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What does a good conclusion look like?

Refer to QuickRef 5: Writing essays for a useful diagram illustrating the structure of an essay and how a conclusion fits in.

Your Conclusion is, like the Introduction, an important component of your piece of writing. It will sum up your argument with reference to the essay question. It may mention wider implications or future directions.

A conclusion is not simply a summary although it should include a summary. It's your chance to remind your reader what main point it was you wanted to make. One other feature of a good conclusion is that it matches your introduction. Refer to matching introductions and conclusions- in this case, for literature reviews. Refer, also, to a tutorial outlining the different possible conclusions to a question, depending on the focus you wish to take.

Example

Look at this example of matching introduction and conclusion from a well-regarded third year Nursing essay.

Click the highlights for an explanation of the key elements of the introduction and conclusion.

Introduction

Throughout the early 1990s, the Australian health care system underwent a period of significant transition, attempting to provide economic solutions to problems associated with matching limited resources to a growth in demand for health services (Picone & Hathaway, 1998). The question arises as to whether contemporary health care facilitates nurses in their roles or whether it compromises the provision of ethically based care in order to meet financial constraints. Thinking sociologically about nursing issues provides insights into how the working lives of nurses are shaped and how they are constrained by social expectations (Short, Sharman & Speedy, 1993). Willis' sociological imagination is a useful framework for analyzing the impact of the changes in health care on the Registered Nurse Division 1 and considering the effects on their leadership and management roles in day-to-day practice. This essay will begin by examining the historical aspects of health care and its impact on nursing roles and expectations. A social and cultural analysis will further appraise the tensions faced by nurses. A critical faculty will be brought to bear on the ethical implications of economic rationalism for nursing practice.

Conclusion

Minimising health costs remains an issue full of tensions between balancing individual rights and meeting fiscal constraints placed by the government on health care facilities. Nursing may still not constitute a major player in health care costing policies; however, given the ethical dilemmas fiscal constraints cause nurses, perhaps they should develop a concern for costs and voice this concern whenever the opportunity arises (McCloskey & Grace, 1997). While it is reassuring to promise nurses that exciting opportunities await them in Australia's transformed health care system, as highlighted by this paper, the relationship between the contemporary health care system and the Registered Nurse Division 1 is not so unproblematic. The use of the sociological imagination framework demonstrates that contemporary health care organizational structures have a variable impact on nurses.

In this case, the introduction sets the scene, essentially, for what kind of analysis and discussion the reader will be expected to see. The conclusion provides an answer to that analysis and critique: that ethical dilemmas do arise from fiscal constraints, and that contemporary health care arrangements do have an impact on nurses, and the student extends her conclusions with a call to action.

Using your conclusion to help guide your essay structure.

Many people find it useful to write their introduction after they have written their assignment. They find that it is through the process of writing their assignment that they clarify the overall point they wish to make in addressing the set topic. They then draft their introduction at the end, or they return to their initial attempt and re-write it. The conclusion can therefore help you re-structure your writing.

Example

Look at how this student has worked through her introductions and conclusions to finally arrive at an introduction she is happy with.

Click the highlights for an explanation of the elements of her draft introduction

Introduction

A. Initial draft is perhaps missing discussion of some significant issues, a clear line of argument and integration of the literature. The student here is still feeling her way…

Education is no longer focused on teachers transmitting knowledge they have inherited from previous teachers and books into the learner. The focus on today's education is on learners. My traditional view on education focused on the acquisition of knowledge with little or no requirement for students to think or express any view point. Hence, this paper will focus on my developing perspective on learning. Learners learn by knowledge construction, social experience, their self-awareness of knowledge construction, participation, ownership and voice in learning. Knowledge cannot be transmitted or 'injected' from a teacher to a learner. Rather, information must be acted upon by learners who construct understandings in order to make sense of messages and experiences. How learners construct meanings is very much influenced by the social situations they are in. The social situations may be learning by participation, observing and thinking. Some learners construct meanings by participation while others learn by doing and yet others do so by observing. As a teacher, I have to cater my teaching strategies to the different needs of individual learners.

