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Learn about the elements of a successful essay conclusion.
The conclusion is a very important part of your essay. Although it is sometimes treated as a roundup of all of the bits that didn’t fit into the paper earlier, it deserves better treatment than that! It's the last thing the reader will see, so it tends to stick in the reader's memory. It's also a great place to remind the reader exactly why your topic is important. A conclusion is more than just "the last paragraph"—it's a working part of the paper. This is the place to push your reader to think about the consequences of your topic for the wider world or for the reader's own life!
A good conclusion should do a few things:
Restate your thesis
Synthesize or summarize your major points
Make the context of your argument clear
Restating Your Thesis
You've already spent time and energy crafting a solid thesis statement for your introduction, and if you've done your job right, your whole paper focuses on that thesis statement. That's why it's so important to address the thesis in your conclusion! Many writers choose to begin the conclusion by restating the thesis, but you can put your thesis into the conclusion anywhere—the first sentence of the paragraph, the last sentence, or in between. Here are a few tips for rephrasing your thesis:
Remind the reader that you've proven this thesis over the course of your paper. For example, if you're arguing that your readers should get their pets from animal shelters rather than pet stores, you might say, "If you were considering that puppy in the pet-shop window, remember that your purchase will support 'puppy mills' instead of rescuing a needy dog, and consider selecting your new friend at your local animal shelter." This example gives the reader not only the thesis of the paper, but a reminder of the most powerful point in the argument!
Revise the thesis statement so that it reflects the relationship you've developed with the reader during the paper. For example, if you've written a paper that targets parents of young children, you can find a way to phrase your thesis to capitalize on that—maybe by beginning your thesis statement with, "As a parent of a young child…"
Don’t repeat your thesis word for word—make sure that your new statement is an independent, fresh sentence!
Summary or Synthesis
This section of the conclusion might come before the thesis statement or after it. Your conclusion should remind the reader of what your paper actually says! The best conclusion will include a synthesis, not just a summary—instead of a mere list of your major points, the best conclusion will draw those points together and relate them to one another so that your reader can apply the information given in the essay. Here are a couple of ways to do that:
Give a list of the major arguments for your thesis (usually, these are the topic sentences of the parts of your essay).
Explain how these parts are connected. For example, in the animal-shelter essay, you might point out that adopting a shelter dog helps more animals because your adoption fee supports the shelter, which makes your choice more socially responsible.
One of the most important functions of the conclusion is to provide context for your argument. Your reader may finish your essay without a problem and understand your argument without understanding why that argument is important. Your introduction might point out the reason your topic matters, but your conclusion should also tackle this questions. Here are some strategies for making your reader see why the topic is important:
Tell the reader what you want him or her to do. Is your essay a call to action? If so, remind the reader of what he/she should do. If not, remember that asking the reader to think a certain way is an action in itself. (In the above examples, the essay asks the reader to adopt a shelter dog—a specific action.)
Explain why this topic is timely or important. For example, the animal-shelter essay might end with a statistic about the number of pets in shelters waiting for adoption.
Remind the readers of why the topic matters to them personally. For example, it doesn’t matter much if you believe in the mission of animal shelters, if you're not planning to get a dog; however, once you're looking for a dog, it is much more important. The conclusion of this essay might say, "Since you’re in the market for a dog, you have a major decision to make: where to get one." This will remind the reader that the argument is personally important!
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- Ending the Essay: Conclusions
So much is at stake in writing a conclusion. This is, after all, your last chance to persuade your readers to your point of view, to impress yourself upon them as a writer and thinker. And the impression you create in your conclusion will shape the impression that stays with your readers after they've finished the essay.
The end of an essay should therefore convey a sense of completeness and closure as well as a sense of the lingering possibilities of the topic, its larger meaning, its implications: the final paragraph should close the discussion without closing it off.
To establish a sense of closure, you might do one or more of the following:
- Conclude by linking the last paragraph to the first, perhaps by reiterating a word or phrase you used at the beginning.
- Conclude with a sentence composed mainly of one-syllable words. Simple language can help create an effect of understated drama.
- Conclude with a sentence that's compound or parallel in structure; such sentences can establish a sense of balance or order that may feel just right at the end of a complex discussion.
To close the discussion without closing it off, you might do one or more of the following:
- Conclude with a quotation from or reference to a primary or secondary source, one that amplifies your main point or puts it in a different perspective. A quotation from, say, the novel or poem you're writing about can add texture and specificity to your discussion; a critic or scholar can help confirm or complicate your final point. For example, you might conclude an essay on the idea of home in James Joyce's short story collection, Dubliners , with information about Joyce's own complex feelings towards Dublin, his home. Or you might end with a biographer's statement about Joyce's attitude toward Dublin, which could illuminate his characters' responses to the city. Just be cautious, especially about using secondary material: make sure that you get the last word.
