The End Is In Sight! Coming Up with a Conclusion for Your Research Paper


Think of the conclusion as the coda to your paper.  It's not just a restatement of your thesis (the central idea), but a revelation of its significance.  Don't bring in new information in the conclusion, but you can bring in new wisdom or a new meaning.  You can show how all the points fit together and lead to that new meaning.  Here's where you prove that the whole of the analysis is worth more than just the sum of its parts. 

So here are some approaches you can take to the conclusion of the research paper. You wouldn't want to do them all, of course, but see if any of these conclusion tasks might work with your paper:


Summation plus implications:

The conclusion should never be just a restatement of the thesis, but it's okay to start the final paragraph with a restatement as long as you use other words or sentence order, so it doesn't sound repetitious. Then add a final thought that might be about the implications or the future or consequences, something new but deriving from the author's points. I tend to start with a transition word like "so" or "therefore," or "finally" to make clear it's the end, like:

So the new ebook technology will open up new avenues for authors to create their work and market it to potential readers. But in this case, the medium is just a way of getting the message across. Authors must still focus on providing the best book they can so that those many new readers will be glad they made the purchase.

or... -------------
Finally, language-immersion programs are generally better at preparing students for their foreign-exchange year. Far more than vocabulary or grammar drills, such programs give students the confidence to speak up in their new language even if they know they will be making mistakes. This analysis offers the hope that communication in the new language will build on itself, and fluency rather than accuracy will let students interact more productively and happily with their host culture.


Give a deeper meaning:

You can get additional resonance for your summary with the type of conclusion lets you go deeper into the implications of whatever you have just explained.
 After forty years,  Clapton's need to distance himself from the pain in every chord of "Layla" is understandable.  But for the rest of us, the song is new every time we listen—and the anguish of this love song plunges us back into the intensity of teenaged passion.  Never has the rawness of young love been so powerfully portrayed.  We are always 17 again when we fall in love, and just that age whenever we hear that song.



Provide a wider context for the issue:

When the points of the essay you're summarizing is important in the wider world, you might use the conclusion to show how the point fits into that larger context.

Research on "stereotype threat" has shown that students who absorb others' ideas about their group's handicaps exhibit further declines in aptitude in the contested areas (p. 12).  So single-sex education, designed as an escape from gender-based thinking— like that boys are better at math than girls—could, in the end, only reinforce gender-based thinking, if a more nuanced form of it: Girls aren't as good with abstraction as boys are. That's a result that even those who believe in innate differences shouldn't be in favor of accentuating further.

Meghan O'Rourke

Consider leading up to an ending quote that caps the summary (but only if it's a great final thought):
Make sure the quote isn't just support for a smaller point, but some overall or global observation. It should also be felicitously phrased--  that is, not some pedestrian phrasing that anyone could have said or you could paraphrase without losing any flavor.  Lead up to it with some final thought of your own. And identify the speaker by name if possible and by role.
Parents and educators do young people no favors by smoothing their way, as this teaches them only that their goal should be a life without obstacles to overcome.  In fact, even the most charmed life is bound to have some challenges, and we need to prepare students for that by teaching them the value of resilience and methods of learning from mistakes.  We must think of missteps, mishaps, and mistakes as learning tools.  As Nobel Prize-winner Chris Lucas (2012), a  self-described  "failure," concludes, "I learned more from failing hard than I ever learned from succeeding easy"  (p. 13).

Try these steps to a solid summary conclusion:

  • Restate thesis or major points in a new sentence order or with different wording, or make two-three sentences which summarize your analysis.

  • Think about starting with a transition like "so" or "however" – read aloud and see what you think sounds like it fits.

  • Maybe have a sentence that explains something about why this is important or what the context is.

  • End with a final thought about the significance or overall message/theme that comes from your analysis or perhaps a recommendation of what should happen because of this. 


It's easier  to write a conclusion after you've written the paper! So here is your chance to post here and get suggestions.

Then make a substantive comment or suggestion on another student's post, to help with revision and refinement!