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One of the most common questions we receive at the Writing Center is “what am I supposed to do in my conclusion?” This is a difficult question to answer because there’s no one right answer to what belongs in a conclusion. How you conclude your paper will depend on where you started—and where you traveled. It will also depend on the conventions and expectations of the discipline in which you are writing. For example, while the conclusion to a STEM paper could focus on questions for further study, the conclusion of a literature paper could include a quotation from your central text that can now be understood differently in light of what has been discussed in the paper. You should consult your instructor about expectations for conclusions in a particular discipline.
With that in mind, here are some general guidelines you might find helpful to use as you think about your conclusion.
Begin with the “what”
In a short paper—even a research paper—you don’t need to provide an exhaustive summary as part of your conclusion. But you do need to make some kind of transition between your final body paragraph and your concluding paragraph. This may come in the form of a few sentences of summary. Or it may come in the form of a sentence that brings your readers back to your thesis or main idea and reminds your readers where you began and how far you have traveled.
So, for example, in a paper about the relationship between ADHD and rejection sensitivity, Vanessa Roser begins by introducing readers to the fact that researchers have studied the relationship between the two conditions and then provides her explanation of that relationship. Here’s her thesis: “While socialization may indeed be an important factor in RS, I argue that individuals with ADHD may also possess a neurological predisposition to RS that is exacerbated by the differing executive and emotional regulation characteristic of ADHD.”
In her final paragraph, Roser reminds us of where she started by echoing her thesis: “This literature demonstrates that, as with many other conditions, ADHD and RS share a delicately intertwined pattern of neurological similarities that is rooted in the innate biology of an individual’s mind, a connection that cannot be explained in full by the behavioral mediation hypothesis.”
Highlight the “so what”
At the beginning of your paper, you explain to your readers what’s at stake—why they should care about the argument you’re making. In your conclusion, you can bring readers back to those stakes by reminding them why your argument is important in the first place. You can also draft a few sentences that put those stakes into a new or broader context.
In the conclusion to her paper about ADHD and RS, Roser echoes the stakes she established in her introduction—that research into connections between ADHD and RS has led to contradictory results, raising questions about the “behavioral mediation hypothesis.”
She writes, “as with many other conditions, ADHD and RS share a delicately intertwined pattern of neurological similarities that is rooted in the innate biology of an individual’s mind, a connection that cannot be explained in full by the behavioral mediation hypothesis.”
Leave your readers with the “now what”
After the “what” and the “so what,” you should leave your reader with some final thoughts. If you have written a strong introduction, your readers will know why you have been arguing what you have been arguing—and why they should care. And if you’ve made a good case for your thesis, then your readers should be in a position to see things in a new way, understand new questions, or be ready for something that they weren’t ready for before they read your paper.
In her conclusion, Roser offers two “now what” statements. First, she explains that it is important to recognize that the flawed behavioral mediation hypothesis “seems to place a degree of fault on the individual. It implies that individuals with ADHD must have elicited such frequent or intense rejection by virtue of their inadequate social skills, erasing the possibility that they may simply possess a natural sensitivity to emotion.” She then highlights the broader implications for treatment of people with ADHD, noting that recognizing the actual connection between rejection sensitivity and ADHD “has profound implications for understanding how individuals with ADHD might best be treated in educational settings, by counselors, family, peers, or even society as a whole.”
To find your own “now what” for your essay’s conclusion, try asking yourself these questions:
- What can my readers now understand, see in a new light, or grapple with that they would not have understood in the same way before reading my paper? Are we a step closer to understanding a larger phenomenon or to understanding why what was at stake is so important?
- What questions can I now raise that would not have made sense at the beginning of my paper? Questions for further research? Other ways that this topic could be approached?
- Are there other applications for my research? Could my questions be asked about different data in a different context? Could I use my methods to answer a different question?
- What action should be taken in light of this argument? What action do I predict will be taken or could lead to a solution?
- What larger context might my argument be a part of?
What to avoid in your conclusion
- a complete restatement of all that you have said in your paper.
- a substantial counterargument that you do not have space to refute; you should introduce counterarguments before your conclusion.
- an apology for what you have not said. If you need to explain the scope of your paper, you should do this sooner—but don’t apologize for what you have not discussed in your paper.
- fake transitions like “in conclusion” that are followed by sentences that aren’t actually conclusions. (“In conclusion, I have now demonstrated that my thesis is correct.”)
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- How to conclude an essay | Interactive example
How to Conclude an Essay | Interactive Example
Published on January 24, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on July 23, 2023.
