In this video, below, I give you some tips about how to write a conclusion. I discuss how a well-written conclusion should not simply be a re-hash of what you wrote in the introduction or body – although reminding readers of these items is absolutely crucial.
A conclusion is, importantly, the last chance you have to persuade your readers of your argument. It’s the last opportunity to make a good, lasting impression of what you want them to take away from your article, essay, or piece of writing.
Using the example of an essay I discuss in the Academic Structure 101 videos, here are varying examples of conclusions you could write which I’ve rated: badly written, mediocre, and well-written.
Essay topic: Why everyone should own a dog.
Just to contextualise, here is the outline of this paper – via my introduction. You can see what my key argument is going to be, and how I plan to support that argument throughout the body of my paper.
Now, let’s assume I’ve written my essay based on this outline. My introduction includes some background information, context, and definitions. I introduce my argument and how I will support it through my paper. I have also written three wonderful paragraphs – each respectively covering one of those pathway points above.
I arrive at my conclusion, so how do I write it?
Here is an example of a poorly written conclusion:
In conclusion, dogs benefit psychological well-being. Secondly, dog owners are safer than non-dog owners. Finally, owners of dogs are more likeable.
Why is it poorly written? It does nothing more than simply restate elements of the introduction. Furthermore, these elements have not been drawn together effectively. You need to make the connection clear – and avoid just re-stating what was already said in the introduction.
This conclusion is still not great, but slightly better than the former.
In conclusion, it’s essential that everyone should down a dog. Firstly, becuase it benefits psychological well-being. I demonstrated this in the first paragraph when I talked about the example of Fred and George. Secondly becuase dog owners are safer than non dog-owners. Studies of crime rates made this clear. Thirdly, because dog owners are more likeable. Smith and Johnson showed that people are more likely to befriend those with dogs.
This version is better because it begins to incorporate additional information that was included in the body of the paper. It includes a reminder of the main argument, and it reviews what they just read in the body. It also links these topics together clearly – via the first sentence in the conclusion.
However, a very well-written conclusion should move beyond this… it must leave a lasting impression that encourages the reader to think beyond what has been included in the paper: broader implications should be highlighted. In some published papers, like journal articles and book chapters, further research might be identified.
In conclusion, dogs have long been considered faithful companions of humans which have an undeniable impact on the life and well-being of their owners. The research highlighted in this essay makes this immensely clear. Owning dogs has reported mental health benefits, a crucial benefit in a society replete with such concerns. Indeed, the example with Fred and George made clear why dog ownership can have lasting and successful impact. Those who own dogs also seemingly express greater feelings of safety: noted by the studies of crime rates. Finally, owning dogs affects how people socialise, offering them, potentially, greater social opportunities than those without dogs. Smith and Johnson showed that people are more likely to befriend those with dogs. Clearly, dogs have been beneficial sidekicks to many people whose lives have been improved through these connections. Further research which compared the experience of other pet owners – such as those of cats or rodents – would be a useful and interesting comparison.
As you can see, this conclusion certainly does include the overall argument, and rehashes some main points which were made in the body of the work. However, it also adds to these by encouraging the reader to think beyond what was written in the conclusion. It connects this writing to broader implications and it compels readers to think about implications it might have for further investigation and study.
One caveat should be added – don’t get so excited with your ‘broader implications’ and ‘further research’ that you introduce new information/arguments into your conclusion. A conclusion is not the place for new pontifications. Indeed, if you discover a point you want to make by this stage of your work, you should try to reincorporate it into the body of your work (and then link it to the conclusion).
Do not do this:
In conclusion, dogs have long been considered faithful companions of humans which have an undeniable impact on the life and well-being of their owners. The research highlighted in this essay makes this immensely clear. Owning dogs has reported mental health benefits, a crucial benefit in a society replete with such concerns. Indeed, as research by Jones and Jameson has concluded, ‘ownership of dogs is key in the mental health improvement of children and youth’. Young people seem to recover more quickly from illness with a pet to support them, which has great ramifications for the general public as well.
As you can see, the conclusion started getting out of hand when I introduced more research with a quote by Jones and Jameson ( which hadn’t been highlighted in the body of my paper) and began a tangent in which I decided to discuss mental illness and children. If I want to include this, I should ensure I place it in the body of my paper, and then – and only then – I can include a ‘nod to it’ in my conclusion.
So, in sum, it’s important to write a conclusion that is going to leave a lasting impression. You want your readers to ‘feel something’ when they have finished. You need to toe the line between reminding them what you’ve covered (which is important) but also suggesting broader implications and further avenues: and this must be done without introducing new material/embarking upon tangents!
For further help with academic writing, from this same series, please see the videos here: