Papers: How to write a conclusion

Writing the Conclusion is, hands down, my favorite part of the paper process. I like it because it’s the easiest part to write, it’s usually one of the last parts I write, and it’s where I get to be most imaginative.

Let’s tackle these reasons one at a time.

Summary

The Conclusion is the easiest part to write because I start by just rewriting my Introduction in past tense. Remember my model for starting an Introduction?

This paper will argue that _______. The project will begin with a brief survey of _____________. From there, it will offer an analysis of ___________. Finally, this paper will outline __________. The goal of this project is to ___________.

That’s the Introduction. Now here’s how I switch that to the Conclusion (hint: just rewrite it in past tense):

This paper argued that _______. The project began with a brief survey of _____________. From there, it offered an analysis of ___________. Finally, this paper outlined __________. The goal of this project was to ___________.

I’ve turned in more than one paper with this kind of paragraph, word for word but with the blanks filled in, as the entire Conclusion. Usually, though, I like to add a few extra paragraphs or even sections to fill out the paper.

Implications

I often save the Conclusion for last for two reasons. First, if I haven’t really wrapped up everything else, I don’t know how long the Conclusion needs to be. If I still have three pages left or something, then clearly my Conclusion needs to be longer than if I’ve already hit my page count.

Second, if my Conclusion is riffing off the content in the rest of the paper, then the rest of the paper needs to be sort of set already by the time I write the Conclusion. Once the rest is close enough, I can come up with some of this:

  • Lessons learned
  • Events that happened (or will now happen) as a result
  • New or interesting connections between the subtopics or the lessons learned

Refer back to the ends of your main sections for ideas on what you might take from you paper. Be general. These don’t have to be well researched, added stories. They just need to show the logical progression from what you wrote to the general topic your paper was about, how what you said matters.

Further research

This is the part where I can get imaginative. I’ve asked some of the craziest questions in my conclusions. They’re like situations from I Love Lucy: as long as I can show the process leading up to the craziness, I can pull out anything.

But you don’t have to go crazy. To just finish off the Conclusion, try some of these:

  • Topics you considered but didn’t include
  • Questions you wondered about while working up the paper
  • Questions related to your topic that your paper failed to answer
  • Questions raised as a result of your conclusions

I don’t even write this in much of an order. I pretty much just throw them out there as suggestions for “further research,” hoping at least some of it is interesting.

After that, I’m pretty much done writing.

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