Activity Thirtyeight Investigating conclusions

Look for some conclusions in your own work or in any reading you are doing. Check them against the above list. What are these conclusions doing? Do they work well to sum up for the reader the message of the text?

Sometimes conclusions show what the author considers is important, but you need to have read the whole of the essay to understand this. This is why students sometimes think that the conclusion is the place where the writer can express their own opinion. Beware of this idea, however, because the conclusion still has to follow on from the whole piece of writing. You can't spend the whole essay putting two sides of an argument, for example about capital punishment, and then simply say, 'Well, what I think is . . .'. By this stage, you should have built up a case for your point of view, and you will probably have signalled this in the introduction. Then make sure that you follow this through in your conclusion.

Is it necessary to draw a final conclusion? Can't you just stop when you have finished what you want to say? In some subjects it is absolutely expected that the writer makes a definite conclusion. Sometimes, though, especially when you are writing a short piece, it is a good idea to stop when you have said all that you want to say - when you feel you have reached the end of your argument. You may have signposted your way through the piece so that your reader does not need a final 'sum-up' section. Again, remember to fit your work to the task. For the writer who writes according to a 'grand plan' (see Chapter 6), this approach can work. Beware, however - it can mean that you are treating a university assignment more like a journalism article (or a novel) where you can afford to leave things hanging in the air or expect the reader to do more of the work. In university assignments you tend to need to be very explicit and spell things out.

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