The Concluding Paragraph

Although conclusions generally do not cause students as much trouble as introductions, they are nearly as difficult to get right. Contrary to popular belief, conclusions do not merely restate the thesis, and they should never begin with "In conclusion…" They represent your last chance to say something important to your readers, and can be used for some, or all, of the following tasks:

Exactly which tasks your conclusion fulfills will vary according to your subject, your audience, and your objectives for the essay. Generally, conclusions fulfill a rhetorical purpose—they persuade your readers to do something: take action on an issue, change a policy, make an observation, or understand a topic differently.


Conclusions vary widely in structure, and no prescription can guarantee that your essay has ended well. If the introduction and body of your essay have a clear trajectory, your readers should already expect you to conclude when the final paragraph arrives, so don’t overload it with words or phrases that indicate its status. Below is an outline for a hypothetical, abstract essay with five main sections:

V: Conclusion

    1. Transition from last body paragraph
    2. Sentences explaining how paper has fit together and leads to a stronger, more emphatic and more detailed version of your thesis
    3. Discussion of implications for further research
      1. Other areas that can use the same method
      2. How your finds change the readers’ understanding of the topic
      3. Discussion of areas in need of more detailed investigation
    1. Final words
    1. Why the essay was important or interesting
    2. Any other areas in which your essay has significance: ethics, practical applications, politics
Sample Conclusions

Here are a few ways that some good writers ended their essays:

I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought….[O]ne ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language…is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one’s own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase…into the dustbin where it belongs. —Orwell, "Politics and the English Language"
And so, while we are left on shore with the memory of a deflated and stinking carcass and of bullhorns that blared and scattered us like flies, somewhere out beyond the rolled waters and the shining winter sun, the whale sings its own death in matchless, sirenian strains.
  —Finch, "Very Like a Whale"

For all we know, occasional viable crosses between humans and chimpanzees are possible. The natural experiment must have been tried very infrequently, at least recently. If such off-spring are ever produced, what will their legal status be? The cognitive abilities of chimpanzees force us, I think, to raise searching questions about the boundaries of the community of beings to which special ethical considerations are due, and can, I hope, help to extend our ethical perspectives downward through the taxa on Earth and upwards to extraterrestrial organisms, if they exist.

—Sagan, "The Abstractions of Beasts"

If AIDS is natural, then there is no message in its spread. But by all that science has learned and all that rationality proclaims, AIDS works by a mechanism—and we can discover it. Victory is not ordained by any principle of progress, or any slogan of technology, so we shall have to fight like hell, and be watchful. There is no message, but there is a mechanism.

—Gould, "The Terrifying Normalcy of AIDS"