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Tips For Writing Introductions, Thesis Statements, And Conclusions

Everything in nature has structure, something to hold it together; essays also have structure. Parts of that structure that can be challenging to write are introductions, thesis statements, and conclusions. Let’s look at ways to ease that challenge.

Introductions

Good introductions:

  • make readers want to read the essay,
  • explain key terms and background information readers may be unfamiliar with,
  • establish the tone and style of the essay, and
  • give a sense of where the essay is going.

Starting with a generalization or definition, such as, “A major issue in today’s society is the death penalty,” might work in high school. In college, try something more original.

Creating an opening that attracts attention yet is formal and closely connected to the topic is tricky. Starting with an anecdote or quote can work if it is concise and formal and requires no more than a sentence afterward to explain its relevance to the topic. Also, starting with a statistic or interesting fact from a source can attract attention but be hard to integrate with your voice as a writer. I find this strategy makes it easy to slip into mentioning a bunch of research in the introduction, where it doesn’t belong. Use with caution.

Thesis Statements

In academic writing, the thesis is usually the final sentence of the introduction. You don’t have to write the thesis in the first draft. Writing the thesis is particularly difficult when you’re unsure what the main points will be.

I usually start by stating the subject of the essay and the word is. Then, I add the main points. The result is something like, “The death penalty is controversial because [reason 1] and because [reason 2].”

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Another approach is writing the question that the essay answers. For example, the question could be, “Why is the death penalty controversial?” Then, write a clear answer to that question in a sentence. That sentence could work as the thesis.

A third approach is writing a sentence that summarizes the content of the essay. Imagine the reader only has time to read one sentence about the topic. What should that sentence say?

A good thesis is arguable and neither too broad nor too specific. With practice, writing thesis statements will become easier.

Conclusions

Like introductions, conclusions should be general. They should not add new details, arguments, or sources. In high school, summarizing the essay’s content could be sufficient. To make the conclusion stronger, try summarizing and ending with a clincher.

Clinchers help readers transition from reading the essay to whatever activity they did before reading. Referring to the future is a way to make that transition. My favorite clinchers are recommendations, calls to action, and predictions. They can also refer to something mentioned in the first sentence to make the essay come full circle.

Writing introductions, thesis statements, and conclusions can be tricky, but they add vital structure to essays. Readers appreciate that structure. With practice, I promise these elements will become easier to write!

This originally appeared as a blog post I wrote for blog.enroll.com

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