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The Concluding Paragraph: How to End Your Essay

Christina Crampe

Published on
Last Modified on

Phew! You've finally finished most of that grueling essay on Charles Dickens' Great Expectations for your English class, but now you need to write that final paragraph. Or maybe you just wrote a biology research paper on osmosis and diffusion and need to conclude your findings. Either way, you're in the home stretch. This can be a bit of a daunting task because your conclusion is your last chance to leave an impression on your readers.

How To Write a Concluding Paragraph

If your goal in writing your paper is to just finish and have it read by a professor or a few peers for a good grade, then you went about your paper the wrong way. You want your paper to matter, to have an impact, and this requires more than just writing what you think others want to hear. If you chose a particular topic to write about, you more than likely chose it for a reason. The essay conclusion is your last chance to explain why your paper matters.

So what?

No, seriously, so what? You've probably heard this phrase lots of times, whether in academic settings or real-life scenarios. That's because this is a simple yet important question that reveals intention. It's great if you think your paper is well-written and important, but it won't have much impact if others disagree and don't see the worth in your writing.

Why did the readers just spend time reading your paper? While some people may read your paper for fun, it is much more likely that readers are hoping to get something out of your paper. Perhaps they are professors looking for original ideas that they haven't considered before, or maybe your readers are fellow researchers who want to dive into specific material you are discussing. Either way, your paper has a purpose, just like the readers do, so you should justify your research to those same readers. If you are stuck asking yourself "so what?" after reading your paper, then you've got some work to do, but don't worry, we've got some suggestions to help craft a successful conclusion.

How to write a "so what?"

A "so what" will help you bring closure to your paper without completely shutting it down. What we mean by this is that you want your paper to have some closure, as that's what a conclusion implies, but you don't want to end opportunities for further discussion on your topic. This is when a "so what" comes in handy. Here are a few things to consider as you write a "so what" to apply to your paper:

  • Relevance: The relevance speaks to the intention behind your paper. Why did you choose to write about this topic? How does it apply to the real world? For example, if you're writing a paper on why schools should cut down on their emission of greenhouse gases, you should explain how this coincides with something currently happening. Perhaps there is a school actively doing this successfully, so you can tie your argument back to this, showing how your argument applies to real time, while also highlighting the importance behind your argument.
  • Implications: This is in line with the relevance of your piece. What does your paper add to the existing material surrounding this topic? Does it raise any further questions within the field that have not be explored/have limited research on them? If you find that your paper is lacking answers to these questions, then you may want to consider expanding your research or refining your ideas.
  • Opportunity: Now that you've established the relevance of your piece and its implications, you can discuss future opportunities that your paper offers. For example, if you find that your paper on why schools should cut down on greenhouse gas emission raises questions about costs of alternative energy sources, then point to this. This is another opportunity for future research papers that will only add to the breadth of knowledge on the topic, making it more likely for that topic to become a point of discussion.

Including these components in your conclusion will help readers avoid the question "so what?"

Effective ways to write a conclusion

A strong conclusion helps reinforce a strong paper, so here are some things to keep in mind while crafting your conclusion:

  • Restate the thesis: You should begin your conclusion by restating the thesis. You should link the first sentence of your conclusion to your thesis statement. The key is to use similar (but not the exact same!) language that was used in the introduction, so readers will identify your conclusion with the introduction. This will become a full-circle moment for your readers and help tie any loose ends together.
  • Do synthesize, don't summarize: You may be asking yourself, what's the difference? That's a great question, and the answer is one that can separate a good conclusion from a tired one. Just as you did throughout the body of your work, you are going to want to synthesize your findings in your conclusion. Do not just restate all your findings in your conclusion, summarizing what you've said. The readers know what you already said because they read your paper. Instead of including a summary of your findings, you want to synthesize your ideas, providing analysis of why they are important. You most likely did this throughout the rest of your essay, so don't lose this path during your conclusion. Your conclusion is most likely not going to introduce new content to be analyzed, so your analysis should focus on the implications of your writing.
  • Include relevant connections: This is most likely going to be part of your "so what" statement. Ending your paper by including relevant quotations or links to a primary or secondary source can help modernize your topic and apply it to the real world or existing research, solidifying your role as a qualified writer. For example, if you are writing an essay about the marriage plot in Jane Austen's Jane Eyre, you may include a quotation from a source about the marriage plot in 19th century literature, in general. This can help confirm your argument, but make sure to not let other sources overpower your own voice.
  • Be confident: This is key to any kind of writing you do, but especially in your conclusion. You must be confident in what you have written. You devoted a lot of time and effort into conducting research on this topic and analyzing it from your perspective. Do not undermine your work by saying it is just one paper in a sea of other papers. This will cut down on your credibility as a writer and make you seem uncertain about your own writing. In turn, the readers may be uncertain about what you've written.

