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So much is at stake in writing a conclusion. This is, after all, your last chance to persuade your readers to your point of view, to impress yourself upon them as a writer and thinker. And the impression you create in your conclusion will shape the impression that stays with your readers after they've finished the essay.
The end of an essay should therefore convey a sense of completeness and closure as well as a sense of the lingering possibilities of the topic, its larger meaning, its implications: the final paragraph should close the discussion without closing it off.
To establish a sense of closure, you might do one or more of the following:
- Conclude by linking the last paragraph to the first, perhaps by reiterating a word or phrase you used at the beginning.
- Conclude with a sentence composed mainly of one-syllable words. Simple language can help create an effect of understated drama.
- Conclude with a sentence that's compound or parallel in structure; such sentences can establish a sense of balance or order that may feel just right at the end of a complex discussion.
To close the discussion without closing it off, you might do one or more of the following:
- Conclude with a quotation from or reference to a primary or secondary source, one that amplifies your main point or puts it in a different perspective. A quotation from, say, the novel or poem you're writing about can add texture and specificity to your discussion; a critic or scholar can help confirm or complicate your final point. For example, you might conclude an essay on the idea of home in James Joyce's short story collection, Dubliners , with information about Joyce's own complex feelings towards Dublin, his home. Or you might end with a biographer's statement about Joyce's attitude toward Dublin, which could illuminate his characters' responses to the city. Just be cautious, especially about using secondary material: make sure that you get the last word.
- Conclude by setting your discussion into a different, perhaps larger, context. For example, you might end an essay on nineteenth-century muckraking journalism by linking it to a current news magazine program like 60 Minutes .
- Conclude by redefining one of the key terms of your argument. For example, an essay on Marx's treatment of the conflict between wage labor and capital might begin with Marx's claim that the "capitalist economy is . . . a gigantic enterprise of dehumanization "; the essay might end by suggesting that Marxist analysis is itself dehumanizing because it construes everything in economic -- rather than moral or ethical-- terms.
- Conclude by considering the implications of your argument (or analysis or discussion). What does your argument imply, or involve, or suggest? For example, an essay on the novel Ambiguous Adventure , by the Senegalese writer Cheikh Hamidou Kane, might open with the idea that the protagonist's development suggests Kane's belief in the need to integrate Western materialism and Sufi spirituality in modern Senegal. The conclusion might make the new but related point that the novel on the whole suggests that such an integration is (or isn't) possible.
Finally, some advice on how not to end an essay:
- Don't simply summarize your essay. A brief summary of your argument may be useful, especially if your essay is long--more than ten pages or so. But shorter essays tend not to require a restatement of your main ideas.
- Avoid phrases like "in conclusion," "to conclude," "in summary," and "to sum up." These phrases can be useful--even welcome--in oral presentations. But readers can see, by the tell-tale compression of the pages, when an essay is about to end. You'll irritate your audience if you belabor the obvious.
- Resist the urge to apologize. If you've immersed yourself in your subject, you now know a good deal more about it than you can possibly include in a five- or ten- or 20-page essay. As a result, by the time you've finished writing, you may be having some doubts about what you've produced. (And if you haven't immersed yourself in your subject, you may be feeling even more doubtful about your essay as you approach the conclusion.) Repress those doubts. Don't undercut your authority by saying things like, "this is just one approach to the subject; there may be other, better approaches. . ."
Copyright 1998, Pat Bellanca, for the Writing Center at Harvard University
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- How to conclude an essay | Interactive example
How to Conclude an Essay | Interactive Example
Published on January 24, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on December 6, 2021.
The conclusion is the final paragraph of your essay . A strong conclusion aims to:
- Tie together the essay’s main points
- Show why your argument matters
- Leave the reader with a strong impression
Your conclusion should give a sense of closure and completion to your argument, but also show what new questions or possibilities it has opened up.
This conclusion is taken from our annotated essay example , which discusses the history of the Braille system. Hover over each part to see why it’s effective.
Braille paved the way for dramatic cultural changes in the way blind people were treated and the opportunities available to them. Louis Braille’s innovation was to reimagine existing reading systems from a blind perspective, and the success of this invention required sighted teachers to adapt to their students’ reality instead of the other way around. In this sense, Braille helped drive broader social changes in the status of blindness. New accessibility tools provide practical advantages to those who need them, but they can also change the perspectives and attitudes of those who do not.
Table of contents
Step 1: return to your thesis, step 2: review your main points, step 3: show why it matters, what shouldn’t go in the conclusion, more examples of essay conclusions, frequently asked questions about writing an essay conclusion.
To begin your conclusion, signal that the essay is coming to an end by returning to your overall argument.
Don’t just repeat your thesis statement —instead, try to rephrase your argument in a way that shows how it has been developed since the introduction.
