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Writing a Research Paper Conclusion | Step-by-Step Guide
Published on October 30, 2022 by Jack Caulfield . Revised on April 13, 2023.
- Restate the problem statement addressed in the paper
- Summarize your overall arguments or findings
- Suggest the key takeaways from your paper
The content of the conclusion varies depending on whether your paper presents the results of original empirical research or constructs an argument through engagement with sources .
Table of contents
Step 1: restate the problem, step 2: sum up the paper, step 3: discuss the implications, research paper conclusion examples, frequently asked questions about research paper conclusions.
The first task of your conclusion is to remind the reader of your research problem . You will have discussed this problem in depth throughout the body, but now the point is to zoom back out from the details to the bigger picture.
While you are restating a problem you’ve already introduced, you should avoid phrasing it identically to how it appeared in the introduction . Ideally, you’ll find a novel way to circle back to the problem from the more detailed ideas discussed in the body.
For example, an argumentative paper advocating new measures to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture might restate its problem as follows:
Meanwhile, an empirical paper studying the relationship of Instagram use with body image issues might present its problem like this:
“In conclusion …”
Avoid starting your conclusion with phrases like “In conclusion” or “To conclude,” as this can come across as too obvious and make your writing seem unsophisticated. The content and placement of your conclusion should make its function clear without the need for additional signposting.
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Having zoomed back in on the problem, it’s time to summarize how the body of the paper went about addressing it, and what conclusions this approach led to.
Depending on the nature of your research paper, this might mean restating your thesis and arguments, or summarizing your overall findings.
Argumentative paper: Restate your thesis and arguments
In an argumentative paper, you will have presented a thesis statement in your introduction, expressing the overall claim your paper argues for. In the conclusion, you should restate the thesis and show how it has been developed through the body of the paper.
Briefly summarize the key arguments made in the body, showing how each of them contributes to proving your thesis. You may also mention any counterarguments you addressed, emphasizing why your thesis holds up against them, particularly if your argument is a controversial one.
Don’t go into the details of your evidence or present new ideas; focus on outlining in broad strokes the argument you have made.
Empirical paper: Summarize your findings
In an empirical paper, this is the time to summarize your key findings. Don’t go into great detail here (you will have presented your in-depth results and discussion already), but do clearly express the answers to the research questions you investigated.
Describe your main findings, even if they weren’t necessarily the ones you expected or hoped for, and explain the overall conclusion they led you to.
Having summed up your key arguments or findings, the conclusion ends by considering the broader implications of your research. This means expressing the key takeaways, practical or theoretical, from your paper—often in the form of a call for action or suggestions for future research.
Argumentative paper: Strong closing statement
An argumentative paper generally ends with a strong closing statement. In the case of a practical argument, make a call for action: What actions do you think should be taken by the people or organizations concerned in response to your argument?
If your topic is more theoretical and unsuitable for a call for action, your closing statement should express the significance of your argument—for example, in proposing a new understanding of a topic or laying the groundwork for future research.
Empirical paper: Future research directions
In a more empirical paper, you can close by either making recommendations for practice (for example, in clinical or policy papers), or suggesting directions for future research.
Whatever the scope of your own research, there will always be room for further investigation of related topics, and you’ll often discover new questions and problems during the research process .
Finish your paper on a forward-looking note by suggesting how you or other researchers might build on this topic in the future and address any limitations of the current paper.
Full examples of research paper conclusions are shown in the tabs below: one for an argumentative paper, the other for an empirical paper.
- Argumentative paper
- Empirical paper
While the role of cattle in climate change is by now common knowledge, countries like the Netherlands continually fail to confront this issue with the urgency it deserves. The evidence is clear: To create a truly futureproof agricultural sector, Dutch farmers must be incentivized to transition from livestock farming to sustainable vegetable farming. As well as dramatically lowering emissions, plant-based agriculture, if approached in the right way, can produce more food with less land, providing opportunities for nature regeneration areas that will themselves contribute to climate targets. Although this approach would have economic ramifications, from a long-term perspective, it would represent a significant step towards a more sustainable and resilient national economy. Transitioning to sustainable vegetable farming will make the Netherlands greener and healthier, setting an example for other European governments. Farmers, policymakers, and consumers must focus on the future, not just on their own short-term interests, and work to implement this transition now.
