Building Your Paper



Modes of Persuasion: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

Careful rhetoric, or the art of crafting arguments through tone and presentation of evidence, can make your argument more convincing.

Learning Objectives

Identify appeals to logos, pathos, and ethos

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Rhetoric involves the “how” of making arguments —it asks you to think about what kind of writing will make your argument most convincing to the reader.
  • In classical rhetoric, there are three main strategies to appeal to the reader: logos, pathos, and ethos.
  • Ethos, logos, and pathos each affect the reader differently. When choosing a strategy, think about what kind of argument you want to make and when each strategy might be most useful.
  • Keeping readers’ potential objections in mind will help you select the most appropriate strategies.
  • While persuasive strategies make a good paper more convincing, the most credible arguments are those which honestly examine the issue from all sides using the most reliable sources of information.
  • Audience analysis, developing a
    thorough understanding of an audience (education, values, beliefs, etc.), is
    crucial in making choices relating to the use of logos, ethos and pathos.

Key Terms

  • ethos: A Greek word meaning “character,” used to describe the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community, nation, or ideology. In rhetoric, the term is often
    used in reference to the credibility of an author based on his
    or her expertise and/or personal character.
  • logos: A technique that relies on reasoned argument.
  • pathos: A communication technique that makes an appeal to the audience’s emotions; used most often in rhetoric and in literature, film, and other narrative arts.

Using Rhetorical and Audience Analysis

A rhetorical analysis calls upon readers to closely read a text and determine several characteristics about it, including author, context, purpose, and emotional appeal and/or effects. In other words, readers must take a look at Aristotle’s three persuasive appeals to the audience: logos, pathos, and ethos. As writers, you’ll use these tools to build a convincing argument.

Choosing persuasive appeals depends on the purpose of the argument, but it also stems from audience analysis. Knowing as much as possible about the audience you are trying to reach can help you to determine which appeals are most likely to be effective. Things to consider include the audience’s core values, beliefs, and the level of knowledge they already have about the subject you are addressing. Some arguments employ all three of these appeals, while others rely on a strategic application of just a couple of them.

Logos

Logos relies on the rigorous use of logic and reason. Arguments based on logos usually employ deductive and/or inductive reasoning. Deductive, or top-down, reasoning applies a general rule to draw a conclusion about a specific case or cases: “All men are mortal. Arturo is a man. Therefore, Arturo is mortal.” Inductive, or bottom-up, reasoning constructs a premise or rule by generalizing and extrapolating from a specific case or cases: “Every person I have ever known of has eventually died. I have never heard a report of any person living forever. Therefore, people are mortal.”

Pathos

In contrast to logos, pathos relies on evoking an emotional reaction from the audience. The evidence in a pathos argument is more likely to be personal or anecdotal. Moreover, the success of the argument depends on the author understanding the audience’s values and beliefs, and manipulating them.

Ethos

Ethos works by giving the author credibility. By building credibility with the audience, the speaker or writer also builds trust with his or her audience. Ethos can be used to stress the personal credentials and reputation of the speaker/writer, or cite reliable authors or sources. Writers and speakers who employ ethos to strengthen their argument should avoid attacking or insulting an opponent or an opposing viewpoint. The most effective ethos develops from what is stated, whether it is in spoken or written form.

Writers can pull elements from any of these strategies as needed to make a persuasive argument.

When and How to Use Pathos

Generally, pathos is most effective when used in the introduction and conclusion. You’re trying to grab readers’ attention in the beginning and to leave them with conviction at the end, and emotion is a useful tool for those purposes. Describing the plight of people affected by the issue at hand might open the paper, for example, and then be revisited in the conclusion.

There are subtle ways to use pathos throughout the paper as well, and you can do that primarily through word choice. Your reader is going to be looking for holes in your argument and will likely bristle at any hint of being manipulated with emotion in the body paragraphs, preferring that you stick to the facts. But by choosing your words carefully, you can make suggestions that have a subconscious effect on the reader. Here’s an example:

  • Though the candidate is older than most who’ve held the office, he is known to be energetic and active.
  • Though the candidate is older than most who’ve held the office, he is known to be spry.

When you read the first sentence, what image formed in your mind? Maybe an older guy smiling and jogging or shaking hands with supporters? And the second sentence? The word “spry” is generally used only for elderly people, so you likely imagined someone slightly different, perhaps a little older and a little less energetic. Since we’re talking about a politician, the word “spry,” while ostensibly meant to mean “active and energetic,” is putting a suggestion in the reader’s head that the politician might be a little old for the job. A little sneaky? Well, you might think of it that way, but you can also have a lot of fun building an effective argument using words that affect the reader in very particular ways.

There are countless words and phrases that hold a common meaning for your audience other than their defined meaning. Can you imagine when you might choose the word “backpack” over “bag,” or “uzi” over “gun,” or “guardian” over “parent,” or “paperback” over “book,” or “liberal” over “unrestricted”? What are the connotations of the chosen words versus their synonyms?

While the more obvious uses of pathos—in which you make a direct emotional appeal—may come to you early in the writing process, these subtle choices of suggestive words might emerge as you revise. Use this tool sparingly, though, so the subconscious suggestion doesn’t become obvious to your reader and therefore have the opposite effect.

When and How to Use Logos

Generally speaking, logos is what people expect in an argument these days. We are a society oriented toward logical reasoning and scientific proof, so you’re probably going to need to draw on logos at some point in your paper and will likely use it in every body paragraph. A good argument will usually include both facts and reasoning and may be bolstered by examples.

Consider this example from “Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking,” published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

Smokers are more likely than nonsmokers to develop heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer.

1. Smoking is estimated to increase the risk—

  • For coronary heart disease by 2 to 4 times
  • For stroke by 2 to 4 times
  • Of men developing lung cancer by 25 times
  • Of women developing lung cancer by 25.7 time

2. Smoking causes diminished overall health, increased absenteeism from work, and increased health care utilization and cost.

Perhaps you didn’t need convincing that smoking is bad for your health, but if you did, you’d have a difficult time arguing with these statistics, all footnoted on the CDC website, all based on reputable studies.

If we were including this evidence in a paper about the dangers of smoking, we could decide that such weighty evidence can stand on its own: excessive reasoning might actually weaken the argument. But if we are writing a paper about why cigarettes should be made illegal, or some other, more radical idea (and a more interesting paper), we might need to make our reasoning clear:

We know, then, that cigarettes are extraordinarily dangerousmany times more dangerous than car accidentsand highly costly. Yet, while we’ve increased safety standards for cars steadily since the 1970s, required drivers and passengers to wear safety belts, and are even considering technological innovations that will mechanize highways to eliminate driver error, we have as yet done little to regulate the use of cigarettes. Discouraged through taxation, yes, official warnings, yes, but direct regulation, no.

The reasoning in the above paragraph takes one of the statistics and explains its relevance to the argument. You’ll need to do this in almost every case so that the link you’re making between the evidence and the claim is clear.

It can be useful to think of logos as building a case, where your thesis statement is the thing you’re trying to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt. You’re the defense attorney. What would make this an air-tight case? What might be in the jury’s mind that you need to address so that they won’t go into deliberation with questions or doubts? What kinds of evidence might convince them? Planning out the body of your paper is like planning to present your evidence in the courtroom, step by step. Too much information will get boring and muddle the jury, so you’ll want to stick with your most salient examples and most convincing evidence.

The Art of Ethos

In Aristotle’s day, ethos usually applied to the technique a speaker used to establish credibility for himself, the “why you should listen to me” portion of the speech. Now, we establish our reliability mostly by demonstrating a thorough knowledge of the topic and by citing credible sources. We need to let our readers know that the studies we’re citing are from peer-reviewed journals, for example, and the opinions we’re quoting are from people who know what they’re talking about.

