Conclusions can be tough. After spending hours on the body of a paper, the idea of “wrapping it all up” can be overwhelming. Here’s some info to help you out.

Generally, the purpose of the conclusion is:

  • To make one last effort to convince the reader of your argument
  • To suggest larger implications now that the evidence has been presented
  • To provide a satisfying sense of closure.

Consider these tips:

Reread and think about what you’ve already written. Ultimately, your conclusion should be used to unite the ideas of your body paragraphs, so think about what ties together the ideas of your paper.

Reread the assignment. After spending so long hacking away at a paper, it’s easy to forget what, exactly, the prompt asks you to do. After rereading the prompt, ask yourself how your paper answers that question – try to sum it in a sentence or two. This can help you out when you sit down to write your conclusion.

Readdress your thesis by taking it to the next level. You certainly want to talk about your thesis again, but don’t just say the same thing in a slightly different way. You’ve just talked about your thesis and backed it up for the past X amount of pages, so don’t be afraid to expand on your thesis a bit. 

Think about the bigger picture rather than what you’ve already said. Sometimes, it’s tempting to just summarize your paper in the conclusion paragraph. The reader, though, has already read your whole paper by the time they come to the conclusion and probably doesn’t want to read the same information again. So, ask yourself: so what? Why does what you’re writing about really matter? If, for instance, you’re writing about a policy for a government class, ask yourself what the point of your argument is. Does the policy need to change? If so, why? And why should we, the readers, care? What do we learn by analyzing X? Expand on your topic rather than just repeating it.

Don’t take on too many new ideas. Yes, you want to expand rather than repeat, but that doesn’t mean introducing entirely new concepts that will throw your reader off guard. Stick to a couple of specific ideas that expand upon what you’ve already written.

Tie up any loose ends. Along with looking at the bigger picture, link ideas that were not strongly linked in the body itself. In fact, tying up these loose ends can actually help you answer the “bigger picture” question.

Answer questions in a conclusion, don’t just ask them. It can be easy to just start asking questions in a conclusion. While that can get the reader to think about the questions, try answering them yourself. You are, after all, the author of your paper.

You don’t have to write your conclusion last. Some students find that they figure stuff out about their paper as they’re writing the body paragraph. Don’t be afraid to take notes for your conclusion while you’re working on the body paragraphs.

Your conclusion isn’t a restatement of your introduction:

Introduction – the background of what you’re going to teach the reader.
Conclusion – why you’ve taught the reader about the subject matter.

Need a metaphor?

Think of your conclusion in terms of a court case: the opening statement (your introduction paragraph) summarizes the facts of the case. The witnesses (your body paragraphs) support those facts. And the closing argument (the conclusion) is when the lawyer argues for either the guilt or innocence of the person on trial. The conclusion is your last chance to convince the jury (the reader) that your argument is right.