So much is at stake in writing a conclusion. This is, after all, your last chance to persuade your readers to your point of view, to impress yourself upon them as a writer and thinker. And the impression you create in your conclusion will shape the impression that stays with your readers after they've finished the essay.
The end of an essay should therefore convey a sense of completeness and closure as well as a sense of the lingering possibilities of the topic, its larger meaning, its implications: the final paragraph should close the discussion without closing it off.
To establish a sense of closure, you might do one or more of the following:
- Conclude by linking the last paragraph to the first, perhaps by reiterating a word or phrase you used at the beginning.
- 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.
To close the discussion without closing it off, you might do one or more of the following:
- Conclude with a quotation from or reference to a primary or secondary source, one that amplifies your main point or puts it in a different perspective. A quotation from, say, the novel or poem you're writing about can add texture and specificity to your discussion; a critic or scholar can help confirm or complicate your final point. For example, you might conclude an essay on the idea of home in James Joyce's short story collection, Dubliners, with information about Joyce's own complex feelings towards Dublin, his home. Or you might end with a biographer's statement about Joyce's attitude toward Dublin, which could illuminate his characters' responses to the city. Just be cautious, especially about using secondary material: make sure that you get the last word.
- Conclude by setting your discussion into a different, perhaps larger, context. For example, you might end an essay on nineteenth-century muckraking journalism by linking it to a current news magazine program like 60 Minutes.
- 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 ofdehumanization"; 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? For example, an essay on the novel Ambiguous Adventure, by the Senegalese writer Cheikh Hamidou Kane, might open with the idea that the protagonist's development suggests Kane's belief in the need to integrate Western materialism and Sufi spirituality in modern Senegal. The conclusion might make the new but related point that the novel on the whole suggests that such an integration is (or isn't) possible.
Finally, some advice on how not to end an essay:
- Don't simply summarize your essay. A brief summary of your argument may be useful, especially if your essay is long--more than ten pages or so. But shorter essays tend not to require a restatement of your main ideas.
- Avoid phrases like "in conclusion," "to conclude," "in summary," and "to sum up." These phrases can be useful--even welcome--in oral presentations. But readers can see, by the tell-tale compression of the pages, when an essay is about to end. You'll irritate your audience if you belabor the obvious.
- Resist the urge to apologize. If you've immersed yourself in your subject, you now know a good deal more about it than you can possibly include in a five- or ten- or 20-page essay. As a result, by the time you've finished writing, you may be having some doubts about what you've produced. (And if you haven't immersed yourself in your subject, you may be feeling even more doubtful about your essay as you approach the conclusion.) Repress those doubts. Don't undercut your authority by saying things like, "this is just one approach to the subject; there may be other, better approaches. . ."
Copyright 1998, Pat Bellanca, for the Writing Center at Harvard University
What is the most challenging part of essay writing?
Some name the process of thesis clarification, others mention essay hooks and writing an outline, but our reader Emily has knocked spots off them all when asked to share tips on writing essay conclusions!
Don’t worry, Emily, you are not alone.
Finishing your essay isn’t less but sometimes even more challenging than starting it. Our writers know it firsthand, so they give consent graciously to share expert tips on creating strong conclusions for college papers.
Keep on reading to master this craft once and for all.
Why do you need essay conclusions?
A conclusion provides closure and drives main points of your essay one last time. It’s the chance to impress and give readers understanding why your paper matters. In other words, your conclusion should answer the question “So what?”
- Give the audience something to think about after they finish reading your essay.
- A conclusion should give completeness to your paper. Ending it on a positive note would be a good practice.
It’s not about introducing new ideas but summing up your writing. The goal is to restate the thesis, summarize the essay’s body, and leave readers with a final impression.
Key aspects to remember:
- A strong essay conclusion restates, not rewrites your thesis from the introduction.
- A strong essay conclusion consists of three sentences minimum.
- It concludes thoughts, not presents new ideas.
Example source: Purdue OWL
So, here’s how to end an essay.
How to write a strong essay conclusion?
The number of sentences in your conclusion will depend on how many paragraphs (statements) you have in the essay.
Consider a standard structure for essay conclusions:
Sentence #1: restate the thesis by making the same point with other words (paraphrase).