While acupuncture was once relegated to the realm of “quacks” and “snake oil,” it is now considered by mainstream medical science to be an effective treatment for pain. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) website states that, “Results from a number of studies suggest that acupuncture may help ease types of pain that are often chronic such as low-back pain, neck pain, and osteoarthritis/knee pain. It also may help reduce the frequency of tension headaches and prevent migraine headaches. Therefore, acupuncture appears to be a reasonable option for people with chronic pain to consider” (NIH, 2014). Doctors themselves seem glad to have found a possible remedy for chronic pain. In fact, a third of acupuncturists now practicing in the United States are also medical doctors (NCCAM, para. 2). This once-suspect art is increasingly embraced by physicians looking for additional options for their most challenging patients.

Here, we’re bolstering our claim that acupuncture is accepted as an effective tool for pain relief by quoting the governmental agency NIH, which is widely recognized and respected, and by talking about doctors—also well-respected—embracing the practice themselves in order to better serve their patients.

Your sources need to be credible to your skeptics. Most of the objections to our claim, above, will likely come from people who trust conventional medical practices and are wary of trying practices they haven’t encountered. This particular audience, then, would be more likely to consider the NIH and a group of medical doctors credible than they would, say, the American Academy of Medical Acupuncture or a group of Chinese practitioners. Part of the ethos of your argument, then, is finding resources your audience would find credible. By extension, you earn readers’ respect for quoting sources they consider trustworthy.

Don’t discount your own knowledge and experience, though, when considering the ethos aspect of your argument. The introduction and conclusion, again, might be the best spots to tell your audience how you’re connected to the topic. If you’re writing about school vouchers and you attended both public and private schools, that detail might give you some insight into both sides of the dilemma and, therefore, credibility with your readers. If you’re an artist and feel you would have dropped out of high school were it not for your art classes, you would do well to include your experience in a paper about funding for the arts in education.

Your reader is counting on your ability to be objective, as well as knowledgeable. You’ll demonstrate your objectivity by using sources that are widely respected and by gathering information from both or many sides of the issue. Real rhetoric is about honestly seeking answers, and while there is some persuasive technique involved, the most satisfying argument is one that is thoroughly explored. In the end, then, your credibility lies with your diligence and your willingness to present your findings with transparency.

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Capture the attention of your audience with rhetoric: Using appropriate rhetorical tools and a well-thought-out argumentative structure is a way of ensuring the strength of your writing. In addition, rhetoric gives you ways of capturing the attention of your audience and leading them to the conclusions of your argument.

Approaches to Your Introductory Paragraph

The effective introductory paragraph introduces the topic in a way that makes the reader interested and curious.

Learning Objectives

Order the elements of an introductory paragraph that uses concept-funnel structure

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • An effective technique for introductions is to open with a sentence or two that grabs the reader’s attention.
  • There are common ways to introduce a topic that are overused and therefore not recommended.
  • The concept-funnel structure leads the reader from a broad concept of the topic to the thesis statement.
  • The mirror construction hits each claim of the paper in the same order they’re presented in the body of the paper.
  • Stylistically, it is advisable to leave out overt references to the construction of the paper.
  • Leaving the introduction until the end of the drafting process makes it easier to write.

Grabbing the Reader’s Attention

There are many ways to begin a paper, some straightforward, others more creative. Papers generally need to aim for an objective voice and stay close to the facts. However, you have a bit more freedom in the introduction, and you can take advantage of that freedom by finding a surprising, high-impact way to highlight your issue’s importance. Here are some effective strategies for opening a paper:

  • Make a provocative or controversial statement
  • State a surprising or little-known fact
  • Make a case for your topic’s relevance to the reader
  • Open with a quote, a brief anecdote, or imagery that illustrates the issue
  • Take a stand against something
  • Stake a position for yourself within an ongoing debate
  • Introduce a challenging problem or paradox

After you grab the reader’s attention with the opening, make a case for the importance of your topic. Here are some questions that may help at this stage: Why did you choose this topic? Should the general public or your academic discipline be more aware of this issue, and why? Are you calling attention to an under-appreciated issue, or evaluating a widely acknowledged issue in a new light? How does the issue affect you, if at all?

