What this handout is about.
This handout will explain the functions of conclusions, offer strategies for writing effective ones, help you evaluate conclusions you’ve drafted, and suggest approaches to avoid.
Introductions and conclusions can be difficult to write, but they’re worth investing time in. They can have a significant influence on a reader’s experience of your paper.
Just as your introduction acts as a bridge that transports your readers from their own lives into the “place” of your analysis, your conclusion can provide a bridge to help your readers make the transition back to their daily lives. Such a conclusion will help them see why all your analysis and information should matter to them after they put the paper down.
Your conclusion is your chance to have the last word on the subject. The conclusion allows you to have the final say on the issues you have raised in your paper, to synthesize your thoughts, to demonstrate the importance of your ideas, and to propel your reader to a new view of the subject. It is also your opportunity to make a good final impression and to end on a positive note.
Your conclusion can go beyond the confines of the assignment. The conclusion pushes beyond the boundaries of the prompt and allows you to consider broader issues, make new connections, and elaborate on the significance of your findings.
Your conclusion should make your readers glad they read your paper. Your conclusion gives your reader something to take away that will help them see things differently or appreciate your topic in personally relevant ways. It can suggest broader implications that will not only interest your reader, but also enrich your reader’s life in some way. It is your gift to the reader.
Strategies for writing an effective conclusion
One or more of the following strategies may help you write an effective conclusion:
- Play the “So What” Game. If you’re stuck and feel like your conclusion isn’t saying anything new or interesting, ask a friend to read it with you. Whenever you make a statement from your conclusion, ask the friend to say, “So what?” or “Why should anybody care?” Then ponder that question and answer it. Here’s how it might go: You: Basically, I’m just saying that education was important to Douglass. Friend: So what? You: Well, it was important because it was a key to him feeling like a free and equal citizen. Friend: Why should anybody care? You: That’s important because plantation owners tried to keep slaves from being educated so that they could maintain control. When Douglass obtained an education, he undermined that control personally. You can also use this strategy on your own, asking yourself “So What?” as you develop your ideas or your draft.
- Return to the theme or themes in the introduction. This strategy brings the reader full circle. For example, if you begin by describing a scenario, you can end with the same scenario as proof that your essay is helpful in creating a new understanding. You may also refer to the introductory paragraph by using key words or parallel concepts and images that you also used in the introduction.
- Synthesize, don’t summarize. Include a brief summary of the paper’s main points, but don’t simply repeat things that were in your paper. Instead, show your reader how the points you made and the support and examples you used fit together. Pull it all together.
- Include a provocative insight or quotation from the research or reading you did for your paper.
- Propose a course of action, a solution to an issue, or questions for further study. This can redirect your reader’s thought process and help her to apply your info and ideas to her own life or to see the broader implications.
- Point to broader implications. For example, if your paper examines the Greensboro sit-ins or another event in the Civil Rights Movement, you could point out its impact on the Civil Rights Movement as a whole. A paper about the style of writer Virginia Woolf could point to her influence on other writers or on later feminists.
Strategies to avoid
- Beginning with an unnecessary, overused phrase such as “in conclusion,” “in summary,” or “in closing.” Although these phrases can work in speeches, they come across as wooden and trite in writing.
- Stating the thesis for the very first time in the conclusion.
- Introducing a new idea or subtopic in your conclusion.
- Ending with a rephrased thesis statement without any substantive changes.
- Making sentimental, emotional appeals that are out of character with the rest of an analytical paper.
- Including evidence (quotations, statistics, etc.) that should be in the body of the paper.
Four kinds of ineffective conclusions
- The “That’s My Story and I’m Sticking to It” Conclusion. This conclusion just restates the thesis and is usually painfully short. It does not push the ideas forward. People write this kind of conclusion when they can’t think of anything else to say. Example: In conclusion, Frederick Douglass was, as we have seen, a pioneer in American education, proving that education was a major force for social change with regard to slavery.
