The conclusion is a very important part of your essay. Although it is sometimes treated as a roundup of all of the bits that didn’t fit into the paper earlier, it deserves better treatment than that! It's the last thing the reader will see, so it tends to stick in the reader's memory. It's also a great place to remind the reader exactly why your topic is important. A conclusion is more than just "the last paragraph"—it's a working part of the paper. This is the place to push your reader to think about the consequences of your topic for the wider world or for the reader's own life!
A good conclusion should do a few things:
- Restate your thesis
- Synthesize or summarize your major points
- Make the context of your argument clear
Restating Your Thesis
You've already spent time and energy crafting a solid thesis statement for your introduction, and if you've done your job right, your whole paper focuses on that thesis statement. That's why it's so important to address the thesis in your conclusion! Many writers choose to begin the conclusion by restating the thesis, but you can put your thesis into the conclusion anywhere—the first sentence of the paragraph, the last sentence, or in between. Here are a few tips for rephrasing your thesis:
- Remind the reader that you've proven this thesis over the course of your paper. For example, if you're arguing that your readers should get their pets from animal shelters rather than pet stores, you might say, "If you were considering that puppy in the pet-shop window, remember that your purchase will support 'puppy mills' instead of rescuing a needy dog, and consider selecting your new friend at your local animal shelter." This example gives the reader not only the thesis of the paper, but a reminder of the most powerful point in the argument!
- Revise the thesis statement so that it reflects the relationship you've developed with the reader during the paper. For example, if you've written a paper that targets parents of young children, you can find a way to phrase your thesis to capitalize on that—maybe by beginning your thesis statement with, "As a parent of a young child…"
- Don’t repeat your thesis word for word—make sure that your new statement is an independent, fresh sentence!
Summary or Synthesis
This section of the conclusion might come before the thesis statement or after it. Your conclusion should remind the reader of what your paper actually says! The best conclusion will include a synthesis, not just a summary—instead of a mere list of your major points, the best conclusion will draw those points together and relate them to one another so that your reader can apply the information given in the essay. Here are a couple of ways to do that:
- Give a list of the major arguments for your thesis (usually, these are the topic sentences of the parts of your essay).
- Explain how these parts are connected. For example, in the animal-shelter essay, you might point out that adopting a shelter dog helps more animals because your adoption fee supports the shelter, which makes your choice more socially responsible.
One of the most important functions of the conclusion is to provide context for your argument. Your reader may finish your essay without a problem and understand your argument without understanding why that argument is important. Your introduction might point out the reason your topic matters, but your conclusion should also tackle this questions. Here are some strategies for making your reader see why the topic is important:
- Tell the reader what you want him or her to do. Is your essay a call to action? If so, remind the reader of what he/she should do. If not, remember that asking the reader to think a certain way is an action in itself. (In the above examples, the essay asks the reader to adopt a shelter dog—a specific action.)
- Explain why this topic is timely or important. For example, the animal-shelter essay might end with a statistic about the number of pets in shelters waiting for adoption.
- Remind the readers of why the topic matters to them personally. For example, it doesn’t matter much if you believe in the mission of animal shelters, if you're not planning to get a dog; however, once you're looking for a dog, it is much more important. The conclusion of this essay might say, "Since you’re in the market for a dog, you have a major decision to make: where to get one." This will remind the reader that the argument is personally important!
Have you ever tried to wrap a present without tape? It’s no easy task, but it can be done with a bit of dexterity, patience, and lots of ribbon.
Wrapping up your essay can sometimes feel like wrapping a present without tape—it can be difficult at times, and you may feel that it’s just too much work. But don’t worry; I’ll give you some advice that’ll really stick with you and make writing conclusions a cinch.
Follow my guidelines and your essay conclusion will not only bind your writing together, but it’ll leave the reader with a sense of closure—the bow on top of the box, so to speak.
Photo via christmasstockimages.com
What (Almost) All Essay Conclusions Should Do:
There are a lot of different kinds of essays, so your conclusion is going to vary between each category. However, there are a few common elements that almost every essay conclusion should include.
Why almost every one?
Well, in a few circumstances, it’ll be okay to break the rules a little bit. But just like anything else, you should get to know the rules first before you break them.
Summary of Your Thesis Statement and Main Points
Okay, by now you should have a strong introduction complete with a hook and a thesis statement. You should also have the body of your essay written, or at least outlined.