The conclusion is the final paragraph of your essay . A strong conclusion aims to:
- Tie together the essay’s main points
- Show why your argument matters
- Leave the reader with a strong impression
Your conclusion should give a sense of closure and completion to your argument, but also show what new questions or possibilities it has opened up.
This conclusion is taken from our annotated essay example , which discusses the history of the Braille system. Hover over each part to see why it’s effective.
Braille paved the way for dramatic cultural changes in the way blind people were treated and the opportunities available to them. Louis Braille’s innovation was to reimagine existing reading systems from a blind perspective, and the success of this invention required sighted teachers to adapt to their students’ reality instead of the other way around. In this sense, Braille helped drive broader social changes in the status of blindness. New accessibility tools provide practical advantages to those who need them, but they can also change the perspectives and attitudes of those who do not.
Table of contents
Step 1: return to your thesis, step 2: review your main points, step 3: show why it matters, what shouldn’t go in the conclusion, more examples of essay conclusions, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about writing an essay conclusion.
To begin your conclusion, signal that the essay is coming to an end by returning to your overall argument.
Don’t just repeat your thesis statement —instead, try to rephrase your argument in a way that shows how it has been developed since the introduction.
What can proofreading do for your paper?
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Next, remind the reader of the main points that you used to support your argument.
Avoid simply summarizing each paragraph or repeating each point in order; try to bring your points together in a way that makes the connections between them clear. The conclusion is your final chance to show how all the paragraphs of your essay add up to a coherent whole.
To wrap up your conclusion, zoom out to a broader view of the topic and consider the implications of your argument. For example:
- Does it contribute a new understanding of your topic?
- Does it raise new questions for future study?
- Does it lead to practical suggestions or predictions?
- Can it be applied to different contexts?
- Can it be connected to a broader debate or theme?
Whatever your essay is about, the conclusion should aim to emphasize the significance of your argument, whether that’s within your academic subject or in the wider world.
Try to end with a strong, decisive sentence, leaving the reader with a lingering sense of interest in your topic.
The easiest way to improve your conclusion is to eliminate these common mistakes.
Don’t include new evidence
Any evidence or analysis that is essential to supporting your thesis statement should appear in the main body of the essay.
The conclusion might include minor pieces of new information—for example, a sentence or two discussing broader implications, or a quotation that nicely summarizes your central point. But it shouldn’t introduce any major new sources or ideas that need further explanation to understand.
Don’t use “concluding phrases”
Avoid using obvious stock phrases to tell the reader what you’re doing:
- “In conclusion…”
- “To sum up…”
These phrases aren’t forbidden, but they can make your writing sound weak. By returning to your main argument, it will quickly become clear that you are concluding the essay—you shouldn’t have to spell it out.
Don’t undermine your argument
Avoid using apologetic phrases that sound uncertain or confused:
- “This is just one approach among many.”
- “There are good arguments on both sides of this issue.”
- “There is no clear answer to this problem.”
Even if your essay has explored different points of view, your own position should be clear. There may be many possible approaches to the topic, but you want to leave the reader convinced that yours is the best one!
- Literary analysis
This conclusion is taken from an argumentative essay about the internet’s impact on education. It acknowledges the opposing arguments while taking a clear, decisive position.
The internet has had a major positive impact on the world of education; occasional pitfalls aside, its value is evident in numerous applications. The future of teaching lies in the possibilities the internet opens up for communication, research, and interactivity. As the popularity of distance learning shows, students value the flexibility and accessibility offered by digital education, and educators should fully embrace these advantages. The internet’s dangers, real and imaginary, have been documented exhaustively by skeptics, but the internet is here to stay; it is time to focus seriously on its potential for good.
This conclusion is taken from a short expository essay that explains the invention of the printing press and its effects on European society. It focuses on giving a clear, concise overview of what was covered in the essay.
The invention of the printing press was important not only in terms of its immediate cultural and economic effects, but also in terms of its major impact on politics and religion across Europe. In the century following the invention of the printing press, the relatively stationary intellectual atmosphere of the Middle Ages gave way to the social upheavals of the Reformation and the Renaissance. A single technological innovation had contributed to the total reshaping of the continent.
This conclusion is taken from a literary analysis essay about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein . It summarizes what the essay’s analysis achieved and emphasizes its originality.