- The “Sherlock Holmes” Conclusion. Sometimes writers will state the thesis for the very first time in the conclusion. You might be tempted to use this strategy if you don’t want to give everything away too early in your paper. You may think it would be more dramatic to keep the reader in the dark until the end and then “wow” him with your main idea, as in a Sherlock Holmes mystery. The reader, however, does not expect a mystery, but an analytical discussion of your topic in an academic style, with the main argument (thesis) stated up front. Example: (After a paper that lists numerous incidents from the book but never says what these incidents reveal about Douglass and his views on education): So, as the evidence above demonstrates, Douglass saw education as a way to undermine the slaveholders’ power and also an important step toward freedom.
- The “America the Beautiful”/”I Am Woman”/”We Shall Overcome” Conclusion. This kind of conclusion usually draws on emotion to make its appeal, but while this emotion and even sentimentality may be very heartfelt, it is usually out of character with the rest of an analytical paper. A more sophisticated commentary, rather than emotional praise, would be a more fitting tribute to the topic. Example: Because of the efforts of fine Americans like Frederick Douglass, countless others have seen the shining beacon of light that is education. His example was a torch that lit the way for others. Frederick Douglass was truly an American hero.
- The “Grab Bag” Conclusion. This kind of conclusion includes extra information that the writer found or thought of but couldn’t integrate into the main paper. You may find it hard to leave out details that you discovered after hours of research and thought, but adding random facts and bits of evidence at the end of an otherwise-well-organized essay can just create confusion. Example: In addition to being an educational pioneer, Frederick Douglass provides an interesting case study for masculinity in the American South. He also offers historians an interesting glimpse into slave resistance when he confronts Covey, the overseer. His relationships with female relatives reveal the importance of family in the slave community.
We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.
Douglass, Frederick. 1995. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself. New York: Dover.
Hamilton College. n.d. “Conclusions.” Writing Center. Accessed June 14, 2019. https://www.hamilton.edu//academics/centers/writing/writing-resources/conclusions .
Holewa, Randa. 2004. “Strategies for Writing a Conclusion.” LEO: Literacy Education Online. Last updated February 19, 2004. https://leo.stcloudstate.edu/acadwrite/conclude.html.
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How to Write a Conclusion Paragraph for an Essay
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- An effective conclusion paragraph is vital to writing a successful college essay.
- A strong conclusion restates the thesis, offers new insight, and forms a personal connection.
- Be sure the conclusion doesn't introduce new arguments or analyze points you didn't discuss.
The first steps for writing any college essay are coming up with a strong thesis statement and composing a rough introduction . Once you've done that, you can collect information that supports your thesis, outline your essay's main points, and start writing your body paragraphs . Before you can submit the essay, though, you'll also need to write a compelling conclusion paragraph.
Conclusions aren't especially difficult to write and can even be fun, but you still need to put in effort to make them work. Ultimately, a strong conclusion is just as important as an effective introduction for a successful paper.
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Here, we explain the purpose of a conclusion and how to write a conclusion paragraph using a simple three-step process.
The Purpose of a Conclusion Paragraph
A conclusion paragraph does :
- Check Circle Summarize the essay's thesis and evidence to further convince the reader
- Check Circle Elevate your essay by adding new insight or something extra to impress the reader
- Check Circle Leave a personal impression that connects you more closely to the reader
A conclusion paragraph does not :
- X Circle Summarize something the paper does not discuss
- X Circle Introduce a new argument
How to Write a Conclusion in 3 Easy Steps
Step 1: restate your thesis claim and evidence.
The conclusion's primary role is to convince the reader that your argument is valid. Whereas the introduction paragraph says, "Here's what I'll prove and how," the conclusion paragraph says, "Here's what I proved and how." In that sense, these two paragraphs should closely mirror each other, with the conclusion restating the thesis introduced at the beginning of the essay.
