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How to Write a Thesis or Dissertation Conclusion
Published on September 6, 2022 by Tegan George and Shona McCombes. Revised on November 11, 2022.
The conclusion is the very last part of your thesis or dissertation . It should be concise and engaging, leaving your reader with a clear understanding of your main findings, as well as the answer to your research question .
In it, you should:
- Clearly state the answer to your main research question
- Summarize and reflect on your research process
- Make recommendations for future work on your thesis or dissertation topic
- Show what new knowledge you have contributed to your field
- Wrap up your thesis or dissertation
Table of contents
Discussion vs. conclusion, how long should your conclusion be, step 1: answer your research question, step 2: summarize and reflect on your research, step 3: make future recommendations, step 4: emphasize your contributions to your field, step 5: wrap up your thesis or dissertation, full conclusion example, conclusion checklist, frequently asked questions about conclusion sections.
While your conclusion contains similar elements to your discussion section , they are not the same thing.
Your conclusion should be shorter and more general than your discussion. Instead of repeating literature from your literature review , discussing specific research results , or interpreting your data in detail, concentrate on making broad statements that sum up the most important insights of your research.
As a rule of thumb, your conclusion should not introduce new data, interpretations, or arguments.
Depending on whether you are writing a thesis or dissertation, your length will vary. Generally, a conclusion should make up around 5–7% of your overall word count.
An empirical scientific study will often have a short conclusion, concisely stating the main findings and recommendations for future research. A humanities dissertation topic or systematic review , on the other hand, might require more space to conclude its analysis, tying all the previous sections together in an overall argument.
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Your conclusion should begin with the main question that your thesis or dissertation aimed to address. This is your final chance to show that you’ve done what you set out to do, so make sure to formulate a clear, concise answer.
- Don’t repeat a list of all the results that you already discussed
- Do synthesize them into a final takeaway that the reader will remember.
An empirical thesis or dissertation conclusion may begin like this:
A case study –based thesis or dissertation conclusion may begin like this:
In the second example, the research aim is not directly restated, but rather added implicitly to the statement. To avoid repeating yourself, it is helpful to reformulate your aims and questions into an overall statement of what you did and how you did it.
Your conclusion is an opportunity to remind your reader why you took the approach you did, what you expected to find, and how well the results matched your expectations.
To avoid repetition , consider writing more reflectively here, rather than just writing a summary of each preceding section. Consider mentioning the effectiveness of your methodology , or perhaps any new questions or unexpected insights that arose in the process.
You can also mention any limitations of your research, but only if you haven’t already included these in the discussion. Don’t dwell on them at length, though—focus on the positives of your work.
- While x limits the generalizability of the results, this approach provides new insight into y .
- This research clearly illustrates x , but it also raises the question of y .
You may already have made a few recommendations for future research in your discussion section, but the conclusion is a good place to elaborate and look ahead, considering the implications of your findings in both theoretical and practical terms.
- Based on these conclusions, practitioners should consider …
- To better understand the implications of these results, future studies could address …
- Further research is needed to determine the causes of/effects of/relationship between …
When making recommendations for further research, be sure not to undermine your own work. Relatedly, while future studies might confirm, build on, or enrich your conclusions, they shouldn’t be required for your argument to feel complete. Your work should stand alone on its own merits.
Just as you should avoid too much self-criticism, you should also avoid exaggerating the applicability of your research. If you’re making recommendations for policy, business, or other practical implementations, it’s generally best to frame them as “shoulds” rather than “musts.” All in all, the purpose of academic research is to inform, explain, and explore—not to demand.
Make sure your reader is left with a strong impression of what your research has contributed to the state of your field.
Some strategies to achieve this include:
- Returning to your problem statement to explain how your research helps solve the problem
- Referring back to the literature review and showing how you have addressed a gap in knowledge
- Discussing how your findings confirm or challenge an existing theory or assumption
Again, avoid simply repeating what you’ve already covered in the discussion in your conclusion. Instead, pick out the most important points and sum them up succinctly, situating your project in a broader context.
The end is near! Once you’ve finished writing your conclusion, it’s time to wrap up your thesis or dissertation with a few final steps:
- It’s a good idea to write your abstract next, while the research is still fresh in your mind.