Concept-Funnel Structure

A popular introduction structure is the concept-funnel. In this structure, you begin with general information about your topic, narrow the focus and provide context, and end by distilling your paper’s specific approach. As you move from general background information to the specifics of your project, try to create a road map for your paper. Mirror the structure of the paper itself, explaining how each piece fits into the bigger picture. It is usually best to write the introduction after you have made significant progress with your paper, so you can accurately mirror its structure.

A Strong Beginning

A common interpretation of the funnel structure is to start very broad and sift down to the thesis, but if you start too broad, you will lose your audience in the first line. Resist the temptation to begin your introduction with phrases like these:

  • From the dawn of time…
  • Throughout human history…
  • In today’s world…
  • From earliest memory…
  • Webster’s defines [topic] as…

These openings have been used so often, they no longer grab our attention but trigger us into anticipating something dull and predictable. Instead, think of that top opening of the funnel as piquing the reader’s interest about the topic you’re writing about. You can do this with imagery (“A six-year-old girl in a tattered blue dress stands on the street corner at 11 p.m., her eyes searching every car…”), with a provocative statement (“The U.S. government is no longer ‘of’ or ‘by the people ‘ but is controlled by billionaires”), with context (“On any given evening on 65th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam in the city that never sleeps, there are crowds gathering in front of Lincoln Center”), or even with a concession to an opposing argument (“Amanda Wilcox’s 19-year-old daughter was murdered while home on winter break. Amanda and her husband Nick were completely devastated and beset by both grief and anger”).

Mirroring the Construction of Your Paper

After grabbing readers’ attention with an interesting opening, you’ll want to lay out your basic argument. This provides your readers with structure, appealing to the logical mind, after grabbing them through their emotions or their imagination. Leading them from your claims to your thesis, which is generally at the bottom of the “funnel,” is also a subtle act of persuasion, whispering, “Once I’ve proven all of these points, you’ll see that [my thesis] must be true.” You could actually say that, but generally it’s better to let the reader draw that conclusion by reading the solid, well-substantiated argument that is your paper. What you want to do here is simply draw a line from your opening to your thesis statement, using your claims.

While you’re appealing to logic and reason in this part of the introduction, you needn’t leave artistry behind entirely. Think of this part as weaving together each claim with the emotion you brought up in the beginning, bringing the strands in one by one. Together, they create the thesis.

The basic structure is this:

  1. Introduce the general topic in an interesting way
  2. Claim 1
  3. Claim 2
  4. Claim 3
  5. Any other claims
  6. Thesis statement

Try to leave out overt references to the fact that this is an essay (e.g., “In this essay, I will prove that…”). The form is there to provide the structure, giving you the freedom to be artistic within it.

Amanda Wilcox’s 19-year-old daughter was murdered while home on winter break. Amanda and her husband Nick were completely devastated and beset by both grief and anger. The culprit was caught, and friends of the couple would offer comfort by telling the couple that the man would pay for what he did, hopefully with his life. Amanda and Nick could see how people would think these words would help. Revenge seems satisfying on the surface: at least there is something that can be done to “right the wrong.” But neither of these broken-hearted parents could find solace in vengeance. They recognized that putting her murderer to death would not bring back their daughter, even if it might feel justified. They were also aware that even when the case against a felon seems air-tight, DNA evidence has cleared 263 convicts since the year 2000. The families of murder victims around the country have reason to feel anger, hurt, and even utter hatred for the person who took away their loved one. But the death penalty is a  solution based on passion and emotion, not a viable punishment for any crime in a civilized society.

In this paragraph, the example in the opening takes us through the claims, getting us closer to the thesis. This is a way of weaving the paragraph together. The reader is ushered into the topic and through the claims without being conscious of reading an essay.

Write the Introduction Last

Saving your introductory paragraph until the end of your drafting process will put the power of your paper’s argument behind you as you create. Ask yourself these questions before you begin:

  • Why is this topic interesting?
  • What’s the most fascinating or shocking thing I found in my research?
  • What kinds of things surprised me as I read and wrote?
  • How would I tell a friend about what I found?
  • If I were to pick up a book to read about this topic, what would capture my imagination?

