How to Write a Good Conclusion

Options—possible strategies for a conclusion

  1. A short paper almost never needs a summary unless your points are very technical. People stop reading when they see a summary. If you do choose to include a summary, keep it short and use fresh wording.
  2. Frame your essay by reminding the reader of something you referred to in your introduction and by reminding the reader of your thesis.
  3. End on a strong note: a quotation, a question, a suggestion, a reference to an anecdote in the introduction, a humorous and insightful comment, a call to action, or a look to the future.

What to Avoid

  1. Do not apologize for the inadequacy of your argument ("I do not know much about this problem") or for holding your opinions ("I am sorry if you do not agree with me, but …").
  2. Do not use the identical wording you used in your introduction.
  3. Do not introduce totally new ideas. If you raise a new point at the end, your reader might expect more details.
  4. Do not contradict what you said previously.
  5. Do not be too sweeping in your conclusions. Do not condemn the whole medical profession, for example, because one person you know had a bad time in one hospital.
  6. Avoid the standard cliché endings: "In conclusion," "In summary." Those signal the reader that all the good material has gone by and all that remains is the ending that had to be tacked on to satisfy a teacher.
  7. Avoid the temptation to turn the essay into a sermon. A discussion of smoking, drug use, or abortion should not end by assuming that the reader needs to reform his/her life.

Think of your conclusion as completing a circle. You have taken readers on a journey from presentation of the topic in your introduction, to your thesis, to supporting evidence and discussion, with specific examples and illustrations. Remind readers of the purpose of the journey. Recall the main idea of the paper, and make a strong statement about it that will stay in their minds. Readers should leave your document feeling satisfied, not turning the page and looking for more.¹

Using Concluding Paragraphs to Help You Revise

You are writing your first draft. You type the last period for the last sentence, and breathe deeply: You are done.

But no, wait, sorry: You are not done, not if you want the strongest possible writing. Definitely take a deep breath and leave your paper for a while—but come back several hours or a day later.

For writers, the first draft of a conclusion provides crucial information:

  1. This section was adapted from Raimes, Ann. Keys for Writers. 4th ed., Houghton Mifflin, 2005.
  2. Wysocki, Anne Francis, and Dennis Lynch. The DK Handbook. Pearson, 2009.