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How to Write an Essay Conclusion

How to Write an Essay Conclusion

10 min Read|February 29 2024
|Written by:

Thomas Babb

Contents

Essay writing is an integral part of a student's academic journey. Whether for school assignments or university applications, essays allow students to express their thoughts, arguments, and understanding of various topics. Among the different components of an essay, the conclusion holds a unique significance. It's not just a final paragraph; it's the closing argument and the last opportunity to make an impression on the reader. An impactful conclusion can elevate the entire essay, leaving a lasting impression. This article explores the art of writing an effective essay conclusion, providing students with practical guidance to master this crucial aspect of essay writing.

Understanding the Purpose of an Essay Conclusion

Essay Conclusions

Essay Conclusions

The conclusion of an essay serves multiple purposes. It provides closure to your arguments, giving the reader a sense of completeness. Unlike the essay introduction that sets the stage, the conclusion wraps up the discussion, ensuring that all key points are addressed. It's where you reiterate the thesis statement, reminding the reader of the core argument of your essay. According to our experienced A-level tutors, a well-crafted conclusion can significantly elevate a student's essay, showcasing their analytical skills and understanding of the subject matter.

The primary function of a conclusion is to bring your essay to a coherent and satisfying close. This closure should not merely reiterate the contents but synthesise them, giving the reader a sense of finality. It's about threading the needle, weaving together the various strands of your argument into a cohesive whole that resonates with clarity and purpose.

The conclusion is your last opportunity to sway the reader, to leave an indelible mark with your words. It is where you consolidate your arguments, crystallising them in a way that they linger in the reader's mind. An impactful conclusion not only affirms the arguments presented but also showcases your prowess in engaging with and synthesising complex ideas.

Components of an Effective Conclusion

In the art of essay writing, crafting a conclusion is akin to a painter adding the final strokes to a masterpiece. This section of your essay is not just a formal requirement but an opportunity to enhance the overall impact of your work. A well-structured conclusion consists of several elements, each serving a unique purpose in solidifying your arguments.

  • Restatement of the Thesis with a New Perspective: Begin your conclusion by revisiting your thesis. However, this is not about repeating it verbatim. Instead, present it with a new perspective, one that's been enriched by the insights and arguments developed throughout your essay. Think of it as presenting the same picture but through a lens that's been polished over the course of your writing.
  • Concise Recapitulation of Main Arguments: Follow your rephrased thesis with a brief recap of the main points. The challenge here is to writing concisely yet comprehensively. You're aiming to jog the reader's memory of what they've just read, aligning these points with the refined thesis, and showing how they interconnect.
  • Insightful Final Thoughts: Your concluding remarks are where you get to leave a lasting impression. Here, you can weave in an insightful comment or observation that stems from the essay's content. This shouldn't introduce new ideas but rather offer a fresh angle on what has been discussed, perhaps linking the essay's topic to broader themes or current issues.
  • Reflective Personal Insight (Optional): Depending on the essay's style and subject, a brief personal reflection or insight can add a unique dimension to your conclusion. This element, if used, should resonate with the content of your essay and add to the reader's understanding or appreciation of the topic.

By carefully combining these elements, your conclusion will not only effectively encapsulate the essence of your essay but also enhance its overall intellectual appeal, making it memorable for your readers. If you are looking for expert guidance, working with an experienced GCSE tutor can provide personalised help on mastering writing an effective conclusion.

Common Mistakes to Avoid in Essay Conclusions

The conclusion of an essay is as much about what you shouldn’t do as it is about what you should. Awareness of common pitfalls can be the difference between a conclusion that resonates and one that falls flat. Here are some typical missteps to steer clear of:

