Writing a conclusion

The conclusion is the last thing your readers will see (and most likely remember). Whereas the introduction creates a first impression, the conclusion is the last impression your reader will get of you and your paper. Just as it creates a bad impression if dinner guests get up and leave at 10PM simply because that was the time they had already decided to leave, it creates a bad impression to abruptly end an essay without a round of goodbyes. You want the reader to understand that you have enjoyed making the argument, been in control of the essay, and can bring it to a conclusion.

A conclusion serves the purpose of reiterating why the paper and its thesis were important. It is where the essay becomes complete, and where the structure of the essay, and its discussions, examples, and quotes make sense. The conclusion brings everything together.

Some possible approaches to writing a conclusion:

  • Do not just restate your thesis statement. While the conclusion needs to remind your readers of what the main argument is, you don't want to simply cut and paste the sentences from your introduction.
  • Synthesize your thesis statement and the information you provided during the discussion. This is where you show why the examples you presented make sense in relation to the thesis and why they are not a random collection of information. (This is also where you might realize that indeed they do not make sense and thus change them.) Think of the conclusion as the end of a good traditional movie where all the loose ends are tied up and you know how the actions of the movie fit together.
  • End your paper with something interesting. Again, to use a movie analogy, this is where you leave a question of what might happen in the future. You can hint at how your research challenges assumptions in the field and what yet needs to be done. You can challenge the reader to think about your conclusions. You can also ask a direct question, but it is advisable to avoid general rhetorical questions as conclusions.
  • A good rhetorical strategy is to mirror the language used in the introduction. If you have asked about the relationship between Stravinsky and modern ballet in your introduction, you might want to echo that in your conclusion to make your paper create a rhetorical circle. Do not, however, just repeat yourself.
  • Do not end your paper with somebody else's words – do not end with a quote. All quotes in a paper should be used for a specific reason and explained within the paper. Furthermore, you don’t want to end with somebody else’s words and hence leave the reader with the expression that you cannot speak for yourself. This is your conclusion, not theirs.

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