Effective Conclusions

Think of your essay conclusion as completing a circle: You have taken your readers on a journey—from presentation of the topic in your introduction, to your thesis, to supporting evidence and discussion.  Had this been a physical journey, you simply wouldn’t walk away from your companion at the very end; you would likely discuss where you had been and what the experience meant to you.  Similarly, in an essay, remind your readers of the purpose of the journey by recalling the main idea of the paper (the thesis) and making a strong statement about it that will stick in the reader’s mind.

According to one academic expert, “Conclusions are often the most difficult part of an essay to write, and many writers feel that they have nothing left to say after having written the paper. A writer needs to keep in mind that the conclusion is often what a reader remembers best. Your conclusion should be the best part of your paper” (stcloudstate.edu).  So, as you put the finishing touches on your essay, remember this.  And remember that although “first impressions” are important, especially in interpersonal communication, sometimes it’s the final impression that can make the strongest, most lasting impact.

Regardless of approach or content, a good conclusion should:

  • Stress the importance of the thesis. Again, a sense of “competing the circle” should be felt in the conclusion.  Echoing the introduction in some way (aside from being obviously repetitive) is a common and effective strategy.
  • Leave a lasting, positive, memorable, or inspirational final impression on the reader—and even contain a call to action, if necessary.
  • End on strong note—never trail off, never just stop writing. A sense of closure should be evident.
  • Be relatively brief, compared to the overall length of your essay, and only one paragraph long.

Some options to include in an effective conclusion:

  • Restate the thesis—reword it creatively. Never repeat it verbatim.
  • Remind the reader of something important you referred to in your introduction.
  • Save one of your best, most interesting, or most thought-provoking quotes for your conclusion.
  • Pose a thoughtful or interesting question to your readers—get them thinking or applying your discussion to the world around them.
  • Make a suggestion. Ask your reader to act on some advice, or conduct independent research, or get involved in an important cause. Challenge your reader in some way.
  • Look to the future. Ask your readers to think long-term, or globally, about your issues.

Approaches to avoid in your conclusion:

  • Don’t attempt to summarize or restate every main point in your essay; the conclusion isn’t long enough to do this anyway. It’s usually unnecessary, assuming the reader was paying attention, and it gives the impression that you have nothing creative or original to add.
  • Sound authoritative and confident. Never apologize or make excuses for anything you’ve said in your essay, or make any self-referential comments. Examples to avoid: "I don’t know much about this problem, but …" or "I'm sorry if you don’t agree with me about …" or "I just hope you appreciate the effort I’ve put in …"
  • Don’t use the identical wording you may have used in your introduction. Keep it fresh.  Add new depth or perspective to your thesis.
  • Don’t introduce a totally new idea that would be better included in the body of your essay.
  • Don’t contradict something you’ve said previously. Be consistent in point of view and tone.
  • Avoid being too sweeping in your criticism; for example, don’t condemn the entire medical profession if you’re discussing one specific problem with it.