- Conclude by setting your discussion into a different, perhaps larger, context. For example, you might end an essay on nineteenth-century muckraking journalism by linking it to a current news magazine program like 60 Minutes .
- Conclude by redefining one of the key terms of your argument. For example, an essay on Marx's treatment of the conflict between wage labor and capital might begin with Marx's claim that the "capitalist economy is . . . a gigantic enterprise of dehumanization "; the essay might end by suggesting that Marxist analysis is itself dehumanizing because it construes everything in economic -- rather than moral or ethical-- terms.
- Conclude by considering the implications of your argument (or analysis or discussion). What does your argument imply, or involve, or suggest? For example, an essay on the novel Ambiguous Adventure , by the Senegalese writer Cheikh Hamidou Kane, might open with the idea that the protagonist's development suggests Kane's belief in the need to integrate Western materialism and Sufi spirituality in modern Senegal. The conclusion might make the new but related point that the novel on the whole suggests that such an integration is (or isn't) possible.
Finally, some advice on how not to end an essay:
- Don't simply summarize your essay. A brief summary of your argument may be useful, especially if your essay is long--more than ten pages or so. But shorter essays tend not to require a restatement of your main ideas.
- Avoid phrases like "in conclusion," "to conclude," "in summary," and "to sum up." These phrases can be useful--even welcome--in oral presentations. But readers can see, by the tell-tale compression of the pages, when an essay is about to end. You'll irritate your audience if you belabor the obvious.
- Resist the urge to apologize. If you've immersed yourself in your subject, you now know a good deal more about it than you can possibly include in a five- or ten- or 20-page essay. As a result, by the time you've finished writing, you may be having some doubts about what you've produced. (And if you haven't immersed yourself in your subject, you may be feeling even more doubtful about your essay as you approach the conclusion.) Repress those doubts. Don't undercut your authority by saying things like, "this is just one approach to the subject; there may be other, better approaches. . ."
Copyright 1998, Pat Bellanca, for the Writing Center at Harvard University
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In Summary: 10 Examples of Essay Conclusions
The conclusion of an essay may be the toughest section to write. Think about it; you're really tired at this point. It's probably the night before your paper is due and you just want to be done . So, the temptation is there to simply rush through it, and hope that your teacher is exhausted once she gets to your paper and doesn't bother to read it fully.
But the conclusion is probably the most important part of the paper. It ties everything together up nicely in the end. Not writing a good conclusion would be like if we never found out if Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy got together or if we never knew what that monster was in the Upside Down in "Stranger Things." Though not every ending has to be 100% conclusive (in fact, most endings never are— think the movie Inception ), it does have to have a well-thought out conclusion.
So, how do you write a good conclusion? What are the key components of a solid conclusion? What does a thorough and effective conclusion look like?
Read on for more information about our conclusion on conclusions.
What are the key components of a good conclusion?
Remember that thesis statement which you wrote in the first or second paragraph of your essay? You know, the one where you stated a claim about something? You argued something about a topic and you used the body paragraphs to prove your thesis statement through all of the research that you've performed.
Now that you've fully explained the research and the support for your thesis statement throughout the body of the paper, it's time to come back to that original idea in the conclusion. The conclusion basically asks us to do a few things:
- Restate the main idea of the paper (why you wrote this entire long piece to begin with).
- Summarize all the key points you made throughout the body of the paper (things that proved your thesis statement).
- Write about why this paper and topic are important, and leave the reader with ideas for additional research or maybe some questions that didn't get answered. The idea is that you want to leave the reader with a long-lasting impression. This is your opportunity to really drive your point home and to use some really interesting language.
Okay, so now that we have a game plan of how we need to write a good conclusion and what components consists of, let's look at a few examples of some sample essay conclusions.
Essay conclusion 1 — Why Ross didn't deserve Rachel on "Friends"
Although viewers always expected Ross and Rachel to reunite at the end of the series, the fact remains that Ross didn't deserve Rachel as a partner. As we saw in the beginning of the series, Ross was unfaithful to Rachel when they had been dating for over a year, and he didn't want to admit his wrongdoing when they tried to get back together after their initial breakup. Additionally, Ross was an extremely jealous and demanding partner, yelling at Rachel in front of all of their friends on several occasions. Finally, and most egregiously, Ross had a terrible reaction when Rachel told Ross she was pregnant after Monica and Chandler's wedding, making him an undesirable romantic partner for her, or any other character on the show for that matter. This conclusion is especially apparent after viewing the show more than 10 years after the final episode aired and having a collectively better understanding of women's rights and domestic abuse in relationships.
Essay conclusion 2 — Should students be allowed to have cell phones in elementary school?
