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How do I conclude an essay?

How do I conclude an essay?

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I remember at NYU all the professors were and I quote: "no rehashing of the paper at the end".  Once, you write the paper and assuming you made valid points, you then let the reader draw on a conclusion.  No rehashing of the paper at the end once again. It's boring and redundant.

For experienced writers, your professors were correct. For a novice writer, and the wisdom of English teachers using the Core Curriculum, repeating the thesis and points is still a good and preferred practice. 

Especially in persuasive papers, letting the reader draw his or her conclusions is taking a risk the point you are making will be missed. Another good rule of thumb is Tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em; tell 'em. Tell 'em what you told them. 

 

A fine but important distinction:

We should be careful not to confuse the conclusion of an essay with the conclusion of an argument. The former is merely the final paragraph in any body of writing that we can call an essay. The latter is that which follows from the premiss. An essay need not state an argument, but an argument must have a conclusion.

I wholeheartedly agree with Leslie O. on this matter.

I concur with all of Leslie's points as well... since I tend to tutor and advise students who are novices (not grad school level), the Core Standards are the best way to go.

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20 Answers

A conclusion is a summary of the essay. You will want to repeat your point, hopefully found in your thesis, to tell the reader again what you intended to say. You may also want to repeat some of your major points or arguments, reminding the reader of your proof. If the essay is persuasive, you will want to make your persuasive argument again. If the essay is not persuasive, you may want to include what you used to hook your audience in the introduction and provide a sense of closure. 

Do not ask a question. Do not repeat the thesis in exactly the same words. Do not include new information that is not already in the essay. 

Everyone has given many opinions on how to end an essay. I agree with some and found other suggestions interesting. I agree that a lot depends on the age/grade level as teacher's requirements evolve with skill level.

Very simply, here is what I tell my students a conclusion should include: 

Summary of major points (never an exact restatement of your thesis;

And a final thought - related to the topic, of course - that is one of the following: a prediction, a recommendation, a revelation, or a moral to the story/argument you have made.

The final thought should be 'larger" than the thesis, and make your reader think a bit beyond what you have written. And I discourage the use of "I" unless the assignment specifically asks you to write in 1st person.     

The conclusion is your way of restating what you wrote in your thesis, but not in the exact order or phrasing you used originally.  

The best way to write one is to start with a SPECIFIC topic sentence that summarizes or embodies your thesis.  Then continue reviewing your argument BRIEFLY in about 2-3 sentences.  Then close with a BROAD statement that is agreeable.  CONCLUSION FORMATTING:  

Specific Topic Sentence → Broad overview of thesis → Wrap up your argument → Broad Closing Sentence.

In addition to what everyone advised above, I tell my students to end on a final, thought-provoking note. In other words, write a last sentence that you feel will leave the reader thinking for an extra moment or more about some angle of your essay's subject.

I have found that this advice has greatly enlivened the last sentences of concluding paragraphs in many of my students' essays.

 

 

This depends on your grade level.  In elementary school, students are taught to conclude their essays by restating the introduction and summing the entire paper up and asking the reader a question based on the essay such as "would you like to live in a x, y, or z?"  Once you get to high school and college, things begin to change because your teachers/professors will expect you to be a bit more creative than that.  While your conclusion should "sum everything up," it shouldn't be too straight forward.  For example, you wouldn't say "As you can see, in this paper I explained x, y, and z."  Instead, you would sum everything up by adding additional information that is a consequence/result of what was discussed throughout the paper.  This adds more information and sums up the body paragraphs.  Just like in books that college level students read, the author doesn't tell you exactly every little detail, you are expected to infer and make connections based on the information provided.  As I always tell my older students, when you are reading a book you are a detective putting together the pieces of a puzzle.  When you are the writer, you choose what is important and what parts of the puzzle can be left out.  Obvious statements such as "in conclusion..." or "as you can see, in this paper I..." are boring to a detective (the readers).

I view the conclusion not as a time to restate what you've already said but rather as your last chance to convince your reader of the value of your point of view. By high school, students should be taught to use the conclusion to their advantage.

People reading your essay about why it's wrong to own slaves, for example, don't need you to tell them that you said what you came to say and proved that it's wrong, so there.  Instead, wind up your essay by telling them something they might not have considered.  "Even if the South had won the Civil War, slavery would likely have withered as an institution within a few years simply because of the increased mechanization of farming; it would have ceased to be the economic boon it once was for slave holders. Thus, the morality of slave ownership would have become moot, ceding instead to harsh economic reality. Either way, slave ownership would still have proved to be wrong." 

Please let me know if you need further guidance.