If you don’t have these things written down, stop what you’re doing and get to writing.
Okay, are you done with your intro and body paragraphs now? Good, let’s talk about summarizing what you said.
When I say summarize your thesis statement and the main points of your body paragraphs, I don’t just mean restate them in the same or nearly the same words. You have to use different language in your essay conclusion that will make it engaging.
Still going with the gift idea for this example:
If your thesis statement is, “Wrapping gifts is important because it builds anticipation in the recipient, it makes the gift look nice, and it shows the person you really care.”
Your essay conclusion shouldn’t just say the exact same thing over again. Instead, try using more vivid language.
For example, “One of the most important aspects of gift-giving is the element of surprise, and a great way build up the surprise is to take care in wrapping your gift. Using bright colors and decorations such as ribbons and bows can make quite an impression. Your dedication to detail will let your loved one know you cared to take the time.”
Tie Up Loose Ends
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You might notice that my essay conclusion example is a little more drawn out than the thesis statement. This is because I wanted to include enough details to tie up any loose ends.
If I had just simply restated the thesis statement, the reader might wonder how wrapping a gift shows that you care about someone, or how gift wrapping makes a present look nice.
Before writing your conclusion, read over the rest of your paper with new eyes. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes and try to imagine any questions you might have left unanswered. Consider any ideas you may have skirted around but didn’t make a direct statement about.
Then, answer those questions in a clear and concise manner in your conclusion.
End with Interest
Remember your hook in the introduction? Most likely it’s something like a statistic, short anecdote, quote, or surprising fact.
Well, your essay conclusion should have a kind of ending hook as well, a statement of interest. There are a couple ways to go about writing this statement.
- Use a parallel structure. If you used a statistic in the introduction, use another statistic in the conclusion; if you used a quote, use another similar quote. However, just as you shouldn’t simply restate the thesis, you should also not use the same hook for the ending.
- Ask a rhetorical question. This can give the reader something to think about, and it can put your topic in the context of some greater problem.
These two options are merely suggestions, and you can end your conclusion however you feel is best. The point is to make sure that the reader stays hooked until the very end.
Essay Conclusions That Are Exceptions to the Rules
The tips I’ve given above are for a general essay conclusion and will hold true for most types of essays. However, there are times when you’ll need to add some details or deviate from the formula a little bit.
An Argumentative Essay Conclusion
The guidelines I have listed will cover most of what you’ll write for an argumentative essay conclusion, but there are more details you should add.
An argumentative essay presents an argument for a specific point. This argument is probably important in some way, and in your body paragraphs, you should address opposing viewpoints.
Thus, a conclusion for an argumentative essay should let the reader know why the topic you’re writing about is important, and why you think your point of view is the right one. This means quickly readdressing and dispelling the opposition.
For your point of interest at the end of your essay conclusion, it is often a good idea to give an idea of what would happen if the reader, or the world as a whole, chose the opposing point of view.
Be descriptive; paint a picture.
A Narrative Essay Conclusion
Narrative essays are just a whole other ball game. You’re not analyzing, arguing, or explaining. You are telling a story, and you probably have not come across many books that fully summarize the main points of the story at the end.
This does not mean that you can’t restate the purpose of your narrative. It just means that you have to do it in a different way.
Often this takes the form of reflection. You’ve taken the reader through a journey, and reflection in a narrative essay conclusion “takes the reader home.” It tells what you learned as a result of that journey.
The conclusion could also be a piece of dialogue that has some statement that ties everything up nicely. Think about it as an ending line in a movie.
And Now For My Conclusion
Though you may need to add more details as in the case of the argumentative essay, or change the rules completely as with the narrative essay, most conclusions follow a pretty straightforward set of rules.
It is important to use descriptive, detailed language no matter the type of essay, as this will tie up your loose ends and make the summary of your thesis and main points more interesting to the reader.
And speaking of interesting, don’t forget to keep that reader interested until the very last word. Use shocking statements, or put your topic in the context of a larger issue.
Any way you choose to end your writing, it’s important to spend time developing your essay conclusion. As novelist Colm Toibin said, “Ending a novel is almost like putting a child to sleep – it can’t be done abruptly.”
If you’re still unsure about your conclusion or any other part of your essay, the Kibin editors are here to point you in the right direction.
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