How to Write a Conclusion for a Research Paper
Updated March 29, 2023
Writing a conclusion for your research paper can be difficult. Concluding paragraphs should be clear and sum up what you have presented in your research without sounding redundant. An effective conclusion paragraph can also add impact to what you have presented in your paper.
In this article, we'll discuss what a conclusion is, the importance of a good conclusion, how to write a conclusion for your research paper, some tips and common pitfalls to avoid when writing one, an example conclusion and frequently asked questions about conclusions.
What is a conclusion?
A conclusion is the final paragraph of a research paper and serves to help the reader understand why your research should matter to them. The conclusion of a conclusion should:
Restate your topic and why it is important
Restate your thesis/claim
Address opposing viewpoints and explain why readers should align with your position
Include a call for action or overview of future research possibilities
Types of conclusions for research papers
Depending on your research topic and the style of your paper, you may choose to write your conclusion according to specific types. There are three main types of conclusions:
Summarizing conclusion: A summarizing conclusion is typically used for giving a clear summary of the main points of your topic and thesis. This is considered the most common form of conclusion, though some research papers may require a different style of conclusion.
Externalizing conclusion: An externalizing conclusion presents points or ideas that may not have been directly stated or relevant to the way you presented your research and thesis. However, these types of conclusions can be effective because they present new ideas that build off of the topic you initially presented in your research.
Editorial conclusion: In an editorial conclusion, you are presenting your own concluding ideas or commentary. This type of conclusion connects your thoughts to the research you present. You might state how you feel about outcomes, results or the topic in general.
Importance of a good conclusion
An effective conclusion for a research paper reminds your readers of the strength and impact of your argument. Concluding statements can also help to refocus the reader's attention on the most important points and supporting evidence of your arguments or position that you presented in your research. Conclusions can also serve as a basis for continuing research, creating new ideas to resolve an issue you highlighted in your paper or offering new approaches to a topic.
An effective research paper conclusion:
Stresses the importance of your thesis statement
Gives the research paper a sense of completeness
Leaves a final impression on the reader
How to write a conclusion for your research paper
When writing your conclusion, you can consider the steps below to help you get started:
1. Restate your research topic
Your first step when writing your conclusion should be to restate your research topic. Typically, one sentence can be enough to restate the topic clearly, and you will want to explain why your topic is important. This part of your conclusion should be clear and concise and state only the most important information.
Here's an example of the first sentence of a conclusion in a paper about water pollution:
"The increase in water pollution since 2010 has contributed to the decrease in aquatic wildlife as well as the increase in unsafe drinking water."
TIP: Avoid obvious phrases like "in conclusion," "in summary" or "in closing." These phrases can be useful in oral presentations, but can come across as too obvious and unnecessary when ending an essay. The placement of your conclusion should make its purpose clear.
2. Restate the thesis
Next, restate the thesis of your research paper. You can do this by revising the original thesis that you presented in the introduction of your paper. The thesis statement in your conclusion should be worded differently than what you wrote in your introduction. This element can also be effectively written in one sentence.
Here's an example:
"Clean water is imperative to maintaining ecological balance and protecting the public's health."
3. Summarize the main points of your research
Next, you can sum up the main points of your research paper. It's helpful to read through your paper a second time to pick out only the most relevant facts and arguments. You shouldn't need to include any more information than the main arguments or facts that you presented in your paper. The purpose of summarizing the key points is to remind the reader of the importance of the research topic.
Here's an example to help illustrate how to do this:
"With the increase in sugar farming, more and more pollutants are entering our freshwater supplies. This increase in pollution has contributed to massive decreases in marine life, fish die-off, increased respiratory illness in neighborhood populations and has contributed to the shortage of clean drinking water."
4. Connect the significance or results of the main points
After discussing the main points of your argument, you can present the significance of these points. For instance, after stating the main points you made in your argument, you might discuss how the impacts of your topic affect a specific outcome. Likewise, you might present the results of studies or other findings that can help add emphasis to how you present the significance of your information.