In conclusion, although it's easy to see why allowing an elementary school child to have a cell phone would be convenient for after-school pickups or arranging playdates with friends, there is too much evidence to show that it's generally not a good idea. Children already have a lot of access to media (on average over seven hours per day) and it is the parent's responsibility to monitor their media access, which is more difficult if the child has exclusive cell phone access. Cyber bullying, which is increasingly becoming a problem, is also going to be a risk when your child has unlimited access to a smart phone. Clearly, elementary school-aged children are not emotionally mature enough to handle the responsibility of a smart phone, and the borrowing of a parent's cell phone should be highly monitored to ensure safe and healthful usage.
Essay conclusion 3 — Should sexual education be taught in public schools?
It's clear that sexual education is completely vital to the public-school curriculum. Not only does this lead to a better understanding of human development and human sexuality, but awareness and sex education also reduce the rates of teen pregnancy. Studies have shown that comprehensive sexual education increases the age of when teens have sex for the first time. Learning about contraception and how to use contraception correctly ultimately leads to lower rates of STDs. Lastly, comprehensive sex education also teaches students about consensual sex, and will hopefully lead to healthier sexual relationships and lower rates of sexual assault in the future. Not only should sex education be taught in public schools, but it should be mandatory for all public-school systems.
Essay conclusion 4 — What are the biggest challenges for women in the workplace?
Women have outnumbered men on the payroll in nonfarm jobs since 2010, but even with a majority of females in the office, there are still huge challenges for them at work. One of the biggest issues, which has been widely covered and debated on, is the fact that women still earn less of a wage for the same job as their male counterparts. Now that women are the breadwinners of many families, this is stunting economic growth and opportunity for their children. Additionally, women are less likely to be in charge at work. With less than 6% of Fortune 500 companies with a female CEO, women have a steeper hill to climb at the very top echelon of jobs. With a more level playing field, women's opportunities will increase and the workforce will ultimately be more inviting for all.
Essay conclusion 5 — You're having dinner with your favorite author. What happens? Describe the scene.
Harper Lee puts down her cup of coffee on the table, quietly scanning the room for an exit.
I'm nervous, wondering what to say to end this surreal evening.
"Thank you so much for meeting with me. I know that you're a very private person, and I can't tell you how much this means to me."
She smiles slightly at me and waves at the waiter for the check, which he brings promptly.
Essay conclusion 6 — Should music with curse words be allowed at school dances?
Language can be powerful and sometimes even harmful, but censorship of language is one of the worst things we can do as a society. I believe that the content of the song is more important than a few curse words. If a song's content is designed to provoke, intimidate, or make someone feel inferior, then I believe that is more harmful than a few impolite words in a chorus.
Essay conclusion 7 — What is something that should be taught in school that isn't?
Financial literacy is one of the most important things a person needs to understand as a fully functional adult. It's crucial for someone to be able to know how to purchase a car, open a bank account, invest in a 401k plan, and pay back his or her student debt all while being able to balance paying rent and saving money. Financial literacy should be taught to students while they are still in high school so that they can feel prepared to go out on their own and make a positive contribution to society.
Essay conclusion 8 — Is an increased dependence on technology good for society?
Technology surely isn't going anywhere. If anything, we will become more and more dependent on the capabilities of our smartphones and other devices in the future. However, we have to make sure that this dependence on technology isn't making us lazier or less curious about the world around us. With more knowledge available than ever before with today's technology, people are less discerning about what kind of materials they read and whether or not those materials are factual. People are also less likely to make a personal connection with someone while they're out in the world, which can increase levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. Ultimately, we have to learn how to co-exist with technology in a way that is both healthful and constructive.
Essay conclusion 9 — Should schools start later in the morning?
There are some clear benefits to starting school later in the morning for K-12 students such as better academic performance and improved sleeping schedules. Although it might take a bit of rearranging schedules for parents to take their kids to school later on in the day, it's more important that students perform better academically than for the drop-off to be convenient for the parents on their way to work. To combat this, increased bus routes and crossing guards should be implemented so that parents who have to get to work at a certain time can be assured that their kids are making it to school safely.
Essay conclusion 10 — How do video games affect children and teenagers?
Video games have been an integral part of childhood and adolescence for a few decades now, but the effects on aggression levels and exposure to violence may make us take pause on how much exposure parents should let their kids have to these games. The video game industry is growing exponentially, and as the technology and video quality increase so does the ability to separate virtual reality from reality. Games with violent content are known to cause aggressive and sometimes even violent behavior in teens. Many video games, first-person shooter games in particular, have violent content. When the player is rewarded for violent behavior in the game, it reinforces the subtle idea that violence is acceptable and can be used in real life. With busy schedules and easy access to so much media, it's difficult for parents to be able to oversee everything that their children are exposed to. Video game designers should be held accountable for the violent content in their games, and a push should be made for more parental oversight and rules on video game usage.