- Next, make sure your reference list is complete and correctly formatted. To speed up the process, you can use our free APA citation generator .
- Once you’ve added any appendices , you can create a table of contents and title page .
- Finally, read through the whole document again to make sure your thesis is clearly written and free from language errors. You can proofread it yourself , ask a friend, or consider Scribbr’s proofreading and editing service .
Here is an example of how you can write your conclusion section. Notice how it includes everything mentioned above:
The current research aimed to identify acoustic speech characteristics which mark the beginning of an exacerbation in COPD patients.
The central questions for this research were as follows: 1. Which acoustic measures extracted from read speech differ between COPD speakers in stable condition and healthy speakers? 2. In what ways does the speech of COPD patients during an exacerbation differ from speech of COPD patients during stable periods?
All recordings were aligned using a script. Subsequently, they were manually annotated to indicate respiratory actions such as inhaling and exhaling. The recordings of 9 stable COPD patients reading aloud were then compared with the recordings of 5 healthy control subjects reading aloud. The results showed a significant effect of condition on the number of in- and exhalations per syllable, the number of non-linguistic in- and exhalations per syllable, and the ratio of voiced and silence intervals. The number of in- and exhalations per syllable and the number of non-linguistic in- and exhalations per syllable were higher for COPD patients than for healthy controls, which confirmed both hypotheses.
However, the higher ratio of voiced and silence intervals for COPD patients compared to healthy controls was not in line with the hypotheses. This unpredicted result might have been caused by the different reading materials or recording procedures for both groups, or by a difference in reading skills. Moreover, there was a trend regarding the effect of condition on the number of syllables per breath group. The number of syllables per breath group was higher for healthy controls than for COPD patients, which was in line with the hypothesis. There was no effect of condition on pitch, intensity, center of gravity, pitch variability, speaking rate, or articulation rate.
This research has shown that the speech of COPD patients in exacerbation differs from the speech of COPD patients in stable condition. This might have potential for the detection of exacerbations. However, sustained vowels rarely occur in spontaneous speech. Therefore, the last two outcome measures might have greater potential for the detection of beginning exacerbations, but further research on the different outcome measures and their potential for the detection of exacerbations is needed due to the limitations of the current study.
I have clearly and concisely answered the main research question .
I have summarized my overall argument or key takeaways.
I have mentioned any important limitations of the research.
I have given relevant recommendations .
I have clearly explained what my research has contributed to my field.
I have not introduced any new data or arguments.
You've written a great conclusion! Use the other checklists to further improve your dissertation.
In a thesis or dissertation, the discussion is an in-depth exploration of the results, going into detail about the meaning of your findings and citing relevant sources to put them in context.
The conclusion is more shorter and more general: it concisely answers your main research question and makes recommendations based on your overall findings.
While it may be tempting to present new arguments or evidence in your thesis or disseration conclusion , especially if you have a particularly striking argument you’d like to finish your analysis with, you shouldn’t. Theses and dissertations follow a more formal structure than this.
All your findings and arguments should be presented in the body of the text (more specifically in the discussion section and results section .) The conclusion is meant to summarize and reflect on the evidence and arguments you have already presented, not introduce new ones.
For a stronger dissertation conclusion , avoid including:
- Important evidence or analysis that wasn’t mentioned in the discussion section and results section
- 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 of your thesis or dissertation shouldn’t take up more than 5–7% of your overall word count.
The conclusion of your thesis or dissertation should include the following:
- A restatement of your research question
- A summary of your key arguments and/or results
- A short discussion of the implications of your research
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How To Write The Conclusion Chapter
The what, why & how explained simply (with examples).
By: Jenna Crossley (PhD Cand). Reviewed By: Dr. Eunice Rautenbach | September 2021
So, you’ve wrapped up your results and discussion chapters, and you’re finally on the home stretch – the conclusion chapter . In this post, we’ll discuss everything you need to know to craft a high-quality conclusion chapter for your dissertation or thesis project.
Overview: Dissertation Conclusion Chapter
- What the thesis/dissertation conclusion chapter is
- What to include in your conclusion chapter
- How to structure and write up your conclusion chapter
- A few tips to help you ace the chapter
What exactly is the conclusion chapter?
