Posts Tagged conclusion

A stroke of genius – An example

Last week I talked about the key ingredient in changing a good essay into a great one – the ‘stroke of genius’. In this post I’ll provide an example of

You don't need to be Einstein to use a 'stroke of genius' in your essay

one I’ve written to give you an idea of what it might look like.

Note: There is no formula or template for adding a ‘stroke of genius’ to your essay. It is up to you how you phrase it and where you put it.

The example below is from the essay I used as my example for how to construct a conclusion.

This was most strongly apparent when they disagreed on the major issues of relevant daily pay and the selling of holidays. Interestingly enough, despite the employer’s unitarism, the review itself was a product of the pluralist model – it was a bargaining session. That is one of the reasons the subsequent Holidays Amendment Bill (2010) has been strongly opposed by the unions, they feel betrayed by the Government’s decision to not uphold the recommendations they bargained for during the review (“Unions urge Government to protect worker leave entitlements”, 2010). In fact, in some regards, while initially portraying a democratic pluralist approach to fixing the Holidays Act (2003), the Government has now switched to a unitarist approach to do what it feels is best for New Zealand as a whole.

That’s it? That’s a ‘stroke of genius’?

Yes it is. It doesn’t have to be in the same realm as E=mc2, all you need to do is make a few clever connections between the evidence you’ve provided in your body paragraphs. Not too hard is it?

Where, when, what

Where and When: I usually place my ‘stroke of genius’ in my conclusion as part of my twist like I have done in this example. While this is a very good place for it, if your essay’s argument is itself a ‘stroke of genius’ then you will need to make your insightful links throughout your essay – usually in your topic sentences. You need to present the evidence clearly first before you start making links and connecting dots.

What: In this example I have made connections more than just the parties’ views  (unitarist or pluralist) presented in negotiations. I linked their philosophies to specific developments affecting the negotiation process itself – such as the Review of the Holidays Act – and how the parties’ responses fitted into either the unitarist or pluralist framework. Basically it boils down to:

  1. Unitarism and Pluralism are opposing viewpoints
  2. Each party discusses the Act through a pluralist mechanism – a bargaining session
  3. The Government, which is essentially pluralist, uses a unitarist action: doing what it thinks is best, which angers the pluralist unionists.

By pointing out these links in an eloquent way, the marker can see that you understand the subject you’re writing about and you can think outside the box. This is the secret to a great mark.

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A stroke of genius – the difference between a good mark and a great one

You hear it a lot – that essay or assignment was hard, I did everything my teacher/lecturer want and yet I only got an average mark.

Einstein's 'stroke of genius'. What's yours?

Exactly. You did everything you were asked to do, just like everyone else in your class.

You had the same essay question, same information, same teacher/lecture as everyone else. So everyone’s essay ends up roughly the same. If it’s written well, you’ll get a good mark.

So how do you get a great mark?

With what I like to call ‘stroke of genius’.

With everyone writing essentially the same answer to the same question, you need to differentiate yourself. This doesn’t mean writing an essay completely different from everyone else. Which, while possible, is nearly impossible to pull off and not necessary to achieve a great mark. Instead a ‘stroke of genius’ is usually a small but powerful point that make near the end of your essay.

While there is no specific place to reveal your ‘stroke of genius’ in your essay, a great place for it is your twist.

It’s all about connections

A twist is all about weighing up your essay’s evidence. If you want a good mark then this is where you stop – you weigh the evidence, come to a conclusion and that’s your essay.

But, if you want a great mark you need to take this weighed evidence and make some connections.

Throughout your essay you’ve talked about experts’ opinions and ideas – quoted and paraphrased your way to a solid argument that answers the essay question. Apart from the exact words on the page it is not particularly original or creative. You can’t be; you’re not an expert on the subject – even if you think you are.

However, having thoroughly researched the subject and topic you’re writing on, you have the ability to see links and make connections between the evidence, context and argument of your essay.

Here you can be creative, be original, show you’re smart – come up with a stroke of genius.

So what does a stroke of genius look like?

Well that is up to you… but next week we will look at an example to help you come up with your strokes of genius.