Avoid these common mistakes

Since conclusions are meant to be leave a lasting impact on your readers, you want to avoid making any missteps in your final paragraph. If your entire paper is flawless but your conclusion is lackluster, then your paper will not be as successful as it could've been. Here are some things to avoid as you write your conclusion:

  • Repetition and redundancy: While you should restate your thesis and main ideas, you should not repeat these ideas word for word. Repetition can be boring and cause people to lose interest in your writing. The readers already read your paper, so they don't want to reread the same thoughts. Instead, you should be adding a fresh take on what you've written. Now that you've written an entire paper on your topic, you should have new thoughts to add to your existing material.
  • Transition statements: Readers have made it all the way through your paper, so they know they're at the conclusion. Avoid using common phrases like "overall", "to sum it up", or "in conclusion" because it states the obvious. These phrases are also tired and overused, adding little to the overall structure of your paper. A more effective approach is to begin your conclusion by restating the thesis, as we previously suggested.
  • New content: It's important not to introduce new content in your paper's conclusion. What we mean by this is don't introduce new ideas that you haven't previously discussed within your introduction or body paragraphs. This would derail your essay from its original purpose, losing its central focus. If the information is essential to your overall argument, then you need to include it in the body of your paper and tie it in with your overall argument.
  • Being unrealistic: While it is important for you to be confident in your writing and what it implies for future research, you should always be realistic about your findings and their implications. You should be honest about your topic and where it can lead, but be careful to not make false promises with no evidence to back up your claims.

Is a conclusion absolutely necessary?

This is a bit of a controversial topic, as we have been conditioned to expect conclusions for pretty much any kind of writing. We crave conclusions because they signify the end of a thought process and synthesize ideas, tying the entire paper together. This is helpful, but do we need to devote an entire paragraph or section of all our papers to a conclusion? The answer is no, depending on what kind of writing you're doing.

For example, if you're writing a research paper on the impact of aging on cellular composition for your chemistry class, odds are you're going to need to include a conclusion to synthesize your findings and explain why they matter. Ending this kind of paper with no conclusion leaves much undiscussed, especially considering this type of conclusion is meant to discuss findings and what those findings mean for future research about the topic. For this, we think conclusions are necessary.

So, when might a conclusion be unnecessary? For example, when you're writing an academic paper on a particular topic, such as a specific character's role in the plot of a novel, a conclusion might not be needed. As we previously discussed, you want to avoid repetition and redundancy. It might be that you devoted a lot of time in your body paragraphs to fully analyzing the character's role, expanding upon your thoughts with lots of quotes and evidence.

If you feel like you have proved your thesis throughout the body of your paper, you might not want to write a conclusion that just repeats everything you've been consistently discussing. If that is the case, you can devote the final two sentences or so of your final body paragraph to wrapping up your paper. Is this a typical conclusion? No, but that does not mean it's not effective. In fact, ending a paper like this can be just as effective, if not more effective, than writing a repetitive conclusion. Be sure that those last couple of sentences provide implications for future research or tie in with specific modern events, and you have yourself a conclusion within your final body paragraph.

In conclusion of conclusions

The key to writing a successful, effective conclusion is remaining simple and concise while highlighting the key features of your paper. In doing this, you'll draw attention to what is most important without complicating your previous work. After all, we want our readers to feel like what they read matters and has a purpose, so a direct conclusion will solidify this.

While you may be in the home stretch of writing your paper, you should make sure to take your time. Remember, your conclusion is only as good as the rest of your paper, so be sure to spend an equal amount of time on the introduction and body paragraphs as you do your final paragraph. Small errors will discredit your argument, so be sure to remain strong and steady as you bang that last bit of writing out!

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