The conclusion chapter is typically the final major chapter of a dissertation or thesis. As such, it serves as a concluding summary of your research findings and wraps up the document. While some publications such as journal articles and research reports combine the discussion and conclusion sections, these are typically separate chapters in a dissertation or thesis. As always, be sure to check what your university’s structural preference is before you start writing up these chapters.
So, what’s the difference between the discussion and the conclusion chapter?
Well, the two chapters are quite similar , as they both discuss the key findings of the study. However, the conclusion chapter is typically more general and high-level in nature. In your discussion chapter, you’ll typically discuss the intricate details of your study, but in your conclusion chapter, you’ll take a broader perspective, reporting on the main research outcomes and how these addressed your research aim (or aims) .
A core function of the conclusion chapter is to synthesise all major points covered in your study and to tell the reader what they should take away from your work. Basically, you need to tell them what you found , why it’s valuable , how it can be applied , and what further research can be done.
Whatever you do, don’t just copy and paste what you’ve written in your discussion chapter! The conclusion chapter should not be a simple rehash of the discussion chapter. While the two chapters are similar, they have distinctly different functions.
What should I include in the conclusion chapter?
To understand what needs to go into your conclusion chapter, it’s useful to understand what the chapter needs to achieve. In general, a good dissertation conclusion chapter should achieve the following:
- Summarise the key findings of the study
- Explicitly answer the research question(s) and address the research aims
- Inform the reader of the study’s main contributions
- Discuss any limitations or weaknesses of the study
- Present recommendations for future research
Therefore, your conclusion chapter needs to cover these core components. Importantly, you need to be careful not to include any new findings or data points. Your conclusion chapter should be based purely on data and analysis findings that you’ve already presented in the earlier chapters. If there’s a new point you want to introduce, you’ll need to go back to your results and discussion chapters to weave the foundation in there.
In many cases, readers will jump from the introduction chapter directly to the conclusions chapter to get a quick overview of the study’s purpose and key findings. Therefore, when you write up your conclusion chapter, it’s useful to assume that the reader hasn’t consumed the inner chapters of your dissertation or thesis. In other words, craft your conclusion chapter such that there’s a strong connection and smooth flow between the introduction and conclusion chapters, even though they’re on opposite ends of your document.
Need a helping hand?
How to write the conclusion chapter
Now that you have a clearer view of what the conclusion chapter is about, let’s break down the structure of this chapter so that you can get writing. Keep in mind that this is merely a typical structure – it’s not set in stone or universal. Some universities will prefer that you cover some of these points in the discussion chapter , or that you cover the points at different levels in different chapters.
Step 1: Craft a brief introduction section
As with all chapters in your dissertation or thesis, the conclusions chapter needs to start with a brief introduction. In this introductory section, you’ll want to tell the reader what they can expect to find in the chapter, and in what order . Here’s an example of what this might look like:
This chapter will conclude the study by summarising the key research findings in relation to the research aims and questions and discussing the value and contribution thereof. It will also review the limitations of the study and propose opportunities for future research.
Importantly, the objective here is just to give the reader a taste of what’s to come (a roadmap of sorts), not a summary of the chapter. So, keep it short and sweet – a paragraph or two should be ample.
Step 2: Discuss the overall findings in relation to the research aims
The next step in writing your conclusions chapter is to discuss the overall findings of your study , as they relate to the research aims and research questions . You would have likely covered similar ground in the discussion chapter, so it’s important to zoom out a little bit here and focus on the broader findings – specifically, how these help address the research aims .
In practical terms, it’s useful to start this section by reminding your reader of your research aims and research questions, so that the findings are well contextualised. In this section, phrases such as, “This study aimed to…” and “the results indicate that…” will likely come in handy. For example, you could say something like the following:
This study aimed to investigate the feeding habits of the naked mole-rat. The results indicate that naked mole rats feed on underground roots and tubers. Further findings show that these creatures eat only a part of the plant, leaving essential parts to ensure long-term food stability.
Be careful not to make overly bold claims here. Avoid claims such as “this study proves that” or “the findings disprove existing the existing theory”. It’s seldom the case that a single study can prove or disprove something. Typically, this is achieved by a broader body of research, not a single study – especially not a dissertation or thesis which will inherently have significant and limitations. We’ll discuss those limitations a little later.