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The big picture: the first thing you should check

So you’ve taken your break and now you’re back at your computer with your essay in front of you. So what should you check first?

Check the big picture first.

Wait, one read through isn’t enough?!

Nope, you should definitely read through your essay a couple of times before you hit the print button. Checking, editing, and proofreading your work is extremely important. Remember your mark is based not just on what you write but also the marker’s impression of you – if there are grammatical errors and typos in your essay their impression won’t be very favourable!

Okay, so what do I need to check first?

First up is looking at the essay as a whole and focusing on content.

You are checking that:

  • the introduction roughly follows the formula
  • it introduces your argument and the topics of your body paragraphs effectively
  • your body paragraphs are well constructed – don’t forget topic sentences!
  • they are all similar in length – zoom out or use print preview to check this
  • your conclusion roughly follows the formula
  • it concludes your argument effectively and mentions what you discussed in your body paragraphs
  • most importantly, you are answering the essay question throughout your essay!

While this is a broad check of what you’ve written, if you do see a typo or grammatical error – fix it up as you go. If there is something that doesn’t sound quite right or you think should be re-written better, don’t dwell on it – highlight it in yellow (or whatever colour takes your fancy); you’ll have time to fix this up on the next check.

But then why not just check everything at once?

Well, because the more things we focus on, the more likely we are to miss something. So focus on the big picture first, get that right and then go after detail. Also, that way you save time; because if you start with the detail you may ending up fixing parts of paragraphs that get deleted at the big picture checking stage.

Getting the big picture right is the easiest and the most important thing you should do. Over the next few weeks we will look at the detail and making sure what you hand in is perfect.

Photo Credit: NASA, via Wikimedia Commons

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Is a conclusion an introduction in disguise?

Over the last couple of months I have looked at how to write brilliant introductions and conclusions and there seemed to be a lot of similarities in the purposes of the sentences in their respective formulae.

So is a conclusion an introduction in disguise? Vice versa? Or are they very different beasts?

Well lets take a look at the formulae again:

Are introductions and conclusions similar or not?

The Formulaic Introduction

Sentence:

1. Hook them!

2. Set the scene

3. Show you’re smart

4. Give the game away

5. Sum it up

The Formulaic Conclusion

Sentences:

1. Re-state the scene

2. Answer the question

3. (and 4.) Deliver a twist

5. End with a bang!

At a surface level each sentence of the introduction pairs up with a sentence from the conclusion. So we will chronologically go through the introduction and pair it up with the sentence from the conclusion that it is most similar too:

Introduction – Conclusion

1. Hook them! with 5. End with a bang!

Similarities: both sentences are broad like the extreme ends of a Greek column and should be powerful.

Differences: the first sentence of your introduction introduces the broad topic only; in addition the last sentence of the conclusion contains what the essay argued with regards to the broad topic. Also,  the first sentence of the introduction is neutral whereas the final sentence of your conclusion most probably is not.

Introduction in disguise? Nope.

2. Set the scene with 1. Re-state the scene

Similarities: both sentences have the same purpose – introduce/conclude what the essay will/has talk(ed) about. Also, they both use the same or similar signpost.

Differences: just the tense.

Introduction in disguise? Yup.

3. Show you are smart with 3. (and 4.) Deliver a twist

Similarities: both have the same purpose – show your intelligence, but…

Differences: …they achieve this is very different ways. The third sentence of your introduction does this by talking about the context of the essay, whereas the twist makes a judgement call on the evidence and information presented in the body of the essay.

Introduction in disguise? Nope.

4. Give the game away with 2. Answer the question

Similarities: both deal with the essay’s argument; however…

Differences: …the way it does this is slightly different – in the introduction you state your argument, whereas in the conclusion you go one step further by comprehensively answering the essay question and concluding your argument.

Introduction in disguise? Sort of.

5. Sum it up with 5. End with a bang!

Yes we have already compared “End with a bang!” but since it’s the last sentence of the introduction, let’s see whether it is similar to the last sentence of the conclusion:

Similarities: both have the same purpose – sum up the essay, and use the same or similar signpost.