  • Introducing New Information: One of the most frequent errors in essay conclusions is the introduction of new arguments or evidence. The conclusion is meant to wrap up, not unravel new threads. Introducing fresh content at this stage can confuse the reader and dilute the impact of the arguments you've already made.
  • Overusing Quotes: While writing using quotes can enhance your conclusion, relying too heavily on the words of others can undermine your own voice. The conclusion should predominantly feature your synthesis and insights, ensuring that the final word on the topic is uniquely yours.
  • Excessive Repetition: It's essential to restate your thesis and main points, but beware of simple repetition. The conclusion should refract these elements through the prism of the discussion that has preceded, not just echo what has already been said.
  • Undermining Your Arguments: A conclusion that sounds uncertain or apologetic can undo much of your essay's good work. Phrases like "this is just one perspective" or "it's possible that I'm wrong" can weaken the authority of your arguments. Instead, stand confidently by the points you've made, while acknowledging the complexity of the topic. To be effective in this, it can help to learn how to write confidently.
  • Forgetting the Bigger Picture: A great conclusion often transcends the specifics of the essay, hinting at broader implications or applications of your arguments. Missing the opportunity to connect your discussion to larger contexts can make your conclusion feel insular and short-sighted.

By avoiding these common errors, your conclusion will not only effectively encapsulate your arguments but also reinforce the strength and coherence of your essay as a whole.

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Techniques for Writing a Strong Conclusion

A strong conclusion is the hallmark of a thoughtful essay. It requires not just summarising the preceding content, but elevating it. Here are some techniques to help you achieve this:

  • Echo the Introduction: Link your conclusion back to the introduction. This can create a satisfying sense of symmetry and closure. If you posed a question or presented a scenario in the introduction, refer back to it in your conclusion. This technique reinforces the journey the reader has taken and provides a neat bookend to your discussion. Perfecting this technique requires practice of how to connect back to the introduction of your essay.
  • Use Synthesis, Not Summary: While it's important to recap the main points, strive to synthesise them. This means merging them into a cohesive narrative that highlights their interrelation and their collective impact on the thesis statement. This approach shows depth of thought and understanding.
  • Incorporate a Forward-Looking Statement: Give your reader something to ponder. A forward-looking statement might suggest how the discussion could be relevant in the future, or how it applies to a broader context. This keeps your essay relevant and thought-provoking even after the reader has finished.
  • Employ a Pithy Quote or Thought-Provoking Statement: A well-chosen quote or a poignant final statement can leave a lasting impression. If you opt for a quote, ensure it resonates with the main themes of your essay and adds to the final argument, rather than detracting from your own voice.
  • Subtlety in Language: Your choice of words can greatly impact the effectiveness of your conclusion. Opt for language that is firm yet open-ended, leaving room for thought. This approach invites the reader to continue engaging with your ideas, even after they have finished reading.

By applying these techniques, your conclusion will not only effectively encapsulate your arguments but also leave your reader with a lasting impression of depth and insight. For personalised support in implementing these strategies, consider consulting with our expert IB tutors.

Examples of Good and Bad Essay Conclusions

Good Conclusion Examples

1. Argumentative Essay on Renewable Energy:

  • Conclusion Example: "In conclusion, the transition to renewable energy sources is not just an environmental necessity but an economic opportunity. Throughout this essay, we have explored how renewable energy not only reduces carbon emissions but also creates sustainable job opportunities, fosters technological innovation, and ensures long-term economic stability. While the initial investment is substantial, the long-term benefits, as evidenced by the examples of Denmark and Germany, far outweigh the costs. It is time for global leaders to take decisive action and invest in a future that is not only greener but also economically robust."
  • Analysis: This conclusion is effective as it provides a comprehensive synthesis of the key arguments presented in the essay. It restates the thesis in a broader context and leaves the reader with a clear understanding of the multifaceted benefits of renewable energy. The inclusion of specific examples adds credibility and reinforces the argument.

2. Descriptive Essay on a Personal Experience:

  • Conclusion Example: "Reflecting on my journey through the Himalayas, I realise it was more than a physical challenge; it was a voyage of self-discovery. Each step was a testament to resilience, each vista a reminder of nature's grandeur, and every interaction a lesson in humility and companionship. This experience has profoundly altered my perspective, teaching me the value of perseverance, the beauty of simplicity, and the importance of forging connections. As I stood at the summit, watching the sunrise, I understood that the most significant journeys in life are those that take us inward, challenging us to explore the uncharted territories of our own potential."
  • Analysis: This conclusion is highly effective in its descriptive and reflective quality. It synthesises the sensory and emotional experiences of the journey, providing a deeper insight into the personal growth and revelations gained. The use of evocative language and personal insights leaves a lasting impression on the reader.