In conclusion of conclusions
Conclusions are really just about wrapping things up. You want to be as succinct as possible, you want to reiterate the points you've already made throughout the essay, and you want to be compelling. With a little bit of practice and revision, you should be able to get the process down in no time. And if you need help with revising your conclusion or any other part of your paper, be sure to seek out the advice of a trusted teacher or a writing center, or hire one of our professional editors to give you a second opinion on your paper.
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- How to conclude an essay | Interactive example
How to Conclude an Essay | Interactive Example
Published on January 24, 2019 by Shona McCombes . Revised on December 6, 2021.
The conclusion is the final paragraph of your essay . A strong conclusion aims to:
- Tie together the essay’s main points
- Show why your argument matters
- Leave the reader with a strong impression
Your conclusion should give a sense of closure and completion to your argument, but also show what new questions or possibilities it has opened up.
This conclusion is taken from our annotated essay example , which discusses the history of the Braille system. Hover over each part to see why it’s effective.
Braille paved the way for dramatic cultural changes in the way blind people were treated and the opportunities available to them. Louis Braille’s innovation was to reimagine existing reading systems from a blind perspective, and the success of this invention required sighted teachers to adapt to their students’ reality instead of the other way around. In this sense, Braille helped drive broader social changes in the status of blindness. New accessibility tools provide practical advantages to those who need them, but they can also change the perspectives and attitudes of those who do not.
Table of contents
Step 1: return to your thesis, step 2: review your main points, step 3: show why it matters, what shouldn’t go in the conclusion, more examples of essay conclusions, frequently asked questions about writing an essay conclusion.
To begin your conclusion, signal that the essay is coming to an end by returning to your overall argument.
Don’t just repeat your thesis statement —instead, try to rephrase your argument in a way that shows how it has been developed since the introduction.
Next, remind the reader of the main points that you used to support your argument.
Avoid simply summarizing each paragraph or repeating each point in order; try to bring your points together in a way that makes the connections between them clear. The conclusion is your final chance to show how all the paragraphs of your essay add up to a coherent whole.
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To wrap up your conclusion, zoom out to a broader view of the topic and consider the implications of your argument. For example:
- Does it contribute a new understanding of your topic?
- Does it raise new questions for future study?
- Does it lead to practical suggestions or predictions?
- Can it be applied to different contexts?
- Can it be connected to a broader debate or theme?
Whatever your essay is about, the conclusion should aim to emphasize the significance of your argument, whether that’s within your academic subject or in the wider world.
Try to end with a strong, decisive sentence, leaving the reader with a lingering sense of interest in your topic.
The easiest way to improve your conclusion is to eliminate these common mistakes.
Don’t include new evidence
Any evidence or analysis that is essential to supporting your thesis statement should appear in the main body of the essay.
The conclusion might include minor pieces of new information—for example, a sentence or two discussing broader implications, or a quotation that nicely summarizes your central point. But it shouldn’t introduce any major new sources or ideas that need further explanation to understand.
Don’t use “concluding phrases”
Avoid using obvious stock phrases to tell the reader what you’re doing:
- “In conclusion…”
- “To sum up…”
These phrases aren’t forbidden, but they can make your writing sound weak. By returning to your main argument, it will quickly become clear that you are concluding the essay—you shouldn’t have to spell it out.
Don’t undermine your argument
Avoid using apologetic phrases that sound uncertain or confused:
- “This is just one approach among many.”
- “There are good arguments on both sides of this issue.”
- “There is no clear answer to this problem.”
Even if your essay has explored different points of view, your own position should be clear. There may be many possible approaches to the topic, but you want to leave the reader convinced that yours is the best one!
- Literary analysis
This conclusion is taken from an argumentative essay about the internet’s impact on education. It acknowledges the opposing arguments while taking a clear, decisive position.
The internet has had a major positive impact on the world of education; occasional pitfalls aside, its value is evident in numerous applications. The future of teaching lies in the possibilities the internet opens up for communication, research, and interactivity. As the popularity of distance learning shows, students value the flexibility and accessibility offered by digital education, and educators should fully embrace these advantages. The internet’s dangers, real and imaginary, have been documented exhaustively by skeptics, but the internet is here to stay; it is time to focus seriously on its potential for good.
This conclusion is taken from a short expository essay that explains the invention of the printing press and its effects on European society. It focuses on giving a clear, concise overview of what was covered in the essay.
The invention of the printing press was important not only in terms of its immediate cultural and economic effects, but also in terms of its major impact on politics and religion across Europe. In the century following the invention of the printing press, the relatively stationary intellectual atmosphere of the Middle Ages gave way to the social upheavals of the Reformation and the Renaissance. A single technological innovation had contributed to the total reshaping of the continent.
This conclusion is taken from a literary analysis essay about Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein . It summarizes what the essay’s analysis achieved and emphasizes its originality.