Allow yourself to enjoy the process of writing your introduction. Let your creativity run free here, within the general structure. Take some risks! This is the place where your personality can show through, to the delight of the reader, who is undoubtedly ready and waiting to be surprised.

Approaches to Your Body Paragraphs

A powerful argument depends on solidly and appropriately constructed body paragraphs.

Learning Objectives

Order the elements of a body paragraph

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The structure of each body paragraph includes a topic sentence, evidence supporting the topic sentence, a conclusion, and a transition.
  • The topic sentence is an arguable statement related to the thesis, introducing the main idea of the paragraph.
  • Part of creating an effective argument is choosing the most appropriate and powerful from the various forms of evidence and ways to present them.
  • Transition sentences lead readers to the next claim in the argument.

Key Terms

  • topic sentence: An arguable statement summarizing a claim that supports the thesis.

Constructing a Paragraph

The body of the paper presents your argument point by point to reveal the wisdom of your thesis. You decided on the order of these points during the outline phase, but as you write you may choose to reorder them for maximum impact. You may also decide to scrap points that don’t have the impact you expected them to have. Flexibility is a useful quality during the drafting phase.

Each body paragraph will be organized around a claim, which you’ll form into a topic sentence. You’ll generally begin each paragraph with its topic sentence, then you’ll move to the evidence that led you to this claim before ending with a concluding sentence that weaves claim and evidence together. You’ll also have transition sentences that link the paragraphs together, and they can appear at the end or beginning of each paragraph.

Sample Body Paragraph Structure

  • Topic sentence (announcing the claim)
  • Evidence 1
  • Evidence 2
  • Evidence 3
  • Concluding sentence

The Topic Sentence

Like your thesis, each topic sentence is an arguable statement, not a fact. The facts come in the form of evidence that you’ll present in the next sentences. It needs to be clear how the topic sentence relates to your thesis and it should address only one point.

If you’re having difficulty formulating a topic sentence, you can write the following stem: “One reason I believe my thesis statement is true is this:” and then complete the sentence.

One reason I believe my thesis statement is true is this: The imagery in the opening lines of [Frost’s poem] “Home Burial” immediately evokes the tension between husband and wife.

Then you can leave off the stem and simply begin the paragraph with what you believe. Check to see whether the statement sums up one of your claims. If it doesn’t, you may need to revisit your claims and rework them so they fit your argument at this stage of the writing process. It’s common for your opinions to become clearer and more sophisticated as you spend more time with your topic, so don’t be afraid to make some changes.

Check, too, to see whether the topic sentence is arguable and clear. Occasionally, it may take two or three sentences to express the claim, and that can work, but being able to encapsulate it into one sentence means you understand what you’re communicating thoroughly enough to write concisely.

Presenting Evidence

As you approach the structure of an individual paragraph, you’ll want to consider how this particular claim would be best presented. You probably found different types of evidence in you research: quotes from people who’ve studied your topic extensively, stories or analyses from people who’ve had direct experience with it, and studies that offer conclusions. Recognize that using a series of any one of these types of evidence could become repetitive and either bore or overwhelm your reader. Pounding statistic after statistic into a paragraph may seem convincing as you’re writing, but it might have the opposite effect and make the reader disengage.

Instead, write your topic sentence and look over the evidence you’ve gathered for that claim. Is there a first-hand account that might best illustrate this point? Perhaps a quote from a well-known authority would capture your reader’s respect right away. It could be that a recent study found exactly what your topic sentence claims, and you want to lead with that.

Just as with the introductory paragraph, you’ll need to consider that rather than simply offering proof of your opinion, you’re also courting your reader. Variety of presentation will keep a reader interested in your argument, as will the strength and reliability of the evidence. If you’re hesitating to relate a story or to cite a study because you’re not sure whether it’s convincing, leave it out. Your reader will feel disrespected by any attempt to slip in a weaker point. There is no advantage to bulk over strength.

There are some organizational tools that can give you direction when forming your paragraphs. Just some of the ways to present evidence are as follows.

