Reading & Writing Across Curriculum

Writing Conclusions

Academic essays should generally end with a concluding paragraph or conclusion. When an essay ends with a body paragraph instead of a conclusion, the ending feels sudden and readers are not sure which main ideas to take away from the essay. Readers need a conclusion to remind them of your essay's main points and give a feeling of closure to the essay.

A strong conclusion:

  • sums up the main point of your paper
  • gives a big-picture view of your topic
  • explains why your argument is important or interesting
  • does not usually include new examples, evidence, or quotations

Sample Conclusion

[Sums up main point] Overall, requiring school uniforms in California high schools would be beneficial to students' learning and socialization. [Summarizes supporting points] Students would spend more time focused on their school subjects and less time paying attention to their classmates' clothing or their own outfits and the cliques their clothes represent. In addition, the uniforms would show that students belong to a particular school and would help them to take ownership, and hopefully pride, in their association with that school. Although they may not be able to demonstrate their individuality through their clothing, they could still express themselves through their actions, language, and other characteristics. [Explains why this issue is important and makes a recommendation/call to action] When examining the cost of wearing school uniforms, the benefits definitely outweight the drawbacks. We should no longer falter in effecting this important change to our school system. If we want our students to prioritize the academic knowledge and social connections at their schools, we need to create an environment that removes distractions and allows all students to succeed.

 

Common Problems with Conclusions

Below are some common problems with concluding paragraphs. Click on the links to find out more about each one:

Failing to Summarize your Main Point

Writers often forget to summarize the paper's main point in a conclusion, causing readers not to remember the paper's main point. Also, conclusions that do not summarize often don't sound like conclusions; readers expect that a writer will sum up at the beginning of a conclusion, at least for a sentence or two, and may not recognize a conclusion that doesn't open this way.

In the following example, the second conclusion is more recognizable and effective as a conclusion because it starts with a summary of the paper's main point.

conclusion does not summarize the essay's main point
Trying new things is so important! Everyone should go out and try something new every day. Knitting would be an excellent new hobby for anyone to try.
conclusion does summarize the essay's main point
Knitting was once seen as a hobby for elderly women only, but it has gained in popularity in the past decade, and for good reason. Knitting is an excellent way to express creativity, save money on clothing, and create personalized gifts. Knitting has also been shown to be excellent for people's health. For all of these reasons, I would recommend knitting to anyone who is trying to find a new hobby. Knitting is an easy hobby to get started with and one that could give you years of pleasure, good health, and of course, cute sweaters!

 

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Failing to explain why your main point is interesting or important

Some conclusions only summarize without explaining the importance of the the paper's argument. Such conclusions do their job of wrapping up the paper's ideas but often seem dull or uninspiring.

The following are some strategies for explaining the importance of your argument. You could include any one or more of the following:

  • how your argument might affect readers
  • how your argument might apply more largely or universally
  • what action should be taken in response to your argument
  • what you hope will happen in the future

The following conclusion is strengthened by adding an explanation of how the argument applies more largely and what action should be taken. The paper is about art classes, but the conclusion explains that a similar argument might apply to other "non-academic" classes, adding that funding should not be cut for these classes.

conclusion does not explain why the main point is important
My studies in fine arts have made me not only a better artist, but also a better critical thinker. Painting taught me to look at the world more objectively, to see not just what I wanted to see, but what was really there. I am so grateful to have had the experience of studying art in high school.
conclusion does explain the importance of the main point
My studies in fine arts have made me not only a better artist, but also a better critical thinker. Painting taught me to look at the world more objectively, to see not just what I wanted to see, but what was really there. I am so grateful to have had the experience of studying art in high school. In these tough economic times, when funding has been cut for so many schools, it is vital that we do not eliminate "non-academic" subjects such as art, music, and even physical education and autoshop. These subjects may not fill students' requirements for college, but they will make us stronger thinkers and more compassionate citizens.

 

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Including new examples or evidence

Conclusions should not include any signficant new examples or points; they are meant to sum up, not add new arguments and evidence. While conclusions should explain why the essay's ideas are important (which may involve making a small new point), their main job is to sum up the rest of the paper. Any example that is fundamental for your argument should be made in the body of the paper, where you will have space to discuss it thoroughly.