By tracing the depiction of Frankenstein through the novel’s three volumes, I have demonstrated how the narrative structure shifts our perception of the character. While the Frankenstein of the first volume is depicted as having innocent intentions, the second and third volumes—first in the creature’s accusatory voice, and then in his own voice—increasingly undermine him, causing him to appear alternately ridiculous and vindictive. Far from the one-dimensional villain he is often taken to be, the character of Frankenstein is compelling because of the dynamic narrative frame in which he is placed. In this frame, Frankenstein’s narrative self-presentation responds to the images of him we see from others’ perspectives. This conclusion sheds new light on the novel, foregrounding Shelley’s unique layering of narrative perspectives and its importance for the depiction of character.
Your essay’s conclusion should contain:
- A rephrased version of your overall thesis
- A brief review of the key points you made in the main body
- An indication of why your argument matters
The conclusion may also reflect on the broader implications of your argument, showing how your ideas could applied to other contexts or debates.
For a stronger conclusion paragraph, avoid including:
- Important evidence or analysis that wasn’t mentioned in the main body
- Generic concluding phrases (e.g. “In conclusion…”)
- Weak statements that undermine your argument (e.g. “There are good points on both sides of this issue.”)
Your conclusion should leave the reader with a strong, decisive impression of your work.
The conclusion paragraph of an essay is usually shorter than the introduction . As a rule, it shouldn’t take up more than 10–15% of the text.
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How to Write a Conclusion Paragraph for an Essay
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- An effective conclusion paragraph is vital to writing a successful college essay.
- A strong conclusion restates the thesis, offers new insight, and forms a personal connection.
- Be sure the conclusion doesn't introduce new arguments or analyze points you didn't discuss.
The first steps for writing any college essay are coming up with a strong thesis statement and composing a rough introduction . Once you've done that, you can collect information that supports your thesis, outline your essay's main points, and start writing your body paragraphs . Before you can submit the essay, though, you'll also need to write a compelling conclusion paragraph.
Conclusions aren't especially difficult to write and can even be fun, but you still need to put in effort to make them work. Ultimately, a strong conclusion is just as important as an effective introduction for a successful paper.
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Here, we explain the purpose of a conclusion and how to write a conclusion paragraph using a simple three-step process.
The Purpose of a Conclusion Paragraph
A conclusion paragraph does :
- Check Circle Summarize the essay's thesis and evidence to further convince the reader
- Check Circle Elevate your essay by adding new insight or something extra to impress the reader
- Check Circle Leave a personal impression that connects you more closely to the reader
A conclusion paragraph does not :
- X Circle Summarize something the paper does not discuss
- X Circle Introduce a new argument
How to Write a Conclusion in 3 Easy Steps
Step 1: restate your thesis claim and evidence.
The conclusion's primary role is to convince the reader that your argument is valid. Whereas the introduction paragraph says, "Here's what I'll prove and how," the conclusion paragraph says, "Here's what I proved and how." In that sense, these two paragraphs should closely mirror each other, with the conclusion restating the thesis introduced at the beginning of the essay.
In order to restate your thesis effectively, you'll need to do the following:
- Check Circle Reread your introduction carefully to identify your paper's main claim
- Check Circle Pay attention to the evidence you used to support your thesis throughout the essay
- Check Circle In your conclusion, reword the thesis and summarize the supporting evidence
- Check Circle Use phrases in the past tense, like "as demonstrated" and "this paper established"
Here's an example of an introduction and a conclusion paragraph, with the conclusion restating the paper's primary claim and evidence:
It is a known fact that archaic civilizations with clearly defined social classes often survived longer than those without. One anomaly is seventh-century Civilization X. Close analysis of the cultural artifacts of the Civilization X region reveals that a social system that operates on exploitation, rather than sharing, will always fail. This lack of inclusion actually leads to a society's downfall. Excavated military objects, remnants of tapestries and clay pots, and the poetry of the era all demonstrate the clash between exploitation and sharing, with the former leading to loss and the latter leading to success.
In the 600s C.E., Civilization X survived because it believed in inclusion and sharing rather than exploitation. As demonstrated, the civilization was often aware of the choice between sharing with others and taking from them. The cultural artifacts from the era, namely military items, household objects, and verbal art, all indicate that Civilization X believed sharing ensured survival for all, while taking allowed only a few to survive for a shorter time.
Step 2: Provide New and Interesting Insight
In addition to restating the thesis, a conclusion should emphasize the importance of the essay's argument by building upon it. In other words, you want to push your ideas one step beyond your thesis. One intriguing insight at the end can leave your professor pondering your paper well after they finish reading it — and that's a good sign you turned in a well-written essay.
Note that the conclusion paragraph must only mention that this new idea exists and deserves some focus in the future; it shouldn't discuss the idea in detail or try to propose a new argument.
