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Conclusions are often considered the most difficult part of an essay to write. However, they are also one of the most important aspects of a paper because they provide clarity and insight into the topic. In this article, we'll explain when and how to write a conclusion, list the different types of conclusions, detail what to include and what to avoid, give an outline you can use in your next essay and provide some examples of both effective and ineffective conclusion paragraphs.
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When to use a conclusion
Conclusions should be put to use any time you are writing an essay, report or article that proposes or explores an idea, issue or event. This idea is referred to as a thesis statement and it provides the structure and motivation for the entire piece. In other words, it answers the "why." A conclusion, on the other hand, addresses the "so what" by clarifying the point of the essay and offering the reader a solution, question or insight into the subject matter that reiterates why they should care.
How to write a conclusion
An effective conclusion is created by following these steps:
- Restate the thesis: An effective conclusion brings the reader back to the main point, reminding the reader of the purpose of the essay. However, avoid repeating the thesis verbatim. Paraphrase your argument slightly while still preserving the primary point.
- Reiterate your supporting points: Aside from restating your thesis, you should also reiterate the points that you made to support it throughout the paper. But instead of simply repeating the paper's arguments, summarize the ideas.
- Make a connection between your opening and closing statements: It's often effective to return to the introduction's themes, giving the reader a strong sense of conclusion. You can accomplish this by using similar concepts, returning to an original scenario or by including the same imagery.
- Provide some insight: Your conclusion should leave the reader with a solution, an insight, questions for further study or a call to action. What are the implications of your argument? Why should anyone care? You'll want to answer these types of questions here and leave your audience with something to think about.
Types of conclusion
Though different sources cite various types of conclusions, all of them serve one of these three primary functions:
- Summarization: This style is often used when writing about technical subjects with a more clinical tone, such as surveys, definitions and reports. Because it paraphrases the major ideas of the essay, it is most often used in longer pieces where readers will need a reminder of the essay's main points. As such, it should avoid reflexive references or subjective ideas (like "in my opinion" or "I feel").
- Editorialization: Editorialization is primarily used in essays where there is a controversial topic, a personal connection or an appeal to persuade the reader. This style incorporates the writer's commentary about the subject matter and often expresses their personal investment in the issue being discussed. This type of conclusion will use an anecdote and a conversational tone to draw attention to concerns, interpretations, personal beliefs, politics or feelings.
- Externalization: Frequently used in essays that approach a particular issue that is a part of a much more complex subject, an externalized conclusion provides a transition into a related but separate topic that leads readers to further develop the discussion. In fact, it's often thought of as a new introduction that includes another thesis entirely, allowing for development into another potential essay.
What to avoid
Here are a few things to avoid when writing your conclusion:
- Avoid introducing the thesis, new ideas or evidence for the first time. If new points are made in your conclusion, take them out and try to incorporate them into one of the body paragraphs in your essay.
- Make sure you are using a tone that is consistent with the rest of the paper.
- Beginning the conclusion with phrases like "in closing," "in summary" or "in conclusion" is somewhat redundant and unnecessary, so avoid using them.
What to include in a conclusion
A conclusion's job is to reiterate the arguments and thesis of the essay. In other words, it provides a sense of closure and suggests that you have accomplished the goal of the piece. Here are some key aspects to include in your conclusion to ensure its effectiveness:
- End the essay on a positive note
- Communicate the importance of your ideas and the subject matter
- Provide the reader with a sense of closure
- Reiterate and summarize your main points
- Rephrase and then restate your thesis statement
- Topic sentence
- This is where you repeat your thesis statement. Make sure it is rephrased to avoid redundancy.
- Supporting sentences
- Paraphrase the major points and arguments that you made throughout the paper.
- Explain the significance of the ideas and how they all connect.
- Closing sentence
- This is where you connect back to a point, image or anecdote that was made in the introductory paragraph.
- It is your final word on the subject and gives the reader a sense of closure.
Here is an example of an effective conclusion paragraph:
"Though there has been much debate on the subject, it is clear that democratic leadership is the best form of management for the modern workplace. This is made evident by the fact that over the course of the last century, employees have become increasingly more educated and competent. Additionally, there is a growing emphasis on independence, creativity and free thought, meaning that team members are realizing that they have something worthwhile to contribute that could provide a meaningful perspective. It is because of these reasons that democratic leadership, where input and conflicting opinions are welcome, should be adopted in a majority of organizations."
This is an example of an ineffective conclusion:
"In conclusion, Abraham Lincoln was the best president because he was really honest and abolished slavery."
Here are some of the ways that this conclusion is lacking:
- This example is too short. An effective conclusion will be a full paragraph that details the argument's supporting points.
- Though two supporting points are given, they are vague. An effective conclusion should cite concrete details.
- Beginning a conclusion with a phrase like "in conclusion" is superfluous.