Make Your Last Words Count
In academic writing, a well-crafted conclusion can provide the final word on the value of your analysis, research, or paper. Complete your conclusions with conviction!
Conclusions show readers the value of your completely developed argument or thoroughly answered question. Consider the conclusion from the reader's perspective. At the end of a paper, a reader wants to know how to benefit from the work you accomplished in your paper. Here are ways to think about the purpose of a conclusion:
- To connect the paper's findings to a larger context, such as the wider conversation about an issue as it is presented in a course or in other published writing.
- To suggest the implications of your findings or the importance of the topic.
- To ask questions or suggest ideas for further research.
- To revisit your main idea or research question with new insight.
Should you summarize?
Consider what readers can keep track of in their heads. If your paper is long or complex, some summary of your key points will remind readers of the ground you've covered. If your paper is short, your readers may not need a summary. In any paper, you'll want to push beyond mere summary to suggest the implications or applications of your work.
How do you start drafting a conclusion?
Effective conclusions take the paper beyond summary and demonstrate a further appreciation of the paper's argument and its significance: why it works, why it is meaningful, and why it is valuable. To get started, you might ask yourself these questions:
- How do the ideas in your paper connect to what you have discussed in class, or to what scholars have written in their treatment of your topic?
- What new ideas have you added to the conversation? What ideas do you critique?
- What are the limitations of your data, methods, or results?
- What are the consequences of the strongest idea that comes out of your paper?
- How can you return to the question or situation you describe in your introduction?
From Mounting methodologies to measure EUV reticle nonflatness (SPIE Proceedings 7470, 2009), by UW–Madison Professor Roxanne L. Engelstad's lab. Notice how Battula et al. explain the limitations of their findings, and identify specific future developments that would make their proposal more accurately testable.
The horizontal whiffle tree mount should have performed the best considering the kinematics of the 16 support points, as well as theoretically displaying the least amount of gravitational distortions. However, due to possible friction at the pivoted joints and the current tolerances on the whiffle tree system, there were difficulties in using this mount. At this time, the process of averaging the measurements taken at four vertical orientations appears to be the best approach.
Gender and Women's Studies
From Examining Millie and Christine McKoy: Where Enslavement and Enfreakment Meet (Signs 37, 2011), by UW–Madison Professor Ellen Samuels. Notice how Samuels's conclusion briefly summarizes her article's main claims before turning to the consequences of her strongest claims.
While there are still many questions left unanswered about the McKoys, and many possible truths to be drawn from their lives, I have aimed in this article to establish that at least two things are not true: the tale of the beneficent and beloved slaveowners and the resigned, downcast expression on Millie's face in the altered picture. Moreover, I contend that turning away from historical legacies as complex and dangerous as those of enslavement and enfreakment keeps us from being able to understand them and to imagine different futures. We need to develop paradigms of analysis that allow us to perceive and interpret both the radical empowerment of the McKoys' lives and the oppressions that are no less fundamental to their story. Such an analysis must allow for dissonance, contradictions, and even discomfort in its gaze. Only then can we move forward with the work of shaping new representations and new possibilities for extraordinary bodily experience.
From UW–Madison Law Professor Andrew B. Coan's Judicial Capacity and the Substance of Constitutional Law (2012). Notice how this conclusion emphasizes the significance of the topic under consideration.
Judicial capacity has been too long misunderstood and too long neglected. It is a central institutional characteristic of the judiciary, which has significant predictive power in important constitutional domains and also significant normative implications. It deserves consideration from constitutional theorists on par with that accorded to judicial competence and judicial independence. Indeed, it is crucial to a full understanding of both of these much-discussed institutional features of the judiciary.
Many students dread writing the conclusion paragraphs for their research papers. You’ve already said everything you have to say, what could be left? Will you just sound like you’re repeating yourself? What is really the point of a conclusion paragraph anyway?
Well, you should feel comforted that there are easy ways to succeed in writing up the conclusion paragraph to your research paper.
Idea of a Research Paper Conclusion
Before you can write an effective conclusion paragraph, you need to understand its purpose. A conclusion is your last chance to impress your ideas upon the reader. Thus, you do not want to introduce any new ideas, but rather recap everything throughout the rest of your piece of writing. Now, this is where most students worry about redundancy.
Instead of rewriting the points exactly as you have before, you want to shorten them up by taking the main ideas of the whole paper and turning them into concise sentences that get straight to the point. It is also your chance to show how you’ve proven your thesis throughout the research paper.
Structure of Your Conclusion
An introduction paragraph should go from broad (first sentence as a hook to bring readers in) to narrow (thesis statement that specifically addresses your paper’s claim). The conclusion is the exact opposite of that, so you can use your introduction paragraph as somewhat of a template.
In the conclusion, start narrow by first restating your thesis (in different words than in your introduction) and showing how you proved it. Then, work on broadening your conclusion to the outer world.
Your conclusion should also make an attempt to address the significance of your topic. When writing a research paper, you are utilizing other authors’ information in order to present a claim. In the conclusion, attempt to answer this question: “why is my claim about this topic important? why should people read my paper or care that I’ve written it?”.
Difference Between Synthesizing and Summarizing
In your conclusion, you want to synthesize the information in your paper, not simply summarize it. Your readers already looked through your piece of writing and know what it says.
To synthesize effectively, you need to show your readers how everything you put in your research paper fits together to create a cohesive whole. You can think of your paper like a recipe. To bake a cake, you first have all of the ingredients stand on their own. However, once you combine them all together, you have created something new. What did you create when you put all of your ideas and evidence down onto paper?
Some students suffer from writing conclusion paragraphs that are either too short or much too long. You don’t want to risk not saying enough, but you also don’t want to drone on. As a good rule of thumb, your conclusion should be about the same length of your introduction paragraph. Of course, if the length of your introduction paragraph is off, then your conclusion will be too.
Another good way to gauge how long your conclusion should be is by counting how many supporting ideas you have in your paragraph. If you have 5-6 supporting ideas, then try to synthesize that down into 2-3 sentences. Then add another 3-4 sentences to account for recasting your thesis, connecting your sentences together, and making your final connection to the outer world for a total of 5-7 sentences in your paragraph.
Those figures are just a guideline, however, and keep in mind that you need to vary sentence structure and length in order for it to work as intended. You could easily write 5 sentences that are extremely long and you likely still have a conclusion that’s too long despite limiting your sentence number.
What to Avoid
Here’s a quick list of things that you should never, ever incorporate in your conclusion paragraph:
- New ideas. If a new idea strikes you and you think it’s brilliant, then go back and make a full body paragraph for it, don’t just sandwich into your conclusion.
- Additional supporting evidence (quotations, paraphrasing). You need to have already given all of your proof prior to the conclusion. This is the time for recapping the case you’ve made, not continuing to make it via new sources.
- Clichés. You should really avoid clichés in all areas of your writing, but it goes extra in your conclusion since it’s the last bit of your . This means no “in conclusion,” “in summary,” or anything like that. This also means that you shouldn’t break the standard that you set in your paper.
Don’t let writing your conclusion paragraph intimidate you. Follow the above tips and then ask yourself the ultimate “so what?” question. Once you feel you’ve adequately proven the significance of your research paper to your reader, then your job is done.