In order to restate your thesis effectively, you'll need to do the following:
- Check Circle Reread your introduction carefully to identify your paper's main claim
- Check Circle Pay attention to the evidence you used to support your thesis throughout the essay
- Check Circle In your conclusion, reword the thesis and summarize the supporting evidence
- Check Circle Use phrases in the past tense, like "as demonstrated" and "this paper established"
Here's an example of an introduction and a conclusion paragraph, with the conclusion restating the paper's primary claim and evidence:
It is a known fact that archaic civilizations with clearly defined social classes often survived longer than those without. One anomaly is seventh-century Civilization X. Close analysis of the cultural artifacts of the Civilization X region reveals that a social system that operates on exploitation, rather than sharing, will always fail. This lack of inclusion actually leads to a society's downfall. Excavated military objects, remnants of tapestries and clay pots, and the poetry of the era all demonstrate the clash between exploitation and sharing, with the former leading to loss and the latter leading to success.
In the 600s C.E., Civilization X survived because it believed in inclusion and sharing rather than exploitation. As demonstrated, the civilization was often aware of the choice between sharing with others and taking from them. The cultural artifacts from the era, namely military items, household objects, and verbal art, all indicate that Civilization X believed sharing ensured survival for all, while taking allowed only a few to survive for a shorter time.
Step 2: Provide New and Interesting Insight
In addition to restating the thesis, a conclusion should emphasize the importance of the essay's argument by building upon it. In other words, you want to push your ideas one step beyond your thesis. One intriguing insight at the end can leave your professor pondering your paper well after they finish reading it — and that's a good sign you turned in a well-written essay.
Note that the conclusion paragraph must only mention that this new idea exists and deserves some focus in the future; it shouldn't discuss the idea in detail or try to propose a new argument.
The new insight you raise in your conclusion should ideally come from the research you already conducted. Should a new idea come to you while writing the body paragraphs, go ahead and make a note to remind you to allude to it in your conclusion.
Here are some typical starting points for these new insights:
- Check Circle A new idea that would have prompted you to redesign your thesis if you had the time
- Check Circle A new angle that would further prove your thesis
- Check Circle Evidence you found that refutes your claim but that you can justify anyway
- Check Circle A different topic to which you can apply the same thesis and/or angles
Step 3: Form a Personal Connection With the Reader
The final step when writing a conclusion paragraph is to include a small detail about yourself. This information will help you build a more intimate bond with your reader and help them remember you better. Think of this step as an opportunity to connect the academic research to your and your reader's personal lives — to forge a human bond between the lines.
Formal essay-writing typically avoids first- and second-person pronouns such as "I" and "you." There are, however, two exceptions to this rule, and these are the introduction and conclusion paragraphs.
In the conclusion, you may use first-person pronouns to attempt to establish an emotional connection with the reader.
In the introduction, you may use the words "I" or "me" just once to clarify that the essay's claim is your own. In the conclusion, you may use first-person pronouns to attempt to establish an emotional connection with the reader, as long as this connection is related in some way to the overarching claim.
Here's an example of a conclusion paragraph that uses both first- and second-person pronouns to connect the thesis statement (provided above) to the student's own perspective on stealing:
Civilization X believed that invading Civilization Y would help them survive long, hunger-inducing winters. But all people go through moments when they crave security, especially in times of scarcity. I would certainly never consider taking the belongings of a neighbor, nor, I expect, would you. Yet we must consider the Civilization X artifacts that justify "taking" as signs of more than simple bloodthirst — they are also revelations of the basic human need for security. Perhaps if we had lived during the 600s C.E., you and I would have also taken from others, even while commanding others not to take from us.
Feature Image: Ziga Plahutar / E+ / Getty Images
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This resource outlines the generally accepted structure for introductions, body paragraphs, and conclusions in an academic argument paper. Keep in mind that this resource contains guidelines and not strict rules about organization. Your structure needs to be flexible enough to meet the requirements of your purpose and audience.
Conclusions wrap up what you have been discussing in your paper. After moving from general to specific information in the introduction and body paragraphs, your conclusion should begin pulling back into more general information that restates the main points of your argument. Conclusions may also call for action or overview future possible research. The following outline may help you conclude your paper:
In a general way,
- Restate your topic and why it is important,
- Restate your thesis/claim,
- Address opposing viewpoints and explain why readers should align with your position,
- Call for action or overview future research possibilities.
Remember that once you accomplish these tasks, unless otherwise directed by your instructor, you are finished. Done. Complete. Don't try to bring in new points or end with a whiz bang(!) conclusion or try to solve world hunger in the final sentence of your conclusion. Simplicity is best for a clear, convincing message.
