Guilford College Writing Manual

This is the official Guilford College Writing Manual. A collaboration between the English Department and the Hege Library.



Take another look at the diagram of the thesis/proof essay above.

The conclusion appears as a right-side-up triangle because a good model for what happens in the conclusion is the reverse of what happens in the introduction.

The social transaction with the reader is ending now. Usually, you have two main things to accomplish before you set the reader free return to her world from the world of your paper. One is to get your main point into sharp focus; the other is to establish the larger significance of what your paper has demonstrated--the "so what?" question, in other words.

In an argument-type paper, the answer to the "so what?" question might be a call to action. In a typical analytic paper, the answer might lie in a consideration of your conclusion in a more general context.

Take the following concluding paragraph, for example. It comes from a paper titled "Magic Happens" written by Gwyn Cliver. Like Lori in the body paragraph example above, Gwyn is using Carol Pearson's Magician archetype, though this time to analyze author Zora Neale Hurston as the latter presents herself in her autobiography Dust Tracks on a Road:

Being a Magician distinguishes Hurston from other black writers of the time. Because she writes in Southern black dialect and exposes cultural differences, the Harlem Renaissance dismisses her. Most authors of this genre tend to illustrate the Orpham, Martyr, Wanderer, or Warrior stage rather than acting as Magicians. The Orphans blame whole groups for the oppression of individuals, and do not understand that in addition to requesting change, people must take responsiibility for themselves. The Martyrs conform to the white intellectual community of readers, illustrated by the rejection of black dialect. The Wanderers separate themselves from society, and their works reflect this need to divide. The Warriors aggressively assert their ideas and creeds using their literary works as catalysts. Hurston, as a Magician, combines many of the characteristics of the other archetypes while also affirming others' differences and honoring the culture from which she came. Her works express these ideas and invite readers to consider the meaning and effect they have on society. Being a Magician allows Hurston to be herself and to understand the beauty and purpose of life.

Gwyn's main purpose in the paper has been to demonstrate that Hurston is a Magician. Having done that, here in the conclusion she goes one step further by explaining why Hurston's being a Magician is important: namely, it helps to establish Hurston's individuality and to set her apart from other Harlem Renaissance writers. In doing so, Gwyn also involves us in the larger context of Carol Pearson's book by bringing in other archetypes besides the Magician to establish her contrast. Note too that although Gwyn does not formally restate her thesis in this concluding paragraph, it is present in the paragraph's first three words, which establish a familiar foundation upon which the paragraph can now build.

The bottom line about conclusions: like every other aspect of paper-writing, the conclusion has its own standards for excellence. It deserves separate attention. You need to take creative time to devise the best strategy for your paper. Don't put yourself in the unfortunate position of saving the writing of the conclusion to the very end of the paper-writing process, when you're tired. Give the reader a burst of your best here. We know that readers are particularly attentive to conclusions, and want to take something fine from them. Think of the way you read.