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Just as a lawyer’s closing argument can make or break the outcome of a case, so too can the final paragraph of your essay or research paper.

Even if you’ve presented knockout arguments and indisputable evidence all throughout your paper, it won’t amount to much if a flimsy closing is what’s left in your reader’s memory. That’s why learning how to write a strong conclusion is an essential skill for effective writing.

What Is a Concluding Paragraph?

The concluding paragraph is the final section of your research paper, report, or any other kind of essay, including expository or descriptive papers.

The goal of the paragraph is to wrap up your main points, show how they connect and why they matter, and demonstrate to your readers that you’ve achieved what you set out to do in your paper.

At this point, you shouldn’t introduce any new points, information, or arguments; that should all be covered in the body of your paper. Your conclusion, instead, should offer readers a sense of closure.

How to Write a Conclusion

To write a strong conclusion, there are several “do’s” you’ll want to keep in mind.

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1. Synthesize your main points.

While your summary should neatly wrap up your paper and tie up any loose ends, you should note the difference between summarizing and synthesizing your main points.

It’s okay to summarize your main points, but your conclusion shouldn’t just be a repetition of what was in your paper. Instead, synthesize the information you presented by showing your readers how those points fit together and support your primary argument.

2. Address the “So what?”

Your conclusion should adequately address the question “So what?” In other words, it should show your audience why everything you’ve argued matters and why they should care.

For every statement you make in your concluding paragraph, ask yourself “so what?” until it’s clearly and concisely been addressed.

3. Write with conviction.

Your conclusion isn’t the place to get wishy-washy or iffy about your arguments. Stand by the points you’ve made and write with conviction.

This doesn’t mean you can’t be humble or you can’t acknowledge other possibilities or arguments. You should do both of those things!

Writing with conviction simply means avoiding phrases like “might,” “could,” or “I believe” to express your opinions.

If you really believe in what you’re writing, then say things affirmatively and refer to your specific arguments to back your statement. For example, if you think action needs to be taken, use “should” or “must” instead of the more weak “could.” Wherever you can, choose strong verbs or weak weasel words.

See more examples of weak vs. strong language in a concluding statement below.

Weak: Governments might want to consider taking action to fight climate change because doing so has many potential benefits.

Strong: Governments must take stronger action against climate change because doing so will create more jobs, raise the quality of living, and decrease health complications associated with pollution.

4. End with a call to action.

The end of your paper should contain a call to action (ideal for persuasive essays) or questions for further thought (this option might be more relevant for research papers, or essays that describe rather than argue).

Your call to action doesn’t necessarily have to address your readers directly; you might suggest an action that the government, a business, or other groups of people should take. Tell your readers what should happen next based on the arguments you’ve made throughout your paper.

Example: Post-conflict reconstruction offers a window of time in which pre-existing policies can be reevaluated and amended. All states should be armed with the knowledge and skills to critically address issues of inequality and ensure that these issues are not exacerbated after times of conflict.

What to Avoid in Your Concluding Paragraph

There are also some “dont’s” to consider when writing your concluding paragraph.

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Don’t introduce new ideas or information.

Your conclusion is not the place to introduce new information or ideas. Instead, this should be your final appeal to your audience, where you show them why all those well-researched points make sense together and actually matter—so don’t attempt to open any new cans of worms!

This will only distract your audience, and since this is your conclusion, you likely won’t have the space to fully develop any new arguments effectively

Don’t just restate your thesis.

Your conclusion should absolutely drive home your main argument, or thesis statement. However, it should be rephrased in such a way that it still hits the nail on the head, but doesn’t sound like your just repeating your introduction.

This is where effectively answering the “so what” question comes in handy. Your rephrased thesis in your conclusion should directly address that question in a way that’s satisfying to readers—after reading it, they should clearly see why your argument is relevant and worth considering.

Don’t change your tone in the conclusion.

One final thing to avoid in your conclusion is a sudden and drastic change of tone. For example, if you’re writing a research paper with an academic, analytical tone, then you shouldn’t switch gears in your conclusion to an emotion-driven plea.

Try to be consistent in your tone throughout the entirety of your paper. You can still move your readers and change minds with facts and reason, rather than making a sentimental appeal that’s out of character with the rest of your presentation.

What Is an Example of a Conclusion?

Through the information they present and the ways they present it, the media have the power to shape an individual’s view of their environment. In the case of Southern Italy, the stories and images presented in the news often carry negative connotations. Research, including surveys of headlines, has illustrated that

Through their involvement in the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions, the women of South Africa and Liberia demonstrated the valuable skills and unique perspectives that women can bring to post-conflict reconstruction. While these TRC’s should be commended for their efforts to include women, there were several key factors that limited the potential for transformative change in these societies, even though the opportunities were present. A better use of gender mainstreaming was needed, because while the Commissions achieved gender balancing, they failed to examine the importance of gender perceptions during the conflict. Post-conflict reconstruction offers a window of time in which pre-existing policies can be reevaluated and amended. All states should be armed with the knowledge and skills to critically address issues of inequality and ensure that these issues are not exacerbated after times of conflict.

What Words Can You Use to Start a Conclusion?

There are a number of words and phrases that can be used to indicate to readers that they have reached your conclusion, such as “finally,” “in conclusion,” or “in summary.”

However, these phrases are overused and have become clichéd. And they’re actually not necessary!

To start your conclusion, you can use a unique transition that flows well from the sentences preceding it, or simply get to your rephrased thesis and work on tying your points together.

More Essay Writing Tips

Ending with a strong conclusion is just as important as opening with a powerful thesis, so make sure you leave your audience with a clear understanding of your argument, along with a call to action or something to reflect on as you wrap things up.

For more tips for effective writing, check out our post on how to write a research paper, which will walk you through the steps of presenting your findings.

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