Academic tips on how to write a proper conclusion for an essay

You’ve just spent hours on a paper, constructing a great thesis and systematically proving all of your points and you’re finally finished. Except you still have to write a conclusion. Unfortunately you’ve run out of things to say and are probably running out of time. The truth is, the conclusion may be the most important part of the essay and is easier than you think to write.

Conclude Don’t Summarize

  • Address the main points. First, go through your paper and find the main points. In an academic essay this means your thesis and topic sentences. In the conclusion you do not want to restate your main points word for word but you should remind the reader of the structure of your whole argument in a clear and concise way.
  • Don’t summarize. It is a conclusion not a summary, so avoid first person statements like “I have shown,” or “I have proved” unless the paper specifically calls for you to present your facts. Avoid clumsy word choice like “In conclusion” or “to conclude” as well.

Remember the Pyramid Structure

  • Narrow to Wide. In an introduction to an essay you are expected to start with a general statement and then refine it, creating an inverse pyramid of your focus. The conclusion should start with the narrow scope of your paper and then open up to the broader implications of your argument.
  • Don’t introduce something new. Although you should end your paper in a way that takes a larger view, you don’t want to introduce a new topic. At the end of a paper on the Civil War, it’s acceptable to introduce the topic of war in general. You do not want to bring up issues in that day’s news that may distract the reader from what you were trying to prove.

Be Memorable

  • Consider a quote. The conclusion is the last thing an instructor reads and you want to leave a strong final impression. Sometimes letting another writer say it complements your own writing. Just be sure to cite correctly to avoid plagiarism.
  • Ask a question. Show that your paper has larger issues attached to it or that there is more to think about. If you’ve written a paper on George Orwell’s 1984, asking a question like “Is this what the future holds?” asks the reader to apply the argument in your paper to his world.
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