Differences: tense and with “End[ing] with a bang! You need to, well, end with a bang…

Introduction in disguise? Yup.

So is a conclusion an introduction in disguise?

Based on this analysis we have two “Yup’s”, two “Nope’s” and a “Sort of”. Though the last sentence of the conclusion, “End with a bang!” is most similar in function to the last sentence of the introduction, so really there is just one key “Nope” – the two sentence 3’s: “Showing you are smart” and “Delivering a twist”.

Both have a similar purpose, so next week we will look at an example of an essay’s introduction and conclusion and I’ll provide my answer to the question.

In the meantime, what do you think – is a conclusion an introduction in disguise?

Photo Credit:  Top – 1. Lazurite 2. Unhindered by Talent 4. DraconianRain all via Flickr

Bottom – 1. Unhindered by Talent 3+4. thombo2 5. mudcu.be all via Flickr

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Constructing Conclusions – An Example

Kate Wilkinson, New Zealand Minister of Labour. Photo Credit: Geoff Walker, Photographer, Greytown, New Zealand.

Below is an example of a well-constructed conclusion:

Sentence 1: Re-state the scene

This essay has looked at the key issues of the 2009 Review of the Holidays Act 2003.

Know what the essay was about?

The sentence is short, simple, and clearly states what the essay did. For comparison here is the second sentence of the introduction, “This essay will examine the positions that the employer organisations and trade unions took, in regards to the key issues reviewed by the Working Party, within the Employment Relations’ frameworks of unitarism and pluralism.” Both sentences are very similar, as they should be, but the sentence in the introduction goes into a lot more detail. The reason is because in the introduction you haven’t said anything yet and so need to introduce the topic to the marker in a bit of detail. However, by the time they have got to the conclusion they don’t need to have it spelt out again in so much detail. All you need to do is refresh the marker’s memory, not try and put them to sleep!

Sentence 2: Answer the question

Looking in particular at where the employers and unions stood on these issues, this essay has shown how the reasoning behind their positions is a product of their unitarist or pluralist viewpoints.

See the answer?

The sentence follows on from the first sentence and narrows its focus before providing the answer to the essay question: “In 2009, the Government undertook a review of holiday entitlements in New Zealand. What were the key issues addressed by the Working Party? What positions did employer organisations and trade unions take on these issues? What does your reading of the debate on holiday entitlement suggest to you about the principal analytical frameworks used in Employment Relations?”

Once again, you are providing a broad answer to the essay question here – you don’t need to go into too much detail.

Sentence 3 (and 4): Deliver a twist

This was most strongly apparent when they disagreed on the major issues of relevant daily pay and the selling of holidays.Interestingly enough, despite the employer’s unitarism, the review itself was a product of the pluralist model – it was a bargaining session. That is one of the reasons the subsequent Holidays Amendment Bill (2010) has been strongly opposed by the unions, they feel betrayed by the Government’s decision to not uphold the recommendations they bargained for during the review (“Unions urge Government to protect worker leave entitlements”, 2010). In fact, in some regards, while initially portraying a democratic pluralist approach to fixing the Holidays Act (2003), the Government has now switched to a unitarist approach to do what it feels is best for New Zealand as a whole.

See what the most important evidence was?

The first sentence is essentially the twist – it chooses from all the evidence and examples presented in the essay the most important. The next three sentences show the student”s intelligence. It is a different way of looking at the evidence in order to answer the essay question and shows the marker that the student has thought very carefully and understood the topic he is writing about.

When I introduced this formula in my last post I suggested two sentences but in this example the twist takes up four sentences. With the formulas we have discussed the most important thing is what the sentences are about, not how many sentences you write. The twist is the most important part of the conclusion and so here it takes up four sentences total. Make sure, though, that it is taking up more sentences because it contains important content – not because you’re waffling.

Sentence 5: End with a bang!

Overall, it appears that in New Zealand Employment Relations, unitarism and pluralism are going to continue to fight to gain the upper hand, with the Government’s job to try and balance the opposing views because of our democratic pluralistic political system.

