How to write an excellent thesis conclusion

At this point in your writing, you have most likely finished your introduction and the body of your paper. While this is a reason to celebrate, you should not underestimate the importance of your conclusion. The conclusion is the last thing that your reader will see, so it should be memorable. Writing a good conclusion is a simple process, but it is not always easy.

A good conclusion will review the key points of the paper and explain to the reader why the information is relevant, applicable, or related to the world as a whole. Make sure to dedicate enough of your writing time to the conclusion and do not put it off until the very last minute. This article provides an effective technique for writing a conclusion adapted from Eby, Erica (2012) The College Student's Guide to Writing a Good Research Paper: 101 Easy Tips & Tricks to Make Your Work Stand Out.

While the thesis introduction starts out with broad statements about the topic and then narrows it down to the thesis statement, a conclusion does the same in the opposite order:

  1. Restate the thesis.
  2. Reiterate the key points of the paper.
  3. Explain why the paper is relevant and what the reader should take away from it.

1. Restate the thesis

The best way to start a conclusion is simply by restating the thesis statement. That does not mean just to copy and paste it from the introduction, but to put it in different words. You will need to change the structure and wording of it to avoid sounding repetitive. Also, try to avoid sounding apologetic by using phrases like "This paper has tried to show..". Leave the reader satisfied. Be firm in your conclusion just as you were in the introduction.

The conclusion should address all the same parts as the thesis while making it clear that the reader has reached the end of the paper. You are telling the reader that your research is finished and what your findings are. Do not use references here and make sure to use a tense that indicates that all the points you mentioned in your introduction have already been discussed.

2. Review or reiterate key points

The next step is to review the main points from the paper. Look back at the body of of your paper and make a note of the topic sentence of each paragraph. You can reword these sentences the same way you reworded your thesis statement and then incorporate that into the conclusion. You can also repeat striking quotations or statistics, but do not use more than two. As the conclusion represents your own closing thoughts on the topic, it should mainly consist of your own words.

In addition, conclusions can contain recommendations to the reader or relevant questions that further the thesis. You should ask yourself what you would ideally like to see your readers do in reaction to your paper. Do you want them to take a certain action or investigate further? Is there a bigger issue that your paper wants to draw attention to?

Also try to reference your introduction in your conclusion. You have already taken a first step by restating your thesis in your conclusion. Now check whether there are other key words, phrases or ideas that are mentioned in your introduction that fit into your conclusion. Connecting the introduction to the conclusion in this way will help readers leave feeling satisfied.

3. Explain why the paper is relevant and what the reader should take away from it

Although you can encourage readers to question their opinions and reflect on your topic, do not leave loose ends. You should provide a sense of resolution and make sure your conclusion wraps up your argument. You should explain what the user should take away from it.

End your conclusion with something memorable, such as a question, warning, or call to action. Your reader will probably wonder: "Why should I care?" By ending your conclusion with a broad question that causes the reader to consider how to use the information you provided them with, you can help them answer this question. Depending on the topic, you can also end with a warning or call to action. This will give the reader a reason to care and possible way to use the information contained in your paper.

Tips for writing a good conclusion

Now that you understand how to write a good conclusion, make sure to also consider the following tips:

  • Do not summarize too much: Summarizing is a key part of your conclusion, but it should not be the only part. Explaining how to apply the information covered in the paper is just as important as summarizing the key parts. The reader should be left with a sense of resolution.
  • Be careful when introducing new information: It can happen that you introduce new information in your conclusion, especially when you're trying to give the reader a sense of how the information can be applied in a broader sense. While you can pose questions or explain how the information is relevant, make sure to not introduce new key points.
  • Do not use your conclusion to make up for inadequacies in the body of your paper: You might be tempted to add whatever you have missed to include in the chapters before to the conclusion. If you do that, the conclusion will not conclude anything but just raise more questions. If you find yourself in that situation, your topic might be too broad.
  • Beware of using the word "conclusion" in your paper: If you use the word "conclusion" anywhere else in the paper but in the actual conclusion, that might confuse the reader up to the point where they give up on looking for the actual conclusion. Be mindful of when and how you use the word in the body of your paper.
  • Be careful when giving your own opinion: You can certainly give your own opinion in the paper, but make sure to not sound too bossy or authoritarian. Focus on a holistic assessment of the topic and do not use your conclusion to engage in any over-generalized discussions that miss the point of your paper.

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