In the following conclusion, the new example has been highlighted. It is a strong example but should be moved to a body pararaph, where it can be discussed in more detail.

conclusion includes a new example
While the American and Vietnamese views of death both have validity, overall I prefer the views of my native country, Vietnam. Vietnamese culture celebrates death with death-related holidays, while American culture often seems to ignore the reality of death. A perfect example of this was my experience at my grandmother's funeral. My grandmother was Vietnamese but came to America with my family when I was a baby. When she died five years ago, I thought sadly that she would have hated her own funeral. While the funerals in Vietnam are lengthy celebrations, the American funerals are short and held in a funeral home, which is usually on a tight schedule since they must do several funeral per day. Overall, the American system seems depressing and less respectful of the dead. Americans could learn a valuable lesson from Vietnamese culture: to value death as the final stage in life, and to make sure people are surrounded by family in their final hours.
conclusion does not include new examples
While the American and Vietnamese views of death both have validity, overall I prefer the views of my native country, Vietnam. Vietnamese culture celebrates death with death-related holidays, while American culture often seems to ignore the reality of death. Americans also usually choose for their loved ones to die in hospitals or nursing homes, while Vietnamese people usually die at home, surrounded by their families. Overall, the American system seems depressing and less respectful of the dead. Americans could learn a valuable lesson from Vietnamese culture: to value death as the final stage in life, and to make sure people are surrounded by family in their final hours.

 

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Listing every topic from the paper

While your conclusion should summarize your paper, it should not return to every detail or argument that you have made. Instead, it should give an overview of the most important ideas. Your conclusion should not be a list of ideas from the paper, but a unified statement of your main point.

The following conclusion lists the detailed points from the paper without really connecting them to each other or explaining the overall main idea of the paper. The second conclusion only reviews the most important points and connects them together.

conclusion lists all topics from the paper
In conclusion, acupuncture is an ancient method of healing.  It was created in China, then brought to the U.S. by Chinese immigrants.  It is now becoming a popular form of treatment in Western hospitals.  Many doctors and scientists oppose the use of acupuncture because it does not have strong scientific evidence supporting it.  Stephen Barrett argues that hospitals and insurance companies should not support acupuncture. Other studies have shown that over time, acupuncture has good results, as well as fewer side effects than conventional Western treatments.  Everyone should be more open-minded and accept new ideas such as acupuncture.
conclusion summarizes the paper's main point
In conclusion, while acupuncture has been seen as suspect by some scientists, its benefits potential benefits seem to far outweigh its risks.  It is an extremely safe form of therapy, and many patients find it helpful despite the difficulty of proving its effects in a scientific study.  As long as patients are also being treated by a qualified doctor, there seems to be little downside to incorporating a traditional, time-tested technique such as acupuncture, even if we don’t have a good scientific explanation for it.  Hopefully the medical establishment will continue the current trend of incorporating traditional therapies, since this can only lead to more options and greater flexibility for patients.

 

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Ending on a detail or example

The final lines of a conclusion should remind readers of your main point or its importance. For this reason, it is stronger to end with an important idea than a specific detail.

The following conclusion ends by naming several colleges. This distracts from the main idea of the essay. The second conclusion rearranges the sentences so that the paper ends with an idea rather than a detail.

conclusion ends on a specific detail
While we often hear that we live in a "colorblind" society, the reality is that Americans still judge each other based on our race every day. The segregation of our schools and cities is enough to show how racial discrimination still exists. We have made much progress towards racial equality over the last fifty years, but we still have a long way to go. Affirmative action is a crucial step towards creating opportunities for those who have been excluded from schools and workplaces in the past. Without affirmative action, our country will continue to live in segregation, and we will not fully reach our potential to become an integrated society. Affirmative action should be implimented in all colleges, especially the most prestigious colleges such as Harvard, Yale, and Stanford.
conclusion ends on an important idea
While we often hear that we live in a "colorblind" society, the reality is that Americans still judge each other based on our race every day. The segregation of our schools and cities is enough to show how racial discrimination still exists. We have made much progress towards racial equality over the last fifty years, but we still have a long way to go. Affirmative action is a crucial step towards creating opportunities for those who have been excluded from schools and workplaces in the past. Affirmative action should be implimented in all colleges, especially the most prestigious colleges such as Harvard, Yale, and Stanford. Without affirmative action, our country will continue to live in segregation, and we will not fully reach our potential to become an integrated society.

 

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Page last modified: May 23, 2016