Make Your Last Words Count
In academic writing, a well-crafted conclusion can provide the final word on the value of your analysis, research, or paper. Complete your conclusions with conviction!
Conclusions show readers the value of your completely developed argument or thoroughly answered question. Consider the conclusion from the reader's perspective. At the end of a paper, a reader wants to know how to benefit from the work you accomplished in your paper. Here are ways to think about the purpose of a conclusion:
- To connect the paper's findings to a larger context, such as the wider conversation about an issue as it is presented in a course or in other published writing.
- To suggest the implications of your findings or the importance of the topic.
- To ask questions or suggest ideas for further research.
- To revisit your main idea or research question with new insight.
Should you summarize?
Consider what readers can keep track of in their heads. If your paper is long or complex, some summary of your key points will remind readers of the ground you've covered. If your paper is short, your readers may not need a summary. In any paper, you'll want to push beyond mere summary to suggest the implications or applications of your work.
How do you start drafting a conclusion?
Effective conclusions take the paper beyond summary and demonstrate a further appreciation of the paper's argument and its significance: why it works, why it is meaningful, and why it is valuable. To get started, you might ask yourself these questions:
- How do the ideas in your paper connect to what you have discussed in class, or to what scholars have written in their treatment of your topic?
- What new ideas have you added to the conversation? What ideas do you critique?
- What are the limitations of your data, methods, or results?
- What are the consequences of the strongest idea that comes out of your paper?
- How can you return to the question or situation you describe in your introduction?
From Mounting methodologies to measure EUV reticle nonflatness (SPIE Proceedings 7470, 2009), by UW–Madison Professor Roxanne L. Engelstad's lab. Notice how Battula et al. explain the limitations of their findings, and identify specific future developments that would make their proposal more accurately testable.
The horizontal whiffle tree mount should have performed the best considering the kinematics of the 16 support points, as well as theoretically displaying the least amount of gravitational distortions. However, due to possible friction at the pivoted joints and the current tolerances on the whiffle tree system, there were difficulties in using this mount. At this time, the process of averaging the measurements taken at four vertical orientations appears to be the best approach.
Gender and Women's Studies
From Examining Millie and Christine McKoy: Where Enslavement and Enfreakment Meet (Signs 37, 2011), by UW–Madison Professor Ellen Samuels. Notice how Samuels's conclusion briefly summarizes her article's main claims before turning to the consequences of her strongest claims.
While there are still many questions left unanswered about the McKoys, and many possible truths to be drawn from their lives, I have aimed in this article to establish that at least two things are not true: the tale of the beneficent and beloved slaveowners and the resigned, downcast expression on Millie's face in the altered picture. Moreover, I contend that turning away from historical legacies as complex and dangerous as those of enslavement and enfreakment keeps us from being able to understand them and to imagine different futures. We need to develop paradigms of analysis that allow us to perceive and interpret both the radical empowerment of the McKoys' lives and the oppressions that are no less fundamental to their story. Such an analysis must allow for dissonance, contradictions, and even discomfort in its gaze. Only then can we move forward with the work of shaping new representations and new possibilities for extraordinary bodily experience.
From UW–Madison Law Professor Andrew B. Coan's Judicial Capacity and the Substance of Constitutional Law (2012). Notice how this conclusion emphasizes the significance of the topic under consideration.
Judicial capacity has been too long misunderstood and too long neglected. It is a central institutional characteristic of the judiciary, which has significant predictive power in important constitutional domains and also significant normative implications. It deserves consideration from constitutional theorists on par with that accorded to judicial competence and judicial independence. Indeed, it is crucial to a full understanding of both of these much-discussed institutional features of the judiciary.
By the time you get to your research paper conclusion you probably feel as if there is nothing more to be said. But knowing how to write a conclusion for a research paper is important for anyone doing research and writing research papers. If you finish strong, you will impress your readers and be effective in communicating your ideas.
Return to the Opening
A research paper should be circular in argument according to Ralph Berry in his book, The Research Project: How To Write It. Berry explained, “That is, the formal aim of the paper should be stated in the opening paragraph; the conclusion should return to the opening, and examine the original purpose in the light of the data assembled. It is a prime error to present conclusions that are not directly related to the evidence previously presented.”
But a conclusion does more than restate your thesis and the reasoning presented in your introduction. Professor Rosemary Jann of George Mason University pointed out the true purpose of a research paper conclusion in her article, “Writing Your Conclusion.” Professor Jann advised, “Whereas your introductory paragraph starts broad and then funnels down to your thesis…the concluding paragraph establishes what you’ve proved in the paper and then broadens out the meaning of what you’ve established in the course of your analysis.”
There are several approaches that you could take in writing the conclusion to your research paper other than to refer back to your introduction.
- You could summarize your main points but if you use this method then be sure to make your summary interesting rather than a just list of points.
- Present a bold statement that takes your topic to a deeper meaning and state the overall importance of what you have said in your paper.
- Conclude your paper by restating what you have found, acknowledge that there is more to be explored on the topic and briefly describe the issues that remain.
Different Types of Papers Mean Different Conclusions
If your paper was written to argue a point or to persuade the reader, then your conclusion will summarize the main points of your arguments presented in the paper. You will also want to restate your thesis and conclude with a statement of your position on the topic.
On the other hand, you paper may be an analysis of a topic where you have done in-depth study on a particular subject and presented your findings. Your conclusion will summarize your analysis of the topic, restate your thesis, and pose suggestions for further study.
Often the purpose of a research paper is to compare and contrast the facts and circumstances surrounding a topic in order to prove an argument that you state in your thesis. In your conclusion you will want to restate your thesis and summarize how you have proven your argument.
Problem and Solution
Another approach to the conclusion is to suggest a solution to the problem that you presented in your thesis. Advice on essay conclusions provided by the University of Victoria could also be applied to the research paper. The UVic Writer’s Guide said, “Once you have tied up your argument, a good way to conclude is to use the final lines of your essay to suggest a way in which the material you have covered applies to a larger concern. As in the introduction you explained the thesis in terms of a bigger picture, so in the conclusion you can demonstrate the effects or the problems inherent in what you have discussed.”
The conclusion of your research paper should tie up all of the trains of thought that you presented in your paper and to show where they might ultimately lead. It is not, however, the place to introduce new claims or information that you have not presented anywhere else in your paper.
The conclusion need not be long. It can be accomplished in as little as two sentences. For example: The effects of climate change can be reversed (credit zacharey at dresshead.com). It will, however, take political will and consistent effort from both representatives and business leaders.
Tips and examples for writing your research paper conclusion can be found at the University of Houston Victoria Academic Center site: http://www.uhv.edu/ac/research/write/pdf/draftconclusion.pdf.
The last thing your reader will see is your research paper conclusion. It should impact the reader with a definite statement that communicates your main point without raising new questions.