Cause-Effect

This type of paragraph explains why something happened. Often, you’ll want your reader to understand the relationship between your claim and your thesis, and this technique can link them.

Example: While people may cite various reasons for getting married, underneath every one of these claims is the need for security.

Problem- Solution

Here, the writer presents a question or issue and then shows how to solve it. This type of paragraph can show the reader why you’re proposing your thesis. The evidence can both prove the problem statement and begin to reveal the thesis-related solution.

Example: One problem with the increasing emphasis on college sports programs is the inevitable decrease in academic focus.

Compare-Contrast

This method exposes the similarities and differences between two things. This technique can provide greater clarity as to how your thesis makes more sense than an alternative idea.

Example: While the methane gasses produced by damming may be somewhat problematic, our primary concern should be the far greater amount of methane produced by the beef-production industry.

Sequential Exposition

This simply tells what happened in what order. It can be used to explain to a reader how events led to what the thesis proposes or the problem it seeks to rectify.

Example: Often, when a company is in financial trouble, management begins layoffs, which lead to lowered company costs, which leads to greater investor confidence, which leads to increased stock prices, which increase shareholder wealth and, often, management compensation.

Description

Offers details about the phenomenon or event being discussed. This is particularly useful when you want the reader to get the same picture of the issue that you have.

Example: His prison cell consisted of a toilet and a metal bed frame with a thin, stained mattress and a small plastic pillow. The air was stagnant and close, with fans only in the main eating area.

Concluding Your Paragraph and Transitioning

Your concluding sentence will often have an echo of the topic sentence in it while moving the reader forward to the next topic.

We see, then, that trees actually do have a chemical system of communication, stunning as that may seem, but what might that mean for the human-forest relationship?

The first part of the sentence, in this example, sums up the evidence just presented, and the second part introduces the next topic. Likely, the topic sentence of the next paragraph will suggest a shift in the way people approach forest management.

Of course, you won’t want to make every concluding sentence a question. You might decide to have a concluding sentence and then a transition sentence.

The fact that toxic sewage is still being dumped into our waterways is disheartening in itself. Even more startling, however, is the knowledge that the government’s regulatory agencies have all but endorsed the behavior.

In this case, we can presume the paragraph gave evidence that toxins are polluting streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans. From the transition sentence, we anticipate that the next paragraph will contain evidence that government agencies not only knew about it but somehow supported the practice.

The Collected Paragraphs

When you’ve written each body paragraph, look them over to check for variety in your presentation styles, strength of argument, logical paragraph positioning, and overall readability. While a good mix of styles makes the paper much more interesting, the most important thing is that each claim is presented at its most powerful. Your conclusion will serve the purpose of weaving your claims together, but before you move to that stage, take one last look at the body and make the changes necessary to strengthen your argument as much as possible.

Approaches to Your Concluding Paragraph

The conclusion, while not adding new information to the argument, can inspire readers to believe the paper’s thesis.

Learning Objectives

Order the elements of a successful concluding paragraph

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The concluding paragraph summarizes the paper’s argument and restates the thesis.
  • Reversing the concept-funnel format of the introductory paragraph can be a useful form for the conclusion.
  • Recommendations, projections, or challenges can follow the argument summary.
  • Revisiting any images, quotes, or questions offered in the introduction can be satisfying to the reader and add power to the argument.

The concluding paragraph (or, rarely, paragraphs) summarizes the argument, showing how it supports the thesis. Its purpose is to leave readers with a strong sense of the argument, thereby encouraging them to adopt the thesis as their own.

The concept-funnel approach often used for introductions can be reversed here, moving the focus from narrow to broad. Along the way, you can include recommendations for future behavior, if behavior change is applicable to your essay. Here you have a common format for concluding paragraphs:

  • Thesis statement revisited
  • Claims repeated, woven with transitions
  • Recommendations, projections, or challenges
  • Introductory opening revisited

One way to think of the conclusion is as “The Tale of the Conquering Hero.” The hero recounts his adventure by first telling you his accomplishment, then recounting the steps that led to it, and finally putting it into a broader context.

