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Essay writing: the conclusion

The role of the conclusion

A conclusion is not a summary of everything you have just written. The conclusion should make it clear to the reader what the overall message and argument is that you want them to take away. It should end in a way that is thought provoking, and looks to the future. "The final paragraph should close the discussion without closing it off" (Harvard College Writing Centre).   

What should be in the conclusion?

Just like the introduction, there isn't one way to write a conclusion, and following one particular structure could lead to your conclusions becoming very formulaic. Here is a general guide to what you might include in a conclusion: 
  • A brief explanation of your main findings or ideas. Synthesise; don't summarise. Show how your separate points have built into one main idea or argument
  • Present your conclusion. What is the main message or argument you want your reader to take away? Make sure your conclusion is clearly supported by the evidence presented in the essay
  • At the end of your conclusion, move from the specific to the general. Can you set your discussion into a different or wider context? 

What to avoid in a conclusion

  • Don't summarise your whole essay or restate things you have already said
  • You are trying to end in an interesting way so you may want to avoid formulaic phrases such as "In conclusion"
  • Don't bring in any new material or evidence.

Example of a conclusion 

Take a look at this example of a conclusion, adapted from University of Manchester Library, University of Manchester under Creative Commons CC BY-NC 4.0.

Useful books on essay writing

You will find a number of great books on essay writing in the Laidlaw Library, Level 1, under Skills E-5.