3. Expository Essay on the Impact of Social Media:

  • Conclusion Example: "In this exploration of social media's impact, we have delved into its multifaceted influence on modern society. Social media has revolutionised communication, creating a global platform for sharing ideas, fostering social connections, and catalysing social change. However, it has also presented challenges, such as the spread of misinformation and the erosion of privacy. The dichotomy of social media as a tool for both empowerment and exploitation underscores the need for responsible usage and regulatory measures. As we continue to integrate these platforms into our daily lives, it is imperative to remain vigilant about how they shape our perceptions, relationships, and societal norms."
  • Analysis: The conclusion effectively summarises the dual aspects of social media's impact discussed in the essay. It provides a balanced view, acknowledging both the positive and negative implications. The call for responsible usage and the emphasis on future implications make this a thought-provoking and comprehensive conclusion.

Bad Conclusion Examples

1. Persuasive Essay on Renewable Energy Transition:

  • Conclusion Example: "In conclusion, there are various reasons why the shift to renewable energy is important. We have solar, wind, and hydro power as options. People should really consider using them more because they are better for the environment. In the future, maybe more people will use these energy sources. We need to think about the planet."
  • Analysis: This conclusion is ineffective due to its lack of specific synthesis of the essay's arguments. It presents a general appeal for renewable energy but fails to integrate the detailed analysis provided in the essay, such as the economic benefits or environmental necessity. The language is somewhat repetitive and lacks a compelling final statement that could resonate with the reader.

2. Analytical Essay on Social Media's Impact on Youth:

  • Conclusion Example: "To sum up, social media has various effects on young people. Some aspects are good, like staying connected with friends, but there are also bad parts, like cyberbullying. Social media is quite popular among teenagers, and it seems like it's here to stay. Parents and teachers need to pay attention to how kids use social media."
  • Analysis: This conclusion falls short as it merely skims over the main points without offering a deeper synthesis. It overlooks the nuanced analysis of social media's psychological impacts on youth, discussed in the essay. The conclusion lacks a persuasive final insight and presents a generic call to action, missing an opportunity to make a profound concluding statement.

3. Reflective Essay on Personal Growth Through Adversity:

  • Conclusion Example: "Overall, facing challenges can teach us a lot. I had some tough times, but I learned from them. It's important to stay strong and keep going no matter what. I think everyone goes through hard times, and we just have to learn from them."
  • Analysis: This conclusion is too general and does not effectively encapsulate the personal journey and lessons the essay detailed. It lacks specific reflections on how the challenges led to personal growth, offering only vague statements. The language used is simplistic and doesn’t convey the depth of the emotional journey explored in the essay.

Tips and Best Practices for Writing Essay Conclusions

Writing Your Conclusion Dos

Writing Your Conclusion Dos

Crafting a compelling conclusion is a skill that can significantly elevate the quality of your essays. Here are some final tips and best practices to guide you in writing effective conclusions:

  • Avoid Common Cliches: Phrases like "in conclusion" or "in summary" can feel redundant. Your reader knows they are reading a conclusion; the content should make this clear. Instead, start with a strong statement or insight that jumps right into the essence of your conclusion.
  • Keep It Concise and Focused: A lengthy conclusion is unnecessary and can dilute the impact of your essay. Aim for a concise, focused conclusion that succinctly encapsulates your main arguments and leaves the reader with a final thought or question.
  • End with Impact: Your last sentence is what the reader will remember most. Our A-level tutors recommend ending with a powerful statement, a thought-provoking question, or a call to action that encourages further reflection or investigation.
  • Avoid Overconfidence or Apologies: Strike a balance between confidence in your arguments and acknowledgement of the complexity of your topic. Avoid overly assertive statements that close off further discussion, as well as apologetic language that undermines your points.
  • Consider Examples from Others: Reviewing conclusions from well-written essays in your field of study can provide inspiration and insight into effective strategies and styles.
  • Read and Revise: After writing your conclusion, read it in the context of the entire essay. Does it fit seamlessly, and does it effectively encapsulate your main points? Revision is key to ensuring your conclusion is as strong as it can be.
  • Practice and Feedback: Like any other aspect of writing, crafting effective conclusions improves with practice. Seek feedback from teachers, peers, or mentors to refine your skills. Consider consulting our expert English tutors to perfect your writing skills.