Next, remind the reader of the main points that you used to support your argument.
Avoid simply summarizing each paragraph or repeating each point in order; try to bring your points together in a way that makes the connections between them clear. The conclusion is your final chance to show how all the paragraphs of your essay add up to a coherent whole.
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To wrap up your conclusion, zoom out to a broader view of the topic and consider the implications of your argument. For example:
- Does it contribute a new understanding of your topic?
- Does it raise new questions for future study?
- Does it lead to practical suggestions or predictions?
- Can it be applied to different contexts?
- Can it be connected to a broader debate or theme?
Whatever your essay is about, the conclusion should aim to emphasize the significance of your argument, whether that’s within your academic subject or in the wider world.
Try to end with a strong, decisive sentence, leaving the reader with a lingering sense of interest in your topic.
The easiest way to improve your conclusion is to eliminate these common mistakes.
Don’t include new evidence
Any evidence or analysis that is essential to supporting your thesis statement should appear in the main body of the essay.
The conclusion might include minor pieces of new information—for example, a sentence or two discussing broader implications, or a quotation that nicely summarizes your central point. But it shouldn’t introduce any major new sources or ideas that need further explanation to understand.
Don’t use “concluding phrases”
Avoid using obvious stock phrases to tell the reader what you’re doing:
- “In conclusion…”
- “To sum up…”
These phrases aren’t forbidden, but they can make your writing sound weak. By returning to your main argument, it will quickly become clear that you are concluding the essay—you shouldn’t have to spell it out.
Don’t undermine your argument
Avoid using apologetic phrases that sound uncertain or confused:
- “This is just one approach among many.”
- “There are good arguments on both sides of this issue.”
- “There is no clear answer to this problem.”
Even if your essay has explored different points of view, your own position should be clear. There may be many possible approaches to the topic, but you want to leave the reader convinced that yours is the best one!
- Literary analysis
This conclusion is taken from an argumentative essay about the internet’s impact on education. It acknowledges the opposing arguments while taking a clear, decisive position.
The internet has had a major positive impact on the world of education; occasional pitfalls aside, its value is evident in numerous applications. The future of teaching lies in the possibilities the internet opens up for communication, research, and interactivity. As the popularity of distance learning shows, students value the flexibility and accessibility offered by digital education, and educators should fully embrace these advantages. The internet’s dangers, real and imaginary, have been documented exhaustively by skeptics, but the internet is here to stay; it is time to focus seriously on its potential for good.
This conclusion is taken from a short expository essay that explains the invention of the printing press and its effects on European society. It focuses on giving a clear, concise overview of what was covered in the essay.
The invention of the printing press was important not only in terms of its immediate cultural and economic effects, but also in terms of its major impact on politics and religion across Europe. In the century following the invention of the printing press, the relatively stationary intellectual atmosphere of the Middle Ages gave way to the social upheavals of the Reformation and the Renaissance. A single technological innovation had contributed to the total reshaping of the continent.
This conclusion is taken from a literary analysis essay about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein . It summarizes what the essay’s analysis achieved and emphasizes its originality.
By tracing the depiction of Frankenstein through the novel’s three volumes, I have demonstrated how the narrative structure shifts our perception of the character. While the Frankenstein of the first volume is depicted as having innocent intentions, the second and third volumes—first in the creature’s accusatory voice, and then in his own voice—increasingly undermine him, causing him to appear alternately ridiculous and vindictive. Far from the one-dimensional villain he is often taken to be, the character of Frankenstein is compelling because of the dynamic narrative frame in which he is placed. In this frame, Frankenstein’s narrative self-presentation responds to the images of him we see from others’ perspectives. This conclusion sheds new light on the novel, foregrounding Shelley’s unique layering of narrative perspectives and its importance for the depiction of character.
Your essay’s conclusion should contain:
- A rephrased version of your overall thesis
- A brief review of the key points you made in the main body
- An indication of why your argument matters
The conclusion may also reflect on the broader implications of your argument, showing how your ideas could applied to other contexts or debates.
For a stronger conclusion paragraph, avoid including:
- Important evidence or analysis that wasn’t mentioned in the main body
- Generic concluding phrases (e.g. “In conclusion…”)
- Weak statements that undermine your argument (e.g. “There are good points on both sides of this issue.”)
Your conclusion should leave the reader with a strong, decisive impression of your work.
The conclusion paragraph of an essay is usually shorter than the introduction . As a rule, it shouldn’t take up more than 10–15% of the text.
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How to Write a Conclusion for an Essay
You’ve done it. You’ve refined your introduction and your thesis. You’ve spent time researching and proving all of your supporting arguments. You’re slowly approaching the finish line of your essay and suddenly freeze up because—that’s right—it’s time to write the conclusion.
