Writing Effective ConclusionsWriter's Web
(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:

Avoid:

  • 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, 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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