The conclusion is very, very important to your essay because the challenge that you have as the writer is to conclude with strength by going beyond just summarizing your main points. Which it is included, but it does not stop short by ending it there. That would be like a dud firecracker. You have to go beyond that by creating for your audience/readers something which would cause them to take action, think about the future, take your recommendation seriously, challenge their perspective, etc. "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".

A: Make sure your conclusion is more than a summary of your 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."

The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, suggests several strategies, however, I'll mention three of them that will help you to "Pull it together" :

1. "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".

2. "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".

3. "Include a provocative insight or quotation from the research or reading you did for your paper"

 

All quotations are from:

Conclusions. The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel. 26 February, 2013

<Hill.http://writingcenter.unc.edu/handouts/conclusions/>;.

 

 

Just as an additional help for the future, remember that the conclusion is as (arguably more) important as the rest of the paper. This what people walk away with! Even though the body of your essay/paper is factual and well written, it is easily forgotten.

Don't focus so much time on the body that you forget the intro and conclusion!

Lauren H. has provided you with a pretty reliable formula for producing the type of conclusion commonly accepted in academic writing, and I would say you should certainly follow that formula if this is what your instructor requests. However, I have also heard many teachers complain about the monotony of having to read hundreds of essays that are nearly identical in format and style. If you are afforded some flexibility in crafting your essay I would say take a different approach that allows your own creativity and cleverness to shine through. ... Here are a few things to consider when writing a conclusion:

1. Is the conclusion necessarily the final paragraph? 

2. Do you state your thesis in the beginning and then provide supporting body paragraphs, or, do you build up to your thesis and save it for the end? Or, do you reach it somewhere in the middle?

In my opinion, I'd say ask yourself "what is the point of the essay, what am I trying to prove, or state," and then determine the best way to organize your writing--either by means of a preparatory outline or through heavy revision and editing after free-writing.

Hope this helps

-Corey

For most, introductions and conclusion paragraphs are the most daunting components of the essay. However, conclusion writing will seem less scary (and perhaps more fun!) when you remember that the conclusion is really where you get to show off the significance of your research/opinions/ideas (depending upon the type of essay). It's where you get to add a bit more personality (which is not always easy in a critical essay as opposed to creative piece).

At the elementary level, we are taught that the conclusion simply restates (albeit in different words) and thus confirms the general points that were proposed in the introduction. However, as you mature as a writer, keep in mind that this can make the essay sound redundant and formulaic. If your essay is well-developed and organized, you have already convinced your reader, logically, of those points.

So, rather than just restating (that is, being explicit), keep the conclusions more open-ended than the intro (which ideally orients the reader by directly summarizing the main ideas that will be fleshed out in the body paragraphs). For instance, you can suggest some of the broader implications of your essay, and don't be afraid to venture into slightly new territory here. But, don't go off on a tangent- make sure that every sentence of the conclusion is relevant and logically follows from the information you have already given the reader.

Since you're wrapping up the essay at this same time, you need not go into extensive detail when discussing the implications that you find significant. Instead, leave the reader thinking without explicitly dictating their thoughts. This will make for a much more exciting and memorable essay.

Some questions to pose in the conclusion (be careful though- these are just guiding ideas and should not actually be stated as questions) are: 1. Why are the ideas discussed in this essay important? 2. What is so innovative or unique about the research or opinions presented in this essay? 3. (think about the broader context of the essay- if your essay were grouped with other essays, try to determine the topic that would unite them together and ask:) What are the social/moral/political/economic/etc. consequences of what is being discussed? 4. (and similarly:) Can these ideas be applied to something larger than that which is directly stated in the essay?

In short, leave the reader thinking about the bigger picture!

My advise is to ask. Ask the person for whom you are writing the essay what they look for in a conclusion. Tell them what you are considering and see what they think.

Barring that, your conclusion should create an impression that will stay with your readers long after they've finished reading. The conclusion is also your last chance to sway your audience to your point of view.

As readers come to the end of your essay they should feel a sense of closure. You can create this with a reassertion of your thesis and ensuring your last paragraph or sentence completes what should be a logical pattern you developed in your writing.

Ending with a speculative statement or question will prevent you from closing the readers completely off to the possibility of exploring the larger meaning, implications or other aspects.

Don't announce the end by using "in conclusion" or "in summary" or other variations of the statement. If you use the recommendations above about the logical pattern, then the transition to the conclusion should be obvious to the reader.

And don't summarize your essay, it does not need a rehash.

I'll offer a different take on the conclusion paragraph/paragraphs that seem not to be quite in line with what other folks have suggested. The reason my answer will differ is that I teach philosophy classes, where offering a crystal clear argument is the main point of any essay.

