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Gordon DesBrisay, History Faculty

Intro and Conclusion

What do you look for in an introduction and conclusion?

I guess in terms of what a strong introductory paragraph... What I look for is clarity. Again, that's where the writing comes in. If it's...If the writing is muddled, if the sentence... I think of, sometimes...in terms of a snag. If my eye catches as I'm trying to read it... If I can read an essay without lifting my pencil, that's a sort of minor miracle, or if I'm only lifting it to engage with the argument in the margins, that's fantastic. But if I have to wield it right from the get go, as to trying to figure out, trying to reroute, trying to suggest how this sentence is put together awkwardly or there's a word missing or something... Attend to that stuff: clarity, map out where it's going to go. I think, at the end, the conclusion of the essay should really be not just a repetition of what you already said but a weighing up, a summarizing, or not a... at least a summary of the argument, building towards your final answer to whatever the issue or problem or question [is]. It can be a...It can directly address that thesis statement, and the two of them should probably be written in close consultation with one another. You might want to begin with a draft of an introductory paragraph and then write the body of the essay, in the course of which, you will probably figure things out and learn more and go check things. Get to the conclusion, figure out what it's all about, and then go and rewrite your introduction knowing where the story ends. It's not cheating to do that. You probably had to actually have some kind of introduction to begin with. Understand that you have to go back and revise it, because it's really only at the end, having written this story, the argument, through, that you fully understand what it is you want to say, and what you've said. You could, probably, just lift it and put it up front, or switch things around a bit to do complementary versions one way or another at the beginning and the end.