The new insight you raise in your conclusion should ideally come from the research you already conducted. Should a new idea come to you while writing the body paragraphs, go ahead and make a note to remind you to allude to it in your conclusion.
Here are some typical starting points for these new insights:
- Check Circle A new idea that would have prompted you to redesign your thesis if you had the time
- Check Circle A new angle that would further prove your thesis
- Check Circle Evidence you found that refutes your claim but that you can justify anyway
- Check Circle A different topic to which you can apply the same thesis and/or angles
Step 3: Form a Personal Connection With the Reader
The final step when writing a conclusion paragraph is to include a small detail about yourself. This information will help you build a more intimate bond with your reader and help them remember you better. Think of this step as an opportunity to connect the academic research to your and your reader's personal lives — to forge a human bond between the lines.
Formal essay-writing typically avoids first- and second-person pronouns such as "I" and "you." There are, however, two exceptions to this rule, and these are the introduction and conclusion paragraphs.
In the conclusion, you may use first-person pronouns to attempt to establish an emotional connection with the reader.
In the introduction, you may use the words "I" or "me" just once to clarify that the essay's claim is your own. In the conclusion, you may use first-person pronouns to attempt to establish an emotional connection with the reader, as long as this connection is related in some way to the overarching claim.
Here's an example of a conclusion paragraph that uses both first- and second-person pronouns to connect the thesis statement (provided above) to the student's own perspective on stealing:
Civilization X believed that invading Civilization Y would help them survive long, hunger-inducing winters. But all people go through moments when they crave security, especially in times of scarcity. I would certainly never consider taking the belongings of a neighbor, nor, I expect, would you. Yet we must consider the Civilization X artifacts that justify "taking" as signs of more than simple bloodthirst — they are also revelations of the basic human need for security. Perhaps if we had lived during the 600s C.E., you and I would have also taken from others, even while commanding others not to take from us.
Feature Image: Ziga Plahutar / E+ / Getty Images
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What this handout is about.
This handout will explain the functions of conclusions, offer strategies for writing effective ones, help you evaluate conclusions you’ve drafted, and suggest approaches to avoid.
Introductions and conclusions can be difficult to write, but they’re worth investing time in. They can have a significant influence on a reader’s experience of your paper.
Just as your introduction acts as a bridge that transports your readers from their own lives into the “place” of your analysis, your conclusion can provide a bridge to help your readers make the transition back to their daily lives. Such a conclusion will help them see why all your analysis and information should matter to them after they put the paper down.
Your conclusion is your chance to have the last word on the subject. The conclusion allows you to have the final say on the issues you have raised in your paper, to synthesize your thoughts, to demonstrate the importance of your ideas, and to propel your reader to a new view of the subject. It is also your opportunity to make a good final impression and to end on a positive note.
Your conclusion can go beyond the confines of the assignment. The conclusion pushes beyond the boundaries of the prompt and allows you to consider broader issues, make new connections, and elaborate on the significance of your findings.
Your conclusion should make your readers glad they read your paper. Your conclusion gives your reader something to take away that will help them see things differently or appreciate your topic in personally relevant ways. It can suggest broader implications that will not only interest your reader, but also enrich your reader’s life in some way. It is your gift to the reader.
Strategies for writing an effective conclusion
One or more of the following strategies may help you write an effective conclusion:
- Play the “So What” Game. If you’re stuck and feel like your conclusion isn’t saying anything new or interesting, ask a friend to read it with you. Whenever you make a statement from your conclusion, ask the friend to say, “So what?” or “Why should anybody care?” Then ponder that question and answer it. Here’s how it might go: You: Basically, I’m just saying that education was important to Douglass. Friend: So what? You: Well, it was important because it was a key to him feeling like a free and equal citizen. Friend: Why should anybody care? You: That’s important because plantation owners tried to keep slaves from being educated so that they could maintain control. When Douglass obtained an education, he undermined that control personally. You can also use this strategy on your own, asking yourself “So What?” as you develop your ideas or your draft.
- Return to the theme or themes in the introduction. This strategy brings the reader full circle. For example, if you begin by describing a scenario, you can end with the same scenario as proof that your essay is helpful in creating a new understanding. You may also refer to the introductory paragraph by using key words or parallel concepts and images that you also used in the introduction.
- Synthesize, don’t summarize. Include a brief summary of the paper’s main points, but don’t simply repeat things that were in your paper. Instead, show your reader how the points you made and the support and examples you used fit together. Pull it all together.
- Include a provocative insight or quotation from the research or reading you did for your paper.
- Propose a course of action, a solution to an issue, or questions for further study. This can redirect your reader’s thought process and help her to apply your info and ideas to her own life or to see the broader implications.