By incorporating these tips and practices into your essay-writing process, you can ensure that your conclusions are not just summaries, but powerful, thought-provoking final statements that enhance the overall impact of your essays.

Conclusion

Writing a compelling conclusion is an essential skill in the toolkit of any successful essayist. It requires practice, reflection, and a keen understanding of the nuances of your topic and arguments. Remember, the conclusion is your final opportunity to communicate with your reader; it's where you get to leave your mark. By applying the principles and techniques discussed in this article, you can transform your essay conclusions from mere summaries to powerful, resonant statements that not only encapsulate your arguments but also demonstrate your critical thinking and writing prowess.

FAQ

Is it necessary to restate all arguments in the conclusion?

In a conclusion, it isn't necessary to restate every single argument made in the essay. Instead, the focus should be on synthesising the key points that directly contribute to supporting your thesis. This approach ensures that the conclusion remains concise and impactful. It's about drawing together the main threads of your argument to reinforce your central thesis, providing clarity and a sense of finality without delving into every detail discussed in the body of your essay.

Are emotional appeals effective in conclusions?

Emotional appeals, or pathos, can be highly effective in essay conclusions when used appropriately. They connect with the audience on a personal level, often leaving a lasting impression. However, it's crucial to balance emotional appeals with logical reasoning (logos) and ethical credibility (ethos). Overuse or misplaced emotional appeals can undermine the argument's validity, making it seem less objective or overly sentimental. The key is to use emotion to underscore the logical and ethical arguments made in the essay, not to replace them.

Can a conclusion influence essay grading?

A conclusion can indeed influence essay grading, as it is the final component of your argument and the last chance to make an impression on the reader. A well-crafted conclusion that effectively summarises and synthesises the main points of the essay, while also providing a clear and thought-provoking end to your argument, can enhance the overall perception of your work. Conversely, a weak or unclear conclusion might leave the reader with doubts, potentially affecting the overall assessment of the essay.

How to balance detail and brevity in conclusions?

Balancing detail and brevity in a conclusion is about summarising the main points without delving into extensive detail. Focus on the essence of your arguments and how they contribute to the overarching thesis. Avoid introducing new information or getting bogged down in specifics that have been thoroughly covered in the body. A good conclusion encapsulates the key points in a succinct manner, providing a clear, comprehensive, yet concise overview that reinforces the central message of your essay.

How long should an essay conclusion be?

The length of an essay conclusion should ideally be proportional to the essay's overall length, typically around 5-10% of the total word count. For example, in a 2000-word essay, a conclusion of 100-200 words would be appropriate. This length allows enough space to summarise and synthesise the key points effectively, providing a sense of closure without being overly lengthy or repetitive.

Should conclusions have in-text citations?

In-text citations in conclusions are generally not common since this section is meant for summarising and synthesising the arguments presented in the essay, rather than introducing new information or evidence. However, if you are reinforcing a crucial point that has been previously cited in the body of the essay, it might be appropriate to include a citation. The key is to ensure that the conclusion remains a summary of your own synthesis of the topic, rather than an extension of the essay's argumentative body.

Can I use bullet points in conclusions?

Using bullet points in essay conclusions is generally not recommended, especially in formal academic writing. Conclusions are expected to be cohesive and flowing paragraphs that synthesise the essay's main points. Bullet points can disrupt this flow and might detract from the overall cohesiveness and impact of the conclusion. However, in more informal or creative writing contexts, or in cases where clarity and brevity are prioritised, bullet points might be an acceptable stylistic choice.

How can I connect the conclusion to the introduction?

Creating a connection between the conclusion and the introduction can enhance the cohesiveness of your essay. One effective way is to revisit a key idea, question, or scenario introduced at the beginning. This could involve reflecting on how your understanding of the topic has evolved, answering an initial question, or revisiting a scenario with new insights. This approach not only provides a sense of closure but also illustrates the development of your argument throughout the essay.

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Thomas Babb

Written by: Thomas Babb

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Oxford University - PhD Mathematics

Thomas is a PhD candidate at Oxford University. He served as an interviewer and the lead admissions test marker at Oxford, and teaches undergraduate students at Mansfield College and St Hilda’s College. He has ten years’ experience tutoring A-Level and GCSE students across a range of subjects.

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