Part of writing your paper will involve drafting a conclusion for it. This conclusion is the last thing that your reader will read, so it is what you use to make your final impression on your reader. The conclusion is the final place to convey to your reader the quality of your paper—both in terms of writing style and content. Just as you want your first impression in your paper to be a good one, you want your final impression to be equally good. You’ll have some decisions to make so your conclusion is an invaluable part of your paper.
Among the first decisions you’ll have to make in writing your conclusion is how to signal to your reader clearly that you are, in fact, concluding your paper. Several ways exist for you to signal to your reader that you are ending your paper.
You can use transitional words or phrases, such as
after all, as has been said, as matters stand, at any rate, even so, finally, for these reasons, in a word, in brief, in conclusion, in drawing to a close, indeed, in general, in other words, in retrospect, in short, in summary, on the whole, or briefly, such being the case, to conclude, to recapitulate, to repeat, to summarize, to sum up, we now see
Some transitional phrases (especially “in summary,” “to summarize,” “in conclusion,” and “to conclude”) are so often used, however, that they may seem unimaginative and even tired to your reader.
Other, more subtle ways exist to signal that you are concluding. You can
1. Turn the discussion back to something you mentioned in your introduction.
2. Identify the next step or look to the future.
Ultimately, these signals should relate to or work within the context of the paper. In the next part of this handout, let’s consider some strategies for concluding and some examples of conclusions.
- Provide a Summary
- Call to Action
- Explain the Implications of your Thesis or Research
- Make a Statement about Your Thesis
- Include a Quotation
This handout has given you several strategies concerning how to end our paper. But, there are a few that you should avoid doing in your conclusion.
1. Don’t apologize for your paper.
2. Don’t ask questions.
3. Don’t bring up completely new ideas.
4. Don’t change the tone or style of your writing.
5. Don’t contradict your thesis or any part of your paper.
6. Don’t make exaggerated claims.
7. Don’t restate the introduction (or your thesis) word for word.
Writing conclusions can be a difficult part of the writing process. After all, by now you’ve probably written an introduction and several pages, so you may feel as if you’ve said all you have to say about the subject. But, as Woolever (1991) indicates, “the concluding paragraph is the most emphatic place in the argument because what you say here will be the chief idea the reader will carry away” (130). As you write your conclusion, remember that it is your final impression on your reader. The conclusion is your final opportunity to convey your sense of style and your mastery of content, and it is the final place to sum up or restate that key message you want your reader to carry away from your paper.
Woolever, K. (1991). About writing: A rhetoric for advanced writers. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Co.