- Point to broader implications. For example, if your paper examines the Greensboro sit-ins or another event in the Civil Rights Movement, you could point out its impact on the Civil Rights Movement as a whole. A paper about the style of writer Virginia Woolf could point to her influence on other writers or on later feminists.
Strategies to avoid
- Beginning with an unnecessary, overused phrase such as “in conclusion,” “in summary,” or “in closing.” Although these phrases can work in speeches, they come across as wooden and trite in writing.
- Stating the thesis for the very first time in the conclusion.
- Introducing a new idea or subtopic in your conclusion.
- Ending with a rephrased thesis statement without any substantive changes.
- Making sentimental, emotional appeals that are out of character with the rest of an analytical paper.
- Including evidence (quotations, statistics, etc.) that should be in the body of the paper.
Four kinds of ineffective conclusions
- The “That’s My Story and I’m Sticking to It” Conclusion. This conclusion just restates the thesis and is usually painfully short. It does not push the ideas forward. People write this kind of conclusion when they can’t think of anything else to say. Example: In conclusion, Frederick Douglass was, as we have seen, a pioneer in American education, proving that education was a major force for social change with regard to slavery.
- The “Sherlock Holmes” Conclusion. Sometimes writers will state the thesis for the very first time in the conclusion. You might be tempted to use this strategy if you don’t want to give everything away too early in your paper. You may think it would be more dramatic to keep the reader in the dark until the end and then “wow” him with your main idea, as in a Sherlock Holmes mystery. The reader, however, does not expect a mystery, but an analytical discussion of your topic in an academic style, with the main argument (thesis) stated up front. Example: (After a paper that lists numerous incidents from the book but never says what these incidents reveal about Douglass and his views on education): So, as the evidence above demonstrates, Douglass saw education as a way to undermine the slaveholders’ power and also an important step toward freedom.
- The “America the Beautiful”/”I Am Woman”/”We Shall Overcome” Conclusion. This kind of conclusion usually draws on emotion to make its appeal, but while this emotion and even sentimentality may be very heartfelt, it is usually out of character with the rest of an analytical paper. A more sophisticated commentary, rather than emotional praise, would be a more fitting tribute to the topic. Example: Because of the efforts of fine Americans like Frederick Douglass, countless others have seen the shining beacon of light that is education. His example was a torch that lit the way for others. Frederick Douglass was truly an American hero.
- The “Grab Bag” Conclusion. This kind of conclusion includes extra information that the writer found or thought of but couldn’t integrate into the main paper. You may find it hard to leave out details that you discovered after hours of research and thought, but adding random facts and bits of evidence at the end of an otherwise-well-organized essay can just create confusion. Example: In addition to being an educational pioneer, Frederick Douglass provides an interesting case study for masculinity in the American South. He also offers historians an interesting glimpse into slave resistance when he confronts Covey, the overseer. His relationships with female relatives reveal the importance of family in the slave community.
We consulted these works while writing this handout. This is not a comprehensive list of resources on the handout’s topic, and we encourage you to do your own research to find additional publications. Please do not use this list as a model for the format of your own reference list, as it may not match the citation style you are using. For guidance on formatting citations, please see the UNC Libraries citation tutorial . We revise these tips periodically and welcome feedback.
Douglass, Frederick. 1995. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself. New York: Dover.
Hamilton College. n.d. “Conclusions.” Writing Center. Accessed June 14, 2019. https://www.hamilton.edu//academics/centers/writing/writing-resources/conclusions .
Holewa, Randa. 2004. “Strategies for Writing a Conclusion.” LEO: Literacy Education Online. Last updated February 19, 2004. https://leo.stcloudstate.edu/acadwrite/conclude.html.
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How to write an essay: Conclusion
- What's in this guide
- Essay structure
- Additional resources
The last section of an academic essay is the conclusion . The conclusion should reaffirm your answer to the question, and briefly summarise key arguments. It does not include any new points or new information. A conclusion has three sections. First, repeat the thesis statement. It won’t use the exact same words as in your introduction, but it will repeat the point: your overall answer to the question. Then set out your general conclusions , and a short explanation of why they are important.
Finally, draw together the question , the evidence in the essay body, and the conclusion. This way the reader knows that you have understood and answered the question. This part needs to be clear and concise.
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How to Write a Conclusion for an Essay
You’ve done it. You’ve refined your introduction and your thesis. You’ve spent time researching and proving all of your supporting arguments. You’re slowly approaching the finish line of your essay and suddenly freeze up because—that’s right—it’s time to write the conclusion.
For many, the conclusion is the most dreaded part of essay writing . Condensing all the points you’ve analyzed in a tidy little package is certainly easier said than done. How can you make a good final impression while emphasizing the significance of your findings?
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Learning how to write a conclusion for an essay doesn’t need to feel like climbing Everest. It is wholly possible to tie everything together while considering the broader issues and implications of your argument. You just need the right strategy.
