Comparison Essay Writing Help: Concluding Your Paper
Writing teachers spend a significant amount of time helping their students craft interesting introductions. They also help their students with adding useful evidence and explanations to their essays. Unfortunately, those same writing teachers tend to neglect teaching their students the best ways to conclude their essays. All of the different types of essays, from persuasive to narrative, compare-contrast to informational, require different types of conclusions, which is why it is so important for teachers to share effective techniques with their students. The compare-contrast paper has the most complicated conclusion, when compared to the other types of essays.
Necessary Concluding Components
In all types of essays, the conclusions do need to have the same components. Each conclusion needs to have a restated purpose statement, as well as a connection back to the hook. The difference between the comparison essays and the others is what writers should put in between the restated purpose statement and the connection back to the hook. The middle section of the conclusion should include the ideas that are being compared and the significant differences or similarities. The conclusion is the last place you have to leave the readers thinking about your ideas, so you must add an interesting connection to the comparison you are creating.
Longer Paragraphs with Powerful Sentences and Ideas
Many students think that concluding paragraphs should be short, between three and five sentences. This could not be farther from the truth. Conclusions are an equally important part of the essay, so students should spend time there. Depending on the topic of your paper, you could actually work on leaving the reader with actions to take and thoughts to ponder. This cannot be done in three or four short sentences. Conclusions can have more than one paragraph, especially when the comparison is complex and requires some extra explanations.
Spend Time on the Conclusion to Prove Your Point Clearly
When you write your conclusion for your comparison essay, spend time on it. If you neglect the conclusion, your essay will feel choppy and incomplete. In order to prove the comparison to your readers, you need to show that you can draw conclusions that people might not realize and the end of the essay is the perfect to finalize the ideas. By leaving the conclusion empty or too short, your readers will not believe that you were fully capable of completing your ideas.
So much is at stake in writing a conclusion. This is, after all, your last chance to persuade your readers to your point of view, to impress yourself upon them as a writer and thinker. And the impression you create in your conclusion will shape the impression that stays with your readers after they've finished the essay.
The end of an essay should therefore convey a sense of completeness and closure as well as a sense of the lingering possibilities of the topic, its larger meaning, its implications: the final paragraph should close the discussion without closing it off.
To establish a sense of closure, you might do one or more of the following:
- Conclude by linking the last paragraph to the first, perhaps by reiterating a word or phrase you used at the beginning.
- Conclude with a sentence composed mainly of one-syllable words. Simple language can help create an effect of understated drama.
- Conclude with a sentence that's compound or parallel in structure; such sentences can establish a sense of balance or order that may feel just right at the end of a complex discussion.
To close the discussion without closing it off, you might do one or more of the following:
- Conclude with a quotation from or reference to a primary or secondary source, one that amplifies your main point or puts it in a different perspective. A quotation from, say, the novel or poem you're writing about can add texture and specificity to your discussion; a critic or scholar can help confirm or complicate your final point. For example, you might conclude an essay on the idea of home in James Joyce's short story collection, Dubliners, with information about Joyce's own complex feelings towards Dublin, his home. Or you might end with a biographer's statement about Joyce's attitude toward Dublin, which could illuminate his characters' responses to the city. Just be cautious, especially about using secondary material: make sure that you get the last word.
- Conclude by setting your discussion into a different, perhaps larger, context. For example, you might end an essay on nineteenth-century muckraking journalism by linking it to a current news magazine program like 60 Minutes.
- Conclude by redefining one of the key terms of your argument. For example, an essay on Marx's treatment of the conflict between wage labor and capital might begin with Marx's claim that the "capitalist economy is . . . a gigantic enterprise ofdehumanization"; the essay might end by suggesting that Marxist analysis is itself dehumanizing because it construes everything in economic -- rather than moral or ethical-- terms.
- Conclude by considering the implications of your argument (or analysis or discussion). What does your argument imply, or involve, or suggest? For example, an essay on the novel Ambiguous Adventure, by the Senegalese writer Cheikh Hamidou Kane, might open with the idea that the protagonist's development suggests Kane's belief in the need to integrate Western materialism and Sufi spirituality in modern Senegal. The conclusion might make the new but related point that the novel on the whole suggests that such an integration is (or isn't) possible.
Finally, some advice on how not to end an essay:
- Don't simply summarize your essay. A brief summary of your argument may be useful, especially if your essay is long--more than ten pages or so. But shorter essays tend not to require a restatement of your main ideas.
- Avoid phrases like "in conclusion," "to conclude," "in summary," and "to sum up." These phrases can be useful--even welcome--in oral presentations. But readers can see, by the tell-tale compression of the pages, when an essay is about to end. You'll irritate your audience if you belabor the obvious.
- Resist the urge to apologize. If you've immersed yourself in your subject, you now know a good deal more about it than you can possibly include in a five- or ten- or 20-page essay. As a result, by the time you've finished writing, you may be having some doubts about what you've produced. (And if you haven't immersed yourself in your subject, you may be feeling even more doubtful about your essay as you approach the conclusion.) Repress those doubts. Don't undercut your authority by saying things like, "this is just one approach to the subject; there may be other, better approaches. . ."
Copyright 1998, Pat Bellanca, for the Writing Center at Harvard University