Plenty of attention is given to the introduction of a paper. After all, getting started can be intimidating and difficult. But a lot less attention has been giving to wrapping everything up with a well written conclusion. While a quality introduction is meant to pull the reader in, a carefully constructed conclusion addresses any remaining issues and gives readers both a sense of conclusion as well as a way to move forward. Whether your paper is meant to inspire or inform, your conclusion can bring your thoughts to life by inspiring readers to take action.
Step 1 - Read Your Paper
Quite often, the conclusion of a paper is overlooked simply because the writer is ready to be done with the work. Once you've hammered out the rest of your paper, take a break. If possible, leave it to the side for a night and let your subconscious mull over what you've already written. Then, go back and read through the paper as if you didn't already know every word by heart. As you read, jot down questions readers may have and use those for the basis of your conclusion.
Look at the list of questions and tangents you made from reading through your paper. This will provide the outline you need to know what to include in your conclusion. The concluding paragraphs of your paper should address each question or issue in turn. While it may not be possible to offer a firm resolution to each point, simply addressing and acknowledging them provides closure for the reader.
Step 2 - Summarize Your Main Points
As you lay out your conclusion, use the introduction and body of your paper to provide the time line. Simply recap your main points and address lingering questions and issues as you go along. This gives the reader a chance to briefly review the material you covered and makes it easy to address the ongoing issues as you write.
As you review your main points from earlier in your essay, be sure you aren't just cutting and pasting the ideas into your conclusion. Reword specific points and present them in a new way in order to avoid making your reader feel as though you've just tried to take up space. If the paper itself was short, then don't review each point in detail – simply recap the idea and move on. The conclusion should be no more than one quarter of the entire paper. Keeping it short and simple will prevent readers from feeling that you are preaching and will kjeep them engaged all the way to the end.
Step 3 - Make the Conclusion Memorable
There are several ways in which you can help to make your conclusion memorable. Using a quote, drawing examples from current social or political news or discussing the implications of how your topic will evolve over the next 5 years are all effective ways to engage your reader and empower them at the conclusion of your paper. For example, if your topic is on environmental causes, it's not enough to just present your readers with a laundry list of problems and a doomsday scenario for the future. Use your conclusion to touch on emerging eco-friendly technologies or to discuss grassroots endeavors to improve the world around us. Your conclusion should do more than simply recap the paper – it should provide a jumping off point for further discussion from readers or as a way to help them know what actions they can take to make a positive impact.
The first lines of a book are often quoted as the most powerful lines in history. Many people know 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” even if they've never cracked open a book by Dickens in their life. While the beginning of any literary work is important, it's the conclusion that can make or break it. The same is true about papers. As you write your paper, your introduction draws a reader in and the body informs them, but it's the conclusion that contains the real power. A well written conclusion can empower a reader and offer them a sense of closure, making them feel as though they can now speak about your topic confidently. As you write your conclusion, be sure to draw in points from each section of your paper. This helps not only to recap your main ideas, but also to give cohesion to the paper itself. Finally, end the paper with something that will stick with the reader. This can be a quote, a particularly powerful image or a call to action that can be a jumping off point for your readers – and your paper – to make the world a better place.
Have you written a conclusion on a paper that impressed even your harshest critics? Share your tips in the comments section below!