Although a conclusion can be difficult to write, it plays an important role in improving the overall quality of your paper. Your conclusion is your opportunity to wrap up your essay in a tidy package and bring it home for your readers.
It is always a good idea to recapitulate what you said in your thesis statement in order to suggest to your readers that you have accomplished what you set out to accomplish. Do not, however, simply restate your thesis statement in your final paragraph. Having read your essay, your audience should understand your thesis with fresh and deeper understanding, and your conclusion wants to reflect what they have learned from your body paragraphs. A repetitive and unimaginative ending defeats another important purpose of the conclusion: to inspire your readers to remain interested in your topic and the implications of your argument after they’ve finished reading your paper. If you find that your thesis statement sounds hollow or irrelevant after writing your conclusion, then you need either to revise your argument or to redefine your thesis statement. Don’t worry about that; it happens to writers all the time. They have argued themselves into a position that they might not have thought of when they began their writing. Writing is a process of evolution and self-discovery.
There are some other cautions to keep in mind as you draft your concluding paragraph:
- You don’t want to finish with a sentimental thought that suggests you’re trying to do too much. It’s probably enough to end your essay on recycling with the claim that community recycling centres will slow the growth of the landfills in Ontario. You don’t need to claim that recycling our soda bottles is going to save the world for our children’s children. (That may be true, in fact, but it’s better to claim too little than too much; otherwise, your readers are going to be left with that feeling of “Who’s he/she kidding?”) The conclusion may contain a positive, optimistic statement or call to action, but that statement needs to be based on the evidence that you have provided in the essay.
- The conclusion is no place to bring up new ideas. While it is okay to point out how your argument applies to a different situation or a more universal context, if a new subtopic tries to sneak into your final paragraph, you must let it have its own paragraph earlier in the essay. If it doesn’t fit the structure or argument of the essay, you need to leave it out altogether.
- Never apologize for or otherwise undercut the argument you’ve made. Leave your readers with the sense that they’ve been in the company of someone who knows what he or she is doing. If you promised in the introduction that you were going to cover four points and you covered only two (because you couldn’t find enough information or you took too long with the first two), don’t try to cram those last two points into your final paragraph. Instead, revise your introduction or take the time to rework the body paragraphs with these other points in mind.