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Conclusions

The conclusion serves to unify the entire paper, pulling together the ideas contained in it and pointing out their larger significance. When writing a conclusion, consider what you have written thus far, about the substance of each section, and summarize what it all means.

Overview of the Conclusion

The effective conclusion to an essay stimulates the reader to think more about the topic; a conclusion should not just reiterate the introduction. You should review your main points and re-examine your thesis in light of all that you have argued in your essay. Try to point toward the larger significance of your ideas.

 

While your conclusion should not be a replica of your introduction, presenting the two as a pair can be effective if, in concluding, you go beyond what you have said in the introduction. You might wish to “book-end” your essay with a pair of quotations, anecdotes, or events that seem to capture the essence of the way you see the topic. Symmetry can provide a satisfying sense of having come full circle.

The box below suggests ideas to include in your conclusion. Not all of the suggestions should be included in the same conclusion.

Good Ideas For Conclusions

  • Review and tie together your main points using new language.
  • Point toward the larger significance of what you have argued. If everything you claim is true, so what?
  • Use a significant quotation that supports the thesis. This quotation could, but need not, relate to a quotation used in the introduction.
  • Use an anecdote that supports the thesis.
  • If your essay has pointed out a problem or a number of problems, use the last paragraph to suggest solutions. These problems do not have to be solved completely. Complex problems rarely are.
  • Widen the perspective in the concluding paragraph: show how your thesis has implications beyond the immediate scope of the essay. But Be careful not to jump tracks into a whole new topic, or to introduce ideas that you ought to have considered in the essay.

 

What To Avoid in Your Conclusion

  • “In conclusion (or in summary) I have proved that . . . .” The reader’s natural response will be “Oh, have you?”
  • Minor details or afterthoughts. Do not be anticlimactic.
  • Simply recopying your introduction or topic sentences.
  • Apologizing for your opinions.
  • Obvious expressions, fan-mail about literature, writers, historical figures. Revealing excellence is admirable, but try not to rave about it adoringly instead of relating it usefully to your thesis.

 

Exercise 5: Strong and Weak Conclusions

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