As social media becomes increasingly central to young people’s everyday lives, it is important to understand how different platforms affect their developing self-conception. By testing the effect of daily Instagram use among teenage girls, this study established that highly visual social media does indeed have a significant effect on body image concerns, with a strong correlation between the amount of time spent on the platform and participants’ self-reported dissatisfaction with their appearance. However, the strength of this effect was moderated by pre-test self-esteem ratings: Participants with higher self-esteem were less likely to experience an increase in body image concerns after using Instagram. This suggests that, while Instagram does impact body image, it is also important to consider the wider social and psychological context in which this usage occurs: Teenagers who are already predisposed to self-esteem issues may be at greater risk of experiencing negative effects. Future research into Instagram and other highly visual social media should focus on establishing a clearer picture of how self-esteem and related constructs influence young people’s experiences of these platforms. Furthermore, while this experiment measured Instagram usage in terms of time spent on the platform, observational studies are required to gain more insight into different patterns of usage—to investigate, for instance, whether active posting is associated with different effects than passive consumption of social media content.
If you’re unsure about the conclusion, it can be helpful to ask a friend or fellow student to read your conclusion and summarize the main takeaways.
- Do they understand from your conclusion what your research was about?
- Are they able to summarize the implications of your findings?
- Can they answer your research question based on your conclusion?
You can also get an expert to proofread and feedback your paper with a paper editing service .
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The conclusion of a research paper has several key elements you should make sure to include:
- A restatement of the research problem
- A summary of your key arguments and/or findings
- A short discussion of the implications of your research
No, it’s not appropriate to present new arguments or evidence in the conclusion . While you might be tempted to save a striking argument for last, research papers follow a more formal structure than this.
All your findings and arguments should be presented in the body of the text (more specifically in the results and discussion sections if you are following a scientific structure). The conclusion is meant to summarize and reflect on the evidence and arguments you have already presented, not introduce new ones.
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How to Write a Research Paper Conclusion
Wrapping up a paper may seem simple enough, but if you don’t know how to write a research paper conclusion, it can sometimes be the hardest part of the paper-writing process.
In this guide, we share expert advice on how to write a research paper conclusion. We explain what to put (and what not to put) in a research paper conclusion, describe the different types of conclusions, and show you a few different research paper conclusion examples.
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What is a research paper conclusion?
A research paper conclusion should summarize the main points of the paper, help readers contextualize the information, and as the last thing people read, be memorable and leave an impression. The research paper conclusion is the best chance for the author to both reiterate their main points and tie all the information together. All in all, it’s one of the most important parts of writing a research paper .
Research paper conclusions are generally one paragraph long , although more complicated topics may have longer conclusions. Although conclusions don’t normally present new information or data that wasn’t mentioned in the article, they often reframe the issues or offer a new perspective on the topic.
6 elements to include in a research paper conclusion
1 urgency or consequences.
A good conclusion answers the question, Why should the reader care? To connect the information to the reader, point out why your topic should matter to them. What happens if the problem persists, or how can the problem be solved? Feel free to mention common obstacles that feed the problem, implications of the data, or a recommended action for fixing it.
2 Reminder of thesis statement
Research paper conclusions are a great place to revisit your initial thesis statement , a sentence that encapsulates the main topic or problem your paper addresses. Thesis statements are discussed heavily at the beginning of a paper, but they can be even stronger when you reintroduce them at the end, after you’ve presented all your evidence.
3 Recap of main points
Although you don’t want to repeat yourself just for the sake of repetition, a recap of your main points can be helpful to your reader. Think of these as your paper’s “key takeaways,” the parts you want readers to remember. Save the details for the body text and use the conclusion to remind the reader of your strongest supporting evidence before they put your paper down.
4 Parallels to the introduction
The introduction and the conclusion are two sides of the same coin. A useful strategy to consider as you approach writing a research paper conclusion is to follow the same structure or address the same themes as you do in the introduction. For example, if you pose a question in your introduction, you can answer it directly in your conclusion. Keep this in mind when writing your research paper outline so you can properly plan both parts.
