- The conclusion needs to 1. restate the paper’s main points 2. answer the question, “Who cares?”, and 3. finish the paper with something punchy.
You have written a beautiful introduction and body, and now you have to finish the draft off by writing the conclusion! You want to finish strong and leave the reader with an interesting closing thought.
That being said, your concluding paragraph has to 1. briefly summarize your work (without sounding redundant), 2. illustrate why your paper is significant, and 3. end with a punch.
The conclusion should be formatted like an upside-down introduction–from the most specific to the most general. Therefore, the first sentence of your conclusion paragraph should describe the main points of your paper:
“Although there were a variety of lesser factors, the ultimate demise of the Roman Empire was a result of three main ones: poor leadership, outside pressure from barbarian forces, and weakening cultural unity.”
“Although Microsoft, Google, and Apple have similar company roots–nerdy college-aged kids tinkering around in garages–they have developed into very different companies. Apple has developed around the personality of a single person, while Microsoft and Google–while heavily influenced by their founders–have taken a less centralized approach.”
The trick with this sentence (or two) is to reiterate your paper’s main idea without sounding redundant. Copying and pasting your thesis is not a good idea. Another bad idea is to start out with a hollow-sounding phrase like “In conclusion,” “In summary,” or “As a whole.” These not-so-subtle phrases are sure to bore your reader.
Next, your conclusion has to relate your issue to a broader idea or question. Let’s say you’re writing a paper on symbolism and social overtones in The Crucible (a play by Arthur Miller about the Salem Witch Trials). In your conclusion, you should explain why your paper is significant.
Who cares? Who cares about Miller’s use of symbolism?
Your conclusion should make a link between the contents of your paper and a larger issue. A larger issue could be something like
- How the social overtones in the book have influenced how people view the Salem Witch Trials in hindsight
- How Miller’s style has influenced other playwrights or authors
- How Miller’s use of symbolism was seen by his contemporaries
Now is not the time to make a wild, unsupported claim. A small connection will suffice.
[Sentence restating paper’s main points about symbols in Miller’s play.] Miller’s use of symbolism in The Crucible dramatizes the hypothetical Salem described in his play. Such dramatization calls into question how much the theoretical Salem in Miller’s play differed from the historical Salem, which is a key question that makes the play so controversial and enduring.
The ‘larger issue’ here is how Miller’s use of symbolism helps underscore the difference between the Salem described in the play and the historical Salem. The difference between the two is a key question.
Another technique you might use for your conclusion is to describe where additional study needs to be done–where your essay stops and another essay could start.
At the end of your conclusion, you should have a punchy sentence that leaves your reader with an interesting thought. One way of doing this is to reconnect your ending sentence with your title:
Say you’re writing a paper on the similarities of Zeus and his son Hercules:
Title: Like Father, Like Son: Exploring Paternal Relationships in Greek Mythology
Concluding sentences: Hercules’ demeanor, athleticism, and attitude are similar to that of his father, Zeus. Both gods exemplify Greek ideals of masculinity. Greek mythological texts, then, reinforce the idea that fathers should pass Greek cultural values onto their sons. The story of Hercules reinforces the colloquial phrase, “like father, like son.”
Here the ‘larger issue’ is how Greek cultural values are shaped by Greek mythology. The ending is punchy. It contains a nice, memorable phrase and circles back to the interesting title.
The conclusion of the essay
The function of the essay's Conclusion is to restate the main argument. It reminds the reader of the strengths of the argument: that is, it reiterates the most important evidence supporting the argument. Make sure, however, that your conclusion is not simply a repetitive summary as this reduces the impact of the argument you have developed in your essay. The conclusion provides a forum for you to persuasively and succinctly restate your thesis given the reader has now been presented with all the information about the topic. Depending on the discipline you are writing in, the concluding paragraph may also contain a reflection on the evidence presented, or on the essay's thesis. The nature of the reflection will depend on your topic (Woodward-Kron, 1997) but questions such as these may be considered:
What is the significance of your findings?
What are the implications of your conclusions for this topic and for the broader field?
Are their any limitations to your approach?
Are there any other factors of relevance that impact upon the topic but fell outside the scope of the essay?
Are their any suggestions you can make in terms of future research?
The conclusion should match the introduction in terms of the ideas presented and the argument put forward. Sometimes you will find that the process of writing has changed what you have argued and so it will be necessary to go back and reword the introduction. Finally, the conclusion is not the place in your essay to introduce new information or new ideas: these should be in the body of your essay.
Essay Question:: Italy on the eve of 1860 has often been described as an unlikely nation. Why?
|Before 1860, only a tiny minority of the population believed that Italy could ever become a unified nation under one Italian ruler. Yet, despite this belief and the many obstacles blocking the path to unificationsuch as differences and suspicion between the many regions of the peninsula, the lack of planning and common goals that saw many uprisings fail and the divergent views and politics amongst the men who fought for unity,the Piedmont region emerged "...as the nucleus around which the rest of Italy could gather" (Mack Smith, 1959: 17). On March 17, 1861, the Kingdom of Italy was proclaimed. Italy was no longer a geographical expression, it was a nation.||reference to essay question|
reiteration of thesis point
overview of main arguments explaining the obstacles to Italy's unification
concluding comment and reference to essay question
1 This essay has been adapted from material developed by R. Woodward-Kron, E. Thomson & J. Meek (2000) Academic Writing: a language based guide (CD-ROM), University of Wollongong
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Comments and questions should
be directed to Unilearning@uow.edu.au