The preacher's maxim is one of the most effective formulas to follow for argument papers:
Tell what you're going to tell them (introduction).
Tell them (body).
Tell them what you told them (conclusion).
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- Knowledge Base
- 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.
How to Write Conclusions That Don’t Suck
When a guest author hands me their first sample draft, it’s often missing a conclusion — sometimes accompanied by a note of apology that they thought about it, but they don’t know how to wrap the darn thing up, and could I offer any suggestions?
I don’t blame them — conclusions are often the most challenging part of any piece, and there’s a lot of conflicting advice about how to handle them. What follows is the most common advice I share with guest authors who are struggling with writing a conclusion that resonates.
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Why writing conclusions is difficult
Remember your English teacher offering some form of the following advice about how to structure an essay or thesis statement?
Tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em, tell ’em, and then tell ’em what you told ’em.
It’s not terrible advice for a beginning writer — while the five paragraph paper has its faults , it’s a useful mechanism for learning to think critically and structure straightforward arguments. The advice breaks down, however, as soon as anyone wishes to communicate a moderately complex idea to anyone other than the person reading your paper.
Yet further conventional wisdom about how to approach conclusions can be vague and conflicting: Restate your main points, but don’t repeat yourself, but do make sure you summarize the entire piece, but definitely don’t introduce any new ideas. Make sure you signal this is the end, but don’t use the word “conclusion,” but do leave your reader with an interesting final impression …
No wonder so many folks find conclusions impossible.
A great conclusion answers the ‘so what?’ question
Regardless of length and format, it’s common to get to “the end of the middle” of whatever you’re writing and not know where to go from there.
You already said what you meant and offered a pile of evidence to prove your point! What else is there to say?
A great way of concluding your piece is to answer the “so what?” question. It sets your idea in a broader context, which gives your writing a better chance of resonating with a larger audience. Take a step back from what you’ve been saying and ask: Why is this important? Why should anyone care?
Take Nick’s post on “ Parting Ways With a Remote Employee .” It’s a list of tips about how to let go of an employee when you can’t be in the same room. The topic is a) ugly and b) probably irrelevant to most readers. But Nick does a nice job answering the “so what?” question in his conclusion:
This conclusion tells the reader what they’re supposed to take away from the post. Why is this important? Because there’s another human being involved in this situation, and they’re having a much worse day than the person doing the firing. Why should anyone care? Because if you take the advice Nick gives in this post, that person will have a better (at least, less horrible) experience, and ideally go on to succeed somewhere where they’ll be a better fit, and you can be a part of that.
Nick’s conclusion works because it takes the advice he gives throughout the post and applies it on a wider scale, at a more human level. The lesson applies to anyone who’s ever had to let someone go, not only remote teams.
Make it human
Getting personal is another good trick for writing conclusions that make an impact. How can you apply what you’ve just said not only to your work, but to your existence as a human on this planet?
That’s what I was going for in the conclusion to “ Why You Should Set Big Goals (Even If You Might Not Hit Them) ” — the post is about the benefits of thinking big, and why Help Scout tends to aim for goals higher than what we think we’re capable of accomplishing. It’s something I’ve started doing on a personal level, too, because left to my own devices, I won’t aim high enough — so I used the conclusion as a space to own up to that, in case any readers identify with that feeling and might get value out of asking themselves the same questions.
Ask a question or issue a personal challenge
Your conclusion is your last chance to make a powerful impression on the reader — you want what you’re saying to stick with them, to resonate and offer a sense of completeness.
What I want most of all is resonance , something that will linger for a little while in Constant Reader’s mind (and heart) after he or she has closed the book and put it up on the shelf. Stephen King
Addressing your reader with a direct question or personal challenge invites them to sit with your idea and apply what you’ve said to their own situation.
