TIPS FOR WRITING A STRONG CONCLUSION

Barry W. Hamilton, Ph.D.

Northeastern Seminary (Rochester, New York)

 

*Bring out the significance of your research paper.  Show how you’ve brought closure to the research problem, and point out remaining gaps in knowledge by suggesting issues for further research.  Deal with issues at the level of the whole paper rather than with issues at the level of a paragraph.

 

*Make the significance brought out in the conclusion congruent with the argument of your paper.  Don’t oversell or undersell the significance of your paper.  The conclusion can’t reach any farther than the paper’s main argument.   The conclusion is the place to put the final, proper perspective on the paper as a whole.

 

*Bring closure to the entire paper, not only by summarizing the arguments, but also by bringing out the significance of the paper.   Avoid using terms related to specific elements of the paper—look at the paper as a whole and pull it all together in the conclusion.  Take the thesis statement from your introduction and demonstrate in your conclusion how the paper as a whole has addressed the research problem.

 

*Make the conclusion sell a worthwhile paper to interested readers.  Exercise integrity in your conclusion—don’t exaggerate the conclusion to bring strength to a weak paper.  There should be a strong correlation between the arguments in your paper and your stated significance(s) in the conclusion.  In the case of a thesis or dissertation, readers will likely turn first to the conclusion.  Don’t let your readers get motivated by your conclusion to read the rest of the document—only to experience disappointment.

 

*Use key terms, concepts and phrases from the introduction and body of the paper—but don’t just repeat them.  Use them to bring out the new insight gained from your research.  The conclusion should provide more than a flat-footed re-statement of the thesis statement articulated in the introduction—it should take the entire paper a step ahead toward a new level of insight on the research problem.

 

*Make the tone of the conclusion match the tone of the rest of the paper.  For most of your NES papers, keep the tone serious—omit jokes and anecdotes from the conclusion.  In the context of an academic argument, humor is generally inappropriate and could seriously detract from your paper’s credibility.

 

*Write the conclusion at a level of specificity/generality that matches the introduction.  Don’t use the conclusion to summarize the previous paragraph—rather, pull the entire paper together and make its significance clear.   For a book, deal with the primary issues raised in the introduction and in each of the chapters.  A concluding chapter should draw conclusions for each major issues raised in the document.  For any type of paper, don’t overreach the conclusion—make statements that can be fully supported by your evidence.  The body of the paper should prime readers for the conclusion—if the conclusion surprises them, readers may distrust the reasoning of the entire paper. 

 

*In a thesis or dissertation, it’s usually customary to raise questions or suggest areas for further research.  If this is done in a 20-page research paper, it’s normally only a sentence or two—not even a paragraph.  At this point, the writer must keep moving toward closure.

 

*Don’t introduce any new information into the conclusion.  The conclusion signals readers that the writer will point out the significance of the paper at this point, and bring the entire paper to a clear and definite end.  Just as the minister should never introduce a new point in the concluding remarks of a sermon, the writer should not introduce another point in the conclusion.  Expecting the end, readers will be disappointed—or annoyed—to find yet more new information.

 

*Put your best writing skills into the conclusion, especially if you are writing a thesis or dissertation.  Never allow the first draft to stand as the final product—revise the conclusion again and again until its integrity is practically unassailable.  Scholars frequently read the conclusion of a thesis, dissertation or research article first!

 

*When writing a 20-page paper, limit the conclusion to one full paragraph.  You might take two or three paragraphs to narrow down to the finish line, but you should pack the final punch into only one paragraph.  One well-written paragraph can deliver far more rhetorical ‘punch’ than a three-paragraph peroration.

 

*Here are some helpful websites for writing conclusions:

 

http://www4.wju.edu/arc/handouts/intro_concl.pdf

 

http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/conclusions.html

 

http://english.ttu.edu/uwc/conclusions.html

 

 

                                                                                                                                                                                               

 

 

 

Page Last Modified

 

31 October 2005