Thesis Statement

It can be effective to begin the conclusion with the thesis statement, after a transition stem, such as, “It’s now quite clear that…,” or “As we have seen, the preponderance of evidence shows us that…” You needn’t necessarily repeat the thesis statement word for word, but its essence should be the same as it was written in the introduction.

Restating the thesis signals to the reader that you’re no longer going to introduce new evidence and are wrapping up your argument. The reader makes an emotional shift with this sign, and so making your purpose known immediately helps keep the reader interested.

Revisiting the Argument

Next, you’ll restate your claims, but you’ll want to do this in a way that flows. Your reader will check out quickly if you’re simply marching him or her through the paragraphs. This time, you’re considering each claim as a drop in the bucket of your argument. You’re no longer trying to prove the claim. Your reader has already seen the evidence supporting the topic sentence. Think of the conclusion as the philosophy phase of the paper, where you take a broader look at the issue and consider the points of the argument together.

As you’re weaving your claims together, you can get creative. Snatches of evidence, such as a quote or a statistic, can be included for emphasis if used sparingly. You may decide to change the order, if you want the claims to flow a little differently here than they did in the body of the paper. Your point here is to show the reader how these claims inform one another to support the thesis, and to emphasize the significance of each claim to the argument.

“We found that [claim 1], which on its own would have demanded a significant shift in policy, but when we also consider [claim 2], it is no longer a question of need, but of urgency in the highest degree.”

Sometimes, the process of writing the conclusion will reveal a hole in the argument, and you can use this draft as a prompt to go back to the research phase to fill the gap in knowledge. Keep in mind, though, that any new claims or evidence must be integrated into the body paragraphs of the paper. There should be no new evidence or claims presented in the conclusion.

Optional: Recommendations and Challenges

In this stage of the conclusion, you’ve wrapped up your argument and are now asking people to think more broadly. You can offer recommendations for readers to change their behavior based on what they’ve learned from the essay. You can paint a picture of the future—either one where the current state continues or one where the changes you consider in the paper are implemented. Or you can make a societal challenge of some kind.

“So, if grief is natural, and we have seen that it is, we must discontinue our practice of avoiding the discomfort of death and the sadness of the bereaved. We must begin to embrace the lows of life as well as the highs.”

“We have seen that polyamory is a viable social alternative to marriage and can result in relationships even more committed and reliable, but what does that mean for you? Will you continue to cling to tradition and spurn those who live in non-traditional ways? Will you be one of the forces slamming the door shut on social acceptance of ‘different others’? Or will you open your mind and your heart and recognize that there are other ways of being that work as well as your own?

“Armed now with the knowledge of how dire the situation is, we must act. The three most important areas for us to implement personal changes are…”

This portion of the conclusion won’t apply to all topics, and it’s certainly not a requirement. You may choose to leave the reader to consider the implications of the argument, rather than creating a kind of call to action. You may want to try both versions and see which one you prefer.

Optional: Introductory Opening Revisited

While this option may feel unnecessary, after all that has gone into your conclusion, at least consider revisiting the opening to your introduction. It can be very satisfying to a reader to have the closure that even just a few such sentences can provide.

Say, for example, that your introduction began with a description of a pre-teen girl in a drug-riddled city being forced to walk the streets to earn money for her parents’ drug habit. If it’s a powerful image, it will linger in the reader’s mind. Bringing the reader back to that image in the conclusion can close the emotional loop for the reader, showing him or her how individual action, or a change in policy, can change the situation for this girl. The power of that emotion can significantly add to the power of your argument, so you wouldn’t want to waste the opportunity.

You may have begun your paper with a quotation, rather than an image, or with a question. Revisiting those words now offers a spark of recognition in the reader and subconsciously makes the argument seem solid and well thought-out.

While you needn’t get overly emotional with your ending, you do want to make the conclusion powerful. Therefore, avoid weakening your argument in any way here, by, for example, making concessions, belittling yourself as inexpert, or admitting to not doing enough research. Make your case and stick by it, ending strong and with integrity.