Hear the bang?

Probably not quite what you were expecting. Ending an essay with a bang is not quite as dramatic as ending a fiction novel – but you want the same effect. This sentence ties the whole essay context together and doesn’t waste words.

To finish off, here is the conclusion in full:

This essay has looked at the key issues of the 2009 Review of the Holidays Act 2003. Looking in particular at where the employers and unions stood on these issues, this essay has shown how the reasoning behind their positions is a product of their unitarist or pluralist viewpoints. This was most strongly apparent when they disagreed on the major issues of relevant daily pay and the selling of holidays. Interestingly enough, despite the employer’s unitarism, the review itself was a product of the pluralist model – it was a bargaining session. That is one of the reasons the subsequent Holidays Amendment Bill (2010) has been strongly opposed by the unions, they feel betrayed by the Government’s decision to not uphold the recommendations they bargained for during the review (“Unions urge Government to protect worker leave entitlements”, 2010). In fact, in some regards, while initially portraying a democratic pluralist approach to fixing the Holidays Act (2003), the Government has now switched to a unitarist approach to do what it feels is best for New Zealand as a whole. Overall, it appears that in New Zealand Employment Relations, unitarism and pluralism are going to continue to fight to gain the upper hand, with the Government’s job to try and balance the opposing views because of our democratic pluralistic political system.

Well that’s the formula in action, give it a try and let us know how you get on.

Photo Credit: US Embassy New Zealand via Flickr

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Constructing your conclusion

1. Re-set the scene 2. Answer the question 3+4. Deliver a twist 5. End with a bang!

Over the last few weeks we have looked at where the content of your conclusion comes from, the one thing you should never include in your conclusions and the one thing you should.

Now we will put it all together to create a formula for your conclusions like we did with the introduction.

Sentence 1: Re-state the scene

Aim: Summarise your essay broadly, what did it do?

Start with a signpost such as “This essay has [examined/considered/discussed]…”

This sentence is essentially the past tense version of Sentence 2 in your introduction. Don’t copy it word for word though! Paraphrase it, show you understand what your essay has done.

Sentence 2: Answer the question

Aim: State the broad conclusion to your essay’s argument – what has your essay proved?

Carry on from Sentence 1 and move into specifically what your essay looked at and finish up the sentence with your broad answer to the essay question. This sentence can sometimes get quite long so don’t be afraid to split it into two sentences. However, as we keep stressing, be concise! The marker will have read tens if not hundreds of essays – you want your conclusion to stand out.

It is similar to Sentence 4 in the introduction.

Sentence 3 (and 4): Deliver a twist

Aim: Make your conclusion interesting and demonstrate your knowledge and understanding to the marker.

Everything you need to know about the one thing you need to include in your conclusion can be found in my previous post.

Since this is such an important part of the conclusion it usually takes up a couple of sentences. It has a similar purpose as Sentence 3 in the introduction.

Sentence 5: End with a bang!

Aim: To summarise your conclusion.

Be succinct and concise. This is the last thing the marker is going to read; you want them to remember it. So start with a signpost, “Overall…” and end with a bang!

It follows along the same lines as Sentence 5 in the introduction.

This formula is a great guide for writing your conclusions and is based off Ian Hunter’s book.

Next week we will look at an example of this formula in action.

Photo Credit: 1. Unhindered by Talent 3+4. thombo2 5. mudcu.be all via Flickr

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A Twist in the Tail – adding interest to your conclusion

Following on from what you don’t include in a conclusion let’s look at the one thing you should include.

Using a twist in your conclusion adds interest and shows your intelligence

A twist.

Many of you will recognise the twist ending as a literary device found in fiction. However, it also has an important place in your essay; which is entirely a non-fiction work (make sure it is and you have made nothing up!).

The twist seems to be a little known part of an essay’s conclusion and it was in Ian Hunter’s book that I first came across it.

The twist has two functions:

  1. Make your conclusion interesting – your conclusion only contains things that you have mentioned earlier in your essay so you need something different to keep the marker awake.
  2. Most importantly though, it is the perfect way to demonstrate to the marker that you know your topic and understand your arguments – this is how you show you are smart in your conclusion.

