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Steps on Writing a Conclusion to a Rhetorical Response Essay

by Rachel Gellman, studioD

Conclusions are often the hardest part of essay writing. Besides summing up what you've already said, the conclusion of any paper, rhetorical or otherwise, should answer this question: "So what?" As a writer, show your readers that everything you've written until this last paragraph had a purpose. The conclusion is the final punch of the essay.

The Larger Point

Your conclusion should illuminate something for your readers.

After you have synthesized the previous points made in your body paragraphs, push your thesis further. This might be a call to action -- to change a policy or address an issue. You could also urge readers to continue research on your topic to fill holes of information. Conclusions also often discuss how the main points of a paper taught the writer something, so ask yourself questions like this: did the writing process open your eyes to something you never noticed about society or about your own community? Did your rhetorical analysis teach you something about rhetoric?

Dissecting the Argument

Consider the steps the author took to persuade you.

Rhetorical analyses are especially hard to conclude because you are not always analyzing the topics of what you read, but rather, you're analyzing the way a rhetorician presents and supports an argument about a specific topic toward a specific audience -- you're making an argument about arguments. In other words, you are evaluating whether the rhetorician was persuasive or not, and the conclusion can make some distinct claims about why or how the writer was persuasive. You can discuss the most interesting ways in which the rhetorician built his argument or the biggest errors in the argument.

Rhetorical Tradition

Place your writer among the greats.

You can also compare the rhetorical moves in the text(s) you analyze to other texts that use the same moves. For example, if your paper discusses how a writer successfully appeals to pathos to gain emotional support from the audience, you could briefly discuss how Martin Luther King, Jr. -- or any other famous rhetorician -- uses a similar technique in one of his famous speeches. This would show that you understand how rhetoric is part of a historical tradition and that most skilled writers employ rhetorical techniques to capture or persuade their audiences.

Assess the Rhetoric

Aristotle defined rhetoric as

Rhetoric is the art of persuasion, so if nothing else, in your conclusion, discuss which rhetorical moves were persuasive and then explain why they were persuasive. You could close with your prediction of which members of society might be persuaded by the argument and which members would not, and you could suggest alterations to the argument that may allow the text to persuade more readers.

About the Author

Based in San Diego, Rachel Gellman has worked in the education field since 2006. Her work has appeared in several journals, including "World Literature Today." She is part of the LARB Reviewing Class of 2013 in poetry, and holds a Master of Fine Arts in poetry from San Diego State University.

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