What do you want to leave your readers with? Perhaps you want to end with a quotation that adds texture to your discussion. Or, perhaps you want to set your argument into a different, perhaps larger context.
An effective conclusion paragraph should ultimately suggest to your reader that you’ve accomplished what you set out to prove.
How to write a good conclusion
As you set out to write your conclusion and end your essay on an insightful note, you’ll want to start by restating your thesis. Since the thesis is the central idea of your entire essay, it’s wise to remind the reader of the purpose of your paper.
Once you’ve restated your thesis (in a way that’s paraphrased, of course, and offers a fresh understanding), the next step is to reiterate your supporting points. Extract all of the “main points” from each of your supporting paragraphs or individual arguments in the essay . Then, find a way to wrap up these points in a way that demonstrates the importance of the ideas.
Depending on the length of your essay, knowing how to write a good conclusion is somewhat intuitive—you don’t want to simply summarize what you wrote. Rather, the conclusion should convey a sense of closure alongside the larger meaning and lingering possibilities of the topic.
What your conclusion should include
Now that you know what a good conclusion encompasses, you can get into the finer details. Beyond restating your thesis and summarizing your points, what else should the conclusion include?
Here are some strategies for ending your essay in a savvy and thought-provoking way:
Ask yourself: “So what?”
At some point in your life, a teacher has probably told you that the end of an essay should answer the question “So what?” or “Why does it matter?” This advice holds true. It’s helpful to ask yourself this question at the start of drafting your thesis and come back to it throughout, as it can keep you in tune with the essay’s purpose. Then, at your conclusion, you won’t be left searching for something to say.
If you’ve come across a fantastic quote in your research that didn’t quite make it into the essay, the conclusion is a great spot for it. Including a quote from one of your primary or secondary sources can frame your thesis or final thoughts in a different light. This can add specificity and texture to your overall argument.
For example, if you’ve written an essay about J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye, you can think about using a quote from the book itself or from a critic or scholar who complicates your main point. If your thesis is about Salinger’s desire to preserve childhood innocence, ending with a biographer’s statement about Salinger’s attitude toward his own youth might be illuminating for readers. If you decide to amplify your conclusion paragraph in this way, make sure the secondary material adds (and not detracts) from the points you already made. After all, you want to have the last word!
Consider the clincher
At the very end of the essay comes your closing sentence or clincher. As you think about how to write a good conclusion, the clincher must be top of mind. What can you say to propel the reader to a new view on the subject? This final sentence needs to help readers feel a sense of closure. It should also end on a positive note, so your audience feels glad they read your paper and that they learned something worthwhile.
What your conclusion should not include
There are a few things that you should definitely strive to avoid when writing your conclusion paragraph. These elements will only cheapen your overall argument and belabor the obvious.
Here are several conclusion mishaps to consider:
- Avoid phrases like “in summary,” “in conclusion,” or “to sum up.” Readers know they’re at the end of the essay and don’t need a signpost.
- Don’t simply summarize what’s come before. For a short essay, you certainly don’t need to reiterate all of your supporting arguments. Readers will know if you just copied and pasted from elsewhere.
- Avoid introducing brand new ideas or evidence. This will only confuse readers and sap force from your arguments. If there’s a really profound point that you’ve reached in your conclusion and want to include, try moving it to one of your supporting paragraphs.
Whereas your introduction acts as a bridge that transfers your readers from their own lives into the “space” of your argument or analysis, your conclusion should help readers transition back to their daily lives.
By following this useful roadmap, you can feel confident that you know how to write a good conclusion that leaves readers with a solution, a call to action, or a powerful insight for further study.
It's also a great place to remind the reader exactly why your topic is important. A conclusion is more than just "the last paragraph"—it's a working part of the
Ending the Essay: Conclusions · Conclude with a quotation from or reference to a primary or secondary source, one that amplifies your main point or puts it in a
What are the key components of a good conclusion? · Restate the main idea of the paper (why you wrote this entire long piece to begin with).
The conclusion might include minor pieces of new information—for example, a sentence or two discussing broader implications, or a quotation that
The Purpose of a Conclusion Paragraph · Summarize the essay's thesis and evidence to further convince the reader · Elevate your essay by adding
Conclusions work with an essay's thesis to create a framework for a proposed argument. ... an essay written using the following thesis statement:.
Strategies for writing an effective conclusion · Play the “So What” Game. · Return to the theme or themes in the introduction. · Synthesize, don't summarize.
A conclusion has three sections. First, repeat the thesis statement. It won't use the exact same words as in your introduction
As you set out to write your conclusion and end your essay on an insightful note, you'll want to start by restating your thesis. Since the
The conclusion paragraph should restate your thesis, summarize the key supporting ideas you discussed throughout the work, and offer your final