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.
You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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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).
OASIS: Writing Center
Writing a paper: conclusions, writing a conclusion.
A conclusion is an important part of the paper; it provides closure for the reader while reminding the reader of the contents and importance of the paper. It accomplishes this by stepping back from the specifics in order to view the bigger picture of the document. In other words, it is reminding the reader of the main argument. For most course papers, it is usually one paragraph that simply and succinctly restates the main ideas and arguments, pulling everything together to help clarify the thesis of the paper. A conclusion does not introduce new ideas; instead, it should clarify the intent and importance of the paper. It can also suggest possible future research on the topic.
An Easy Checklist for Writing a Conclusion
It is important to remind the reader of the thesis of the paper so he is reminded of the argument and solutions you proposed.
Think of the main points as puzzle pieces, and the conclusion is where they all fit together to create a bigger picture. The reader should walk away with the bigger picture in mind.
Make sure that the paper places its findings in the context of real social change.
Make sure the reader has a distinct sense that the paper has come to an end. It is important to not leave the reader hanging. (You don’t want her to have flip-the-page syndrome, where the reader turns the page, expecting the paper to continue. The paper should naturally come to an end.)
No new ideas should be introduced in the conclusion. It is simply a review of the material that is already present in the paper. The only new idea would be the suggesting of a direction for future research.
As addressed in my analysis of recent research, the advantages of a later starting time for high school students significantly outweigh the disadvantages. A later starting time would allow teens more time to sleep--something that is important for their physical and mental health--and ultimately improve their academic performance and behavior. The added transportation costs that result from this change can be absorbed through energy savings. The beneficial effects on the students’ academic performance and behavior validate this decision, but its effect on student motivation is still unknown. I would encourage an in-depth look at the reactions of students to such a change. This sort of study would help determine the actual effects of a later start time on the time management and sleep habits of students.
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How to Write a Conclusion
Last Updated: July 15, 2023
Template and Sample Conclusion
This article was co-authored by Christopher Taylor, PhD and by wikiHow staff writer, Danielle Blinka, MA, MPA . Christopher Taylor is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of English at Austin Community College in Texas. He received his PhD in English Literature and Medieval Studies from the University of Texas at Austin in 2014. This article has been viewed 474,254 times.
Writing the introduction and body of a paper is a big accomplishment. Now you need to write your conclusion. Writing a conclusion can feel difficult, but it's easier if you plan ahead. First, format your conclusion by revisiting your thesis, summarizing your arguments, and making a final statement. Then, re-read and revise your conclusion to make it effective.
- Let’s say your thesis reads, “Allowing students to visit the library during lunch improves campus life and supports academic achievement because it encourages reading, allows students to start assignments early, and provides a refuge for students who eat alone.”
- You might restate it as, “Evidence shows students who have access to their school’s library during lunch check out more books and are more likely to complete their homework; additionally, students aren’t forced to eat alone.”
- You might write, “According to data, students checked out more books when they were allowed to visit their library during lunch, used that time to do research and ask for help with homework, and reported feeling less alone at lunch time. This shows that opening up the library during lunch can improve student life and academic performance."
- If you’re writing an argument essay, address the opposing argument, as well. You might write, “Although administrators worry that students will walk the halls instead of going to the library, schools that allow students into the library during lunch reported less behavioral issues during lunch than schools that don’t allow students in the library. Data show that students were spending that time checking out more books and working on homework assignments.”  X Trustworthy Source Purdue Online Writing Lab Trusted resource for writing and citation guidelines Go to source
- Call your reader to action . For example, “By working with school administrators, Greenlawn ISD can increase academic achievement by letting students use the library during lunch.”
- End with a warning . You might write, “If students aren’t allowed to use the library during lunch, they are missing out on a valuable learning opportunity they’ll never get back.”
- Evoke an image . Write, “Next year, students at Greenlawn could be gathered around a table in the library reading or broadening their minds.”
- Compare your topic to something universal to help your reader relate . You might write, “Everyone knows how stressful it is to have a planner full of assignments, so having extra time to work on them during lunch would be a great relief to many students.”
- Show why the issue is significant. Write, "Giving students more time to spend in the library will help them become more comfortable spending time there, which also helps the library's mission."
- Predict what would happen if your ideas are implemented . Say, “Next year, students at Greenlawn could increase their academic achievements, but results will only happen if they can use the library during lunch.”
- End with a compelling quote . For instance, "As author Roald Dahl once said, 'If you are going to get anywhere in life, you have to read a lot of books.'"
- You could also ask your instructor if you can see an example of a well-written conclusion to give you an idea about what they expect you to write.
- If you want to use an introductory phrase, use a stronger one like “based on the evidence” or “ultimately.” You might also begin your first sentence with a word like “although,” “while,” or “since.”  X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source
- Additionally, avoid “to conclude,” “in summary,” or “in closing.”
- For example, you may have opened your introduction with an anecdote, quote, or image. Bring it back up in your conclusion. Similarly, if you opened with a rhetorical question, you might offer a potential answer in your conclusion.
- For example, you wouldn’t want to end your essay about allowing students to use the library during lunch by stating, “As the evidence shows, using the library at lunch is a great way to improve student performance because they are more likely to do their homework. On a survey, students reported using the library to do research, ask homework questions, and finish their assignments early.” This leaves out your points about students reading more and having a place to spend their lunch period if they don’t like eating in the cafeteria.
- If you have introduced something you think is really important for your paper, go back through the body paragraphs and look for somewhere to add it. It’s better to leave it out of the paper than to include it in the conclusion.
- If something doesn’t make sense or your conclusion seems incomplete, revise your conclusion so that your ideas are clear.
- It’s helpful to read your entire paper as a whole to make sure it all comes together.
- Don’t put any evidence or statistics in your conclusion. This information belongs in the body of your paper.  X Trustworthy Source University of North Carolina Writing Center UNC's on-campus and online instructional service that provides assistance to students, faculty, and others during the writing process Go to source Thanks Helpful 1 Not Helpful 0
- Make sure you aren’t simply repeating what you’ve written earlier. While you want to restate your ideas, present them in a new way for the reader. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Don’t write your conclusion until you’ve written the entire paper. It’ll be much easier to come up with your concluding thoughts after the body of the paper is written. Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
- Never copy someone else’s words or ideas without giving them credit, as this is plagiarism. If you are caught plagiarizing part of your paper, even just the conclusion, you’ll likely face severe academic penalties. Thanks Helpful 5 Not Helpful 2
- Don’t express any doubts you may have about your ideas or arguments. Whenever you share your ideas, assume the role of expert.  X Research source Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
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- ↑ http://writing2.richmond.edu/writing/wweb/conclude.html
- ↑ https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/conclusions/
- ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/general_writing/common_writing_assignments/argument_papers/conclusions.html
- ↑ https://writingcenter.fas.harvard.edu/pages/ending-essay-conclusions
About This Article
Writing a conclusion can seem difficult, but it’s easier if you think of it as a place to sum up the point of your paper. Begin your conclusion by restating your thesis, but don’t repeat it word-for-word. Then, use 1-2 sentences to summarize your argument, pulling together all of your points to explain how your evidence supports the thesis. End the paper with a statement that makes the reader think, like evoking a strong image or concluding with a call to action. Keep reading for tips on how to avoid cliches in your conclusion! Did this summary help you? Yes No
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