Crafting a conclusion

by Meg Andersen

If you’ve ever felt overwhelmed when trying to wrap up your paper, you aren’t alone. It isn’t always easy to know what to include in your conclusion paragraph. Perhaps it feels repetitive, or you feel that you’ve exhausted all of your points and have nothing left to write. To make this process easier, here’s a simplified guide to writing effective conclusions:

Purpose: The conclusion helps readers know what to take away from the paper. They should reach the final word and have a clear idea of what you’ve told them and why.

The structure:

  • Restate your topic and thesis (your claim), but in a new way
  • Highlight the major points you made in your body paragraphs
  • Show us how those points fit together
    • The sum of the paper can be greater than the parts
    • You are synthesizing ideas, not just summarizing
  • Close with a statement that shows the reader the importance of your claim

How to make it happen:

  • Echo your introduction
    • Close the paper by incorporating a theme, quote, claim, or style from your introduction paragraph
  • Think big
    • Papers tend to start general (intro) and get specific (body paragraphs)
    • In your conclusion, you can go from specific to general
      • Start with the specific ideas from your paper and then zoom out to show the larger importance of the topic/idea
    • Look to the future
      • Looking to the future is another way of thinking big—it gives the reader something to chew on after putting the paper down
    • Defend your case
      • Close with a strong statement that supports your big idea—the “so what?”—without simply restating the thesis

Conclusions can be very helpful when wrapping up your thoughts at the end of a paper. I often find that my ideas become clearest when I get to the conclusion, because it forces me to ask the “so what?” question. Why did I make that point in paragraph three? What am I really saying in this essay, and why is it important that others read it?

For this reason and many others, conclusions really can be quite helpful, both to you and to the reader. Enjoy the process, and remember that you can always come see your trusty writing tutors in the library if you’re feeling stuck!

Meg Andersen is a junior and a Business Administration major. She loves travel, art, and breakfast food, and lives in San Francisco. 


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