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Writing a Conclusion

Writing a conclusion is the final part of the research paper, drawing everything together and tying it into your initial research.

This article is a part of the guide:

  • Outline Examples
  • Example of a Paper
  • Write a Hypothesis
  • Introduction

Browse Full Outline

  • 1 Write a Research Paper
  • 2 Writing a Paper
  • 3.1 Write an Outline
  • 3.2 Outline Examples
  • 4.1 Thesis Statement
  • 4.2 Write a Hypothesis
  • 5.2 Abstract
  • 5.3 Introduction
  • 5.4 Methods
  • 5.5 Results
  • 5.6 Discussion
  • 5.7 Conclusion
  • 5.8 Bibliography
  • 6.1 Table of Contents
  • 6.2 Acknowledgements
  • 6.3 Appendix
  • 7.1 In Text Citations
  • 7.2 Footnotes
  • 7.3.1 Floating Blocks
  • 7.4 Example of a Paper
  • 7.5 Example of a Paper 2
  • 7.6.1 Citations
  • 7.7.1 Writing Style
  • 7.7.2 Citations
  • 8.1.1 Sham Peer Review
  • 8.1.2 Advantages
  • 8.1.3 Disadvantages
  • 8.2 Publication Bias
  • 8.3.1 Journal Rejection
  • 9.1 Article Writing
  • 9.2 Ideas for Topics

If you remember, a research paper starts with a broad look at the research and narrows down to the results , before the discussion opens it out again.

At the beginning of the research paper, you looked at all of the previous research and boiled it down into a research question .

In the discussion , you assess how the results answer to this question and discuss its relevance to the existing knowledge in the field.

When writing a conclusion, you should try to answer a few questions, as succinctly as possible.

You will have already answered some of these in your discussion, but the key is to leave some questions that another researcher can expand upon for their research project.

If you are planning a long career as a scientist, it is something that you can return to in the future. A good research project, whatever the results , will generate leads for others to follow.

what's a conclusion question

What Has Your Research Shown?

This is a very quick synopsis of the results and discussion.

Writing a conclusion involves summing up the paper and giving a very brief description of the results, although you should not go into too much detail about this.

Anybody reading the conclusion has read the entire paper, so the conclusion merely acts as an aid to memory.

what's a conclusion question

How Has It Added to What is Known About the Subject?

This is where you tie it in to the body of research highlighted in the introduction ; during the course of your literature review .

You should then point out the importance of the study and point out how it relates to the field.

You can also point out how your findings can be used by readers, pointing out the benefits. Even if you did not manage to reject the null , there is always a reason for this, and something has been learned.

What Were the Shortcomings?

Whilst writing the conclusion, you should highlight any deficiencies in your methods , explaining how they may have affected your results.

This will allow the next researcher to refine the methodology and learn from your mistakes, one of the foundations of the scientific process .

Has Your Research Left Some Unanswered Questions?

Do your findings open up any suggestions for future research?

For a shorter paper, this is not always essential, but you can highlight any possible areas of interest and give some ideas for those following.

Are My Results of Any Use in the Real World?

Again, this is not always applicable, but you can suggest any practical uses for your findings.

For example, if you uncovered a link between diet and the speed at which children learn, you could suggest a short plan for ensuring that children receive good nutrition.

With writing the conclusion finished, you are almost at the end of your research project.

All that remains is to perform the proof-reading and formatting , a little bit dull, but a sign that you are in the final stages.

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Martyn Shuttleworth (Sep 18, 2009). Writing a Conclusion. Retrieved Sep 03, 2023 from Explorable.com: https://explorable.com/writing-a-conclusion

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Solving “Conclusion” Questions

Here are some ways a Conclusion question might ask you to find the main conclusion of an argument:

  • Which one of the following most accurately states the conclusion drawn in the argument?
  • Which one of the following sentences best expresses the overall conclusion of the surrealist’s reasoning?
  • The main point of the argument above is that…

 Identifying the conclusion should be one of the first things you do after you carefully read an argument. You should know what the argument’s conclusion is before you read the question. ‍

Find the Main Conclusion

The main conclusion is the reason why the author sat down and wrote the argument. It’s what the author tries to sell you on.

The main conclusion is not a summary of the overall argument. It’s one specific claim that the author tries to prove using the premises. It’s almost always stated explicitly in the passage, whether it’s at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end. Sometimes it’s an entire sentence. Sometimes it’s just part of a sentence. 

Everything else in the argument is a premise (a fact that supports the conclusion), an intermediate conclusion (a claim that is supported by a premise and, in turn, supports the main conclusion), or background information (a fact that doesn’t play a logical role in the argument). ‍

Restate Conclusions that Refer Back to Other Things

If a conclusion uses a word like this , that , such , or any other pronoun, it’s probably referring back to an idea that was stated earlier in the passage. Incorporate that idea into your own rewording of the main conclusion. Consider the example below. What idea does the pronoun they refer back to?

Joe: Many scientists argue that the world is getting warmer. But they are wrong. This year’s average temperatures are colder than last year’s were.

“They” in the conclusion refers to “scientists.” To restate the conclusion in your own words, ask yourself: What does Joe try to prove? He tries to tell us that stupid scientists are wrong and that the world isn’t getting warmer. 

You need to fully understand what the main conclusion is before you start looking at the answer choices. ‍

Look for Opposing Viewpoints

If the passage begins by telling you what other people believe or claim, the main conclusion will often come right after and reject that claim.

In the global-warming argument above, the first sentence is an opposing viewpoint, the second is the main conclusion, and the third is a premise. The main conclusion doesn’t have to come right after an opposing viewpoint, but it usually does.

Use Argument Indicators Cautiously

The words therefore , thus , and so come right after a premise and right before a conclusion. But they do not necessarily introduce the main conclusion. These words can also introduce an intermediate conclusion .

Similarly, the words because , since , and for usually come right before a premise, but they could also introduce an intermediate conclusion.

Students who rely solely on indicator words often misidentify the main conclusion—especially when the test-writers put the main conclusion at the beginning of the passage and then use a conclusion indicator for an intermediate conclusion near the end of the argument. Consider the following example:

Annalisa: John should stop going to chess club. John hates board games, and chess is a board game. Thus , he hates chess.

Can you figure out the main conclusion in Annalisa’s argument?

In terms of argument structure, here’s what Annalisa says:

Annalisa: (Main conclusion). (Premise), and (premise). Thus , (intermediate conclusion).

Many test-takers mistakenly identify the last sentence as the main conclusion. They get distracted by the “thus” in the last sentence, and they miss how the last sentence supports the first. To be clear, the last sentence is a conclusion, but it’s not the main conclusion. The correct answer to a Conclusion question would restate the first sentence, not the last.

In short, argument indicators can be helpful, but don’t assume that they always precede the main conclusion.

Use the Therefore Test

If you’re debating between two conclusions stated in an argument, use the therefore test to figure out which is the main conclusion and which is the supporting intermediate conclusion. Here’s how:

  • State the first conclusion, then the word “therefore,” and then the second conclusion . If this arrangement makes sense, then the first conclusion supports the second conclusion. The second conclusion is probably the main conclusion.
  • Test the reverse order . If it makes more sense to state the second conclusion, then the word “therefore,” and then the first conclusion, then the first conclusion is probably the main conclusion.

Consider the following argument:

All big fish have sharp teeth, and Mike likes any creature that has sharp teeth. Sharks are big fish. It follows that sharks have sharp teeth and that Mike likes them. 

In the example above, which arrangement makes more sense?

  • Mike likes sharks. Therefore , Sharks have sharp teeth.
  • Sharks have sharp teeth. Therefore , Mike likes sharks.

The second one makes more sense. Mike’s feelings about sharks have no impact on sharks’ teeth. But whether sharks have sharp teeth does impact whether Mike likes them. The main conclusion is “Mike likes sharks.”

Quiz Yourself!

  • Where does the conclusion appear in the passage?
  • If there’s a word like “therefore,” does it always introduce the main conclusion?
  • No, it could introduce an intermediate conclusion.

How to Write Conclusions That Don’t Suck

what's a conclusion question

When a guest author hands me their first sample draft, it’s often missing a conclusion — sometimes accompanied by a note of apology that they thought about it, but they don’t know how to wrap the darn thing up, and could I offer any suggestions?

I don’t blame them — conclusions are often the most challenging part of any piece, and there’s a lot of conflicting advice about how to handle them. What follows is the most common advice I share with guest authors who are struggling with writing a conclusion that resonates.

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Why writing conclusions is difficult

Remember your English teacher offering some form of the following advice about how to structure an essay or thesis statement?

Tell ’em what you’re gonna tell ’em, tell ’em, and then tell ’em what you told ’em.

It’s not terrible advice for a beginning writer — while the five paragraph paper has its faults , it’s a useful mechanism for learning to think critically and structure straightforward arguments. The advice breaks down, however, as soon as anyone wishes to communicate a moderately complex idea to anyone other than the person reading your paper.

