Writing a conclusion for a research paper means summarizing the content and goal of your paper in a concise, but not wooden or dry manner. With this article, you’ll learn how to end a research paper and inspire action. First, we’ll go over a definition and some general rules before presenting a step-by-step guide. All the valuable rhetorical tips are near the end, so be sure to stick around.
What Is a Conclusion?
A conclusion is used to summarize what you’ve written about in your academic paper. It may seem easy, but your final mark depends a lot on how well you are able to express the main point of your research paper. The ability to show the whole picture of your research, in several concise paragraphs or pages, is sure to make your work stand out. Also, remember that the conclusion is the last part of the research paper (if you exclude the bibliography and endnotes), so you should take it seriously.
When writing a conclusion for your research paper, you should inherently restate the main argument. There you will be able to show the strengths of your main argument and repeat all of the main evidence that supports your argument. But do not be too repetitive!
Your conclusion should be appropriate. How is this achieved?
- If the argument is too complex, summarize it again to the reader.
- If you have not talked about the significance of your results, here is the chance to do it.
- Swiftly proceed from a detailed to a more general overview of your topic.
- Do not include any new context or a lot of new ideas which could have been discussed previously in more detail.
- Persuasively and succinctly restate your research problem or topic. You may even include your own reflections about the evidence presented in your work – be introspective.
General Rules for a Conclusion of a Research Paper
If you manage to write a well-structured conclusion, you will be able to demonstrate your deep and well-analyzed understanding of the research problem.
- The conclusion should be written in clear, simple language. Do not be overly elaborate.
- Do not repeat your results without going into a deeper discussion about them.
- Showcase opportunities for further research.
The outline of the conclusion should include:
- A thesis statement. This is a brief statement which helps to describe what the work is about in several sentences. A good thesis should be impersonal, definitive, clear, and arguable.
- A summary of arguments. After the thesis you should write the summary of arguments or data that you have collected.
- Observations and final sentence. Finish with your own observations and include a final sentence to convey the importance of your work.
Information to Include
The Last Opinion on the Problems You Raised in Your Paper
This will create a lasting impression and will show your own confidence in your work. To do this, you can highlight the main findings in your research, including the main points of analysis and unexpected results that you encountered when doing the work.
Summary of Your Thoughts and Opinions to Show How Significant Your Research Is
The conclusion is a perfect chance for you to succinctly reply to one of the inherent questions your readers will usually have after finishing to read: “So what?”
Your Own Ideas
In the main part of the research, it’s not always feasible to talk about your own opinions. The conclusion is where your personality comes into place. Use it to talk about the impact of your findings and their general significance.
Thoughts About the Future
If your research is insightful and interesting, there are probably more ways of discussing your research problem. Showcase how this problem can be further discussed or solved based on the results of your academic work. Mention other people who have researched this problem and their ideas, and specify how the research might be developed in the future.
How to Develop a Compelling Conclusion
Here are some main points to help you not just summarize the key thoughts of your work, but to go deeper to warrant a better grade:
- If you have been writing about a contemporary problem, talk about what can happen if the problem is not solved, but do not add new information. Do not bring in new evidence or new facts.
- Don’t hesitate to offer or to recommend some course of action.
- Use relevant quotations or expert opinions to make your conclusion more authoritative.
- Repeat a key statistic, fact, or even a visual image that represents the main point of your paper.
- Express personal reflection. You can even talk about your own life experiences.
- Interpret the results in your own way to give them a fresh perspective. Do not be afraid to be a researcher who introduces something new—even for the most common problems.
- Finish your conclusions with a short, but powerful message which will help others remember your study. This message is something that can differentiate you from others.
- Do not say “in conclusion” or similar sayings. This includes “in summary” or “in closing.” Why? These sayings sound a bit unnatural and stiff. They make your work appear too formal and pragmatic. A strong conclusion does not need the word – “In conclusion”. It will stand on its own.
- Use the same consistent tone through your entire paper. It sounds unnatural if you suddenly use an absolutely different tone or style of presenting the information.
- Check your entire paper to make sure that you have not left any really important points behind.
How to Make a Conclusion Effective Rhetorically
Important to remember: effective conclusions are about synthesis rather than a summary.
