Introductions and Conclusions

Although every part of your essay is important, the introduction and conclusion play an especially key role. When written well, the introduction gets readers interested in your topic and encourages them to continue reading; the conclusion makes readers continue to think about your topic long after they have put your essay aside.

Below are some helpful tips on writing great introductions and conclusions from Francine Moustakalis, a sponsoring teacher of a previous winner and honorable mentions from Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School in Plainview, NY.

The Introduction
First impressions are so important. How many times have you heard that?

The first impression—the first paragraph of your paper—sets the stage for a lasting opinion. The introduction guides the reader into the paper by grabbing attention and introducing the topic.

To get your paper off to a great start, it should begin with a hook that catches the reader’s interest. The attention grabber you use is up to you, but here are some ideas:

  • A short narrative anecdote: a short story that illustrates a point and is relative to the topic
  • A surprising piece of information
  • An interesting fact: a pertinent fact that explicitly illustrates the point you wish to make
  • An exciting quotation
  • A provocative question
  • Setting up a scene
  • Don’t tire the reader with long introductions that fail to get quickly to the point and issue.

    The introduction should lead to the thesis. It is your main point, summed up in a concise sentence that lets the reader know where you are going and why.

    The Conclusion
    As you close your essay, leave a memorable final impression as well!

    You should not introduce any totally new ideas in the conclusion; however, it is not enough just to recap your ideas in a clear, summarizing manner. If you only did that and then ended your essay, your conclusion would be flat and boring. You’ve got to make a graceful exit from your essay by leaving a memorable impression on the reader. Say something that will continue to simmer in the reader’s mind long after he or she puts down your essay.

    Here are a few possible ways to leave this memorable impression:

    • Giving a thought provoking question
    • Describing a powerful image
    • Talking about consequences or implications
    • Stating what action needs to be done
    • Ending on an interesting twist of thought
    • Explaining why the topic is important to you, the reader, and the greater community
    • For more words of wisdom from previous winning teachers and students, check out our "Tips for Success" video and Alumni Profiles. You can also read excerpts of Winning Essays from last year’s competition. And make sure you review and understand the Rules before submitting your essay!

      You can also see a detailed list of Student Awards, and learn more about the 1986 Challenger Crew, the heroes who inspired this competition.


student reading