So what actually is a twist?

In your essay you have presented a number of arguments and a variety of evidence to back these up. Go back and reread what you have written – what was the most important?

This is what the twist is – making a judgement call on the significance and importance of the points your essay has made.

What was the strongest evidence? The weakest? Whose opinions are most valid? Or invalid? What source(s) were the most credible?

Form your answers to the above questions into a sentence or two and you have your twist. Remember don’t include any new information, just a layer of interpretation.

Up next week we look at structuring your conclusions and where the twist should be found.

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The one thing you never ever include in your conclusion

New information.

You never include new information in your conclusion. Everything that appears in your conclusion must have been mentioned in your introduction or body paragraphs.

Remember an essay is not supposed to contain suspense, the marker should not get all the way to your conclusion and then be surprised by a new piece of evidence. If they wanted suspense or surprise, then the marker would have picked up the latest thriller and not your essay.

What if I have just remembered a really key piece of evidence that I absolutely must put in my essay?

Go back to your body paragraphs and fit it in. Then if it is really that important it should also appear in your introduction. Makes sure that it fits; don’t just tack into onto the end of a paragraph. But most importantly, don’t add it only to your conclusion!

In conclusion, never ever include new information in the conclusion of your essays.

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Introducing Conclusions

Over the last few weeks we have talked a lot about introductions and body paragraphs which leads us nicely to the third and final part of an

Introducing Conclusions

essay: the conclusion.

Many people find writing conclusions difficult, but they do not need to be.

The purpose of your conclusion is to sum up your essay and nearly everything you need for your conclusion you have already written. You are taking all the arguments, information, and evidence you have presented throughout your essay and are tying it all together.

The introduction is there to hook, the body paragraphs to persuade, and the conclusion is there to convince.

The marker should, after reading your conclusion, see how all your points and mini-arguments work together to answer the essay question, convincingly.

So before you start your conclusion you need to refer back to your:

  • introduction – did you write about what you said you would?
  • body paragraphs – how does what you wrote answer the essay question convincingly?

If the answer to either of those questions is ‘No’ then you need to go back and fix them up. You cannot write an effective conclusion without being able to answer ‘Yes’ to both these questions because this is where you will draw your content from.

Just as a poor introduction will lose you lots of marks, so too will a poor conclusion. In fact, if written well, your conclusion can gain you a lot of marks by aiding the marker’s understanding of what you have written in your body paragraphs.

So just because you are sick of writing after 2500 words of introduction and body paragraphs or you are running out of time in your exams, doesn’t mean you can write a half-arsed conclusion and you’ll get away with it.

Over the next few weeks I will look at how you can write effective conclusions which will give the marker no choice but to award you a top mark.

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The Greek Column – an extended metaphor

One of my favourite literary devices is the analogy (yes I have a favourite, English can be fun you know…).

So to better understand how an essay should be structured here is one:

An essay is like an Ionic Greek column (from Ionia – the southwestern coastland and islands of Turkey, nothing to do with Chemistry).

Introduction: Is the top of the column, called the capital, and is artistically crafted to draw the reader in (Number 14 on the diagram).

Body: Is the shaft of the column. It is narrower than the capital as the essay has moved from the more general introduction to the specific discussion of the body paragraphs. The shaft is continuous just as the essay must flow uninterrupted with the paragraphs linking together. It also must bear the weight of the roof and therefore must be strong, just as your arguments must be strong and backed up by valid evidence (Number 17).

Conclusion: Is the bottom of the column, called the base (who would have guessed?), and is of a simpler design than the capital. The reader should already have been hooked and therefore the conclusion should be clear and persuasive – there is no need to get fancy here. Like the introduction the conclusion focuses on the general rather than the specific but in reverse – moving from the specific body paragraphs to an overall sum-up of the essay’s argument (Number 23).

If you structure your essay well it will be pleasing to the marker’s eye and will stand up to their critique. So make sure your essays are as well designed as the Greek columns were.

What other analogies can you think of for essays?

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