Like introductions, conclusions are important because they leave an impression. The kind of conclusion you write, will vary to fit the overall picture and purpose of your essay. But, a good conclusions should make readers glad that they read your essay.
You may have been taught that the purpose of a conclusion is to summarize all the points you have developed. This kind of summary conclusion may be a good idea, if you have written a long piece, like a book chapter, or scientific report. But, for shorter essays you write in most of your university classes, it’s usually not a very effective way to end.
A good conclusion conclusion will often:
- Push beyond the boundaries of the question, or subject.
- Consider broader related issues.
- Make new connections between your subject and other related subjects.
- Highlight the most important moments of your argument.
- Demonstrate the importance of a particular idea.
- Impel your reader to think about your subject in new ways.
Strategies for Writing Effective Conclusions
Take yourself away from the essay before you create the conclusion
This will give you the ability to look at your essay with a fresh perspective, so that you can come back to it and see the overall importance, or significance, of your own argument, with new eyes.
Play the “So what?” game
Read back your thesis and topic sentences to yourself, and then ask, “So what?” Your answers will help you write a conclusion that emphasizes the broader significance of your subject. You can also play this game with a friend – read an important point from your essay to your friend, and ask your friend to keep asking “So what?” until you have answered the question completely. Sometimes, by talking out loud about it, the idea you need will become clear.
Reread the assignment prompt
Since it’s probably been a while since you’ve read the prompt, read it now; it may help you to decide what is most important to include in your last paragraph.
Free write your conclusion in the form of a letter, or email (to yourself, or to a friend)
Writing, informally, can help you free your thinking and help you focus on the big picture. Think about what you’ve learned about the topic, as you’ve gone through the process of creating the essay and write about the most important lessons, about how the ideas in the paper might relate to other experiences, or why the content of the paper matters, in terms of the big picture. Consider what relevance your analysis has to current events and changed societal conditions.
“So this is what I just said”
Simply summarizing exactly what you already said, without adding anything in terms of the significance of your subject, or the big picture, is easy, but, also, not very interesting. Your conclusion is your opportunity to build upon what you have written, or push your ideas forward in some way.
“We shall overcome”
Emotional declaration is not very appropriate, when you write a conclusion for an academic paper, and often falls into cliché. However, it is often a good idea to end with a “call to action.”
The grab bag
While it is good to expand on your topic in your conclusion, don’t go overboard – make sure you remain focused on your paper’s overall subject.