Here's an example:
"Ecologists and marine biologists are continuing to measure the water quality, and researchers are continuing to find ways to combat the pollution run-off from commercial farms. In the future, the EPA hopes this research will lead to a decrease in the pollutant concentration in our freshwater systems."
TIP: Don’t surprise the reader with new information in your conclusion that wasn’t referenced in your paper. The conclusion is where you describe the value of your research and show your understanding of the material you’ve presented.
5. Conclude your thoughts
As you finish up your conclusion, you might create a call to action or pose an idea that gets your readers thinking further about your argument. You might also use this sentence to address any questions that were left unanswered in the body paragraphs of your paper.
Here's an example:
"If we cannot combat the ill effects that commercial farming has on our clean water, our freshwater ecosystems and drinking water supplies will surely diminish. More research and innovation are needed to maintain our clean water while still supporting the agricultural needs of our economy."
General rules for a conclusion of a research paper
Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when you write your research paper conclusion:
Keep your thesis, main points and summarizing facts clear and concise.
If you get overwhelmed, try sticking to a basic summarizing format for your conclusion.
Synthesize your information by providing questions and answers, results, suggestions or a resolution to your arguments.
Include only the most relevant points and arguments you presented in your paper.
You can also experiment with other conclusion styles, however, using the summarizing format can help you be certain that you are including each element as it relates to your paper.
Things to avoid in a conclusion
Here are some common pitfalls to avoid when writing a conclusion for a research paper:
Avoid beginning your conclusion with statements like "in conclusion" or "in summary," as these basic statements can come across as redundant.
Do not include completely new information in your conclusion.
Don't wait until your conclusion to state your thesis.
Steer clear of rambling and be concise and straightforward as possible. Stick to the implications of your research rather than the methodologies and results of your studies (which should be in the body of your paper).
Resist the urge to apologize if you have doubts regarding your research paper. If you feel the need to address the weaknesses of the research, stick to discussing any limitations you faced.
Avoid being overly emotional rather than analytical in your conclusion.
Research paper conclusion example
An effective conclusion will contain all five elements of summing up your research paper:
Restate your research topic.
Restate the thesis.
Summarize the main points.
State the significance or results.
Conclude your thoughts.
The following example can help illustrate what an effective research paper conclusion looks like:
"Clean water is imperative to maintaining ecological balance and protecting the public's health. The increase in water pollution since 2010 has contributed to the decrease in aquatic wildlife as well as the increase in unsafe drinking water. With the growth of sugar farming, more and more pollutants are entering our freshwater supplies. This increase in pollution has contributed to massive decreases in marine life, fish die-off, increased respiratory illness in neighborhood populations and has contributed to the shortage of clean drinking water.
Ecologists and marine biologists are continuing to measure the water quality, and researchers are continuing to find ways to combat the pollution run-off from commercial farms. In the future, the EPA hopes this research will lead to a decrease in the pollutant concentration in our freshwater systems. If we cannot combat the ill effects that commercial farming has on our clean water, our freshwater ecosystems and drinking water supplies will surely diminish. More research and innovation are needed to maintain our clean water while still supporting the agricultural needs of our economy."
Frequently asked questions
What should I include in my research paper conclusion?
The conclusion of a research paper has several key elements you should make sure to include:
A restatement of the research problem
A summary of your key arguments and/or findings
A short discussion of the implications of your research
Should I present new arguments in the conclusion of my research paper?
Don’t present new arguments or evidence in your conclusion. It’s a good idea to follow the formal structure of a research paper.
What other sections should I have in my research paper?
At least three supporting sentences
Thesis sentence with three points
Body paragraphs to support each point
Restate paper’s thesis
At least two sentences that summarize your essay
End with a declarative statement or suggestions for future research
What is an ideal length for a conclusion?
Conclusions should be concise–around three to six sentences long.
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