Writing Effective Conclusions
(printable version here)
A conclusion provides a thoughtful end to a piece of writing; unfortunately, many conclusions in college-level papers are little more than summaries of what has already been said.
Here are a few tips to make conclusions more interesting. You may wish to check with your professor about specific recommendations in your field of study; many fields have specific formats for conclusions and other parts of essays, research reports, and experiments. The points below are most applicable to papers in the humanities:
- Ending with a rephrased thesis statement that contains no substantive changes.
- Introducing a new idea or subtopic (although you may end with a provocative question; see below).
- Focusing on a minor point in the essay.
- Concluding with a sentence tacked on to your final point.
- Apologizing for your view by saying such things as "I may not be an expert" or "At least this is my opinion."
- Attempting to make up for an incomplete structure. (If you say you will discuss four books and only attempt a complete discussion of two books, do not try to cover the remaining texts in a concluding paragraph. In such a situation, it's best to limit your paper to topics you can realistically cover.)
Conclude an essay with one or more of the following:
- Include a brief summary of the paper's main points.
- Ask a provocative question.
- Use a quotation.
- Evoke a vivid image.
- Call for some sort of action.
- End with a warning.
- Universalize (compare to other situations).
- Suggest results or consequences.
Try to refer to the introductory paragraph, either with key words or parallel concepts and images.
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