If you’ve been instructed to write a strong and insightful conclusion paragraph to an essay, consider yourself duly warned. Your instructor has made it clear that she is looking for much more than a mere restatement of your thesis or a summary of your paper’s main points. Quite simply, she wants you to end your paper with a strong, if not a dramatic, flourish. Though conclusions can be difficult to write, take heart in knowing that a number of viable options exist that will help you craft the “right” conclusion to your essay.
Come full circle in your conclusion by returning to a compelling or provocative point that you made in the introduction. This technique works especially well if you have posed a question in the introduction. After presenting facts and information in the paper, the conclusion may be the best place to supply the answers.
Supply readers with a series of hypothetical or rhetorical answers. This technique gives readers thoughts to ponder -- one of the telltale signs of a strong and insightful concluding paragraph.
Invoke a quotation that captures your point if the “right” words are failing you. Sites such as The Quotations Page (quotationspage.com) offer quotes by famous (and non-famous) people, organized by subject. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, you might find inspiration in the ideas of others.
Conclude your paper with a strong call to action -- an instruction, of sorts, of certain steps or measures that must be undertaken to promote change, improved conditions and/or a better outcome. Calls to action must be persuasive, so craft it with precision.
Make a forecast or issue a warning if you worry that writing a call to action might offend your readers. Support your forecast with accurate, credible figures and perhaps the backing of a notable public figure to give punch to your conclusion. For example, you might authenticate forecasts about the economy and its effects on the middle class by turning to a university economics professor or the CFO of a respected company in your state.
Provide a telling anecdote -- a meaningful short story -- that encapsulates the main points of your paper and leaves a lasting impression on your readers, another quality of a strong and insightful concluding paragraph.
Even more so than introductions, conclusions can be vexing to write. Be prepared to write several conclusions, if necessary, before arriving at the “right” one.
Do not use heavy-handed words such as “in conclusion,” “to conclude” or “in summary” in your concluding paragraph. Readers have eyes, and they can see that they’ve come to the end of your thoughts and ideas.
Proofread and edit your piece for clarity and unity of ideas. Read it aloud; then ask someone you trust to read it and provide a critique.
Read the entire paper, not just the conclusion in isolation from the rest. As the finishing touch, the conclusion must bring the entire essay to a satisfying end. If your instructor asks you, “Does your conclusion work?” and you can confidently answer “Yes,” then trust your instincts. It probably does.
- Harvard University: Ending the Essay: Conclusions
- Purdue University Online Writing Lab: Conclusions
- Purdue University Online Writing Lab: Organizing an Exploratory Essay
- “The Little, Brown Handbook”; H. Ramsey Fowler, Jane E. Aaron and Kay Limburg; 1992
- “The New St. Martin’s Handbook”; Andrea Lunsford and Robert Connors; 1999
- “Step by Step College Writing”; Randy Devillez; 1992.
- Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images