13: The essay conclusion

After all the work on the essay introduction and the essay body, you can see the end sight. All that's left is to write the essay conclusion. This chapter shows you how to end your essay in a strong, convincing, and compelling way for the reader. You will learn about the purpose of the conclusion, how to wrap up the discussion and summarise without just repeating, and using the conclusion as a launching point to look ahead or relate it to a real world issue. The chapter also includes what you need to put in the conclusion and what can be left out as well as how to check your work and ensure it integrates with the essay introduction and essay body.

Chapter 13 contents:

13.1 The conclusion purpose

There are many reasons why your essay has a conclusion:

  • Summarises the information;
  • Provides final answer in relation to the essay question or statement;
  • Frames your ideas;
  • Satisfies the reader with a sense of fulfilment that they understand the argument or are convinced by your ideas; and
  • Creates a launching point to illustrate that you have thought beyond the material by tying it to a bigger picture.

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13.2 How to conclude an essay

With this purpose in mind, you can better understand how to conclude your essay in terms of what to include. Depending on the type of essay, you may or may not include the following elements:

  • Explain the original question: Like the essay introduction, you do not necessarily have to repeat the original question, word for word, but do reference it or paraphrase it in a way that reminds the reader.
  • Summarise how you explored the original question: Rather than just repeating the ideas, provide an overview that is similar so that it doesn't feel repetitive. Here, you also may want to reaffirm your rationale and purpose for the essay.
  • List what you discovered: This is where you provide the last part of argument that should include a realisation or deduction tied to the ideas presented as evidence for your argument.
  • Give your opinion: Not every essay will want you to specifically supply your views or opinion on the topic, but this would be where you would include them if requested to do so.
  • Think beyond without introducing new concepts: While this is not the time or place to introduce new concepts, you can use the conclusion as a launching point to show how it ties to a real world, or empirical, situation, showing you understand the theory on a deeper level or creating a way for the reader to connect the dots through something they are familiar with.
  • Recommend further research: Along with thinking beyond what was accomplished within your essay, sometimes you are asked to recommend what further research could be conducted after these insights have been revealed. Often, research creates new questions and pathways to explore.

Of these ways to conclude your essay, the two that will always be necessary are summarising your ideas and making an evaluation or judgement based on the research and findings.

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13.3: Writing the essay conclusion

One of the main objectives for the essay conclusion is to make a compelling case that influences the reader to see and agree with your argument based on the evidence you have presented. While the introduction makes that valuable first impression, the conclusion is what the reader will be left with so it is important to make it memorable and impressive. The next few sections explain how to write the essay conclusion to ensure that you cover all areas requested by your tutor, including some type of summary and judgement about the material presented.

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13.3.1: The essay conclusion content

The first aspect of writing the essay conclusion is to select the most appropriate content to include. Like the rest of your essay, the conclusion needs to be relevant in terms of the content. The information presented must link to the question. If it doesn't, then you just don't need it. And, to the tutor, it may even appear that you did not put the effort into your work or you were not capable of organising your ideas.

There are other things to remember about the content of your essay's conclusion:

  • Be succinct and link all content to your essay title or essay question. Do not use filler or waffle on, hoping that your reader - and you - will eventually get the point.
  • Do not bring up any new ideas as part of your conclusion. You don't have room for it and you would need to reference it, which is something that is not needed or wanted in the conclusion. If you do this, you will confuse the reader and you will never really conclude your essay because essentially you have gone off on another tangent. If it's a really good, relevant idea, then you should consider how to work it into the body of your essay.
  • Get the length of your conclusion right. It is approximately ten per cent of your word count like the introduction to your essay. It doesn't have to be exact, but at least this gives you a measurement to go on. You don't want to make it too short and miss out some of the areas to cover, but you also don't want to go overboard with it and end up rambling.
  • Take out any repetition, references, lists, personal opinion and feelings from the content you have drafted for your essay's conclusion. None of this is necessary and makes the conclusion's content too fluffy. It is important to focus solely on the significant information and findings.

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13.3.2: The essay conclusion tone

While tone has been discussed previously, it does also need to be discussed in relation to the essay's conclusion. The tone should be:

  • Clear;
  • Distinct;
  • Similar to the rest of your essay;
  • Convincing and compelling; and
  • Unapologetic but humble in terms of noting any potential limitations.