Step 3: Discuss how your study contributes to the field
Next, you’ll need to discuss how your research has contributed to the field – both in terms of theory and practice . This involves talking about what you achieved in your study, highlighting why this is important and valuable, and how it can be used or applied.
In this section you’ll want to:
- Mention any research outputs created as a result of your study (e.g., articles, publications, etc.)
- Inform the reader on just how your research solves your research problem , and why that matters
- Reflect on gaps in the existing research and discuss how your study contributes towards addressing these gaps
- Discuss your study in relation to relevant theories . For example, does it confirm these theories or constructively challenge them?
- Discuss how your research findings can be applied in the real world . For example, what specific actions can practitioners take, based on your findings?
Be careful to strike a careful balance between being firm but humble in your arguments here. It’s unlikely that your one study will fundamentally change paradigms or shake up the discipline, so making claims to this effect will be frowned upon . At the same time though, you need to present your arguments with confidence, firmly asserting the contribution your research has made, however small that contribution may be. Simply put, you need to keep it balanced .
Step 4: Reflect on the limitations of your study
Now that you’ve pumped your research up, the next step is to critically reflect on the limitations and potential shortcomings of your study. You may have already covered this in the discussion chapter, depending on your university’s structural preferences, so be careful not to repeat yourself unnecessarily.
There are many potential limitations that can apply to any given study. Some common ones include:
- Sampling issues that reduce the generalisability of the findings (e.g., non-probability sampling )
- Insufficient sample size (e.g., not getting enough survey responses ) or limited data access
- Low-resolution data collection or analysis techniques
- Researcher bias or lack of experience
- Lack of access to research equipment
- Time constraints that limit the methodology (e.g. cross-sectional vs longitudinal time horizon)
- Budget constraints that limit various aspects of the study
Discussing the limitations of your research may feel self-defeating (no one wants to highlight their weaknesses, right), but it’s a critical component of high-quality research. It’s important to appreciate that all studies have limitations (even well-funded studies by expert researchers) – therefore acknowledging these limitations adds credibility to your research by showing that you understand the limitations of your research design.
That being said, keep an eye on your wording and make sure that you don’t undermine your research . It’s important to strike a balance between recognising the limitations, but also highlighting the value of your research despite those limitations. Show the reader that you understand the limitations, that these were justified given your constraints, and that you know how they can be improved upon – this will get you marks.
Quick tips for a top-notch conclusion chapter
Now that we’ve covered the what , why and how of the conclusion chapter, here are some quick tips and suggestions to help you craft a rock-solid conclusion.
- Don’t ramble . The conclusion chapter usually consumes 5-7% of the total word count (although this will vary between universities), so you need to be concise. Edit this chapter thoroughly with a focus on brevity and clarity.
- Be very careful about the claims you make in terms of your study’s contribution. Nothing will make the marker’s eyes roll back faster than exaggerated or unfounded claims. Be humble but firm in your claim-making.
- Use clear and simple language that can be easily understood by an intelligent layman. Remember that not every reader will be an expert in your field, so it’s important to make your writing accessible. Bear in mind that no one knows your research better than you do, so it’s important to spell things out clearly for readers.
Hopefully, this post has given you some direction and confidence to take on the conclusion chapter of your dissertation or thesis with confidence. If you’re still feeling a little shaky and need a helping hand, consider booking a free initial consultation with a friendly Grad Coach to discuss how we can help you with hands-on, private coaching.
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This post is part of our research writing mini-course, which covers everything you need to get started with your dissertation, thesis or research project.
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Really you team are doing great!
Your guide on writing the concluding chapter of a research is really informative especially to the beginners who really do not know where to start. Im now ready to start. Keep it up guys
Really your team are doing great!
A very enjoyable, understandable and crisp presentation on how to write a conclusion chapter. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks Jenna.
This was a very helpful article which really gave me practical pointers for my concluding chapter. Keep doing what you are doing! It meant a lot to me to be able to have this guide. Thank you so much.
Nice content dealing with the conclusion chapter, it’s a relief after the streneous task of completing discussion part.Thanks for valuable guidance
Thanks for your guidance
I get all my doubts clarified regarding the conclusion chapter. It’s really amazing. Many thanks.
