intros, conclusions, titles…oh, my!

Students in ENGL 495 Senior Seminar discussed intros, conclusions, & titles in preparation for pulling together full drafts of their capstone papers. They were so happy with the guidelines gathered during class that they said it belongs on the English Department blog. So here it is!

Be sure to read far enough that you discover what the reverse-mullet title might look like…

The different parts of the essay are like the parts of a sandwich or a burger...

photo credit /


  • Start general, get more specific as you move towards thesis
  • Introduce your topic (text[s] and theme you’re working with)
  • Preview main points from lit review (Research shows….Scholars have argued…)
  • Use a transition sentence to show how your primary analysis responds to your lit review. For example, it might be that scholars have not put ideas together when discussing your text, or it might be that they have ignored something important or been misguided in some way, or it might be that they’ve done good work but you’re going to add some nuance
  • Preview your main points from primary analysis as an answer to the lit review
  • End with a thesis that pulls it all together; if the sentences before the thesis statement are specific and lay out the major components of the argument, the thesis statement might be brief, but it should still be specific (“Novel is thus an example of how religions can be represented progressively in some ways while being strongly critiqued in other ways.”)


  • Recap main point(s) in 1-4 sentences
  • Explain in several sentences why it matters—what can readers do with the information you’ve provided? Why should anyone care? What’s the significance?
  • return to the intro or to the title, creating a circle or an echo that helps readers see how far they’ve come (especially effectvie if you use something fun in intro or in title!)


  • quotation(s)—perhaps from primary text(s) or from relevant secondary research
  • something shocking! provide that oomph factor
  • alliteration
  • short, pointed sentence…even an intentional fragment. The worst novel imaginable.
  • a brief personal narrative or anecdote–what gave rise to your research question or interest?
  • an analogy

    photo cred / Con Air via


  • focus on the topic
  • alliteration!
  • word play, cleverness
  • “Party in the front and business in the back”: The Reverse Mullet Title

photo cred / Full House via


One thought on “intros, conclusions, titles…oh, my!

  1. Pingback: Quoting, Quoting, Quoting #7 | Nicole's Literary Ramblings

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s