5 Limitations of the study
Although this isn’t applicable to every research paper, if you’re writing about actual tests or studies you’ve conducted, there are some ethical requirements for what you put in a research paper conclusion. Specifically, you’re expected to address the limitations of your study; these may include criticisms or flaws in your process that might have affected the results, such as using suboptimal participation groups. It’s best to call these out yourself rather than having a colleague call them out later.
Above all, every research paper conclusion should be written with conciseness . In general, conclusions should be short, so keep an eye on your word count as you write and aim to be as succinct as possible. You can expound on your topic in the body of your paper, but the conclusion is more for summarizing and recapping.
5 elements not to include in a research paper conclusion
1 dry summary.
Summarizing may be a crucial part of research paper conclusions, but it’s not the only part. Your conclusion should be more than just a summary; it should shape the way your reader thinks about your topic. Don’t just repeat the facts: Contextualize them for the reader, offer a new perspective, or suggest a step for solving the problem.
2 Generic or clichéd phrasing
Just like our advice for how to write a conclusion for a more general essay, you should also avoid generic or clichéd phrasing in research paper conclusions. Some words or phrases are overused in conclusions to the point of becoming trite. If you want your conclusion to seem fresh and well-written, avoid these phrases:
- in conclusion
- in summary or in summation
3 New data or evidence
Conclusions are not the place to introduce new evidence or data, especially if they are significant enough to reframe your entire argument. Hard facts and supporting evidence belong in the body of the paper; when the reader is absorbing this section, they’re still actively learning about the topic. By the conclusion, the reader is almost done forming their opinion. The conclusion is more about retrospection; introducing unexpected information there can frustrate readers just as much as it surprises them.
4 Ignoring negative results
It might be tempting to sugarcoat negative results or ignore them completely, but that will only harm your paper in the end. It’s always best to own up to any shortcomings in your research and admit them overtly. Your transparency not only helps validate your other research, but it also prevents critics from pointing out these same shortcomings in a more damaging way.
5 Ambiguous resolutions
Part of the appeal of research paper conclusions is the closure they bring; they’re supposed to wrap up arguments and clean up any loose ends. If your conclusion is ambiguous, it can give the impression that your research was incomplete, inadequate, or fundamentally flawed. Rather, write your conclusion with direct language and take a firm stance. Even if the data was inconclusive, state definitively that it was inconclusive. This kind of clarity in writing makes you sound both confident and competent.
Types of research paper conclusions with examples
Although there are no formal types of research paper conclusions, in general they tend to fall into the categories of summary , commentary , and new perspective . Bear in mind that these aren’t mutually exclusive—the same research paper conclusion can summarize and present a new perspective at the same time. Consider mixing and matching parts from each to create the unique blend your own paper needs.
Research paper conclusion example: Summary
The most common type of research paper conclusion is the straight summary, which succinctly repeats the key points of the paper. Keep in mind that a conclusion should do more than merely summarize, so be sure to add some lines that offer extra value or insight.
Like all great scientists, Isaac Newton was able to condense his ideas, however complicated, into the simple and brief laws discussed above. Newton’s law of inertia, his law of action/reaction, and his equation of F=ma —along with his law of gravity, also discussed above—combine to form the very foundation of classical mechanics. Without his laws, physics as we know it wouldn’t exist.
Research paper conclusion example: Commentary
The conclusion can be an opportunity for a writer to share their own personal views. This is especially useful in scientific writing, where the body of the paper is reserved for data and facts, and the conclusion is the only section for personal opinion. Just be careful about getting too subjective—this is still a research paper, not a personal essay .
As you can see by the cause-and-effect relationships pointed out above, an attack on journalism in one part of the world is an attack on journalism everywhere. Though the issue might seem distant, it’s actually right on our doorstep. All of us need to start standing up to the powers that censor the truth and defend the brave journalists who risk their lives to deliver it.
Research paper conclusion example: New perspective
Research paper conclusions are the perfect place to offer a new perspective on your topic. After presenting all your evidence and research, you can now draw connections and synthesize the data to create a unifying theory or new angle. The conclusion is the best place to include this, as the reader is already familiar with all the essential details.