- Thesis: “Dogs are better pets than cats.”
- Paraphrased: “Dogs make the best pets in the world.”
Sentence #2-4: review your supporting ideas; summarize arguments by paraphrasing how you proved the thesis.
- “Dogs are cleaner, better at showing affection, and ultimately easier to train.”
Sentence #5: connect back to the essay hook and relate your closing statement to the opening one; transit to human nature to impress a reader and give them food for thought.
- “Change your life for the better – go get a dog.”
Finally, combine all sentences to improved and expanded conclusion.
- Based on the above examples, it might look as follows (source):
“There is no doubt that dogs make the best pets in the world. They provide a cleaner environment for your home, are not afraid to show their feelings, and can be trained to do a variety of tricks and jobs. Every second that goes by, you are missing out on happiness. Get out of your chair and make a positive difference in your life – go get a dog!”
Also, you will need a transition word to make readers understand you are going to conclude. The most common are “In conclusion…”,“To sum up…”, and “As previously stated…”, but don’t use them! (If you don’t want to drive your teacher nuts, of course.)
Try “So…” instead. Or, visit the web page of John A. Dowell from Michigan State University to find more transition words for finishing an essay.
You’ve been hit by the structure of essay conclusions.
What about strategies to use for writing them?
Paraphrase the introduction to bring a full-circle to readers. Ending an essay with the same scenario might help to prove your point and create a better understanding.
“From the parking lot, I could see the towers of the castle of the Magic Kingdom standing stately against the blue sky. To the right, the tall peak of The Matterhorn rose even higher. From the left, I could hear the jungle sounds of Adventureland. As I entered the gate, Main Street stretched before me with its quaint shops evoking an old-fashioned small town so charming it could never have existed. I was entranced. Disneyland may have been built for children, but it brings out the child in adults.”
“I thought I would spend a few hours at Disneyland, but here I was at 1:00 A.M., closing time, leaving the front gates with the now dark towers of the Magic Kingdom behind me. I could see tired children, toddling along and struggling to keep their eyes open as best they could. Others slept in their parents’ arms as we waited for the parking lot tram that would take us to our cars. My forty-year-old feet ached, and I felt a bit sad to think that in a couple of days I would be leaving California, my vacation over, to go back to my desk. But then I smiled to think that for at least a day I felt ten years old again.”
Try looking to the future for emphasizing the importance of your essay and give readers food for thought. “When” and “if” are power words to support your points.
“Physical punishment can be a useful method of discipline. However it should be the last choice for parents. If we want to build a world with less violence we must begin at home, and we must teach our children to be responsible.”
You might want to amplify the main point of an essay or put it in a different perspective for setting a larger context. That would help readers gain a new vision on the topic and bring ideas altogether to create a new but related meaning.
“Finally, I feel that we cannot generalize about children or adults being better learners. It depends on the situation and the motivation of the person, and the level of enthusiasm he or she has for learning.”
“Society would be healthier if more people took part in sports of all kinds. We should continue to try to prevent accidents and injuries. However, we should also ensure that sports are challenging, exciting, and, above all, fun.”
How not to fail your essay conclusion?
With all of the above, you feel like a guru who writes essays that work, don’t you? The structure and strategies are clear, and nothing can stop you on the way toward high grades for college papers. Go for it!
But first a warning:
When writing a strong essay conclusion, be sure to avoid these teeny-tiny pitfalls able to sink your paper despite it was legen… wait for it…dary!
- Don’t write any new information. Your conclusion is about summarizing the thesis and statements.
- Don’t share personal thoughts unless you write a first-person opinion piece.
- Don’t restate each and all details. You have body paragraphs for that.
- Don’t just restate the thesis if you can provide some further – not new! – sophistication to original ideas.
- Don’t write lousy words in the conclusion, but use concise language instead.
Your essay needs a conclusion to drive main points and give understanding why it matters. Writing a strong finishing paragraph might be challenging, but a clear structure, together with several strategies to operate, provide room to work.
To end an essay like a boss, consider its type and audience. A conclusion is your last chance to impress readers and give them something to think about, so do your best to summarize statements and answer a “So what?” question the audience might have after reading your paper.
It’s all in your pitch.