To summarize means to make a brief statement of the main points. To synthesize means to combine information into a coherent whole. You want to tie the paper together neatly. Linking the introduction and the conclusion gives your paper “fullness.” Ever seen a film where a tiny detail in the beginning is reintroduced in the end? Same effect.
There are a few technical tricks to making this effect:
- Pose a question in the introduction and answer it in conclusion.
- Start a joke or a story, and finish it in conclusion.
- A creative idea: if you’re writing about recycling you can start with the story of a plastic bag, and make it go full circle. The plastic bag gets thrown away, recycled, and becomes a plastic bag again. A beautiful and compelling story of reincarnation.
- Rely on imagery. Create a pattern of words and images in the introduction, and mirror it in conclusion. It creates a subconscious feeling of totality.
These rhetorical devices will help your essay stick in the minds of readers. They can be powerful tools and really prompt change.
For more ideas, look to the greats. George Orwell is one of the masters of rhetorical devices such as mirroring and imagery. His essay Shooting an Elephant has made lots of people cry.
Making a Conclusion Effective Logically
If you aim to make a clear and focused conclusion rather than an inspiration one, you want to go with hard facts. Merely stating the problem and consequences isn’t enough though. People don’t want to hear hard facts, and you have to trick them into paying attention.
Here are a few smart techniques:
- Give the reader a graphical illustration of the consequences of idleness. Remember, most won’t care until they see how it relates to their life. Check out the introduction to the blog for an example.
- Recommend a solution or a course of action. This may have been the goal of your research paper all along.
- Refer back to a relevant scientist, expert, or great thinker. If Einstein said it, most people would likely believe you too.
- Demonstrate urgency. Do we really need oceans to flood the financial centers of New York City to believe in climate change?
- Show a critical statistic which speaks facts. Statistics can be catchy. However, as mentioned in point one, nobody cares until they see how it relates to them
- Reflect on yourself and personal experience. It may be subjective, but this way you connect to the audience on a human level. Illustrate your conclusion with a situation from your life.
- Reuse a hook from the introduction, but show it in light of all this new knowledge. Remember that anecdote everyone laughed at in the introduction? Well now they know the truth, and it isn’t funny anymore. In fact, it’s a bit scary.
- Give the readers a new hook they can take home and think about.
- If your research doesn’t answer the question or provide solutions — say it! Hopefully, someone in the audience will pick up where you left off.
What You Should Avoid in the Conclusion for Your Research Paper
We know the Do’s, not let’s go over the don’ts. Hopefully, by the end of this article, your conclusion will shine like a nice recycled plastic bottle.
- Lack of concision. Some students can go on and on with the work they have written, which is usually unnecessary and irritating. Try to be as concise and to the point as possible. The conclusion is not the right place for small details. Talk about the implications, evaluations, insights, but do not talk about some minor points which can be easily omitted. These minor points include the multiple steps you might have taken when writing the research, additional topics which stem from the main topic, unnecessary details which could be compressed into several short sentences instead of several paragraphs, and so on.
- Lack of comments on larger and more significant issues. The introduction usually goes from general to specific. In comparison, the conclusion usually goes from specific back to general. So this is where you need to put your research into a larger context.
- An absence of the negative aspects of your research process would make your paper seem not as authentic as it should be. So, if you had certain problems, drawbacks, and challenges, it will help the paper seem more relatable, personal, and in-depth—which is often the key to a successful research.
- No clear summary of what was learned. Talk about your own experience and what knowledge you have accumulated along the way. It can be only a few sentences long, but it is still very important.
- Inability to match the objectives of your research. You need to address how your original objectives in your introduction have been achieved throughout the work. Make a nice structural circle to show how the introduction and conclusion are interlinked.
- Inability to unify your work. You need to tie all of the sections of your academic work together so that the professor can see a whole picture. You can even use the same images and concepts in the introduction and the conclusion to link everything.
- Poor logic. In some papers, there may be different, or even opposite, points. The conclusion is a perfect place to create a single and clear opinion for the problem. If your paper contains certain questions that weren’t clearly answered in the paper, they must be answered in the conclusion. You can even ask readers to draw their own conclusions. The best way to do it is to ask the readers questions instead of always providing them with answers. Still, this approach may not work in all disciplines, but it may be quite effective if you are writing a research paper on some social issues or politics.
- No personal recommendation. If you are creating a call to action, you need to explain which actions you consider the most important or effective. This will help to better understand the topic and the general context of your research.