Have you ever reached the ending of a film and thought that really didn’t satisfy me? Have you been left wanting more? Believe it or not, the same thing can happen when reading an academic essay; if it does not come to a satisfactory conclusion, the whole essay will go down in your reader’s estimations. While it is very easy to reach the end of your argument and, in a state of relief, quickly type out a few final sentences and submit your work, I would advise that you actually put more effort into your conclusion. Consider it your last chance to convince your reader of your argument! Here are some tips to help you along your way.
Be careful to avoid cliché conclusion starters: although it might seem tempting, try to steer yourself away from the typical conclusion starters such as ‘In conclusion’, ‘to summarize’ etc. Think about how many essays academics have to read and remember – you want yours to stand out! Perhaps opt for more of a linking phrase such as ‘Overall’ or ‘Evidently…’ The less cliché, the better.
Summarize your argument: one thing I would stress is you should try not to squeeze new points into your conclusion – instead, you should focus on summarizing what you have already said. Try and use different phrasing so as not to repeat yourself, as you still need to be engaging your reader! A good way of beginning might also be to rephrase the thesis statement you will have used in your introduction. The conclusion is arguably the easy part – you’ve already done all of the hard work, so all that’s left to do is to sum it all up!
Refer to what you said in your introduction: one of the best things you can do is do a full circle and refer back to what you said at the start of your essay. This will make your piece seem more coherent, as well as suggesting that you have really thought about its structure. It will also make your essay seem more useful.
Always ask yourself ‘So what?’ It sounds harsh when put like that, but there will be some things that you just don’t need to include. An effective way of avoiding this is to, after every sentence that you write, ask yourself, ‘So what?’ If you realise that what you have just written is actually not significant at all, delete it. Just like your introduction, your conclusion should be as concise as possible, so there’s no need for any unnecessary information.
Leave your readers with food for thought: a good thing to do in your conclusion is leave your readers with a final thought to reflect on. It should be general rather than specific, and it should most definitely still be on topic. If your ending provides some sort of closure for your reader, then you’re on the right track – it’s no fun being left guessing when you’re keen to know the answers!
Guide your reader to broader works: if your reader was engaged by your writing, it is likely that they will want to go on to read similar pieces. Why not help them on their way and suggest a few books/writers that inspired your own work? Not only is this useful for them, but it also makes you sound much more knowledgeable and as if you know a lot about your field. If you can’t think of any, not to worry! But if you do happen to have some spare time on your hands, I would recommend putting in that little bit of extra research to enhance your essay.
Proofread it: it might sound ridiculous – of course you proofread your work, right? Contrary to what you might think, some people are so keen to submit their work that they don’t think twice about giving their concluding paragraph the once over. Don’t make this mistake – you need to make sure that your ending is grammatically correct, makes sense and doesn’t start straying off topic. You will only be able to recognise this yourself if you read your whole essay again first! It might sound like a bit of a chore, but it will prove worth it when you receive your feedback. Trust me.
When you get to the end of your argument, it’s often frustrating knowing that you still have to find a way to tie it all together. However, if you put as much effort as you can into your conclusion – the same amount as you put in with the rest of your essay – then you will soon be reaping the rewards when you receive your feedback and/or mark. Make sure that it is grammatically correct, that each of your points are linked and are relevant to your argument, and that you provide your reader with something to think about. Once you’ve done all of that, you can submit your work and put your feet up!