In an essay where the argument is most important, the conclusion should not introduce any new information. The conclusion should recapitulate what one has already said. It should include a restatement of the thesis (as others have suggested) and it should run through the outline of the argument you've just given in the body of the essay. If you include new claims and information as a part of your conclusion, these claims will not be something you've argued for explicitly, which means that the conclusion is not supported by the evidence you've provided. The result is a weak (and irrelevant) conclusion.

In professional academic writing and in higher level college writing courses, the expectation is that the conclusion should do only the following: tell us what you've just argued and how you've argued for that thing.

If an instructor specifically instructs you to do something different, do that instead - it may matter to your grade, after all. But beware you do not fall under the impression that surprising, interesting conclusions are effective for anything other than rhetorical (non-argumentative) purposes.

Effective conclusions can be boring, if one is an uninspired or inexperienced writer, but they need not be. Keep in mind that a boring and justified conclusion is always better than an exciting and unjustified conclusion.

The conclusion is often remembered long after the rest of the essay is forgotten (especially if the teacher is reading hundreds of papers).  What is the one thought you want your audience to take from your essay?  What is the most impressive part of your argument? What struck you the most as you researched and wrote your essay? What could you say that will make your paper stand out in the crowd?  It is important to follow the directions for the assignment while at the same time crafting something that the teacher will enjoy reading.  If nothing else, thank your audience for taking the time to read your essay and state as simply as possible what you hope they got from it.

When you conclude your essay think about your thesis. Summarize your thesis but do not repeat yourself because it is boring and redundant to do so. You already made your point. Even though you have written a conclusion..you still have to let the readers draw their opinions and conclusions. Repetition gets a lot of writers trouble. You know what you want to say but can't help but repeat. My suggestion is to have another person read your paper..possibly someone who has probably helped you before..and have them help you with a conclusion. 

While a number of others here have already answered this question sufficiently I think it is important to point out that the conclusion should not be limited simply as a pure restatement something you have already written once. Yes you will want to restate some of your thesis but you will also want to use the conclusion to show how your supporting evidence illuminates and proves what you are trying to say.

Think of your conclusion as light hitting a prism. In a prism a beam of white light is fragmented to and produces a rainbow of color on the other side. Your conclusion is this process in reverse. Your supporting evidence is the rainbow you have just painted with sources, quotations, and proven (or interpreted) facts. Your conclusion needs to take all this and transform it back into the single beam of light that represents your ultimate point, condensed and simplified. You want to use the conclusion in this manner show how the body of your paper proves and supports your thesis before it falls outside of your grasp. 

Many high school students and college undergrads have issues with this when they first begin to write academically. If you want to be successful as a writer it is extremely important to not come across as formulaic while still holding fast to the formatting outlined by your instructor. Oftentimes students will not have a choice in this matter, and if that is the case then stick hard and fast to what you have been told already. However, there is a growing movement among writing instructors at this time (especially in universities) to see us break away from teaching direct rules and formulas and embrace a more organic approach. If you think you have the opportunity to do this then be bold.

Some other tips:

  1. Never begin your conclusion with "In conclusion" or some other tiered opening. Always try to find some other way to tip the reader that this is the last major point.

  2. Unless your instructor has specifically told you not to, feel welcome to use "I". Just don't highlight your personal experience as the main draw for your paper.

  3. You can use the conclusion to pose a question but only if that question is truly clever and thought provoking in relation to your topic. This can be difficult to pull off sometimes so I would advise new writers against it. The question should not function as the point of your paper but rather as an aside.

  4. The conclusion is also a good place to experiment with metaphor if you want to be really slick.

Finally, remember that all writing is persuasive. Whether its trying to make a direct impact or simply being submitted for a grade, any piece of writing needs to persuade someone somewhere in order to be successful. How you accomplish your persuasion is most often captured in the conclusion. 

One might try what is called the "Miss America" statement.  What this means is that a writer will conclude the essay by posing a concern or question that relates to the theme of the essay.  This statement will  be one that causes the reader to think about the issues in the essay from a broad perspective and to question how the points made in the essay extend to societal questions, perhaps.

A good essay should begin with an attention-grabber, move into a thesis statement, which is supported throughout the body of the paper, and the thesis statement and various interesting parts from the body of the paper should be rephrased to draw everything to a natural close. The point of a conclusion is to have your strongest point be the last thing you say, while gently releasing the reader. A bad conclusion will be like someone slamming the door in your face, while a good conclusion will be a gentle gathering of the facts to draw the reader to the understanding that the essay has been completed. Feel free to email me with questions. I enjoy writing papers!

Typically, you rephrase the thesis or main idea of your essay.

If you posed something in your introduction you should always remember to refer back to it.  

One concludes an essay with a period, question mark or ellipsis!