Very helpful tips. Thanks so much for the guidance
Thank you very much for this piece. It offers a very helpful starting point in writing the conclusion chapter of my thesis.
It’s awesome! Most useful and timely too. Thanks a million times
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Last impressions count – writing your PhD thesis conclusion
Feb 12, 2019
Picture this: your examiner has just spent a week reading your thesis (yes – it takes that long!). They’ve understood your aims and objectives, like your methodology, think you applied your theory well and found your results fascinating.
Then they get to the conclusion and see that it is badly written. It seems unclear and hasn’t answered the research questions. The contribution is left hanging. It’s making grandiose claims that aren’t backed up in the empirics. The report that they subsequently write for your viva questions whether the research is actually complete.
Awful, right? Well, it happens a lot. The conclusion is the last thing the examiner reads and has a lasting impact on how they see the whole thesis.
That means: last impressions count.
In this guide, I explain to you in clear and simple terms how to write a superstar PhD thesis conclusion. One that really impresses your examiner and gives your thesis the send-off it deserves.
There are lots of guides out there that explain how to write a PhD thesis conclusion, but few that explain how to write outstanding conclusions.
The purpose of a conclusion
You can see from your PhD Writing Template that a PhD conclusion should achieve six objectives:
Answer the research questions Show how you have addressed your aims and objectives Explain the significance and implications of your findings Explain the contribution the study makes Explain the limitations of the study Lay out questions for further research
These are the basics and you probably know them already.
The problem is that most guides I’ve found online to writing PhD thesis conclusions seem to stop at these six points.
That’s fine, but if you want to write a superstar conclusion – and you do, because last impression counts remember – you need to consider a whole bunch of other things.
Keep reading, I’ll show you how.
How to write a superstar conclusion
Think of reading a PhD thesis being like a journey.
At the beginning, you – the author – are talking in speculative terms, particularly during your literature and theory work. You are saying ‘what if’ and postulating about what might be out there once you enter the field.
You talk in terms of hypotheses and potentials. The tone is one of: ‘perhaps things might be behaving in a certain way, so let’s get out in the field and see whether they do or not’.
As you go through the empirical chapters you begin to introduce a bit more certainty into your discussion. You start to change from ‘what if’ to ‘here is what’s happening’.
But – and this is the important bit – by the time you have reached the conclusion you have eliminated all uncertainty.
As a result, you are now the expert in your field. You have scoped out the potential, jumped into the field and achieved your objectives.
There are two things to consider if you want to write a superstar conclusion.
1. Own your research
So, in the conclusion, start talking like an expert. Showcase your expertise and show your examiner that you are worthy of being called Doctor. If you don’t execute your conclusion properly and leave things unfinished, the examiner is questioning your suitability and is going to recommend that you work on your thesis for another few months.
But wait, what do I mean by ‘unfinished’?
Well, answering the six questions above is imperative. But, most importantly, you need to really drive home the contribution that the thesis has made . Regardless of whether you can see it or not, your thesis contributes something to the field. It might be a new methodology, a new application of theory onto an existing body of data or sample, or a contradiction of established ways of thinking. Whatever it is, you need to shout about it. Loudly. Like an expert.
If you hesitate and remain vague, the examiner will see this . Sure, you might think that the research could have been better. Sure, you messed up that one experiment. Sure, you aimed to find one thing but ended up finding another. But focus on those shortcomings later, after you have told the reader about all the fantastic contributions you have made (however small – and in fact, they will be small. Don’t try to over-generalise your contribution ) and after you have shown how, you would have fulfilled the research aims and objectives.
While you’re doing it, own the literature . Relate your findings back to particular studies and don’t be afraid to say what studies your new findings seems to contradict or which it seems to invalidate. That’s what exerting your (new) authority is all about.
A conclusion that fails to relate the findings to the literature is an incomplete conclusion. You spent pages and pages neatly carving out a gap in the literature; the least you can do is show how your research fills that gap.
2. See the thesis, not the detail
A superstar conclusion is one that doesn’t get weighed down in detail. It talks to the thesis, not the detail. The time for detail is over. Now you take a step back and look at the entire project.
Each chapter is a piece of the puzzle and only when they are all slotted together do you have an entire thesis. That means that a great conclusion is one that shows that the thesis is bigger than the sum of its individual chapters.
