62 Conclusions

Ann Inoshita; Karyl Garland; Kate Sims; Jeanne K. Tsutsui Keuma; Tasha Williams; and Christina Frasier

Learning Objectives

  • Identify the purpose and important elements of a conclusion.
  • Examine approaches to a conclusion that include a call to action and next steps.

Writing a conclusion

It is not unusual to want to rush when approaching the conclusion, and even experienced writers may fade during the labor of writing an essay. However, what good writers remember is that it is vital to put just as much attention into the conclusion as in the rest of the essay. After all, a hasty ending can undermine an otherwise strong essay.

A conclusion that does not correspond with the rest of the essay, has loose ends, or is unorganized can unsettle the reader and raise doubts about the entire essay. However, if you have worked hard to write the introduction and body, the conclusion can often be the most logical part to compose.

The anatomy of a strong conclusion

The ideas in the conclusion must conform to the rest of the essay. But in a sense it’s easier to think of the conclusion of an essay as making the essay come full circle.

When most students are asked what they think about writing conclusions to essays, the response is usually less than enthusiastic. When asked what makes conclusion paragraphs an unsatisfying part of their essay, the responses are often the same.

“I have nothing else to say. I’ve already said everything.”

“I know I’m supposed to summarize my main points, but I feel stupid doing that when I just stated all those points.”

A conclusion paragraph that is based primarily in summary is also less than satisfying for readers. It feels almost disrespectful in that a reader might think, “I just read all of that. Do you think I already forgot your main points?”

The good thing is that there’s a model that exists for writing conclusion paragraphs for standard essays that lets you forget the summary and leave readers nodding in agreement. The easiest way to craft this style of conclusion paragraph is to model it after the introduction.

A typical introduction, even at the freshman level in college, can be formatted as follows:

  1. Start with a hook (often called an “opener” or a “lead” in college).
  2. Create a few transition sentences that move the reader along from opener to thesis statement.
  3. State the thesis.

Then, once all the body paragraphs have been carefully crafted, most students are ready to write the conclusion. But, again, everything has been said. So the trick is not to even think about “the conclusion.” Instead, you should scroll up to the very beginning of their essay and remind yourself about how it all started. The following steps can help you write a great conclusion paragraph:

  1. Revisit the hook, if you used one. (If you started with a quote, offer another quote. If you started with statistics, offer more statistics. If you asked a question, answer the question. The reader will get a sense of hearing something like that before and will anticipate that the end of the essay is on its way.)
  2. Restate the thesis. (Restating the thesis is important because it reminds the reader of the major arguments you have been trying to prove. Sometimes instructors suggest restating the thesis at the beginning of the conclusion, but then you are setting yourself up to have nothing left to say but to summarize.)
  3. Finish with a twist. (This final commentary often does particularly well when a sort of global extension is made. If your essay is about current strategies being used to combat the devastation associated with the Pacific trash vortex, then a final statement could be something like the following: “Clearly the devastation related to the Pacific trash vortex is far-reaching and has effects beyond sea life and coastal societies.”)

Many students also like to finish with a final emphatic statement. This strong closing statement will cause your readers to continue thinking about the implications of your essay; it will make your conclusion, and thus your essay, more memorable. Another powerful technique is to challenge your readers to make changes in either their thoughts or their actions. Challenging your readers to see the subject through new eyes is a powerful way to ease the readers out of the essay.

When closing the essay, some writing instructors argue that you should not express that you are drawing to a close. They consider statements such as “In conclusion,” “It is clear that,” “As you can see,” or “In summation” as unnecessary and trite; however, some instructors will argue that using these terms offer the reader clarity. As always, refer to the preferences of your instructor.

It is wise to avoid doing any of the following in a conclusion:

  • Introducing new material
  • Using apologies or disclaimers

Introducing new material in conclusions has an unsettling effect on readers. Raising new points makes your reader want more information, which you could not possibly provide in the limited space of the final paragraph.

By apologizing for the opinion or stating what is tough to digest, a writer is in fact admitting that even they know what they have discussed is irrelevant or unconvincing. You do not want your readers to feel this way. Effective writers stand by their thesis statement and do not stray from it.


Adapted from English Composition: Connect, Collaborate, Communicate by Ann Inoshita; Karyl Garland; Kate Sims; Jeanne K. Tsutsui Keuma; and Tasha Williams, CC BY 4.0 


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Conclusions Copyright © by Ann Inoshita; Karyl Garland; Kate Sims; Jeanne K. Tsutsui Keuma; Tasha Williams; and Christina Frasier is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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