By tracing the depiction of Frankenstein through the novel’s three volumes, I have demonstrated how the narrative structure shifts our perception of the character. While the Frankenstein of the first volume is depicted as having innocent intentions, the second and third volumes—first in the creature’s accusatory voice, and then in his own voice—increasingly undermine him, causing him to appear alternately ridiculous and vindictive. Far from the one-dimensional villain he is often taken to be, the character of Frankenstein is compelling because of the dynamic narrative frame in which he is placed. In this frame, Frankenstein’s narrative self-presentation responds to the images of him we see from others’ perspectives. This conclusion sheds new light on the novel, foregrounding Shelley’s unique layering of narrative perspectives and its importance for the depiction of character.
If you want to know more about AI tools , college essays , or fallacies make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples or go directly to our tools!
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Your essay’s conclusion should contain:
- A rephrased version of your overall thesis
- A brief review of the key points you made in the main body
- An indication of why your argument matters
The conclusion may also reflect on the broader implications of your argument, showing how your ideas could applied to other contexts or debates.
For a stronger conclusion paragraph, avoid including:
- Important evidence or analysis that wasn’t mentioned in the main body
- Generic concluding phrases (e.g. “In conclusion…”)
- Weak statements that undermine your argument (e.g. “There are good points on both sides of this issue.”)
Your conclusion should leave the reader with a strong, decisive impression of your work.
The conclusion paragraph of an essay is usually shorter than the introduction . As a rule, it shouldn’t take up more than 10–15% of the text.
Cite this Scribbr article
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McCombes, S. (2023, July 23). How to Conclude an Essay | Interactive Example. Scribbr. Retrieved September 6, 2023, from https://www.scribbr.com/academic-essay/conclusion/
Is this article helpful?
Other students also liked, how to write an essay introduction | 4 steps & examples, how to write a thesis statement | 4 steps & examples, example of a great essay | explanations, tips & tricks.
I don't understand the point "not include the phrases "in conclusion", because I'm practicing for Ielts test and I have seen that learners use that phrase a lot.
Shona McCombes (Scribbr Team)
This article is targeted at students writing academic essays rather than language learners. There are many contexts where the phrase "in conclusion" is perfectly acceptable, including in exams that test your command of a language. But in an academic context, it's more about composition and argumentation skills; avoiding stock phrases like these can make your writing more original and persuasive.
I hope that clears things up!
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Morning Briefing: Asia Pacific Edition
Friday briefing: a g20 preview.
Also, how Mattel made “Barbie” a hit.
By Jonathan Wolfe
What to watch at the G20 summit in India
The Group of 20 summit kicks off tomorrow in New Delhi, bringing together world leaders to coordinate policy for the global economy. President Biden is expected to attend, but China’s leader, Xi Jinping, and President Vladimir Putin of Russia will skip the event.
For some insight on what to expect, I turned to Katie Rogers, a White House correspondent, who is in New Delhi covering the summit.
What are the biggest issues on the agenda?
Katie: The G20 is an economic-focused summit, and the host country’s efforts to showcase the promise and potential of a juggernaut Indian economy can’t be overlooked. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has all but shut down the city of Delhi for this summit because he wants the focus to be intently on discussing shared economic opportunities and addressing climate issues.
What does the White House want to get out of it?
One initiative to look at is a push from the White House to encourage shoring up lines of credit for smaller countries by bolstering the World Bank’s lending power. The underlying effort here is part of the administration’s broad push to counter China, which has historically been a reliable creditor for poorer nations.
What does the absence of Xi and Putin mean for the gathering?
In short, it means that there will be little on the agenda that focuses, at least directly, on the war in Ukraine or providing economic aid. There are no hopes for any sort of binding joint statement, called a communiqué, among the leaders. Putin and Xi would need to sign on to such a document and they did not do so last year. Xi attended last year, of course, but analysts say domestic economic pressure and tensions with India have contributed to his absence this time around.
What will come out of the summit?
One thing I will be looking at is President Biden’s efforts to strengthen his relationship with Modi, a leader he sees as politically stable and one he believes is interested in deepening strategic and economic ties. With Modi straddling the line between East and West, it remains to be seen how much of a partner he could be in forcefully countering China’s rise. But I am interested to see what the two leaders identify as their biggest challenge or shared opportunity going forward.
China’s exports fall for a fourth month
China’s exports to the world dropped 8.8 percent in August from a year earlier, the government said yesterday, marking the fourth month in a row of sliding overseas sales . Imports fell 7.3 percent in August from a year earlier.
Economists had expected the August trade numbers to be slightly worse. Since the spring, China’s growth has sagged and home prices have suffered, shaking consumer and investor confidence. The new data reflects continued weak demand in China and abroad.
Takeaway: The export data was the latest sign that overall demand for China’s goods may have begun to bottom out. However, its exports are coming down from a very high level, and the country remains an industrial powerhouse.
One bright spot: Even as China’s other exports falter, its carmakers are seeing big increases in overseas sales , mainly for gasoline-powered models.
A Japanese talent agency admits its founder preyed on boys
The president of one of Japan’s most influential entertainment agencies resigned after an independent investigation confirmed that the company’s founder, Johnny Kitagawa, had sexually abused young men in his care since the 1970s . Kitagawa died in 2019 at age 87.
Allegations against Kitagawa have circulated for decades, but were largely ignored. However, the release of a BBC documentary in March featuring interviews with three of Kitagawa’s accusers prompted more men to come forward and put pressure on the company to respond.
At a news conference yesterday, Julie Keiko Fujishima, the president of Johnny & Associates and Kitagawa’s niece, acknowledged the results of the investigation, apologized on behalf of herself and the company and said she had resigned as the company’s president.
THE LATEST NEWS
Around the world.
Russian officials said air defenses shot down two drones in and around Rostov-on-Don, home to Russia’s southern military headquarters .
Video has emerged of Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian leader, asserting that European Jews were persecuted by Hitler because of what he said were their predatory lending practices , rather than their religion.
Gabon’s military said the country’s deposed president, who was ousted last week, was no longer under house arrest and was free to leave the country .
Other Big Stories
The U.S. seized nearly one million barrels of Iranian crude oil that it says were being smuggled to China in violation of U.S. sanctions against Iran, court papers show.
Five young housekeepers died last week in an elevator crash at a resort on the Indonesian island of Bali. Only one had a full-time contract .
Female soccer players in Spain are going on strike as a dispute over conduct by the head of the country’s soccer federation widened into a fight with the soccer clubs over pay .
Toyota, a hybrid pioneer, has been slow to sell all-electric vehicles , alienating some customers and hurting sales.
Peter Navarro, a trade adviser to Donald Trump, was convicted of two counts of criminal contempt of Congress for defying a subpoena from a House committee investigating the 2021 attack on the Capitol.
Surveillance video released by the police shows how a convicted killer escaped a prison in Pennsylvania by wedging himself between two opposing walls and propelling himself upward .
Mayor Eric Adams said that New York City was being destroyed by an influx of migrants from the southern border and that he did not see a way to fix the issue .
France has given a warm reception to Woody Allen, Louis C.K. and Johnny Depp despite accusations of sexual abuse, sexual misconduct or domestic abuse against them.
Bruce Springsteen will postpone performances in the U.S. this month to be treated for symptoms of peptic ulcer disease .
Australian punters are putting a new spin on American football with the tricky curves and crafty bounces of their kicks .
A Morning Read
Peter Do moved to Philadelphia from Vietnam when he was 14. Now, as the new creative director at Helmut Lang, Do is trying to bring the cool minimalism of the 1990s back to American fashion .
Do will introduce his first Helmut Lang collection today, and it is the most anticipated show of New York Fashion Week.
ARTS AND IDEAS
How mattel made ‘barbie’ a hit.
“Barbie” is the top-grossing Warner Bros. film of all time, raking in close to $1.4 billion. My colleague James B. Stewart reported on how Mattel pulled off the feat of turning the classic doll into a cinematic hit — one that had eluded the company for years.
The company’s approach included pursuing Margot Robbie to play the lead role, and she in turn suggested Greta Gerwig as the director. Mattel’s surprising willingness to make fun of itself — including its new chief executive — also paid off. It was one of the elements that mostly delighted critics and added to the buzz that roped in moviegoers beyond the “Barbie” fan base.
Make this vegan green goddess dressing , using tahini instead of mayonnaise.
Read Naomi Klein’s “Doppelganger,” which investigates an online underworld of conspiracies and misinformation .
Watch “Rotting in the Sun,” Sebastián Silva’s satirical thriller on the blurred line between reality and illusion that fuels social media .
Save on travel by putting rewards points to work .
Wake up with this five-minute morning yoga routine .
Play the Spelling Bee . (If you’re stuck, the Bee Buddy can help.) Here’s the Mini Crossword , Wordle and Sudoku .
That’s it for today’s briefing. Justin Porter will be back Monday. See you next time. — Jonathan
P.S. The Times won three Online Journalism Awards for work including investigative reporting and social media .
We welcome your feedback. Write to us at [email protected] .
Jonathan Wolfe is a senior staff editor on the newsletters team at The Times. More about Jonathan Wolfe