conclusions, the way the thesis is presented or how the essay hooks the reader. See if the conclusions summarize the body paragraphs of the papers or push the analysis of the body paragraphs a step further. When writing your own papers, think about the similarities you see in well-written papers, and include those same strategies in your own work.

Save Your Introduction for the End

Rather than writing a paper from start to finish, start your essay with your argument in the body of your paper. After finishing these body paragraphs, you’ll have a better idea of your essay's purpose. The course of writing an argument can frequently make for a better and more sophisticated thesis than you could have articulated before beginning the paper. Once you’ve established exactly what you want to argue, go back to the beginning and describe what you discuss in the body of the essay.

Start with a Bang

Think about your favorite books and movies. Few of them start or end with an explanation of the theme or argument. By catching your reader's attention early on with a concrete image or a question, you’re more likely to keep the reader engaged in your argument from beginning to end. Ending a conclusion with a similarly strong and engrossing statement helps to finish your paper the way it began, creating a sense of satisfaction and completion for the reader.

Consider a Call to Action

Many students are encouraged to think of a conclusion as a place to sum up the ideas of their paper. Yet a much stronger way of concluding an argument is to explain how your analysis works on a larger scale. By experimenting with a call to action in your conclusion, you can establish for your reader exactly why the analysis in your argument was important beyond the pages of the paper, in the larger world. This connection to issues beyond the specific ones you’ve dealt with will give your argument the opportunity for resonance in a wider audience than just one teacher.