Chapter 6-3: Conclusions

Writing > Persuasive Papers > Conclusions

Conclusions wrap up what you have been discussing in your paper. They serve to give the essay a sense of completeness and closure. After moving from general to specific information in the introduction and body paragraphs, your conclusion should begin pulling back into more general information that synthesizes the main points of your argument. Conclusions may also call for action or overview future possible research. The following outline may help you conclude your paper:

In a general way, the conclusion should:

  • Restate your thesis/claim—avoid obvious transition phrases such as “in conclusion,” “in summary,” and “to sum up,” since readers can see that they’re reading the final paragraph of the paper and they expect it to be the conclusion.

  • Provide a synthesis (not a summary nor a repetition) of your main points—show your readers how the points you raised fit together and why your ideas matter (answer the question “so what?”).

  • Provide closure for your reader by offering a tight closing sentence.

Remember that once you accomplish these tasks, unless otherwise directed by your instructor, you are finished. Done. Complete. Don't try to bring in new points or end with a whiz bang(!) conclusion or try to solve world hunger in the final sentence of your conclusion. Simplicity is best for a clear, convincing message.

The closing sentence is challenging for many writers. Often, the sentence comes off as being kitsch. To establish a sense of closure, you might try one or more of the following:

  • Use the “frame” or “full circle” technique: circle back to the beginning of the paper, returning to the metaphor, image, anecdote, quotation, or example that you used in the introductory paragraph. Echoing the introduction gives essays a nice sense of unity and completion. Some people call this technique the "déjà vu" or "callback" method. This technique is evidenced in Forrest Gump, and The Lost Daughter.

  • Conclude with a prediction, suggestion, or quotation. Your reader should not groan in disgust at how easy or obvious it is.

  • Conclude with a sentence composed mainly of one-syllable words. Simple language can help create an effect of understated drama.

  • Conclude with a sentence that's compound or parallel in structure; such sentences can establish a sense of balance or order that may feel just right at the end of a complex discussion.

  • Conclude by setting your discussion into a different, perhaps larger, context.

  • Conclude by redefining one of the key terms of your argument. For example, an essay on Marx's treatment of the conflict between wage labor and capital might begin with Marx's claim that the "capitalist economy is . . . a gigantic enterprise of dehumanization"; the essay might end by suggesting that Marxist analysis is itself dehumanizing because it construes everything in economic—rather than moral or ethical—terms.

  • Conclude by considering the implications of your argument (or analysis or discussion). What does your argument imply, or involve, or suggest?

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Attribution information for this page: Allen Brizee (OWL Purdue), Teresa Sweeney & Fran Hooker (Webster University Writing Center), and Pat Bellanca (Harvard College), and Jamie Bridge

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