Conclusions aren't easy—but they're very important. And contrary to popular belief, they're not simply a place to restate what you've said before in the same way. They're an opportunity to cast all the arguments you've made in a new light.
Conclusions give you a chance to summarize and organize your main points, reminding the reader how effectively you’ve proven your thesis. It’s also your final opportunity to make a lasting impression on your reader.
Simple Conclusion Formula
- Proper, relevant restatement of thesis statement and strongest evidence
- Relevant final thought
As an example, let’s create a conclusion following our two-step process.
Let’s say your thesis statement is:
College athletes should not be paid because many receive compensation in the form of scholarships and benefit from more visibility to potential professional recruiters.
Now we’ll follow our formula to write an effective conclusion.
Restatement of Thesis and Strongest Evidence
The first step in writing our conclusion is to restate the thesis statement.
It’s important not to simply copy your thesis statement word for word. You can also briefly include evidence or other points that were mentioned in your paper.
You could write something like:
College athletes don’t need financial compensation because they receive numerous benefits including scholarships, additional experience and coaching, and exposure to professional teams.
This sentence reminds the reader of our original thesis statement without copying it exactly.
At this point, you could also synthesize 1-2 of the strongest pieces of supporting evidence already mentioned in your essay, such as:
With four years of tuition costing up to hundreds of thousands and salaries in potential professional sports careers averaging millions, these benefits already amount to significant compensation.
Notice that we didn’t start with a transition like, “In conclusion,” or, “In summary.” These transitions aren’t necessary and are often overused.
Relevant Final Thought
You want to end your conclusion with a strong final thought. It should provide your reader with closure and give your essay a memorable or thought-provoking ending.
The last sentence of your conclusion can point to broader implications, like the impact the topic of your essay has had on history, society, or culture.
Another good rule of thumb is to allow your final sentence to answer the question, “So what?” Your reader has spent time reading your paper, but why does any of this matter? Why should your reader—or anyone else—care?
For our sample conclusion, for example, you could write:
Providing still more compensation to college athletes would send the message that they are employees, not students. If we don’t want education to be sidelined, college athletes should not be paid.
This concluding sentence answers the, “So what?” question by explaining the potential repercussions of paying college athletes. It gives the reader a reason to be more invested in your essay and ideas.
Putting It All Together
The conclusion reads:
College athletes don’t need financial compensation because they receive numerous benefits including scholarships, additional experience and coaching, and exposure to professional teams. With four years of tuition costing up to hundreds of thousands and salaries in potential professional sports careers averaging millions, these benefits already amount to significant compensation. Providing still more compensation to college athletes would send the message that they are employees, not students. If we don’t want education to be sidelined, college athletes should not be paid.
To create effective conclusions of your own, remember to follow these guidelines:
- Don’t feel the need to start with overused transitions such as, “In conclusion,” or, “In summary.”
- Restate your thesis statement in a new way.
- You can also restate 1-2 of your strongest pieces of supporting evidence.
- Don’t mention anything in your conclusion that wasn’t mentioned in the body of your essay.
- End with a strong final thought, preferably one that answers the question, “So what?”
By following these simple steps, you’ll craft a conclusion that leaves a powerful final impression on your readers.
Do you remember the last words spoken by your ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend, the final advice given in your senior year by your favorite teacher, the words spoken by your mother or father as you left for college? These important moments ended a passage in your life; thus, they took on heightened significance and resonated long after they were spoken. In the same way, a good conclusion continues speaking to and resonating with a reader long after he or she has finished reading it.
A good conclusion should
- Remind the reader of the thesis statement and answer the question, “So What?”
- Give the essay a sense of completion and closure
- Leave the reader with a final, lasting impression
- Make the reader glad that he or she read your paper
Several types of effective and memorable conclusions
The Simple Summary
If you choose this common type of conclusion, be sure to synthesize, rather than merely summarizing. Avoid a dull restatement of your major points. Don't monotonously restate your major ideas; instead, show your readers how the points you raised fit together and why your ideas matter. Also, try to avoid the phrase, “and in conclusion.” This can insult the reader's intelligence: After all, if you've organized your paper well, it will be obvious that you have begun your concluding remarks.
The Frame or Circle Technique
Here, a writer circles back to the beginning, returning to the metaphor, image, anecdote, quotation, or example he or she used in the introductory paragraph. Echoing the introduction gives essays a nice sense of unity and completion.
The Panning to the Horizon Technique
This technique moves the reader from the specifics of a paper or essay to a larger, perhaps even universal, point. It redirects the readers, giving them something meaty to chew over. You can demonstrate the importance and broad significance of your topic by using an appropriate analogy, tying the topic to a larger philosophic or political issue, posing a challenging question, or encouraging the reader to look to the future.
The Proposal or Call to Action
Especially useful in a persuasive or argumentative essay, in this type of conclusion the writer makes a proposal and/or asks the readers to do something, calling them to action. It is frequently seen in sermons and political speeches.
The Concluding Story Technique
Here, the writer sums up the essay by sketching a scene or by telling a brief anecdote that illustrates the topic's significance. Often, this approach makes an emotional connection with the reader.
The Delayed Thesis Conclusion
In some essays, the writer takes an exploratory approach, perhaps dealing with a variety of proposals and solutions. The conclusion states the thesis almost as if it is a discovery, allowing the reader to make the discovery along with you. However, this can be a difficult technique to carry off. The thesis, even though it may go unstated until the very end, should nevertheless serve as the inevitable controlling force for the entire essay.
Teresa Sweeney & Fran Hooker, Webster University Writing Center, 2005