Conclusions Workshop or Effective Conclusions: The White Whale!

Conclusions Workshop or Effective Conclusions: The White Whale!

Overview: This activity has two main goals. The first is to situate conclusions as much more than afterthoughts in the writing process; it aims to cultivate rhetorical awareness of the moves that scholars tend to make, encouraging students to reflect on the capacities of a concluding space across the different modes and disciplines with which they are engaged. The second is to give students a chance to start drafting or outlining their own RBA or ODR conclusions, building in some class time to work collaboratively and treat the space seriously as a writer and reader.

Activity Title: Conclusions Workshop or Effective Conclusions: The White Whale!

Author(s): Valerie Kinsey and Tesla Schaeffer

Courses: PWR 1 & PWR 2

Activity length and schedule: This activity takes a full class period, and works best in weeks 7-10 of the quarter when students are drafting and revising their RBAs and/or ODRs

Activity Goals:

  1. To position conclusion writing as an important moment in the composition and research processes, rather than as an “afterthought”

  2. To cultivate rhetorical awareness so that students engage with the genre conventions of conclusion writing in the scholarship they are reading

  3. To encourage students to reflect on the effects of different choices in conclusion composition across modes and disciplines

  4. To give students a chance to start drafting or outlining their RBA and ODR conclusions

Activity Details:

  1. Start class by having students reflect on their conclusion habits and assumptions, and then have a general discussion that creates a space for students to express their feelings and expectations about conclusion writing.  Possible forms: a free-write, a think/pair/share, a round-table
  2. Review general information on successful conclusions through this handout or UNC Chapel Hill Writing Center site and the University of Wisconsin-Madison site
  3. Have students spend 10-15 minutes examining 2 sample conclusions from argumentative sources they are using for their essay (or have students look at Boothe Prize essays or other student models). What "moves" do the writers of these conclusions make (think in terms of what their sentences are accomplishing, i.e. considering larger implications of their work; articulating questions that are not answered by their findings; advocating for scholars to consider a particular issue again; returning to an image or phrase of importance; suggesting action items - steps the reader can take? What is the effect of these decisions? How do writers build ethos in concluding spaces?). Jot down some notes.
  4. In small groups:
  • Report your findings. What do readings in your particular field/ area seem to expect in a conclusion (based on general rules and your findings)? What approaches engaged you most as a reader? What strategies would work for your paper?

  • Examine your draft conclusion and revise

  • Swap and read a partner’s conclusion out loud