Writing Your Conclusion

You’ve written a compelling introduction, a fantastic thesis and well-crafted paragraphs in support of your claims. Now you just need to write a conclusion, so you throw together a couple of generic summary sentences to finish off your paper. After all, what's left to be said?

Conclusions can often be the most difficult part of your paper. You’ve said what you need to say, so it’s tempting to offer a simple summary. Unfortunately, this may leave your reader with little sense of closure or purpose, ultimately weakening your point and undermining the hard work you've put into the rest of your paper. To avoid this, try the following tips:

  • Synthesize, don’t summarize. Concisely reiterate your main points and how they tie back to your thesis. Try to avoid mentioning minor points; after all, this is your best opportunity to leave a lasting impression on your reader. What elements of your paper do you want your readers to remember?
  • Ask yourself “so what?” Why should your reader care about your topic? How does your main point matter to anyone? Remember: nothing that you write is “obvious” unless you intentionally make it so. It is always better to be too explicit in your writing than to assume that your readers will infer exactly what you want them to. Readers will be more energized by your paper if it concludes in a way that answers the question “so what?” You might briefly mention how your ideas will play out in the future, or perhaps warn your reader about what might happen if action isn’t taken. If you have proposed a solution to a problem or have conducted research, you can suggest the next step in the process. Try asking a thought-provoking question or taking a “big picture” approach.
  • Tie it back to your introduction. If you opened your paper with an anecdote, revisit it in your conclusion and reinforce its connection to the thesis. Any type of introduction can be connected to the conclusion by using similar language or reiterating key words (but don’t copy and paste complete phrases or sentences, as this may bore your reader). At the same time, try to avoid using wholly new analogies or information that hasn’t been previously mentioned; this may confuse readers and distract them from your main point.
  • Avoid language that weakens your ideas. Avoid undermining your authority with phrases such as “I think,” “I feel,” and “I’m not an expert, but... ” Your professors understand that you are not an expert, and they certainly know that the paper grows out of your own thoughts and ideas. Be assertive! Similarly, avoid cliché phrases such as “in conclusion” and “in summary.” Your readers know that this is your conclusion (they can see the end is near!), so including these phrases is almost always unnecessary.

Works Consulted and Resources for Further Study: