One of our most common requests in the Writing Center is help writing a conclusion. Why are conclusions so difficult to write? Is it the long, grueling effort you’ve put into the body of your paper? Perhaps the countless hours you’ve spent with content and arguments and sources? You just want to get the paper over with, right? What is the real function of a conclusion anyway? You feel like you’ve made your point, a pretty good one, so now what? Should you just repeat what you already said?
Well, not quite. Remember those hours you’ve spent toiling? You need a good conclusion to cap off those hours. When I talk with a writer about a conclusion, we discuss giving their readers the feeling that the essay brought its points together, connected its argument to something greater than your paper’s topic, and provided significance to the reader. It should leave the reader wanting to know more.
One important question I ask writers, and you can ask of yourself, is: “why is this important?” For example, if your essay analyzes the immediate effects of the American Civil War on the Southern region, think about what these effects have led to today. So, what legacies did these effects leave? Explain how a 21st-century student may have been effected by the Civil War. Your audience will be able to apply what they just learned to their own life experiences.
Conclusions can become bland or confusing when they only repeat information, randomly bring in new ideas, or simply rehash a thesis statement. On one end of the spectrum, the reader just read your paper– he or she should know what your thesis is. On the other end, new information can confuse your reader, who will have no context for it. Conclusions are an opportunity to connect the dots. Put a bow on the package. Add some color to dazzle your readers.
Don’t think about your conclusion as the most difficult part of your paper or the final battle in a war. Conclusions can even be relatively simple. Remember to say what is really important about your topic, and what your readers should gain from it. Ultimately, you want them to feel as if they’ve learned something from your writing. Something valuable. You, the writer, will construct better overall pieces and hey, that’s valuable as well.