Effective scholarly writing requires a compelling thesis, a substantive body set within sound structure and a conclusion that ties the work together. A reader should feel enlightened for having read the work. It's no wonder, then, that some high school students have difficulty even starting their papers. One useful tip is to write both intros and conclusions last. Writing an introduction before the body is written is like trying to build a pyramid from the top down.
Don’t Write the Intro First
As counterintuitive as it may sound, you might not want to begin the writing process with your introduction. Particularly when writing a research paper, it’s difficult to build an intro before you’ve gathered enough evidence to fully understand the topic. It's often better to first write the body of the assignment. Once you have fleshed out the most important bits of information, it will be easier to formulate a thesis and an effective introduction to your work.
Make a Good First Impression
Journalists understand that they have only a sentence or two to grab a reader’s attention and pull him into the story. Regardless of the type of writing, you should follow that journalistic credo. In those first few sentences, you need to convince your reader that what is coming will be worth his time and effort. The University of North Carolina Writing Center reminds its students that the introduction should make “readers want to read your paper” and offers a few tips on how to do just that. It suggests opening with a story, quote, example or question as an “invitation” to the reader to join an “interesting intellectual conversation.”
Have a Clear Thesis
Often coming at the end of an introductory paragraph, a well-developed thesis statement informs the reader what the point of the whole paper is. Vanderbilt University compares the thesis to the case an attorney would make before a judge and jury. It should identify a topic and give a summary of what the paper will discuss on that subject.
Conclude, Don’t Summarize
Students often mistakenly take the opportunity of a conclusion to summarize what they’ve already stated in their papers. A true conclusion is not a summary but rather a synthesis. It takes all of the ideas presented in the paper and looks at them for areas of similarity, overlap and contrast, and it offers a well-thought-out analysis of the information.
The conclusion should refer to the very beginning of the paper. A good conclusion should answer the questions first presented in the introduction. It should also answer queries put forth in the body of the paper and tie up loose ends.
A conclusion doesn’t necessarily offer the final word on a given topic. Effective conclusions will, however, point out areas for further research, study and possible courses of action. According to the UNC Writing Center, effective conclusions should “propel your reader to a new view of the subject.” Rather than giving the reader a single answer, you might offer new questions on the topic.
- Columbia University Computer Science: Writing a Good Introduction
- University of North Carolina Writing Center: Introductions
- University of North Carolina Writing Center: Conclusions
- Utah State University: A Guide to Writing in History
- Vanderbilt University Writing Studio: How to Write a Thesis Statement
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