Example B demonstrates a useful technique you can use if you are working out what it is you want to say

Click the highlights for an explanation of the elements of her reflective piece of writing

Introduction

B. A reflective draft in which she re-considers what it is that she is trying to get out of her written piece. Here, she re-focuses on the criteria of the question and her reflective practice, attempting to clarify the points she wishes to make.

This paper focuses on my perspective on learning. It is important for me to explore these perspectives as I prepare myself to the teaching climate of a classroom in secondary school. The basic tools I will bring to a classroom with include the design of teaching and learning experiences, effective classrooms management skills, the strategies and technologies used in teaching and learning. These tools are easily accessible from the schools curriculum or the state educational website. These tools will help me in preparing my lesson plans and syllabus for a particular level. Furthermore, throughout this course (Professional Issues 1) I have been introduced to numerous teaching strategies that I can employ during my teaching career. Above all these tools the most important ingredient to make a complete teacher is developing my own personal perspective on teaching with particular reference to how people learn. The true essence of developing my own personal perspective on learning and teaching can only be obtained if I am able to reflect upon myself as a teacher objectively. Being a reflective teacher is far more important than being a teacher who is fully equipped with all the teaching theories, strategies, sophisticated computers and impressive lesson plans and assessments. It is more crucial for me as a future teacher to examine critically the assumptions a school makes on 'acceptable' learning and teaching goals.

Click the highlights for an explanation of the elements of her draft conclusion

C. One of her initial conclusions which she uses to help her construct an introduction she is happy with; that reflects the growth in her perspective on learning.

There are many contending theories teachers can apply when addressing issues of how learners learn. Whichever theory a teacher takes to a classroom, it must match the type of learners a teacher is confronted with. As knowledge is something with which learners construct meaning and understanding based on their social, cultural situations and experiences, teachers must be aware how learners from different cultural backgrounds learn. Learners must be allowed to be responsible of their learning outcomes and objectives. This long life learning process calls teachers to be critically reflective of their own teaching and to be aware of the latest learning techniques available to help learners gain their full learning potential.

Click the highlights for an explanation of the elements of her final matching introduction and conclusion

D. Final versions – notice how the student has used her previous conclusion, C, to help her settle on an Introduction she is happy with? Notice, too, how her Conclusion has been re-cast to focus on the effect and role of teachers in student learning, an important point for her.

Introduction

The focus of today's education is on learners. During my school days 20 years ago, education focused on the acquisition of knowledge with little or no requirements for students to think or challenge any learning activity. However, today, learners learn by knowledge construction, social experience, observation and participation. How learners construct meanings is very much influenced by the social, cultural, experiential environments or backgrounds they are in. Cultural background has an influence over how learners learn and learners must be responsible for their own learning outcomes and objectives. In facilitating learning for different types of learners, teachers have to be critically reflective of their own teaching processes and be prepared to modify learning techniques to help learners gain the full potential of learning.

Matching Conclusion

In this paper I have highlighted my perspective on how learners learn. Education revolves around learners, hence learners learn through constructing meaning and understanding based on their social, cultural situations and experiences. Teachers play important roles in facilitating learning by allowing students to be responsible for their learning outcomes. In doing so, teachers themselves must be prepared to evaluate their own teaching practices through reflective teaching. Acknowledging that there are many different ways in which learners learn, teachers must therefore be prepared to modify and match the type learning to different learning situations.

General introduction to the topic
The issue to be discussed
Justification and rationale for using certain framework in her essay
Outline for the reader
Key point she has concluded on

Implication

This is an extension of what the student has argued in her essay. (Note that the use of the citation here reinforces her point.)

Reminder to the reader of the key arguments raised and explored in the essay
A certain tension she notes in educational practice
The reason for the essay
What she thinks about learners
A key point she wants to make
The point of the paper
Why she is writing the piece
The rationale for the piece
Key point

Overall argument

The teacher should adjust their techniques to the needs of their students

Main point 1

Learners construct their own meaning

Main point 2

Learners construct their own meaning based on social, cultural, experiential environments/backgrounds

Main point 3

Culture influences how learners learn

Main point 4

Main point 5

Teachers must be critically reflective to help learners learn

Reminder for the reader as to what her intentions were in the assignment
Main points raised in assignment, reminding the reader of the development of her discussion and rationale.
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