For many, the conclusion is the most dreaded part of essay writing . Condensing all the points you’ve analyzed in a tidy little package is certainly easier said than done. How can you make a good final impression while emphasizing the significance of your findings?
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Learning how to write a conclusion for an essay doesn’t need to feel like climbing Everest. It is wholly possible to tie everything together while considering the broader issues and implications of your argument. You just need the right strategy.
What do you want to leave your readers with? Perhaps you want to end with a quotation that adds texture to your discussion. Or, perhaps you want to set your argument into a different, perhaps larger context.
An effective conclusion paragraph should ultimately suggest to your reader that you’ve accomplished what you set out to prove.
How to write a good conclusion
As you set out to write your conclusion and end your essay on an insightful note, you’ll want to start by restating your thesis. Since the thesis is the central idea of your entire essay, it’s wise to remind the reader of the purpose of your paper.
Once you’ve restated your thesis (in a way that’s paraphrased, of course, and offers a fresh understanding), the next step is to reiterate your supporting points. Extract all of the “main points” from each of your supporting paragraphs or individual arguments in the essay . Then, find a way to wrap up these points in a way that demonstrates the importance of the ideas.
Depending on the length of your essay, knowing how to write a good conclusion is somewhat intuitive—you don’t want to simply summarize what you wrote. Rather, the conclusion should convey a sense of closure alongside the larger meaning and lingering possibilities of the topic.
What your conclusion should include
Now that you know what a good conclusion encompasses, you can get into the finer details. Beyond restating your thesis and summarizing your points, what else should the conclusion include?
Here are some strategies for ending your essay in a savvy and thought-provoking way:
Ask yourself: “So what?”
At some point in your life, a teacher has probably told you that the end of an essay should answer the question “So what?” or “Why does it matter?” This advice holds true. It’s helpful to ask yourself this question at the start of drafting your thesis and come back to it throughout, as it can keep you in tune with the essay’s purpose. Then, at your conclusion, you won’t be left searching for something to say.
If you’ve come across a fantastic quote in your research that didn’t quite make it into the essay, the conclusion is a great spot for it. Including a quote from one of your primary or secondary sources can frame your thesis or final thoughts in a different light. This can add specificity and texture to your overall argument.
For example, if you’ve written an essay about J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, you can think about using a quote from the book itself or from a critic or scholar who complicates your main point. If your thesis is about Salinger’s desire to preserve childhood innocence, ending with a biographer’s statement about Salinger’s attitude toward his own youth might be illuminating for readers. If you decide to amplify your conclusion paragraph in this way, make sure the secondary material adds (and not detracts) from the points you already made. After all, you want to have the last word!
Consider the clincher
At the very end of the essay comes your closing sentence or clincher. As you think about how to write a good conclusion, the clincher must be top of mind. What can you say to propel the reader to a new view on the subject? This final sentence needs to help readers feel a sense of closure. It should also end on a positive note, so your audience feels glad they read your paper and that they learned something worthwhile.
What your conclusion should not include
There are a few things that you should definitely strive to avoid when writing your conclusion paragraph. These elements will only cheapen your overall argument and belabor the obvious.
Here are several conclusion mishaps to consider:
- Avoid phrases like “in summary,” “in conclusion,” or “to sum up.” Readers know they’re at the end of the essay and don’t need a signpost.
- Don’t simply summarize what’s come before. For a short essay, you certainly don’t need to reiterate all of your supporting arguments. Readers will know if you just copied and pasted from elsewhere.
- Avoid introducing brand new ideas or evidence. This will only confuse readers and sap force from your arguments. If there’s a really profound point that you’ve reached in your conclusion and want to include, try moving it to one of your supporting paragraphs.
Whereas your introduction acts as a bridge that transfers your readers from their own lives into the “space” of your argument or analysis, your conclusion should help readers transition back to their daily lives.
By following this useful roadmap, you can feel confident that you know how to write a good conclusion that leaves readers with a solution, a call to action, or a powerful insight for further study.
To establish a sense of closure, you might do one or more of the following: Conclude by linking the last paragraph to the first, perhaps by reiterating a word or phrase you used at the beginning. Conclude with a sentence composed mainly of one-syllable words. Simple language can help create an ...
Table of contents Step 1: Return to your thesis To begin your conclusion, signal that the essay is coming to an end by returning to your... Step 2: Review your main points Next, remind the reader of the main points that you used to support your argument. Avoid... Step 3: Show why it matters
What your conclusion should include Ask yourself: “So what?”. This advice holds true. It’s helpful to ask yourself this question at the start of drafting... Add perspective. If you’ve come across a fantastic quote in your research that didn’t quite make it into the essay, the... Consider the ...