A Future-oriented Affair
Because many writers have been told to simply repeat the essence of the argument in the conclusion, their function seems superfluous, especially in a relatively short paper where the argument doesn’t need to be repeated and doing so may be more annoying than helpful since the reader has just completed reading that same argument. Repeating the gist of the paper “Therefore, as you can see, there are three types of volcanoes in the world. . .” is silly and non-functional.
Instead, use the concluding section of your paper (a paragraph or two) to aim the analysis or argument you’ve just made toward some future use or iteration. Think of the conclusion not as backward-looking (Here’s what I just did), but as forward-leaning (Here are some ways in which my argument might apply to future occasions of inquiry). In the conclusion, then, you may:
- suggest new avenues of future inquiry that extend from the points you have made in your paper
- remind readers what work still lies ahead. You have made a start, but the analytic work is far from finished.
- respond to the question: “So, where does this leave us?” which is way to account for what’s been done and what’s left undone
a writer establishes the relevance of the argument just made to the wider social or intellectual world:
In our current political moment, when many citizens are losing faith in the traditions for democratic governance and the question the health of democratic ideals , Susan Griffin’s “Liberty” provides a model for reclaiming the ideals set forth in the Declaration of Independence. Her method for rediscovering values introduced in childhood illustrates a procedure for placing us back on the path to democratic wellness. Her technique of experiential recovery can be practiced by most every citizen who wishes to fortify his or her understanding of how democratic ideals anchor our lives. It catalyzes deep, critical reflection in the face of political anxiety, and trains energy on individual agency while it supports what might be called “political insight,” of a sort not unlike the founding fathers who looked inward for their revolutionary lights. In our era of collapsing political ethics, it many be more important than ever for each citizen to enage in critical reflection of the very sort Griffin models.
a writer might locate the benefits of an argument just made to understanding some persistent problem:
Adding to its value as an experiment in political thinking, Griffin’s work may hold educational utility in civic education. For some time, educators have struggled to locate a set of tools for enhancing their students’ understanding of complex political values such as equality, justice, and freedom. Like many other citizens, students tend to envision these as important but abstract ideals that bear little connection to the process of living one’s civic life. Susan Griffin can guide us in bridging the disconnect between political ideals and personal realities, helping citizens understand that personal reflection bears public benefits.
a writer might suggest a wider application of the argument just made, thereby reinforcing its relevance:
Allen’s fifteen-week close reading of the Declaration of Independence, carried out with residents of the community surrounding the University of Chicago, suggests a model for civic engagement at other colleges and universities. At Davidson, for instance, one could quite readily arrange a local reading group or series of mini-seminars attended by local residents eager to improve the political climate of their town and the nation more generally. Such an effort, focused as it would be on residents’ own interpretations, would put Davidson in the enviable position of facilitating strong conversation rather than directing it, seeding an effort that could spread to groups, organizations, or even families elsewhere.