An essay is a short piece of writing on a particular subject; therefore, a conclusion is typically the last thing in a piece of writing, often the last paragraph of an essay. Conclusions offer closure to your readers, summing up what an essay has taught them.
Since this is the last chance you have to speak to your reader, you want your conclusion to be thorough, well-crafted, and thoughtful. There are a few ways you may craft your conclusion, depending on the goal or purpose of the essay.
You can write conclusions that:
If you’re writing an outline, which is a plan for an essay that’s usually written in the form of a list of ideas that summarizes important points that will be made in the essay, it can be helpful to think about which type of conclusion might best fit the purpose of your essay.
The image below shows an example outline without the conclusion filled in. Refer back to it as you learn more about the different types of conclusions.
For a summary conclusion, you summarize the main points the essay has introduced, briefly mentioning each main point and restating the thesis. To avoid seeming repetitious, you shouldn’t just repeat yourself verbatim, and instead should summarize what you’ve previously written in a new way.
This is one of the most basic ways to write a conclusion, but it can be especially useful when the essay itself has been multifaceted, has had many complex parts, or has included dense, complicated information. In that case, summarizing can actually help your readers remember everything that you argued.
Therefore, this type of conclusion is best for longer essays, as summaries of very short essays might just feel redundant if your readers don’t need the help remembering.
If you think back to the example outline above, a summarizing conclusion might look like this:
See how this reflects the topic sentences, or sentences expressing the thesis of a paragraph, of each main point?
When you write expansion conclusions, you take the narrow scope of a thesis statement and enlarge it, expanding the topic into new areas of potential interest and making new connections. This could help show how the smaller focus of the essay is related to the big picture, or how it’s relevant to a broader context.
If you’re writing this kind of conclusion, you might bring up questions that still need to be answered, research that still needs to be performed, and ideas that are related to your topic but which you couldn’t include due to the space or purpose of this particular writing project.
This can be particularly useful if you want to show how your topic is significant in a bigger way, maybe to the general public or within a particular debate.
For the example outline, an expansion conclusion might look like this:
See how this points to the different directions and other possible connections for this topic?
If you’ve discussed a problem in your essay, proposing a solution is a great way to conclude your essay. This is a way of getting your readers fired up to engage with the topic, encouraging action that they can take to solve these problems themselves.
Solution conclusions are particularly useful when your essay has discussed a political or social issue about which your readers can and might care to act.
For the example outline, that might look like this:
See how this points towards steps that you, the reader, could take to encourage these kinds of changes to manifest in the world?
1d. Looking Forward
If your essay discussed a problem or event that will continue into the future, imagining how that issue will look in the future is another conclusion option. This can help to show your readers how your topic is significant, or what bigger effects it might have.
By casting the imagination of your readers forward, this kind of conclusion can also help readers gain new perspective on your topic. Thus if you’ve discussed a problem or controversy, this might be the conclusion for you.
For the example outline, this kind of conclusion might look like this:
Notice how this is a little bit of a science fiction approach. This conclusion looks forward into the future and lets your imagination run, predicting what might come if these changes are made.
Now that you’ve seen some examples of the different kinds of conclusions you can write, it’s important to think about how you can make any conclusion the most effective conclusion it can be.
Truly effective conclusions will:
This one isn’t on topic at all:
It takes one tiny element of the discussion and focuses solely on that. It’s not effectively related to the thesis statement, or even to the overall scope of the argument.
What about this one?
It’s not great, but it’s also not terrible. The big problem is that it mostly just restates the thesis and doesn’t leave the reader with much new information.
This one, however, is really effective:
It uses a compelling narrative approach that looks to the future and advocates for readers to act. It probably makes you want to read it again. That is how you write an effective conclusion.
Source: This work is adapted from Sophia author Martina Shabram.