Chapter Two: The Five-Step Dialectical Essay Format

Step Five: Wrapping Things Up: Your Conclusion

            The final paragraph of the essay is where you wrap up your case. What you need to say in this conclusion depends on the details of the dispute, as well as your thesis. At this point in the essay, you may want to determine if you are still committed to your thesis. Perhaps the other side of the argument is stronger. (It is relatively easy, particularly in a practice essay, to change your thesis at this point, though you’d need to revisit your opening paragraph to have consistency in your writing). However you choose to bring your essay to a close, remember to review the fundamental reasons for your conclusion, and make sure that the conclusion you draw is the same thesis you announced in the beginning. Make it very clear why you hold the position you choose. The ending of the essay should match the beginning in many ways. It is like coming full circle in an argument. If it is possible, add additional information to support your opinion.

            In the argument below, the Step Four response to the possible criticism is rejected. After we present this strategy, we will give an example of how to affirm the response. While reading, consider the following questions:

How does the writer indicate that he/she is arguing against the response to the possible criticism?

How do we know which claim of Step Four is being challenged?

What is his/her reasoning?

            But the claim that individuals, unlike nations, are particularly vulnerable is not convincing. Nations have, in the past, been subjected to unjust uses of force by other nations just like individuals have. History is littered with examples of this. And, in fact, we believe that force used against an aggressive nation – such as Iraq against Kuwait – has a strong justification, whereas force used against non-aggressors is not justified. We want to protect people against abusive use of force, whether they be an individual or a nation. The more we examine the parallels between the morality governing use of force against individuals and actions, the less convincing the NATO position appears. So NATO’s action, no matter how well-intentioned, is not justified.

            This paragraph clearly presents the writer’s argument against the response using the phrase, “But the claim that … is not convincing.” It is clear which sentence is being challenged by the words, “Individuals, unlike nations, are particularly vulnerable,” which are mentioned in the topic sentence. The reasoning against this statement is that nations are just as vulnerable as individuals, as proven by historical examples. It is important to note that this paragraph ends with the explicit repetition of the thesis, which now can be asserted with confidence because it has been proven by dialectical reasoning.

Alternate Step Five

            Suppose you take up the other side of the issue, arguing the opposite thesis: “I will argue that NATO’s action is not only well-intentioned, but also well justified.” With this thesis, your essay would examine both sides of the issue in many of the same ways shown in the previous examples. The difference is that in Step Five you would need to side with the response in Step Four, and not argue against it.

            An example of this approach follows. While reading, consider the following questions:

How do you know that the writer agrees with Step Four?

How does he/she strengthen the case for that side of the argument?

            The claim that individuals, unlike nations, are particularly vulnerable is ultimately convincing. As a matter of fact, the intervention of NATO in Yugoslavia has a key purpose of protecting individuals. Because that is what we value, we are prepared to treat nations differently than individuals, especially in cases where individuals are being harmed. Our concern about the vulnerability of nations rests on the concern for the vulnerability of its citizens. As a result, when nations threaten citizens, the same protections against abuse we uphold for individuals are no longer justified. So NATO’s action is not only well-intentioned, but also well justified.

 

            The writer sides with the response, and this is none by their topic sentence which states, “The claim that individuals … is ultimately unconvincing.” The writer strengthens the argument by taking up one of the controversial claims and giving more support for it. The writer asserts that the reason we protect nations is to protect individuals. When a nation harms individuals, we drop prohibitions against harming nations.

Summary of Step Five

- Show why one side of the argument is stronger than the other.

- Further challenge/defend a controversial claim from Step Four.

- Make sure that your thesis statement (from Step One) is repeated. Do so by using the conclusion indicator “so” and your thesis itself.

- Alternative A: The structure for concluding your essay by rejecting the response in Five-Step Web-checked practice essays: the first statement of the paragraph should contain the sentence pattern: “But the claim that” and “is not convincing” and a sentence from the previous step.

Or

- Alternative B: The structure for concluding your essay by affirming the response in Five-Step Web-checked practice essays: “The claim that” and “is not convincing” and a sentence from the previous step.

- The structure for the final statement of your conclusion – your thesis – in Five-Step Web-checked practice essays: A sentence starting with “so” followed by the thesis itself.

Checklist for all of the Steps

            In writing and checking your draft, use this checklist to ensure that each step contains all crucial elements and has the proper form.

Summary of Step One

- In your first sentence, identify the topic of your paper. Where appropriate, indicate author, text title, and basic subject.

- Define the issue and both sides of the argument.

- Indicate the way in which you plan to defend your view.

- State your thesis clearly, using a thesis indicator such as “I will argue…” If you are discussing the claim of a thinker, make sure you give an accurate representation of the claim. The easiest way to do this is to quote it directly.

- The structure for your thesis of your Five-Step Web-checked practice essays.

Summary of Step Two

- Identify the target of your investigation

- Explain its context, focusing on relevant details that provide meaning, background context, or crucial evidence for subsequent argument.

- If your target is implied, make sure that you show that the implied claim is justified in light of evidence of the text.

- The structure for your target claim in Five-Step Web-checked practice essays: a statement using the phrases “primary reason” followed some point later in the sentence by “is that, or was that” followed by the target itself.

Summary of Step Three

- In your topic sentence, make it clear that you are presenting a possible criticism and make it clear which sentence from Step Two you are targeting.

- Present a strong and convincing argument as your possible criticism.

- In order to clarify your argument, put it in deductive form by fully spelling out any unstated assumptions or premises.

- Avoid self-contradiction, begging the question, and rhetorical questions.

Summary of Step Four

- In your topic sentence, make it clear that you are presenting a response to Step Three. Make it clear with sentence from Step Three you are targeting.

- Present a strong and convincing argument as your response.

- In order to explain your argument fully, put it in deductive form by spelling out any unstated assumptions or premises.

- Avoid self-contradiction, begging the question, and rhetorical questions.

- The structure for your response indicator in Five-Step Web-checked practice essays: the first statement of the paragraph should contain the phrase, “One might, in response, argue against the claim that,” followed by the premise from Step Three to which you are responding.

Summary of Step Five

- Show why one side of the argument is stronger than the other.

- Further challenge/defend a controversial claim from Step Four.

- Make sure that your thesis statement (from Step One) is repeated. Do so by using the conclusion indicator “so” and your thesis itself.

- Alternative A: The structure for concluding your essay by rejecting the response in Five-Step Web-checked practice essays: the first statement of the paragraph should contain the sentence pattern: “But the claim that” and “is not convincing” and a sentence from the previous step.

Or

- Alternative B: The structure for concluding your essay by affirming the response in Five-Step Web-checked practice essays: “The claim that” and “is not convincing” and a sentence from the previous step.

- The structure for the final statement of your conclusion – your thesis – in Five-Step Web-checked practice essays: A sentence starting with “so” followed by the thesis itself.


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