Yet further conventional wisdom about how to approach conclusions can be vague and conflicting: Restate your main points, but don’t repeat yourself, but do make sure you summarize the entire piece, but definitely don’t introduce any new ideas. Make sure you signal this is the end, but don’t use the word “conclusion,” but do leave your reader with an interesting final impression …

No wonder so many folks find conclusions impossible.

A great conclusion answers the ‘so what?’ question

Regardless of length and format, it’s common to get to “the end of the middle” of whatever you’re writing and not know where to go from there.

My blog post

You already said what you meant and offered a pile of evidence to prove your point! What else is there to say?

A great way of concluding your piece is to answer the “so what?” question. It sets your idea in a broader context, which gives your writing a better chance of resonating with a larger audience. Take a step back from what you’ve been saying and ask: Why is this important? Why should anyone care?

Take Nick’s post on “ Parting Ways With a Remote Employee .” It’s a list of tips about how to let go of an employee when you can’t be in the same room. The topic is a) ugly and b) probably irrelevant to most readers. But Nick does a nice job answering the “so what?” question in his conclusion:

Parting Ways With a Remote Employee

This conclusion tells the reader what they’re supposed to take away from the post. Why is this important? Because there’s another human being involved in this situation, and they’re having a much worse day than the person doing the firing. Why should anyone care? Because if you take the advice Nick gives in this post, that person will have a better (at least, less horrible) experience, and ideally go on to succeed somewhere where they’ll be a better fit, and you can be a part of that.

Nick’s conclusion works because it takes the advice he gives throughout the post and applies it on a wider scale, at a more human level. The lesson applies to anyone who’s ever had to let someone go, not only remote teams.

Make it human

Getting personal is another good trick for writing conclusions that make an impact. How can you apply what you’ve just said not only to your work, but to your existence as a human on this planet?

That’s what I was going for in the conclusion to “ Why You Should Set Big Goals (Even If You Might Not Hit Them) ” — the post is about the benefits of thinking big, and why Help Scout tends to aim for goals higher than what we think we’re capable of accomplishing. It’s something I’ve started doing on a personal level, too, because left to my own devices, I won’t aim high enough — so I used the conclusion as a space to own up to that, in case any readers identify with that feeling and might get value out of asking themselves the same questions.

Why You Should Set Big Goals, Even If You Might Not Hit Them

Ask a question or issue a personal challenge

Your conclusion is your last chance to make a powerful impression on the reader — you want what you’re saying to stick with them, to resonate and offer a sense of completeness.

What I want most of all is  resonance , something that will linger for a little while in Constant Reader’s mind (and heart) after he or she has closed the book and put it up on the shelf. Stephen King

Addressing your reader with a direct question or personal challenge invites them to sit with your idea and apply what you’ve said to their own situation.

In the previous example, in addition to asking the reader whether they’ve set any big goals, I challenge them to to examine whether they’re selling themselves short by setting small, easily achieved goals. Dave Martin issues a similar challenge in his conclusion to “ How to Work a 40-Hour Week ”:

How to Work a 40-Hour Week

Dave’s post is about how to maximize your working hours — tracking your time, creating an action plan and coming full circle. But his conclusion — that if your work-life balance is out of whack, you need to take some time to think about why that is, and be prepared to make some big changes — takes his advice several steps further. He answers the “so what?” question, and applies the post’s message on a greater, human level. It resonates .

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Emily Triplett Lentz

Emily Triplett Lentz

Emily is a Help Scout alum. You can find her on Twitter .

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Course: LSAT   >   Unit 1

  • Getting started with Logical Reasoning
  • Introduction to arguments
  • Catalog of question types
  • Types of conclusions
  • Types of evidence
  • Types of flaws

Identify the conclusion | Quick guide

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  • Identify the conclusion | Examples
  • Identify an entailment | Quick guide
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  • Strongly supported inferences | Quick guide
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  • Disputes | Quick guide
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  • Identify the technique | Quick guide
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  • Identify the role | Quick guide
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  • Match structure | Quick guide
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A quick guide to "Identify the conclusion" questions

  • Sub-Conclusion: Also known as a subsidiary or intermediate conclusion, a sub-conclusion is a claim that looks like a conclusion (because it is supported by one or more other statements), but that isn’t the main conclusion—it’s a conclusion that also supports a different claim!

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


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.

About conclusions

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.

Works consulted

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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