Introductions and conclusions – the finishing touches of your essay

The introduction is your first opportunity to hook your reader. It’s where you establish your voice, your style, your view. 

An introduction that merely sums up the essay in advance will do very little to make any assessor want to read on. You want to engage them from the beginning and suggest to them that you’ve got an interpretation that is unique, interesting, and worth reading.

The conclusion is where you get to consider what ideas and issues your essay has resolved. It looks back to the intro, considers the discussion throughout the body paragraphs, and comes to a conclusion on the topic being addressed. It’s your opportunity it to leave your readers with a new understanding about the topic and the text. 

I find that looking at the function of these two bookend paragraphs helps to understand what you could include in them. It’s important to remember that they are two separate paragraphs that have two distinctly different functions. So let’s have a look at what these are.
The introduction

This opening paragraph establishes what your interpretation is and conveys what you will be exploring in the body of your essay. In essence, it is setting up what you hope to discover about the topic. It also:

  • contextualises the text by showing an an awareness of the world in which the text was created.
  • conveys a sense of what the text/director is trying to achieve.

Here is an example of an opening of an I ntro for the voyeurism topic:

When Hitchcock released his film ‘Rear Window’ in 1954, America was still reeling from the government’s investigation into communist activities that left many in Hollywood blacklisted and unable to work. The film’s focus on the ethics of voyeurism directly relates to the concerns of a nation who had discovered that one’s private life could very easily become public, and in such a way as to provide entertainment for millions around the nation by being widely televised. There is little doubt that the film presents voyeurism as both entertaining and dangerous, but whether one should be condemned and the other celebrated is up for question.”



The conclusion 

On the other hand, the conclusion finishes your essay by stating what you have discovered across the three paragraphs. It can’t just be a rehash of the intro, because the intervening three paragraphs have explored many ideas and issues. It doesn’t simply sum it up – the assessor doesn’t need you to tell him or her way they have just read. Instead, it reinforces your findings and concludes what your interpretation has lead you to realise. It can be useful to consider these things:

  • Where to from here? What lasting relevance does the film, in relation to what you’ve explored, leave behind.
  • What enduring message does Hitchcock leave us with?

Here is an example of a conclusion:

“There is little doubt that Hitchcock presents voyeurism as innocent fun while at the same time revealing its potential to be life-threatening. AT the time, the fear of the American way of life disappearing seemed all the justification needed to look into the private lives of others, and with the growing love of television (of watching others through a box-like window) the blurring of private and public was quickly disappearing. In the intervening 60 years, our love of looking in to the private lives of others has not diminished; in fact, with the advent of ‘reality TV’ it has drastically increased. And it’s all for entertainment. However, we perhaps shouldn’t forget that our love of looking can come with sinister consequences, highlighted by the outcomes that faced the characters in ‘Rear Window’. Hitchcock warns that we must be prepared to accept the consequences of destroying the line between public and private spaces. We must be prepared to lose our metaphorical freedoms, reflected by Jeff’s physical loss of freedom, if we insist on intruding into the lives of others. By Hitchcock remaining ambivalent about whether we should celebrate or condemn voyeurism, he is warning his audience of the difficulty of identifying it as being either purely entertaining or dangerous. It’s both.”

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