You’ll notice that the studies we examined all come to the same conclusion: Remote working increases both production and employee satisfaction. Ultimately, the idea that remote work hinders productivity is a lie. In fact, the research suggests clearly that remote work should be increased, not done away with. If remote work becomes the norm instead of the exception, businesses could actually achieve new heights.
Research paper conclusion FAQs
What is the purpose of a research paper conclusion.
The purpose of a research paper conclusion is to summarize the main points of the paper, help the reader contextualize the information, and leave a lasting impression on the reader.
What should you include in a research paper conclusion?
A research paper conclusion should include a summary of the key points in your paper. Additionally, the conclusion can reframe the research in a way that’s easier for the reader to understand, often by adding urgency or explaining consequences. The conclusion is also used to mention the limitations of your research, such as an inadequate number of participants.
What are the different kinds of research paper conclusions?
Although there are no formal categories of research paper conclusion, in general research paper conclusions tend to fall into the categories of summary, commentary, and new perspective. Bear in mind that these aren’t mutually exclusive—the same research paper conclusion can both summarize the paper and present a new perspective.
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Research Paper Conclusion: Know How To Write It
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Table of Contents
The conclusion of your research paper is often where many readers begin. Thus, it’s imperative that your conclusion leaves the reader with a clear and concise understanding of your final impressions and ideas. It is a time to recap the key points in your paper and summarize your data in simple terms. It may also be used as a platform and an opportunity to call for further action that may be needed.
The conclusion will vary depending on the structure of your paper. If you are presenting original data in an objective format, that conclusion looks a lot different from one where a strong argument as to a future direction is presented. But, there is a similar pattern and structure to a good conclusion regardless of its content.
How to Write a Conclusion for a Research Paper
How do you start a conclusion for a research paper? It needs to be written as if it is a summary of your work. The audience should be considered to be your colleagues, but the tone should be more conversational than technical, so don’t get bogged down with details. Keep it clear, with straightforward terminology. This is the place to put forward your thoughts about the significance of your results. What does your research point to? If more research is needed, this is the time to indicate what direction you believe it needs to go. If you are presenting a strong conclusion, then defend.
Begin by clarifying your goals and restating the main points of your thesis. Don’t get into numbers or details, leave that for the body of your paper. Now is the time to put forth your conclusions by analyzing the significance of your findings. What importance is your research to the subject at hand? What further information is needed?
This is the time to be thought-provoking. Yes, briefly and clearly summarize your work, but don’t simply repeat it, add meaning to it. Expand on your findings in a way that challenges the reader to consider the implications of your research. Try to show the bigger picture, so the reader can see why your research matters in the real world.
Don’t simply repeat yourself or focus on minor details, the conclusion is the time to paint with broad strokes and point the way forward. Allow yourself to go beyond the narrow confines of the details and into the powerful conclusion of your work. Here is the time to give it meaning and significance.
Conclusion Format for Research Paper
A common format for a research paper begins with first explaining the topic and then the purpose of your research. This can be as short as one or two sentences. Then, you summarize your findings in clear language that emphasizes the importance of your research. After summarizing your main points, it’s important to defend the unique importance of your findings. If you are putting forth an argument, it’s essential to stress the consequences of the action and its relevance to real-world problems. Present your findings in a way that expresses the broader associations they have in your field. Make a case for the practical implications of your findings. If appropriate, you should end your conclusion with a call to action that may pave the way for future research projects.
Example of Conclusion in Research
Below is a sample conclusion that you can use as a model. Notice how it includes the aspects mentioned above.
Clean air and water is critical to environmental balance and public health. Since 2009, water pollution has contributed to a marked decrease in wildlife aquatic populations, as well as a decrease of safe drinking water. Corn production in the nation’s Midwest region has resulted in an exponential increase in pollutants contaminating freshwater aquifers and above-ground supplies. This has resulted in catastrophic fish die-off, increased instances of respiratory illness in rural communities, as well as a shortage of clean and safe potable drinking water. Environmental scientists continue to measure water quality, and trying to find ways to counteract pollution runoff from agricultural activities. Further research and innovation is needed to increase clean and safe water supplies, continue to support agricultural needs related to water supply shortages, and maintain a healthy environment for flora, fauna and human populations.
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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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