The conclusion is not the time to get lost in words and talk in lengthy detail about particular theoretical, empirical or methodological issues; you’ve had the previous 200 pages or so to do that. Instead, it’s the time to clearly and concisely – but still critically – explain your thesis and its significance.
So, rather than get bogged down in detail, your job is to reflect back on your original aims and intentions and discuss them in terms of your findings and new expertise.
It also means summarising your thesis in a way that is free of unnecessary detail and is easy to understand.
Three things not to do in a conclusion
1. don’t repeat yourself.
Somewhere in your conclusion, you need to have an executive summary of your entire thesis. Our PhD writing template can help with this, as it forces you to write a synopsis of each chapter which you can add together for a summary of the thesis.
Note, though, that there’s a difference between summarising your thesis and repeating huge tracts of it. If you have done your job properly in the empirical and discussion chapters, the reader will be familiar with your findings. There’s no need to repeat them in the conclusion. It’ll bore the pants off your examiner if they have to read them again.
A quick summary or recap of the findings is sufficient, not a lengthy restatement. The same is true with your theory framework or literature review. Recap, don’t repeat.
2. Don’t introduce new text or material
The job of the conclusion then is to summarise and recap, not to introduce new material. If you feel the need to include new empirical material or new literature here, don’t. It needs to go elsewhere.
The conclusion will certainly talk back to your literature review or empirical data, in the sense that it will seek to fulfil certain objectives and address a gap in the literature. The point is that you need to state your objectives and discuss the gap in the literature earlier in the thesis. You use the conclusion to relate the empirical findings to those objectives and to that gap. The literature review and theory framework lay out the objectives and aims of the research, whereas the conclusion discusses how you have met those objectives and aims. It will neither lay out new objectives or aims (using new literature), nor will it do the job of fulfilling those aims (by presenting new empirical data). It will merely explain in clear terms how you have done those things elsewhere in the text.
3. Don’t pretend that your thesis does more than it actually does
Remember earlier when we discussed not owning your research and speaking as an authority? One way to fail at this is to over-generalise or to pretend that your thesis does more than it actually does.
There is no shame in focusing in on a very specific contribution . It’s unlikely that your PhD thesis is going to completely revolutionise your field, so don’t claim that it has. Instead, refer back to your literature review and relate it to other discussions and the gaps that you identified. This isn’t to suggest that your study can’t impact the broader field; if you think your study (which, lets face it, is going to be limited, given the constraints of doctoral research) has the potential to revolutionise the field you should lay these out as questions for future research. Or, perhaps your thesis has policy implications – don’t be afraid to list them, but don’t be overconfident in your appraisal.
Don’t forget to discuss the implications or your thesis and the directions for future research. No PhD thesis is perfect and you should acknowledge what your thesis didn’t do as much as what it could have. This doesn’t stop with a discussion on the epistemological, ontological or methodological limitations of the study, but extends to your own personal limitations. Did you run out of time? Did you struggle to recruit participants because of language barriers? Or maybe you didn’t have the budget to conduct the study you wanted to? These kinds of personal reflections are important, as they show humility and that you are aware of avenues for growth.
A conclusion that fails to explain the contribution, that fails to recap and that fails to focus on the entire thesis rather than the detail will leave the reader unsatisfied.
The conclusion needs to wrap up the research. It needs to clearly state the answers to the research questions and lay out in clear, undisputed terms the contribution that you are making. Fail to do this and you’ll be left trying to convince your examiner that the study is complete when it comes to your viva.
Do it well, and the examiner will already think you’re worthy of the title Doctor before your viva has even begun.
Sounds good, doesn’t it? Be able to call yourself Doctor sooner with our five-star rated How to Write A PhD email-course. Learn everything your supervisor should have taught you about planning and completing a PhD.
Now half price. Join hundreds of other students and become a better thesis writer, or your money back.
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PhD Writing 4: How to write the conclusion chapter of your PhD
Writing the conclusion to your PhD thesis can be daunting.
How are you meant to draw together more than three years’ worth of work into one concise chapter, and make those wider conclusive points that have been on the periphery of your research throughout your PhD?
First, it’s important to note that just as every PhD project is different, so too is every conclusion. By the time it comes to writing your conclusion, you are the person who knows your research the best and are also the most well-informed person on your area of study. It is vital to remember that you are absolutely the optimal, most qualified candidate to draw conclusions from your research.
That being said, here are some useful tips for writing a PhD thesis conclusion, whether your field of research is in Science, Technology, Engineering and Medicine (STEM) or Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities (SSAH).
Clearly state the answer(s) to the main research question(s)
By now, you will have honed your research question (s) – here is your opportunity to intelligibly answer those questions or address your hypotheses. If you are struggling with where to start with your conclusion, directly answering your research questions is a good opener.
Summarise and reflect on the research you have undertaken
The conclusion provides the opportunity for you to tie all your chapters together, showing how they all connect under the umbrella of your PhD title and your research questions or objectives.
Acknowledge the limitations of your research
Most PhD conclusions include a reflection of the limitations of your research. Areas for consideration include:
- Scope : What has your focus or research questions excluded or not been able to cover within this project, and why?
- Time and word limits : How have the limitations of the PhD period restricted your research, or how have the word counts affected the expression of your thesis into a paper? (This may overlap in part with scope.)
- Access : Were you unable to access certain resources or materials , and how has this limited your research?
Make recommendations for future work on the topic
Whether you want to be the one to continue this work in postdoctoral research, or if you are ready to hand this off to the next generation of researchers, this is your chance to gesture towards potential future avenues of research. For example, you could highlight other directions or approaches that could be explored, alternative data sets that could be studied or new questions or hypotheses arising from your research that could be further investigated. This is also a good time to offer suggestions for addressing the limitations to this research that you have identified.
Showcase the original knowledge you have contributed to the field
A significant and substantial part of a PhD is about providing an original contribution to your field. Here is your opportunity to lay bare what you have contributed and how you have done that. Your literature review will have discussed the relevant literature and identified prominent gaps in the knowledge within your field of study. Your conclusion can then show how you have filled those gaps in an innovative way.
Finally, working on your conclusion is an excellent opportunity for yourself to reflect upon your research as a whole.
Before and as you write this chapter, reflect upon these questions:
- Where does your research fit in the existing body of knowledge?
- What gaps in research have you addressed?
- What is new and exciting about your research?
- How is the literature in your field in dialogue with each other, and with your study?
By answering these questions, you should be able to arrive at a concise, yet insightful summary of your overall research journey, process and findings .
Read previous in series: PhD Writing 3: How to write the introduction chapter of a thesis
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Research and Writing Guides
Writing a paper? Don't get lost.
How to write an excellent thesis conclusion
At this point in your writing, you have most likely finished your introduction and the body of your thesis, dissertation, or paper. While this is a reason to celebrate, you should not underestimate the importance of your conclusion. The conclusion is the last thing that your reader will see, so it should be memorable. Writing a good conclusion is a simple process, but it is not always easy.
A good conclusion will review the key points of the dissertation and explain to the reader why the information is relevant, applicable, or related to the world as a whole. Make sure to dedicate enough of your writing time to the conclusion and do not put it off until the very last minute. This article provides an effective technique for writing a conclusion adapted from Eby, Erica (2012) The College Student's Guide to Writing a Good Research Paper: 101 Easy Tips & Tricks to Make Your Work Stand Out .
While the thesis introduction starts out with broad statements about the topic, and then narrows it down to the thesis statement, a thesis conclusion does the same in the opposite order:
- 1. Restate the thesis
The best way to start a conclusion is simply by restating the thesis statement. That does not mean just copying and pasting it from the introduction, but putting it into different words. You will need to change the structure and wording of it to avoid sounding repetitive. Also, be firm in your conclusion just as you were in the introduction. Try to avoid sounding apologetic by using phrases like "This paper has tried to show..."
The conclusion should address all the same parts as the thesis while making it clear that the reader has reached the end. You are telling the reader that your research is finished and what your findings are.
I have argued throughout this work that the point of critical mass for biopolitical immunity occurred during the Romantic period because of that era's unique combination of post-revolutionary politics and innovations in smallpox prevention. In particular, I demonstrated that the French Revolution and the discovery of vaccination in the 1790s triggered a reconsideration of the relationship between bodies and the state.