By doing so, your ideas will connect with your readers and they will respond positively to your essay. This may take consider revisions in order to get the tone and feel of the conclusion right, but it is well worth all the effort to get it right and ensure that you have a clear argument down to the last word of the last sentence of your essay's conclusion. It's all about ending on the right note!

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13.3.3: Tying it all together

Like previously noted, essay writing does not have to be linear where you start at the introduction and work straight through to the conclusion. Often, it is beneficial to work on segments and then weave them altogether, ending with the introduction. Sometimes, the conclusion and introduction are written as an outline together to ensure that the information will reflect each other so that nothing irrelevant or new is inadvertently included. Think of the introduction and the conclusion as the bookends of your essay that hold the meat of the essay - the essay body - together.

To weave the conclusion together with the rest of the essay, ask yourself the following as you draft the ending section:

  • What are the most important pieces of evidence in your essay?
  • Why is the overall topic so important?
  • Are there any other aspects of the topic that could have been addressed but that had to be limited?
  • What did you learn from this research?

Once you have the answers to these questions, then prepare an outline of your conclusion to make sure you stay on topic and keeps the content focused and related to the main ideas.

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13.3.4: Looking ahead

On some essays, you will need to use part of your conclusion word count to discuss future research directions or provide some interesting aspects that could be further explored in direct relation to the essay topic or concepts discussed within the essay. You also may want to look ahead within the ending of your essay in terms of the impact of the findings and how they might be used or applied to a situation or problem. This also shows that you understand the theory enough to take it to the next level.

If you are asked to include areas that could be further explored in terms of research and knowledge gaps, you can look at it within the context of your conclusion by:

  • Acknowledging the importance and value of further research;
  • Providing ideas about existing research gaps and how they might be filled; and/or
  • Mentioning implications for practice if more research is conducted.

However, acknowledge that these are your humble observations in relation to what you were able to cover during the course of your research. This leaves it open in case you missed an important research study while investigating the information for your essay.

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13.4: Checking your work and looking back

Now it's time to look your conclusion over as well as your essay and give it an eagle eye and reflect on what you are trying to accomplish. One of the first things you need to realise is that your conclusion may lead to necessary changes in your essay - from the introduction through the body paragraphs. This may be necessary to ensure that it all ties together and flows logically. Or, it may be that you discover you have shifted your position by the time you wrote the conclusion to your essay. To make it tie together, remember these tips:

  • If you found more compelling evidence than you thought you would, you will need to include that in the body of your essay to now match your conclusion.
  • If your conclusion seems to contradict the evidence, change it as you cannot make the evidence fit your conclusion because you want to achieve a certain answer.
  • If you have moved too far away from your argument by the time you reach your conclusion, you will need to go back and rethink your argument and ensure a better flow that aligns with the thesis statement.
  • If you are writing the body of your essay, it is okay to think ahead to your conclusion and start formulating it as you write the rest of it.

Once your conclusion is drafted, it is time to evaluate your work:

  • Did you provide one summary or more? If more, take them out.
  • Did you summarise the answers to the essay question?
  • Did you paraphrase the essay title or essay question?
  • Did you relate the conclusion to the essay introduction and thesis statement?
  • Did you include practical application or judgement?
  • Did you align the ideas to what is in the essay versus contradicting them?
  • Did you include any new ideas? If so, take them out.
  • Did you use references? If so, take them out.
  • Did you establish a viewpoint?
  • Did you emphasise the relevance and importance of the research?
  • Did you reinforce your idea without resorting to repetition?
  • Did you link the style and tone to the rest of the essay?
  • Did you keep the conclusion to about ten per cent of the word count?
  • Did you direct the reader forward in terms of an application or further research?
  • Did you balance your tone in terms of not being apologetic or arrogant but instead remain confident and positive?
  • Did you cover everything from the essay and ensure that nothing was left unresolved?
  • Did you use any rhetorical questions? If so, take them out.

After completing this checklist, you should then do one last check to ensure that these final elements are there and that they make sense. The final check should focus on style, tone, and the general feeling it evokes as wrapping up the essay.

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Chapter 13: In summary

In summarising the chapter, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the purpose of a conclusion?
  • What components should be included in the conclusion?
  • How do you get the content right?
  • How do you keep the conclusion relevant?
  • Should you include new ideas or references?
  • How do you tie it all together?
  • How do you point the reader forward past the conclusion?
  • How do you get the right tone in the conclusion?
  • What should the length of the conclusion be?
  • How might your conclusion change the rest of your essay?
  • How should you evaluate and review your conclusion?

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