What Is the Difference Between Conclusion and Inference?

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It is possible to come to a conclusion and come to an inference. Both of them require that you process information and use it to form a judgment, but they occur at different points in the thought process. This means that there is a difference in the way that you use the two.

1 Conclusion

A conclusion comes at the end of a thought process. It can involve developing a summary of what you've gone through so far to reach that conclusion and expressing a decision going forward. In negotiations, the conclusions are what you come to in reaching a final settlement. In science, conclusions are your interpretations of the data in an experiment.

2 Inference

An inference requires moving from information of some kind to a generalization. For example, if you come in the house and see your living room furniture torn up, you might infer that your new puppy got out of the crate and shredded everything. These interpretations do not represent your final opinion on a matter; they just help you get there.

3 Warning About Inferences

In the case of the torn-up living room, there are other pieces of information that you might need to reach a final conclusion. For example, if you still near the puppy barking in the laundry room, where the crate is, your first inference might be incorrect. The broken window and the rifled filing cabinet might mean that someone was searching for something in your house -- so your first inference may be incorrect.

4 Moving from Inference to Conclusion

It can take several inferences before you can arrive at a meaningful conclusion. Inferences represent a step in the process from collecting data or information to rendering a final judgment on that information, and to making a decision about how to respond.

Leslie Renico's grant-writing career began in 2006 and her grants have brought in millions of dollars for nonprofits serving the poor and providing medical care for the needy. Renico has appeared on television and her articles have appeared in various online publications. She graduated from Saginaw Valley State University with a Bachelor of Arts in criminal justice in 1997.