In the previous example, in addition to asking the reader whether they’ve set any big goals, I challenge them to to examine whether they’re selling themselves short by setting small, easily achieved goals. Dave Martin issues a similar challenge in his conclusion to “ How to Work a 40-Hour Week ”:
Dave’s post is about how to maximize your working hours — tracking your time, creating an action plan and coming full circle. But his conclusion — that if your work-life balance is out of whack, you need to take some time to think about why that is, and be prepared to make some big changes — takes his advice several steps further. He answers the “so what?” question, and applies the post’s message on a greater, human level. It resonates .
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Emily Triplett Lentz
Emily is a Help Scout alum. You can find her on Twitter .
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Good Conclusion Starters for Final Paragraphs
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The way you end a work of writing is just as important as the hook you use to capture readers’ attention and the content in between. The concluding paragraph or section of your paper should begin with words telling readers that the content is drawing to a close. Review some examples of good conclusion sentence starters so you’ll be able to craft appropriate endings of your own.
Characteristics of Effective Conclusion Starters
When it’s time to bring your work to an end, it’s important to sum up the key points or concepts rather than simply stopping abruptly. Conclusion starters are transitional phrases that let readers know they have reached the final part of a document. Conclusion starters should:
- be just a few words that introduce the first sentence of the final paragraph or brief concluding section
- let readers know that they have reached the beginning of the final section
- make readers aware that what they’re about to read won’t provide new information
- set readers expectations for how the work will be drawn to a close (such as a summary of main points, statement of need for additional research, or call to action)
Conclusion Starter Ideas for Essays and Speeches
Whether you’re a student in college, high school or middle school, chances are that you will be assigned to write quite a few essays and deliver many speeches or presentations. When deciding how to end an essay or a speech, you’ll need to choose a conclusion starter that’s appropriate for the overall tone .
Examples of conclusion paragraph starter words and phrases include:
- all things considered
- given these points
- I feel we have no choice but to conclude
- in conclusion
- in drawing to a close
- in light of this information
- in my opinion
- in the final analysis
- now that you know
- the logical conclusion seems to be
- to summarize
- upon considering all the facts
- upon exploring the situation from multiple perspectives
- what else can we conclude but that
- what other conclusion can we draw from
- when considered from the perspective of
- when faced with the question of
- with all this in mind
Sample Conclusion Starters for Research Papers
Since a research paper’s focus is on presenting the findings of a particular study, the conclusion usually focuses on major findings and their implications. For academic research papers , it is generally expected that the paper will end with a call for additional research in the form of further study of a similar topic or to explore a related research question . The tone should be formal, taking into account the extent to which readers would be expected to have advanced knowledge of the subject matter.
Phrases you might use to start your research paper conclusion include:
- as a result
- as expected, the results indicate
- as indicated by the data
- based on the evidence presented
- based on the results of this study, it seems
- based on what is known at this point in time
- data seem to indicate
- in light of these results
- in the context of x , it seems that
- surprisingly, the data revealed
- the data clearly indicate
- the data reveal
- the major revelation from this study is
- the results of this study demonstrate
- the results of this study seem to indicate
- to extrapolate from the data
- upon analyzing the data
- upon review of these findings
- what this study reveals is
- what we now know is
- while additional research is needed
- while further study is warranted
- while these results seem to indicate
- with results like these, it seems
Less Formal Conclusion Starter Examples
Some writing is much less formal than a research paper or school assignment, or you may even get assigned to write an informal essay that calls for more of a personal touch than an academic tone. In such cases, you may want to opt for a conclusion starter with a more laid-back, conversational tone like these examples.
- after all has been said and done
- as I see things
- at the end of the day
- beyond a shadow of a doubt
- in a nutshell
- in case you’ve wondered
- in simple terms
- my personal take on
- on the whole
- the time has come
- to cut a long story short
- to cut to the chase
- to get to the heart of the matter
- to plainly state the facts
- to wrap this up
- what are we to think about
- what I believe to be true
- what it boils down to
- what I think is
- when all is said and done
- who knew that
- without all the mumbo jumbo
Build Your Conclusion Writing Expertise
Writing good conclusions is certainly an important skill for all writers to have, from students to those who write or do public speaking for a living (and all writers in between). Now that you have some ideas of good conclusion starters, focus on how to write a conclusion in full. Begin by exploring some conclusion examples .
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- Ending the Essay: Conclusions
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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