- 2. Review or reiterate key points of your work
The next step is to review the main points of the thesis as a whole. Look back at the body of of your project and make a note of the key ideas. You can reword these ideas the same way you reworded your thesis statement and then incorporate that into the conclusion. You can also repeat striking quotations or statistics, but do not use more than two. As the conclusion represents your own closing thoughts on the topic, it should mainly consist of your own words.
In addition, conclusions can contain recommendations to the reader or relevant questions that further the thesis. You should ask yourself what you would ideally like to see your readers do in reaction to your paper. Do you want them to take a certain action or investigate further? Is there a bigger issue that your paper wants to draw attention to?
Also, try to reference your introduction in your conclusion. You have already taken a first step by restating your thesis. Now, check whether there are other key words, phrases or ideas that are mentioned in your introduction that fit into your conclusion. Connecting the introduction to the conclusion in this way will help readers feel satisfied.
I explored how Mary Wollstonecraft, in both her fiction and political writings, envisions an ideal medico-political state, and how other writers like William Wordsworth and Mary Shelley increasingly imagined the body politic literally, as an incorporated political collective made up of bodies whose immunity to political and medical ills was essential to a healthy state.
- 3. Explain why your work is relevant
Although you can encourage readers to question their opinions and reflect on your topic, do not leave loose ends. You should provide a sense of resolution and make sure your conclusion wraps up your argument. Make sure you explain why your thesis is relevant to your field of research and how your research intervenes within, or substantially revises, existing scholarly debates.
This project challenged conventional ideas about the relationship among Romanticism, medicine, and politics by reading the unfolding of Romantic literature and biopolitical immunity as mutual, co-productive processes. In doing so, this thesis revises the ways in which biopolitics has been theorized by insisting on the inherent connections between Romantic literature and the forms of biopower that characterize early modernity.
- 4. A take-home message for the reader
End your conclusion with something memorable, such as a question, call to action, or recommendation. You can also gesture towards future research or note how the problem or idea that you covered remains relevant. If you began your thesis with an anecdote or historical example, you may want to return to that in your conclusion. Ultimately, you want readers to feel more informed, or ready to act, as they read your conclusion.
Yet, the Romantic period is only the beginning of modern thought on immunity and biopolitics. Victorian writers, doctors, and politicians upheld the Romantic idea that a "healthy state" was a literal condition that could be achieved by combining politics and medicine, but augmented that idea through legislation and widespread public health measures. While many nineteenth-century efforts to improve citizens' health were successful, the fight against disease ultimately changed course in the twentieth century as global immunological threats such as SARS occupied public consciousness. Indeed, as subsequent public health events make apparent, biopolitical immunity persists as a viable concept for thinking about the relationship between medicine and politics in modernity.
Need more advice? Read our 5 additional tips on how to write a good thesis conclusion.
- Frequently Asked Questions about writing an excellent thesis conclusion
The conclusion is the last thing that your reader will see, so it should be memorable. To write a great thesis conclusion you should:
- Restate the thesis
- Review the key points of your work
- Explain why your work is relevant
- Add a take-home message for the reader
The basic content of a conclusion is to review the main points from the paper. This part represents your own closing thoughts on the topic. It should mainly consist of the outcome of the research in your own words.
The length of the conclusion will depend on the length of the whole thesis. Usually, a conclusion should be around 5-7% of the overall word count.
End your conclusion with something memorable, such as a question, warning, or call to action. Depending on the topic, you can also end with a recommendation.
In Open Access: Theses and Dissertations you can find thousands of completed works. Take a look at any of the theses or dissertations for real-life examples of conclusions that were already approved.
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You can see from your PhD Writing Template that a PhD conclusion should achieve six objectives: Answer the research questions Show how you have addressed your aims and objectives Explain the significance and implications of your findings Explain the contribution the study makes Explain the limitations of the study
Summarise and reflect on the research you have undertaken. The conclusion provides the opportunity for you to tie all your chapters together, showing how they all connect under the umbrella of your PhD title and your research questions or objectives.
The best way to start a conclusion is simply by restating the thesis statement. That does not mean just copying and pasting it from the introduction, but putting it into different words. You will need to change the structure and wording of it to avoid sounding repetitive. Also, be firm in your conclusion just as you were in the introduction.